The majority of the questions are always in two main stereotypes: data request, and methods/tools to handle data.

I love the idea of having a site where I can ask for some really fancy dataset and someone answers with an open data source, but the site is getting bored (search for other people's data isn't challenging or funny, for me at least)...

What we can do to improve the site scope?

PS: This is especially important in the beta phase.

5 Answers 5


I strongly favor also including discussions of the uses of data. There is currently no forum that I am aware of that allows people to ask and answer questions about how open data sets are being used. Policymakers, for example, can use this information to track the impact of their open data efforts and make informed decisions about future investments. In addition, data users can also benefit from understanding how others have used data sets in the past, so that they can more easily find data that meets their needs or to find out new use cases for data.

  • Sophie's answer the one I agree more. Coding and scripting questions are much more suitable for stackoverflow or superuser, it is pointless to accept those here when there is already a much stronger community for that. I don't think that it would be much different when the beta private ends, experts can join us at any time by invite or by commitment in Area51, why would they wait?
    – RSFalcon7
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 9:39

This is inspired by Andrew's answer on this thread and this response on another.

I think the best way we can improve the site scope is to not limit it to just the data itself. To quote Jeanne Holm from the other thread,

"A discussion of open data is limited if we only talk about a portion of the process of making data open. That process extends from a requirement to gather data to the use of that data to gain insight, create economic gain, or do social good."

So here's what I think the scope could be:

  • The data itself (data-hunt)
  • Gathering the data
  • Using the data

Data-hunt is pretty obvious, and it's the most common thing seen so far. Gathering can be things like best practices and playbooks for entities that are trying to publish open data (licensing, releasing, etc). Using the data can include visualization, best practices for providing open APIs, and other code-y things. It doesn't have to just be code, but that's what I immediately think of as a programmer.

This obviously isn't a comprehensive list, but I think it's a start to expanding the site scope.

Edit: I just realized I said to not limit it to the data and then provided 3 things pretty limited to data. I meant to not focus on just data-hunting. Instead, I think the scope could include the process that Jeanne described.

Edit 2: Here is the kind of "code-y" question I was talking about:

Have genetic algorithms been applied to Open Data?

I would like to know what you think about having questions like that within the scope of this site. It's definitely applicable to Open Data by the way I presented it. It also fits within the idea of using data to gain insight. My concern is that people will come here with data mining questions when they should be going to a SE like Cross Validated...


Two things:

  • I think this will improve once the private beta ends. The current participants are mostly subject area experts that don't really have too many burning questions that need answering, but hopefully that will change when it's possible for others to more easily participate -- I know I'll be directing people with questions here as opposed to other mailing lists where I send them with questions now.
  • There's been some productive Meta conversation to help broaden the scope beyond data-hunt questions, and at least one previously-designated out-of-scope question was reopened as a consequence. At this point, my mental model for the kinds of questions that should be here are any questions that would likely be better answered by open data practitioners than by people in other communities, which is hopefully broad enough that this SE can include code questions, data manipulation tool questions, community engagement questions, etc.
  • 1) I agree. I'm not an expert; will probably be more questions like mine when the site goes into open beta. Many of the questions I've seen are over my head, but the answers to my questions so far have been nothing short of amazing. 2) I agree again. As a programmer, I like the idea of being able to come here to ask concise code/tool questions or language suggestions for a specific task (on topic of course). I believe this is the said reopened question. I voted reopen based on my ideals for this. Commented May 16, 2013 at 1:20
  • Here is the meta discussion about that question being within site-scope as well. I would have crammed this into my other comment instead of double posting if I had the space. Commented May 16, 2013 at 1:22
  • Are there suggestions for how to help promote us forward to public beta? I understand Stack Exchange makes the decision, and based on their metrics, it looks like we are short on users with high reputation (but that should resolve over time). More importantly, it appears to be an issue of the sheer number of participants. Commented May 16, 2013 at 18:46
  • @JeanneHolm -- I like the SE model of Q-and-A's-that-are-voted-up-or-down. So I took advantage of the "Invite Fellow Experts" box on the Home page to send invitations to people I know who are interested in Open Data. I think letting people know about this site is the way to improve it.
    – Roger_S
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:22
  • @Roger_S -- Looks like we should each try to invite a variety of experts into the community. As Andrew Pendleton pointed out, directing people here with invitations from other list serves and forums seems like a good idea. I'll reach out to the W3C eGovernment Interest Group open data enthusiasts first. Commented May 18, 2013 at 14:56

In brief, I think this can be a resource to any number of Open Data communities that are trying to better engage and serve their relevant constituents. I know that that is brief and simplistic, but it seems like it'd matter to a large number of folks.

[Disclaimer - I am the Sr. API strategist for GSA in the US]


On data requests, I think it would quite valuable if users could provide information about datasets that are currently not completely open, but that they think should be open.

There's a conversation to be had about why some data have limited access. For example, the SSA death master file used to be free and open. it's an interpretation of the current administrator that determines that that data are not free right now. And in fact that data comes from the CDC, so one might ask why the CDC is not releasing it.

Similar to Sophie's point about helping policy makers understand the impact of open data efforts, this type of discussion would help to direct future efforts: what should agencies liberate next?

Additionally, there are data that are not posted, but that can be obtained through FOIA requests. The public should know about its right to obtain information, and instances when it might be appropriate. Enough FOIA requests might encourage public release. Further, once obtained, the recipient may publish some/all of it.

[Disclosure: I work at HHS in ASPE]

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