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RE: charter and publication wrt W3C Process

From: Joe Carmel <joe.carmel@comcast.net>
Date: Fri, 22 May 2009 12:14:12 -0400
To: "'Owen Ambur'" <owen@ambur.net>, "'Daniel Bennett'" <daniel@citizencontact.com>, "'Jose M. Alonso'" <josema@w3.org>
Cc: "'Sharron Rush'" <srush@knowbility.org>, "'eGov IG'" <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001f01c9daf8$5ae288f0$10a79ad0$@carmel@comcast.net>
Owen Ambur wrote:

>I also agree that a good topic of focus for the eGov IG would be open
government data (OGD), such as:  
>
>a) how agencies can make their data more readily discoverable and usable,
and


It seems to me that while standards exist for resource descriptions (e.g.,
RSS, Atom), these standards are not commonly used to identify and expose
open government datasets.  These current standards are either inadequate or
perceived to be inadequate...or government agencies are possibly thinking
that publishing a catalog of their datasets would not be useful.

The recently published data.gov site seems like a great place to establish
best practices in this area since the site's purpose is to point to open
government datasets.  I certainly don't want to disparage the incredibly
excellent efforts of data.gov, but the page that lists the datasets
(http://www.data.gov/catalog/category/0/agency/0/filter//type#raw) is not
valid per http://validator.w3.org/ nor is it well-formed per
http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~richard/xml-check.html  This means that it will
be used primarily for human access.  Machine access will be limited to
text-based screenscraping -- the practice I think we're hoping to
discourage.

Alternatively, it's possible to find open government data by using Google's
advanced search capabilities (for example "filetype:xls site:usda.gov" will
return Excel files), but this approach provides little or no metadata about
the specific files and might even lack official status.  You only really
know for certain that the file is on the site, but you can't tell if the
data is test data, out-of-date data, or something real.

I think "we" need a common approach (e.g., file format) for dataset
cataloging that provides basic information about each dataset on a website.
Often, datasets reside in WAFs (web accessible folders) such as
http://thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc111 and these often have readme files but
how does one discover the existence of these folders in the first place.

Daniel Bennett has proposed the idea of repository schemas which if I
understand correctly will address some if not all of these issues.
Regardless of the format(s) used, the need obviously exists.  Even something
as simple as: http://www.xml.gov/stratml/urls.xml or
http://www.xmldatasets.net/data/index.xml is much better than nothing.
Here's an example of an Atom file pointing to XML datasets for Federal
Government StratML files: http://www.xmldatasets.net/data/fedgovt.xml These
URLs simply provide examples of different ways to catalog datasets but I
think to really make it work, the government should consider establishing
two things: (1) a standard file location for their datasets catalog (e.g.,
catalog.xml or catalog.html off the root) and (2) establish/use a machine
accessible (well-formed) approach that allows for extensibility by
individual government organizations.  

Returning to Jose's point about the role of the W3C eGov and the charter,
while the IG can't create a standard or even a recommendation, I would hope
we can point out where standards need to be established and the value to be
gained from their establishment and use.  Given the diversity of file
formats used by governments for the representation of data (e.g., XML, CSV,
XLS, PDF, HTML, DBF, etc.), I'm not sure we can gain much by adding another
data-format standard to the mix, but there certainly seems to be a vacuum in
terms of the cataloging of government datasets or as Owen put it: how
agencies can make their data more readily discoverable and usable.

Thanks,

Joe



-----Original Message-----
From: public-egov-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:public-egov-ig-request@w3.org]
On Behalf Of Daniel Bennett
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 8:43 AM
To: Jose M. Alonso
Cc: Sharron Rush; eGov IG
Subject: Re: charter and publication wrt W3C Process

I was thinking that having best practices and having use cases was the most
obvious things to do. I think that the "small how-to" project of identifying
and exposing OGD is actually a huge, but important project that I
encompasses citations and indexing documents (hmmm perhaps schematizing
repositories). Citations would be a big win that could help transform access
and referencing govt. documents.

Another not-so-small project is to allow for a posting of what various
governments are using and the standards they are using or breaking. 
Legislatures, executive and judicial organizations across the world use
different authoring tools that often determine what is published online and
how, the success in using standards or being accessible, how the
governmental entities index/make searchable/usable the online documents and
services, are all datum that we could help be collected. We don't need to
even comment on the data collected, just make it reference-able for
conversation. And this would help governments find out what software is
available, especially if the software was developed internally and could be
made available. In the United States alone there are thousands of
governments (federal, state, municipal) using different standards and tools
with different results, but no place to post and/or search for what they are
all doing.

Daniel


Jose M. Alonso wrote:
>> ...
>>>  + a set of small docs with guidance?
>>>   (could be recs or not)
>>
>> I am not sure what these "small docs" would do that would not be 
>> included in BP and the rewritten Note, but am open to suggestion. Are 
>> you thinking of technical documents that would be more of a how-to?
>> a series of case studies of particularly effective practices?
>
> I was thinking of small how-to like things, e.g. techniques to 
> identify and expose OGD, but also identification of scenarios to do 
> so. More how-to than case studies.
>
>>  The suite of ARIA documents could be a model, I suppose.
>
> Maybe... I like this how-to piece:
> http://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria-practices/#accessiblewidget
>
>>  This one requires more consideration and could be decided after 
>> being chartered, is that not so?  or do we need to state our entire 
>> scope of work at the time of charter?
>
> As specific as possible is always welcome, but we can definitely leave 
> some room as we did first time. More on charters:
> http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/groups#WGCharter
>
>
>>>  + a second version of the Note?
>>>   (no need to be a rec, as you know)
>>
>> Yes, the Note must be rewritten for coherence, narrative flow, 
>> conclusions, etc.
>
> Heard several saying this. I don't have an opinion yet besides that 
> this should be done if there are group members willing to take on this 
> task.
>
>
>>> In summary: going normative is "stronger" but has more implications:
>>> patent policy matters, strongest coordination with other groups, 
>>> more process-related stuff to deal with...
>>
>> If we are saying that we will produce normative standards and expect 
>> eGov practitioners around the world to begin to claim "conformance"
>> to these standards,  that is a mighty undertaking.  Think of the 
>> arduous processes around WCAG2 and HTML5.  Also, eGov is a bit less 
>> easily defined because of cultural influences, history, forms of 
>> government etc.  I would advise that we not commit to normative 
>> output at this time, but as previously stated, happy to hear another 
>> point of view.
>
> Ok, thanks. I think I'm more of a non-normative opinion so far.
>
>
>> Please let me know if this is the type of input needed and/or if I 
>> have overlooked any questions.
>
> Very much so, thanks!
> If you have something more specific in mind about the content we 
> should produce, please share it, too.
>
> Cheers,
> Jose.
>
>
>> Thanks,
>> Sharron
>>
>>> [1] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Process/
>>> [2] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/groups#GAGeneral
>>> [3] http://www.w3.org/2008/02/eGov/ig-charter
>>> [4] http://www.w3.org/2004/02/05-patentsummary
>>> [5] http://www.w3.org/2005/02/AboutW3CSlides/images/groupProcess.png
>>> [6] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/tr#Reports
>>> [7] http://www.w3.org/Guide/Charter
>>> [8] http://www.w3.org/TR/mobile-bp/
>>>
>>> -- 
>>> Jose M. Alonso <josema@w3.org>    W3C/CTIC
>>> eGovernment Lead                  http://www.w3.org/2007/eGov/
>
>
Received on Friday, 22 May 2009 16:15:16 GMT

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