W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-egov-ig@w3.org > January 2010

Re: Ed and Outreadch Opportunity

From: Dave McAllister <dmcallis@adobe.com>
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 13:14:19 -0800
To: Brian Gryth <briangryth@gmail.com>, Joe Carmel <joe.carmel@comcast.net>
CC: David Pullinger <David.Pullinger@coi.gsi.gov.uk>, "chris-beer@grapevine.net.au" <chris-beer@grapevine.net.au>, "Kevin' 'Novak" <KevinNovak@aia.org>, eGovIG IG <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <C7888FAB.307F%dmcallis@adobe.com>

Just for completeness (and since the group has heard this before.

One objection...

In this sentence, you lump a standard, PDF with two implementations/products.

The W3C, the Sunlight Foundation, and other open government advocates recommend that government's should use open standards based technologies, such as HTML, XML, or RDF, rather than proprietary formats, such as PDF, Microsoft Word or Excel, when publishing data.

 PDF is not proprietary, it is an open International standard, ISO 32000, under TC171.

Adobe products such as Acrobat and Acrobat Reader are proprietary... And yes, if you choose to state Acrobat here, then Iíll live with it. But I worked really hard to separate PDF from Adobe specification to ISO standard.

Thanks for the insight into the letter.

davemc

On 1/29/10 1:10 PM, "Brian Gryth" <briangryth@gmail.com> wrote:

Hello all,

Thanks for the good discussion.  It has been helpful.  I have created a Google Doc to capture my thoughts.  It is a draft letter that I plan to send to member of the Colorado General Assembly concerning the school finance bill I identified.  The doc is viewable at https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0Aev3E7WkLorMZGhkcGhkYjlfOXpudzNkNWZ0&hl=en (please let me know if you would like access to edit the doc.)

As to this discussion, I think that it can best be described as the PDF+ approach.  As Joe has frequently and correctly pointed out, PDF use is persistent and this will not change.  (Adobe has been very effective in making their product ubiquitous.)  Replacing PDF is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.  Therefore, we need to education the government community on the best practices for creating PDF documents or the best approach to augment PDF publication.

Again thank you for the information and please continue the discussion or help revise and improve the document I linked to above.

Thanks,
Brian

On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 8:29 AM, Joe Carmel <joe.carmel@comcast.net> wrote:
David,

PDF is probably the most flexible human-readable electronic format we humans have invented and provides one of the richest possible electronic formats ever devised in terms of capabilities (text, graphics, color, image, audio, video, forms, printability, digital signatures, metadata, file attachments, and archiving).  With no disrespect, it seems like the problem for many is that PDF is not readable and consumable with a text editor.  While this is true, there are several public domain and commercial tools that provide developers with access to PDF file contents (even converting page contents to XML).  Given these overwhelming benefits and the substantial use of the format on the human-side of the web, itís very unlikely that PDF is going away.  Even if everyone stopped using it, there would still be over 26 million PDF files (per Google) on the web from the .gov sites alone.  Since the PDF format allows metadata inclusion and file attachments, I think getting the word out about how these and other features add interoperability to PDF should encourage practices that lead to combining human and machine readability for all electronically published information.

HTM  30,800,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Ahtm&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
HTML27,700,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Ahtml&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
PDF    26,100,000  http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Apdf&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
ASP    13,100,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Aasp&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
TXT     2,980,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Atxt&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
DOC    2,310,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Adoc&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
XLS     1,880,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Axls&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
XML    1,010,000 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Axml&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
RDF             3,240 http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3A.gov+filetype%3Ardf&aq=f&aqi=&oq=

Also, see http://legislink.wikispaces.com/message/view/home/14870950 for more tech info.

Joe



From: David Pullinger [mailto:David.Pullinger@coi.gsi.gov.uk]
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 9:27 AM
To: chris-beer@grapevine.net.au
Cc: Kevin' 'Novak; Joe Carmel; 'Brian Gryth'; 'eGovIG IG'
Subject: Re: Ed and Outreadch Opportunity



Chris,



Let me assure you that I'm not in favour of PDF for data or communication, the critical words were ...'those who insist on..'   Let me draw a comparison.  The government is not in favour of people taking drugs.  But we provide information to help those who do.  Our friends at Adobe should not draw the analogy too far as I just mean that sometimes we engage in harm reduction - in this case to get at good re-usable data.



David











David Pullinger

david.pullinger@coi.gsi.gov.uk

Head of Digital Policy

Central Office of Information

Hercules House

7 Hercules Road

London SE1 7DU

020 7261 8513

07788 872321



Twitter #digigov and blogs:  www.coi.gov.uk/blogs/digigov <http://www.coi.gov.uk/blogs/digigov>




>>> Chris Beer <chris-beer@grapevine.net.au> 28/01/2010 12:05 >>>
Hey Brian, everyone

Wouldn't be right if I didn't pop the TF4 hat on and respond into the conversation ;) I already sent Brian an email offering to assist, but since we're doing this in list... :)

Personally and professionally,  I have issues with "data", if not any government information, being published in PDF formats as well as how PDF files are used in general, not only by Gov, but by the Private sector as well.

IMO The only three reasons (and only if you had to) to use PDF is a) as an archive snapshot of a document and b) for document control - that is - when you don't want a document to be altered by users such as in the case of a manifestation or publication of a piece of legislation, tenders etc - hence why you can embed digital signatures, lock them from editing, etc etc. and c) With accessible Smart Forms, which are actually just such a cool idea and so very useful as an assistive technology, and for both the user, and the owner - that said these all still have issues around being in PDF.

The general usage, however, seems to be for anything and everything that can be published. Want a printable version? Download the PDF file.

Rather than focus on the pitfalls of using PDF's in the .gov.* space (which I'm more than happy to discuss with anyone - especially David in light of his comments ;) ), I'll focus on the topic at hand. I've had a look at the Fiscal Note Brian provided as well as the proposed Act and I'm a little stunned by the leap of logic in this sense.

A careful reading of the Bill reveals that throughout, information is required to be "posted on-line, in a downloadable format". Now if I was a clever Web Manager in charge of implementing my local schools requirements under this bill, I could quickly and easily meet these requirements through a CMS enabled website/database - the act of viewing a webpage is, by definition, downloading information. Not only that, but I could point at my model and highlight the fact that:

a) The data supports RDF(a), XML, StratML etc in a far more useful and usable format than a PDF version

b) I can send my schemas to other schools, or even the Department (who might want to create a centralised model) to enable consistancy of data formatting, not just a pretty view of the data

c) I can deliver my data in a range of open standard formats, from such as binary, CSV, HTML, XML, etc using very basic, free, vendor independant and accessible technologies

d) I can export a customisable view of this data on demand as a PDF file if needed... (think the export as PDF function of Google Analytics dashboard reports.) But I can also export it in a variety of other propriety formats on demand.

e) I can very easily track the usage and access of this data by the public through web analytics. If I track it well enough, and agressively enough, I can start to analyse which parts of the data are the most useful (for instance I might well find that visits from .edu domains (ie: teachers) show a marked interest in salary schedule comparisons) and I can tailor the solution from a push Web 1.0 model to a information on demand Web 2.0 model.)

f) I can allow others, including other arms of Local, State and Federal Governments, through API's and mashups, to mix my data with other data to provide interesting information - like financial data mapped against student result averages.

A couple of other things to consider with the financial and workload aspects in mind, is that technically (and correct me if I am wrong) each and every PDF release of this data would be classed as a government publication and will require not only ISBN numbers etc, but entry into the Library of Congress or State equivalent, catalogues as well. A single website, being considered as an Intergrated Resource, technically would require only a single catalogue entry...

The Fiscal Note also reads "It is assumed that financial documents can be electronically converted into a portable document format (PDF) or image file (tiff, gif, jpg), and posted online at minimal cost, and that software to convert documents and software to modify websites is readily available at the district level."

Now thats an interesting assumption - and it is just that - an assumption. Considering publishing the information as HTML etc is effectively free.

These are only some initial thoughts, but you get the idea. Happy to discuss.

David - would love to discuss your thoughts around the standards and governance on PDF, but it'd probably off topic in this thread. Drop me a line and expand on things :)

Cheers

Chris




David Pullinger wrote:

Both,



As well as separate data files, it is perfectedly possible to embed RDF(a) into PDF files, as other markup, and so provide access to Linked Data thereby...



We're considering whether or not to issue standards in this area so that those who insist on releasing information in PDF files nevertheless don't put a block on Linked Data.



David











David Pullinger

david.pullinger@coi.gsi.gov.uk

Head of Digital Policy

Central Office of Information

Hercules House

7 Hercules Road

London SE1 7DU

020 7261 8513

07788 872321



Twitter #digigov and blogs:  www.coi.gov.uk/blogs/digigov <http://www.coi.gov.uk/blogs/digigov>




>>> "Joe Carmel" <joe.carmel@comcast.net> <mailto:joe.carmel@comcast.net>  26/01/2010 18:56 >>>
Brian,
One option to consider might be XForms (and XSLTForms in particular).  Although Iím not familiar with the school district financial data, it seems like publishing an XForm on a central website and mandating that school districts fill it out would be easy to create, maintain, and implement.  The output files could then be posted centrally and/or locally.
Iím working with Owen Ambur and several others on something like this for StratML.  Check out http://www.xmldatasets.net/XF2/stratmlxform3.xml.   Itís still being developed but it might serve as an example.  The idea is to provide a way to create, import, update, display, and finally catalog StratML fles across the web.
Joe

From: public-egov-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:public-egov-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Novak, Kevin
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:13 PM
To: Brian Gryth; eGovIG IG
Subject: RE: Ed and Outreadch Opportunity
Brian,
I am here to help you.
I can provide input and opinion on the piece you are developing. I concur with your assessment of PDF. Other options in addition must be considered.
Kevin
From: public-egov-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:public-egov-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Brian Gryth
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:08 PM
To: eGovIG IG
Subject: Ed and Outreadch Opportunity

Good day all,

Members of the Colorado General Assembly introduced legislation recently that would mandate school districts to publish certain financial data in a down loadable format.  The bill is HB10-1036 and is available at http://legislink.org/us-co?HB10-1036.  This is a good thing on the surface.  What concerns me is the fiscal impact statement associated with the legislation.  The concerning part of the fiscal impact statement focuses on the information being released in PDF or in an image format (e.g. JPEG, TIFF, GIF), but does not talk about other formats.  The fiscal note is available at http://bit.ly/80RBiu.  As has been discussed by this group and in other places, PDF only publication is not the best method of publishing government data.

Therefore, I saw this as a perfect opportunity for some education and outreach.  I am planning on putting some summarized information together that will discuss data publication methods to sent to the bill sponsors and other members of the Colorado legislature.  I also plan on speaking at the Senate hearing for the bill as a concerned citizen.

I would appreciate the assistance of anyone wishing to help me out.  Please feel free to e-mail me and I will share a Google Doc I will be using to draft the materials.

Thanks
Brian

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On leaving the GSI this email was certified virus free.
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Received on Friday, 29 January 2010 21:15:05 GMT

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