Break through the bureaucracy. Pass an ordinance to require city departments to provide data through APIs.
My fear is that we will all spend our valuable time coming up with incredible ideas and then not have access to the data we need on a timely basis. I've been through this before at the city in multiple departments, There are many ways to hold back public data. I propose we work through defined channels to get an ordinance passed that requires city departments to provide data through APIs that we can then be used to serve and inform the public. There are several issues to be addressed, including costs, budgets, privacy, timeframes, etc., but we can come up with something workable with guidance.
Natalie Iwasa commented
For any readers who aren't familiar with "APIs," it stands for "Application Programming Interfaces." I would like to hear more about this idea.
Daniel Leuck commented
@Kevin - +1. That is exactly what I want to see happen. It will be easier to do initially at the city level but I'd really like our state to lead in this area.
Kevin Hughes commented
Because there are so many possible data sources, a myriad of departments, and so many ways to architect and access APIs, I suggest that one of the first things that needs to be created (as hinted at by Dan's comment) is an easy API creation/gateway service - point it to any file that can be accessed by URL, and it will poll it, cache it, and provide a common REST (and/or other)-based API layer, with common session/auth management, query caching, choice of output (such as XML or JSON), and versioning support. Its utility increases exponentially with every new source added to it, as the common interface would allow incredibly easy service mashups to be created. Yahoo! Pipes incorporates some of these ideas, but surely there must be an open-source tool (such as an Apache module) that already exists to do this?
Steve Bretches commented
Dave, I have had several conversations within my own organization regarding two important points that I think are here in your message. One is the tipping point as to when the concept of open government becomes real and productive. I have no doubt that time is soon. The other is, to Forests comment, what happens when a change in leadership comes with a change in perspective or priorities. Also, how does the government manage the process effectively to provide a useful and productive platform and data sets. I am really looking forward to this (un) conference.
I'd like to note these other API related ideas:
Daniel Leuck commented
This would be a fantastic outcome. In addition to providing data in a manner that can easily be consumed by external apps, baking a nice webservices layer into every new app would allow for better integrations between internal city systems.
Jared I. Kuroiwa commented
Hmm, first off, I like this voting thing... UserVoice? Cool.
Glancing at the attendee list, I think we have one council member that could push for continuity of any initiative and hopefully be a champion when pushing this through.
The funny thing is this is really all we need as this is a core change that most of the other suggestions could be built from.
Forest Frizzell commented
Dave this is a good point and Gordon and I have been talking about how we preserve all this work. The shame would be another Mayor coming in who isn't interested in open government and killing these projects. It will definitely coming up in the panel discussion and will be a topic that can be voted on the day of.
Peter Kay commented
IMO this is an idea that the tech community must get behind and firmly. It will bring about long lasting, fundamental change. Let's not nibble around the edges. Let's go for the gold. Great job Dave!
Phill Moran commented
I really like this Idea... Create it all as an opensource set of API's and drive it through community development - Dang it - gonna have to buy a ticket to the event now!