Blog Post

Hello World, Take 2!

So…we’ve been a bit quiet about open data in San Francisco. In case anyone was worried, we’re still here and about to get quite chatty. Going forward, we’ll use this blog to talk about what we are doing, what are our plans, and what are our struggles with open data. You can also follow DataSF on Twitter.

I started this spring as the City’s first Chief Data Officer. This is what we’ve been up to:

Talking. Alot. I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know people working both inside and outside of the City (or in partnership). Along the way, I’ve been learning a lot about our challenges with data use and access, but I’ve also learned a great deal about some amazing work. I’ll be featuring some of these stories in future blog-posts. One thing I’ve learned - the City’s data is a complex ecosystem and it will take time to unfurl and understand.

Planning and Defining. I’ve been pulling together a strategic vision for the next 3 years. The full plan will be available online shortly - look for it on this blog. Part of the plan is defining the role of Chief Data Officer and where it fits and how does open data overlap with, complement or frustrate existing data work. I expect the plan to change (even substantively) over time, but we need something to serve as a compass to guide our path forward.

Starting to execute. We have started work on a number of things. I’ll be blog-posting more about each of these. The short (and incomplete) list is:

  • Portal Overhaul. DataSF is in serious need of a facelift! And if you have feedback, tell us in this 5-10 minute survey. It has fun questions like “If DataSF were a car, what car would it be?”
  • Data Categories. Part of overhauling DataSF is sorting through how we categorize our data to facilitate data discovery. We have 27 categories - way too much. We’ll be simplifying this.
  • Metadata. The information we provide about our datasets is more or less out of the box. But we’ve heard from our users that it needs lots of work. We are rethinking our metadata requirements and how we will roll that out.
  • Establishing Data Coordinators. Our legislation calls for the role of data coordinators, who will serve as the point of contact and coordination for open data work and standards. While the nominations are still rolling in, we are kicking off this group.
  • Planning for the inventory. This part is a bit scary. How to inventory a vast store of data on disparate information systems? How do you define a dataset? What guidance do you give to our data coordinators? All tough questions. Drop me a line if you  have thoughts.
  • Hacking! Big shout out to SFBrigade for hosting the National Day of Civic Hacking in San Francisco. The event was a great success and the projects that the Brigade teams are tackling are super cool. I’m really excited to see how they evolve.

And who is we? The existing open data portal has been maintained by Andy Maimoni and Mathias Gibson at 311 and they have graciously kept it going. And the GIS team, Jeff Johnson and Sam Valdez, have helped create and keep the backend data feeds to DataSF alive and functioning. We are also getting a lot of great support and guidance from Jay Nath and Jason Lally in the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation. Everyone has been tremendously helpful answering all my many questions. Lastly, I’ve had a rock star intern, Peri Weisberg, join us for the summer. Thank you everyone!