Today we launched the Housing Data Hub - your go to resource to learn about housing programs in San Francisco and the data behind them. Housing is a complex issue and it affects everyone in the City. However, there is not a lot of broadly shared knowledge about the existing portfolio of programs. The Hub puts all housing data in one place, visualizes it, and provides the program context. This is also the first of what we hope to be a series of strategic open data releases over time. Read more about that below or check out the Hub, which took a village to create!
Evolution of Open Data: Strategic Releases
The Housing Data Hub is also born out of a belief that simply publishing data is no longer sufficient. Open data programs need to take on the role of adding value to open data versus simply blog-posting it and hoping for its use. Moreover, we are learning how important context is to understanding government datasets. While metadata is an essential part of context, it’s a starting not endpoint.
For us a strategic release is one or more key datasets + a data product. A data product can be a report, a website, an analysis, a package of visualizations, an article…you get the idea. The key point: you have done something beyond simply publishing the data. You provide context and information that transforms the data into insights or helps inform a conversation. (P.S. That’s also why we are excited about Socrata’s new dataset user experience for our open data platform).
Will we only do strategic releases?
No! First off - it’s a ton of work and requires amazing partnerships. Strategic (or thematic) releases should be a key part of an open data program but not the only part. We will continue to publish datasets per department plans (coming out formally this summer). And we’ll also continue to take data nominations to inform department plans.
We’ll reserve strategic releases to:
- Address a pressing information gap or need
- Inform issues of high public interest or concern
- Tie together disparate data that may otherwise be used in isolation
- Unpack complex policy areas through the thoughtful dissemination of open data
- Pair data with the content and domain expertise that we are uniquely positioned to offer (e.g answer the questions we receive over and over again in a scalable way)
- Build data products that are unlikely to be built by the private sector
- Solve cross-department reporting challenges
And leverage the open data program to expose the key datasets and provide context and visualizations via data products.
We also think this is a key part of broadening the value of open data. Open data portals have focused more on a technical audience (what we call our citizen programmers). Strategic releases can help democratize how governments disseminate their data for a local audience that may be focused on issues in addition to the apps and services built on government data. It can also be a means to increase internal buyin and support for open data.
As part of our rolling release, we will continue to work to automate the datasets feeding the hub. You can read more about our rollout process, inspired by the UK Government Digital Service. We’ll also follow up with technical blog-post on the platform, which is available on GitHub, including how we are consuming the data via our open data APIs.