Kate Geyer, Integration Engineer, Information Technology Division
What if looking up data were more like browsing the web than searching a database? What if you could find data just by browsing? Linked data, an effort to connect data sets on the web, aims to do just that. By describing the datasets well--by location, topic, content--finding the data you want will be just like using Wikipedia. The Open Data Initiative is working to bring that ease of use to Massachusetts public data.
The Massachusetts Open Data Initiative is a project to make public data freely available for use and re-use. We publish the Data Catalog, one central place for Massachusetts data, browsable by topic. Every dataset has a few descriptors--what agency is responsible for it, a brief description, how often it's updated. We're paying attention to publishing data in a structured way, in standard formats like JSON and CSV's. The next step is describing that data is a structured way. We're working on describing the Data Catalog with standard vocabularies published by DERI and Sunlight Labs.
Our goal is a catalog not only browsable by topic, but by city or town, or year, or the term that makes sense to you. Just like a library cross-references material, we want to bring that flexibility to the Commonweath’s data. The Data Catalog continues to grow--new datasets are added and existing datasets are updated. We want that data to be easy to navigate and use.
The most important part of the Open Data Initiative is making the Commonwealth’s data available to everyone. Open formats, standard vocabularies, and linked data are some tools we are using to accomplish that. Browse through the catalog! We have a Twitter account and Google Group for you to post questions and get answers.