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Howto.Gov Does It Again.

Howto.Gov hosted their 5th webinar on APIs (of their 8 part installment) this past Thursday. This time, they went over a bit more of the technical roadblocks. More specifically, how to go about realeasing data for consumption and different API formats, keys, and analytics. (If lost already, refer to API evangelist. They do a great job on breaking down APIs and to get started).

When the Digital Government Strategy was released the implementation of 2 agency API’s was given a 12-month due date:

“Make high-value data and content in at least two existing major customer-facing systems available through web APIs, apply metadata tagging and publish a plan to transition additional high-value systems. [Within 6 months of release of open data policy).”

Some advice from the webinar:

Figure out what data/content is most relevant and useful to the public. Doing lots of work to release datasets that no one wants to build APIs with = thumbs down.

Balance your barrier-to-entry and security needs. Yes, your agency needs to make sure that the data being released maintains it’s integrity as far as security goes, but Ben Balter pointed out that the issue with most governement data is not over-consumption, but under-consumption. Making the data accessible to developers in a simple way is a great start, throttle up security as the need increases. Approaching open data with lots of “what ifs” will provide too many roadblocks to get started.

Use Metrics to track your data.

Census Beareau uses API metrics to see how many keys to data have been requested and issued, therefore tracking what data is most desirable to the public (or atleast developers).

Be prepared to scale.

Make sure your processes and bandwidth available for growth.

Have a feedback feature.

Understanding what can be improved upon from the horse’s mouth sets you up for success.

Howto.gov REALLY wants you to know that they are here to help. Any technical or strategic issues you are having can be addressed with them. Their job is to make sure gov agencies get out API’s and do it right. So save your resources and reach out to them to troubleshoot your process. Also, if you are in DC they are hosting an inperson “unconference” on Gov+APIs on November 1st from 1-5. It’s free for gov employees!

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