Improving Insights from Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Camp

The Sunlight Foundation recently hosted TransparencyCamp, a gathering of technology, policy and government thought leaders to discuss open government and open data initiatives. My recent post, “ICYMI: TransparencyCamp Event” gave a general overview of the event, and highlighted a session with former Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd. This blog will look at a subsequent forum from last week’s conference moderated by General Services Administration (GSA) expert Jeanne Holm.

Often used in a religious context, to evangelize means to spread the good news. Data evangelist Jeanne Holm does just that for the GSA and, the federal government’s hub for numerous datasets, application development tools, mobile technology resources and more.

“In May 2009, was an experiment,” Holm said. “There were questions: would people use the data? Would agencies share the data? And would it make a difference?” Now the data site boasts more than 100,000 data sets from 175 different government agencies. In addition, it features more than 350 citizen apps and 450 application programming interfaces (APIs). has made big strides over the last five years. But the website isn’t completely seamless: there’s still a lot do be done to fill the gaps and enhance data services. In a session titled “Open Data Rocks! Make More Useful,” Holm led an open forum discussing the many ways can continue to improve its efforts.

One of the primary concerns raised during the discussion was about how to find or access a particular dataset. Holm explained that recently went through a website redesign. They involved the most relevant communities throughout the entire process to test usability, navigation, and visual appeal. As a result, the searc

h function is easier to access and easier to use. She also offered these other tips when looking for data or other resources:

  • Contact directly at
  • Post your query to GitHub or Open Stack Exchange
  • Tweet at using their Twitter handle, @usdatagov

Another participant voiced concerns about how plans to keep datasets up-to-date and cohesive, especially as data and data collecting methods change over time. “Every data owner is responsible for making users aware of any changes,” Holm answered. Each dataset must be equipped with the owner’s contact information.

The conversation concluded with brainstorming of ways can forge better relationships with states and municipalities to develop a collective of shared data. Other suggestions regarded implementing Google analytics to track data downloads to find out which datasets are most pertinent amongst users.

Holm offered this final directive for the forum: “Actions + Promises = Better Service.” GSA and are committed to keeping everything transparent throughout the next stages of the site’s development. This includes releasing dates for new builds and updates, and making sure they deliver these products on schedule. For additional notes on the session, click here.

Look for a third post on one more informative Transparency Camp session, this time with members of the Sunlight Local team.

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