Let’s Hack data.gc.ca

In just under two weeks data.gc.ca will celebrate its one year anniversary. This will also mark the period that the pilot project is officially supposed to end.

Looking at data.gc.ca three things stand out. First, the license has improved a great deal since its launch. Second, a LOT of data has been added to the site over the last year. And finally, the website is remarkable bad at searching for data and enabling a community of users.

Indeed, I believe that a lot of people have stopped visiting the site and don’t even know what data is available. My suspicion is that almost none of us know what is actually available since a) there is a lot, b) much of it is not sexy and c) it is very hard to search.

Let’s do something about that.

I have managed to create, and upload to buzzdata, a list of all the data sets in data.gc.ca – both geographic and non-geographic data sets.

I’m proposing that we go through the data.gc.ca data sets and find what is interesting to each of us, and on March 15th, find a way to highlight it or talk about it so that other people find out about it. Maybe you tweet about it (use the hashtah #gcdata) or blog about it.

Even more interesting would be if we could find a way to do it collaboratively – have a way of collectively marking what data sets are interesting (in say, a piratepad somewhere). If someone had a clever proposal about how to go through all the datasets, I’d love for us to collectively highlight the high value datasets (if there are any) available in data.gc.ca.

Speaking with the great community of open data activists in Ottawa, we brainstormed about organizing an event after work on the 15th where people might get together and do this. We could call it “The Big Search” – an effort in any city where people are interested to gather and comb through the data. All with the goal of signaling to developers, non-profits, journalists and others, what, if any, data in data.gc.ca might be of interest for analysis, applications, or other uses. In addition, this exercise would also help us write supportive and critical comments about the government’s open data trial.

Finally, and most ambitiously, I’ve heard some people say they’d like to design an alternative data portal – I’m definitely game for that and am happy to offer up the datadotgc.ca url for that too.

So, I’m throwing this out there. If there is interest, please comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts and hope we can maybe organize some events on March 15th, or at least posts data sets in blogs, on facebook and on twitter, that people think are interesting.

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