New “Open Data Guide” Answers Whys and Hows of Growing Field

What’s with the buzz about open data these days? Why did New York City’s Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot predict that, “Open data will saves lives” in 2013? Why did Mayor Emanuel in Chicago hire a Chief Data Officer?

Cloud-based, open data software provider Socrata, Inc. has just release an “Open Data Field Guide” to help make sense of this new and dynamic field.

The goal of the Guide is to help any government organization find a foothold and start an open data initiative that will be successful. Socrata has worked with some of the world’s leading open data programs over the past four years, from the World Bank to Governor O’Malley’s program in Maryland.

And, rather than keep all of that useful knowledge tucked away, Socrata’s team gathered it up into a single, comprehensive guide for people at any stage of an open data initiative. Whether you’re trying to select your first data set to publish or want to create an open data policy, the Guide offers resources that can help.

“We’ve witnessed, again and again, the amazing transformation that can happen once organizations put their data to work,” says Socrata CEO Kevin Merritt. “This guide is designed to share what we know right now. It will continue to evolve as the field grows.”

Lessons Learned

Beginning with topics like, “Why Open Data? Why Now?” the Guide covers a range of key success factors such as goal setting, assembling a team, community outreach, the six steps to open data program implementation, and more.

Socrata interviewed a number of its customers to add their advice to the Guide. It features insights from many of them and, to start, full interviews from three major players in the Chicago open data community, Chief Data Officer Brett Goldstein, Director of Performance Management and Analytics, Tom Schenk, and civic hacker Derek Eder.

Socrata plans to publish more full interviews over the coming months from thought leaders at organizations like the state of Colorado, the World Bank, the city of Edmonton, state of Maryland, state of Oregon, and many other innovators in the field.

“We want people to read the Guide, engage, give feedback, and use it to strengthen the open data community,” says Merritt. “This is a living document.”

Useful Resources in Companion Toolkit

The Guide also features a companion “Open Data Field Kit” with resources like “Top 10 Open Datasets,” “Sample Open Data Strategic Charter,” and “How to Run a Hackathon.”

“The toolkit will grow as pioneering open data efforts continue. This field is young. We’ve scoured policies and process documents to build a collection of resources so that no one has to start from scratch,” says Merritt.

Want to start with the dos and don’ts of open data? Check out Socrata’s “Golden Rules of Open Data.”

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