back to article Thanks for all this data, UK.gov, but what on Earth does it mean?

The coalition government needs to work harder if it's to convince the public that shovelling out spades of raw data will make it an open and transparent administration, MPs have said. The Commons Public Accounts Committee has drawn up a report called Implementing the Transparency Agenda, which welcomed Number 10's Open Data …

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Silver badge

They're not serious about releasing info

When I asked under FoI for a list of websites visited by Theresa May and senders/recipients of all her emails I got the brush-off. Odd really, 'cos she wants to know all that about us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They're not serious about releasing info

Publish the request and the answer - this too needs to be kept an eye on..

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Thumb Up

No coalition fan by any means but this is one area they're doing alright. Getting this mass/morass of data into the light and actually usable is going to take a while, but they've made a decent start.

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Gold badge

I think it's too soon to tell. I suspect there will first be a phase of obfuscation to bury the painful needles in as large a haystack as they can get away with (or omitting the critical bits and hoping that volume masks the omission). Another play I expect is using complex or rare formats, such as only providing the data in printed form in steel boxes welded shut, to be collected only.

On the plus side, there is at least a start.

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Silver badge
IT Angle

Bung out the data

Chuck it all out - at anybody and everybody.

Only very few will be able to filter out the 99.999% of crap/padding/misdirection and make use of what's left.

HM.Gov get to brag about 'openness' when it's nothing of the sort.

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Silver badge

Re: Bung out the data

Fortunately, on the Internet you only need one person with a computer, scripting language and some determination to find the 0.0001% and show it to everybody.

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Anonymous Coward

This report has been sanitised

[ ]

Thank you for your interest.

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cbw

Costs

Gov organisations spend a fortune collecting data and now they need to spend more money tarting it up to help who? How many people have accessed this data to use it for anything meaningful?

How much is this costing the tax payer and what benefits will we see?

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Pint

I prefer mine tartare

If any government repackages the data in a way which makes it easier to understand, it's inevitable that they would also put their greasy spin on it. We already get their version via press releases and departmental PR - surely the point here is to get the raw data available too, so that anyone can put their own visualisation / interpretation / spin on it. Or at least, anyone who can get their head around the semantic web can.

And while hating Nu Labour and the coalition with equal venom, one has to give credit to both for running with the idea, and letting Tim Berners-Lee drive the agenda - though as anyone on the mailing lists will know, all the actual good stuff has been done by the civil service, not by politicians.

Pint, because I'm taking tomorrow off so today is technically Friday.

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Re: I prefer mine tartare

I agree that we should still get dumps of the raw data but they must be in an open machine readable format. I don't care if I can read a table of numbers when there are 50Billion of them, I care that I can tell a computer to pull out the bits I want or draw a graph for me. Scans are bad, .csv is OK.

Hopefully this will all get better over time as new records are made with the idea of someone reading them again rather than the old records that were to be kept because the policy says we should do... so no need to worry about being able to read them.

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tables of metadata

If the gubmint followed its own supposedly strict guidelines for archiving, retrieval and retention of documents, their admin and archiving wonks would be creating metadata tags for every digital folder (and the documents contained within), and doing a thorough job of creative accurate descriptive location and contents metadata for paper docs.

Having seen the ICO randomly scoring 6 figure hits on the hapless and utterly baffled denizens of local gubmint and sundry outsourced minimum wage outfits, it would make sense to go after the hypocrites at the core of the Open Government policy, whose attitude to data retention and transparency is both piecemeal and pathetic. Lip service is fine for public consumption, but accurate digital data, in the form of simple printmerges from any SQL database, or from the original bulk metadata data input csv, would not only save a few gazillion on faff and obfuscation, but might actually result in a modicum of transparency.

If the naysayers at the FoI division at your Ministry of Spend refuse to entertain your request for supposedly public info, ask them for their department's current position on Section 46 of the FoIA. It's amazing what a little bit of sardonic memory jogging can do to a career bluffer.

It's supposedly a set of easily attainable targets for local and national gubmint wonks to aspire to and eventually meet.. If you really want to twist the knife, ask them how close their dept or ministry are to full compliance with these guidelines. Then ask for proof.

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