The Promise and Pitfalls of Government APIs

How the City of Boston does Open Data.

Civic Innovations

Fresh off a week in San Diego for the annual Accela Engage conference (where Tim O’Reilly gave a keynote presentation) and some stolen hours over the weekend for hacking together an entry in the Boston HubHacks Civic Hackathon, I’ve got government APIs front of mind.

Getting to hear the Godfather of “Government as a Platform” speak in person is always a treat, and Tim was kind enough to share the awesome slide deck he used for his talk. The chance to follow up on an event like Engage with some heads down time to bang out a quick prototype for the City of Boston was a great opportunity to frame some of the ideas discussed at the conference.

For me, this quick succession of events got me thinking about both the promise and the pitfalls of government APIs.

APIs: The Promise

The thing I love the most about…

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Open Data Portals: Where To Find Data

Finding sources of open data can be a little cumbersome because there are so many ways to find data. There are a lot of websites that house data. For instance, let’s say that you are looking for data on the bike routes in Philadelphia. One place you can look at is Open Data Philly which is a portal that provides access Philadelphia based data sets, APIs, and applications.  You can search amongst the over 170 datasets or even submit or nominate a dataset to be included on the site.  A quick search on the site shows that there are 6 datasets related to biking ranging from bike rack locations to commuting routes.  Many large cities and counties are have websites where they store open data for their municipalities.

Here are some sites for local/federal government data:

Philadelphia: Open Data Philly

New York City: NYC Open Data

Boston: City of Boston

District of Columbia: Open Data Catalog

U.S. Government: Data.gov