Open government:….

Open government: getting beyond impenetrable online data by Jed Miller.

From the post:

Mathematician Blaise Pascal famously closed a long letter by apologising that he hadn’t had time to make it shorter. Unfortunately, his pithy point about “download time” is regularly attributed to Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau, probably because the public loves writers more than it loves statisticians. Scientists may make things provable, but writers make them memorable.

The World Bank confronted a similar reality of data journalism earlier this month when it revealed that, of the 1,600 bank reports posted online on from 2008 to 2012, 32% had never been downloaded at all and another 40% were downloaded under 100 times each.

Taken together, these cobwebbed documents represent millions of dollars in World Bank funds and hundreds of thousands of person-hours, spent by professionals who themselves represent millions of dollars in university degrees. It’s difficult to see the return on investment in producing expert research and organising it into searchable web libraries when almost three quarters of the output goes largely unseen.

You won’t find any ways to make documents less impenetrable in Jed’s post but it is a source for quotes on the issue.

For example:

For nonprofits and governments that still publish 100-page pdfs on their websites and do not optimise the content to share in other channels such as social: it is a huge waste of time and ineffective. Stop it now.

OK, so that’s easy: “Stop it now.”

The harder question: “What should we put in its place?”

Shouting “stop it” without offering examples of better documents or approaches, is like a car horn in New York City. It’s just noise pollution.

Do you have any examples of documents, standards, etc. that are “good” and non impenetrable?

Let’s make this more concrete: Suggest an “impenetrable” document*, hopefully not a one hundred (100) page one and I will take a shot at revising it to make it less “impenetrable.” I will post a revised version here with notes as to why revisions were made. We won’t all agree but it might result in a example document that isn’t “impenetrable.”

*Please omit tax statutes or regulations, laws, etc. I could probably make them less impenetrable but only with a great deal of effort. That sort of text is “impenetrable” by design.

Comments are closed.