This is an overview of my Adopta.Agency open data project, which was funded by Knight Foundation in the summer of 2015.
| Born Out Of President Obama's Mandate |
The Adopta Federal Agency, now shortened to just Adopta.Agency was born out of the presential mandate by Barack Obama, that all federal agencies should go machine readable by defaut, and instead of publishing just PDF versions of information, they should be outputing XML, CSV, JSON, and HTML formats. This mandate is still be realized across the US federal government, and has helped put into motion a great deal of open data work, across all agencies, opening data that impacts almost every business sector today.
| Worked On Open Data As Presidential innovation Fellow |
I personally worked on the open data effor in the federal government, as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, or simply PIF. I worked on open data inventory efforts at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and saw first hand, the hard work going on in government. A lot of very hardworking folks were focused on meeting the mandate, discovering open inventory assets like veteran hospital locations, and veteran program data. The challenge is not finding data at the VA, it is often the process of cleaning up, betting and making available in simple, machine readable formats, that is true challenge.
| It Is Not About Technology, But A Process Blueprint To Apply |
While in government I saw that technology only got yo so far, and there the biggest challenes are around just having the resources to make valuable data, available as CSV, JSON, and if possible APIs. The government just doesn't have the resources, or the skills to always make this a reality. Adopta.Agency is design to not just be yet another technological solution, it is designed to be a process blueprint, to help passionate government workers, or the average citizen, take already existing, publicly available open data, and move it forward one or two steps. The goal of Adopta.Agency projects is to simply clan up the data and making available on Github, in CSV and JSON formats, as well as publishing a full API when possible.
| You Can "Adopta" Agency, Project, or Data |
Adopta.Agency is focused on empowering anyone to target a government agency, and / or a specific project and data, and help encourage more to be done with the data, bring awarness the fact that the data exists, and what is possible when it is available as simple, machine readable resources, available in a public Github repository. Adopta.Agency isn't the next technological solution, it is a blueprint to help anyone conduct the hard work of moving forward the open data conversation for an agency, project, or individual piece of data.
| Using Github Repository, With Pages Making Everything Forkable |
Adopta.Agency relies on the social coding platform Github, for much of its functionality. The Aopta.Agency blueprint is available as a forkable Github repository, which allows anyone to take the master blueprint, fork it, and transform into their own open data project, following the Adopta.Agency process, without knowing how to program. Github provides an environment that allows for evolving open data, using some of the same approaches used to push forward open source software development, but focused on making open data more accessible, and usable via a Github repositories.
| Single YAML Checklist That Is Easy To Follow |
Github uses YAML as a machine readable format for much of its content or data management, and Adopta Agency leverages this, making make the Adopta.Agency blueprint process accessible as the very human friendly data format. Everything within any Adopta.Agency project is editable in each project's central YAML file, allowing you to edit everything from the project details, to links to each of the APIs, and open data files. YAML makes each blueprint machine readable, but in an easy to folllow, single process driven checklist, that anyone can follow without needing to understand how to program or read JSON.
| Defining A Clear Objective For Adopta Projects |
Each Adopta.Agency project has its own objective, targeting a single agency, project, or specific set of data. Using the central YAML file, each project owner can edit the title, description, url, tags, and other details that articulate the objective of the project, making the goals as simple, and clear as possible. This process of having to craft a concise statement which describes the project is something many existing open data efforts suffer from, government workers just don't have the time or awarness to craft.
| Focus On Cleaning Up Data And Making Available As CSV And JSON |
The primary function of any Adopta.Agency project is to target some specific data, clean it up, and make it accessible via Github as CSV and JSON files. This is something many government agencies also do not have the time or expertise to make happen, and could use the help of citizen data activists, who are passionate about the areas of society where open data can make an impact.
| Share Data and Content As Public API When It Makes Sense |
The frist step of Adopta.Agency projects is around cleaning up open data, and making it available as simple CSV, and JSON, with the second step, focused onmaking these formats available as an interactive API (if it makes sense). While a more advanced component of any project, an API can be easily deployed, without any programming experience-using modern, cloud API management solutions.
| Showcase What Is Being Built On Each Adopta Project |
Open data efforts are all about providing actual solutions, and Adopta.Agency is focused on making sure small, meaningful elements like interactive widgets, visualizations, and other tooling are provided. Each project should have a handful of tools that put data made available vai each project to work, helping exand the understanding in the topic area, showcasing the value created, and potential of open data.
| Highlight The Team Behind All Of The Work |
All of this open data work does not happen without people, and showcasing the open data, and tooling is important, but it is also important to showcase the team behind. The Adopta.Agency blueprint has built in, the ability to showcase tooling built, as well as the people and personalities behind the hard work going on.
| Share What Tools Were Used In Each Project |
The engine behind the Adopta.Agency blueprint process is a carefully assembled and developed toolbox. The Adopta.Agency toolbox includes Github as the Platform, Github Pages for the free project hosting, Google Spreadsheets as the data store, API Spark for API Deployment from the Google preadsheets, a CSV Converter, a JSON Editor Online, and D3.js for vsualizations from CSV and JSON files. All this can be run for free, unless projects are of a larger scale, or require private repositories for collaboration--if kept public, Adopta.Agencies should not cost project owners any money.
| Answer Any Questions Up Front |
Each project that uses the Adopta.Agency blueprint, also has a frequently asked question section, helping answer any obvious questions someone might have about a project, while also forcing each project owner to think through common questions. The FAQ section encourages project stewards to regularly add questions, making it any easy resource for users to get up to speed around a project.
| Offer Support Through Github Issues |
One of the most vital aspecs of using Github, is the usage of the Github issue management features, for establishing a feedback loop around each Adopta.Agency open data project. Think Facebook, for each of the open data projects, encouraging conversation, questions, a valuable feedback that helps move any project forward, making the work a social endeavor.
| Tell The Story A A Jekyll Blog |
One exteremely important aspect of the Adopta.Agency lifecycle is telling the story of what you do. This content generated as part of this portion of operations provides a rich exhaust that is indexed by search engines, and amplified on social media, helping increase awareness of the open data work. This adds another missing dimension to the open data process, which is missing with many of the existing government efforts.
| I Applied Adopta.Agency To The White House Budget |
To develop the base prototype for the Adopta.Agency project, I applied it to something I have very passionate about, the budget for the federal government. I feel pretty strongly, that having the existing spreadsheets for the US budget, available as JSON and CSV will help us better understand how our government works, and will help us tell better stories about spending using visualization, and other tooling.
| Next I applied To The Department of Veterans Affairs |
To continue the work I had already been doing at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I wanted to push forward the Adopta.Agency blueprint by applying to very importan, veteran related data. I got to work cleaning up population focused data, healthcare expenditures, insurance programs, loan guarantees, and veteran deaths. I have since hit a significant data set, breaking down VA spending by state, which I will break out into its own project.
| My Partner Did It With My Brothers Keeper Data |
With a prototype blueprint hammered out, my partner in crime Audrey watters was able to push the blueprint forward some more, by applying to My Brothers Keeper data, which provides valuable data on men & boys of color. She is still working through the numerous data sets available, and telling the story along the way, which has resulted in some very interesting conversations around how this work can be expanded, in different directions, like collecting the same data for women & girls of color, and possibly other ethnic groups.
| Attracted Someone Passionate About Fisheries |
As I was telling the story about building the Adopta.Agency blueprint, an individual contacted me, to see if we could possibly apply Adopta.Agency to the area of commercial fisheries. To support the request, I have begun a project that is focused on NOAA fishery industry data, and begun pulling available data sets, and started the process of cleaning up in Google Sheets--work that will continue.
| What Were The Challenges? |
During the six months of work there were numerous challenges identified, beginning with stigma around Github being a very difficult platform for non-developers to use, and concerns around the technical skills needed to work with JSON, and APIs. Additional concerns around interests in making this type of change in government, and whether the average citizen has the passion to make this work. Overall people we spoke with, felt it was a viable approach, something they could overcome challenges, if there were proper support across all projects, and the Adopta.Agency community. Overall there will have to be a certain amount of trust established between data stewards, the public, and government agencies involved.
| What Is Next For Adopta.Agency? |
We felt Adopta.Agency prototype was a success, and will be continue to work on projects, as well as work to amplify the approach to opening up data. While a lot of work is involved with each project, the simplicity, and journey users experience along the way really resonated with potential data stewards and project owners. We have a number of people who engaged in conversations throughout the prototype work, and will be engaging these groups, to continue with the momentum we were able to establish within the last six months.
| Looking At Applying To International Aid Work |
Our work on Adopta.Agency has also opened up a conversation with Sonjara, Inc, around a handful of additional potential grants, where we could apply the open data and API blueprint in the area of foreign aid, and government spending at the international level. Our two groups have had initial conversations, and will be targeting specific funding opportunities to help apply the existing work, within this much needed area of government open data.
| Opening Up The Value Information At Privacy Rights Clearinghouse |
Another conversation that was opened up as part of the Adopta.Agency project, was with the Privacy Rights Cleainghouse, which is a steward of privacy rights educational content, and security breach data since 2005. The organization is very interested in making more of its rich data and content availble via APis, allowing it to enrich other web, and mobile applications. This would be an exciting area to begin moving Adopta.Agency beyond just government data, and help non-profits like the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
| Adopta.Agency For The 2016 Presidential Election |
My primary supporter 3Scale, who supports my regular API and open data work since I was a PIF, has epxressed interest in sponsoring the Adopta.Agency blueprint to be applied to the 2016 presidential election. The objective would be to target open data, that would prove valuable to journalists, bloggers, analysts, and other active participants in the 2016 election. We are in initial discussion about how the process can be applied, and what funding is needed to make it a success.
| Improving Upon The API Evangelist Portal Template |
Some of the work included in the Adopta.Agency blueprint has bee included in the next version of an existing open API portal template hosted on Github. With the open licensing of the Adopta.Agency work, I am able to easily integrate into any existing open or commercial project that I work on, which provides a forkable, easily deployable developer API portal for launching in support of open API efforts. The Adopta.Agency blueprint has provided the work, some much more non-developer friendly ways of handing API portal operations, which can be applied across open API efforts across numerous business secotrs.
| Target More Agencies |
With Adopta.AGency, we will continue targeting more government agencies. We have a list of interested individuals with passions for opening up government agencies, ranging from NASA to Department of Justice policing data. We have a short list of over 25 federal government agencies to target with Adopta.Agency projects, the only limitation is human, and financial resources.
| Target More Data |
Along with the federal agencies we will be targeting, some of the conversations our Adopta.Agency work has opened up, push the model beyond just the federal government. Projects focusing on election data could span both public, and private sector data. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse will do the same, pushing us to make more data available, for consumption across all layers of the economy.
| Target More Grant Funding |
Our conversations with Sonjara, Inc, and Privacy Rights Clearihouse, are looking for specific grant funded projects where we can apply the process developed as part of Adopta.Agency work. In 2016, we are looking to target up to five new grant opportunities, seeking to move the entire project forward, as well as potentially spawn individual open data projects, expanding the Adopta.Agency community.
| Evolve the Blueprint's Reach |
While pushing forward the Adopta.Agency blueprint will occur in 2016, the most significant portion of the project's evolution will involve reaching more individuals, building more relationships, encouraging more conversations, and yes, opening up more open data across the government, and other sectors of the economy. In 2016, our goal will be to focus on evolving the reach of Adopta.Agency, by continue to apply the blueprint to new projects, and working with other passionate individuals to do the same, evolving the blueprint's reach, and its impact.
This overview is driving my presentation at Knight Foundation demo days, to wrap up the grant cycle, but the project will be ongoing, as this was just the seed funding needed to make it a reality.