A Few More Thoughts on GetTheData.org

As we come up to a week in on GetTheData.org, there’s already an interesting collection of questions – and answers – starting to appear on the site, along with a fledgling community (thanks for chipping in, folks:-), so how can we maintain – and hopefully grow – interest in the site?

A couple of things strike me as the most likely things to make the site attractive to folk:

– the ability to find an appropriate – and useful – answer to your question without having to ask it, for example because someone has already asked the same, or a similar, question;
– timely responses to questions once asked (which leads to a sense of community, as well as utility).

I think it’s also worth bearing in mind the context that GetTheData sits in. Many of the questions result in answers that point to data resources that are listed in other directories. (The links may go to either the data home page or its directory page on a data directory site.)

Data Recommendations
One thing I think is worth exploring is the extent to which GetTheData can both receive and offer recommendations to other websites. Within a couple of days of releasing the site, Rufus had added a recommendation widget that could recommend datasets hosted on CKAN that seem to be related to a particular question.

GetTheData.org - related datasets on CKAN

What this means is that even before you get a reply, a recommendation might be made to you of a dataset that meets your requirements.

(As with many other Q&A sites, GetTheData also tries to suggest related questions to you when you enter you question, to prompt you to consider whether or not your question has already been asked – and answered.)

I think the recommendation context is something we might be able to explore further, both in terms of linking to recommendations of related data on other websites, but also in the sense of reverse links from GetTheData to those sites.

For example:

– would it be possible to have a recommendation widget on GetTheData that links to related datasets from the Guardian datastore, or National Statistics?
– are there other data directory sites that can take one or more search terms and return a list of related datasets?
– could a getTheData widget be located on CKAN data package pages to alert package owners/maintainers that a question possibly related to the dataset had been posted on GetTheData? This might encourage the data package maintainer to answer the question on the getTheData site with a link back to the CKAN data package page.

As well as recommendations, would it be useful for GetTheData to syndicate new questions asked on the site? For example, I wonder if the Guardian Datastore blog would be willing to add the new questions feed to the other datablogs they syndicate?;-) (Disclosure: data tagged posts from OUseful.info get syndicated in that way.)

Although I don’t have any good examples of this to hand from GetTheData, it strikes me that we might start to see questions that relate to obtaining data which is actually a view over a particular data set. This view might be best obtained via a particular query onto a particular data set. such as a specific SPARQL query on a Linked Data set, or a particular Google query language request to the visualisation API against a particular Google spreadsheet.

If we do start to see such queries, then it would be useful to aggregate these around the datastores they relate to, though I’m not sure how we could best do this at the moment other than by tagging?

News announcements
There are a wide variety of sites publishing data independently, and a fractured networked of data directories and data catalogues. Would it make sense for GetTheData to aggregate news announcements relating to the release of new data sets, and somehow use these to provide additional recommendations around data sets?

Hackdays and Data Fridays
As suggested in Bootstrapping GetTheData.org for All Your Public Open Data Questions and Answers:

If you’re running a hackday, why not use GetTheData.org to post questions arising in the scoping the hacks, tweet a link to the question to your event backchannel and give the remote participants a chance to contribute back, at the same time adding to the online legacy of your event.

Alternatively, how about “Data Fridays”, on the first Friday in the month, where folk agree to check GetTheData two or three times that day and engage in something of a distributed data related Question and Answer sprint, helping answer unanswered questions, and maybe pitching in a few new ones?

Aggregated Search
It would be easy enough to put together a Google custom search engine that searches over the domains of data aggregation sites, and possibly also offer filetype search limits?

So What Next?
Err, that’s it for now…;-) Unless you fancy seeing if there’s a question you can help out on right now at GetTheData.org