Late last week the Obama Administration announced the release of almost 300 data sets on Data.gov. You can browse through them at http://www.data.gov/ogd/.
This page lists two tabs: one for raw data sets and one for a tool catalog. The raw data sets are listed by department, from the Department of Agriculture to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Each data set listing includes a brief description, rating if available (most of the data sets don’t have listings), agency/subagency name, and category. The tools include same information and sorting.
The raw data sets are interesting if you’re into development or crunching of various sorts (number, text, etc.) Let’s take for example the FEMA Disaster Declarations Summary. You can download the raw data in several different formats, in this case including XLS, XML, CSV/TXT, KML/KMZ, and Shapefile. There’s a summary of data information including description, release date, and time period, a ratings section, keywords and agency information, and a pointer to documentation for the dataset. The kind of data available runs the gamut from straightforward (“U.S. Government recreation sites and facilities”) to somewhat more niche (“Prescribed Fires and Acres from 1998 to 2008 by Agency.”)
If you’re not a developer you’ll probably find the tools tab more interesting. These tools are not all new, but you may not know about all of them. There’s nutrition information on 1,000 commonly-eaten foods, a database of patents resulting from Department of Energy sponsored research, a tool to get custom image maps of planets and satellites, and what I would describe (I’m not sure it’s the correct description, but I’d describe it this way) as an API to get the delay status of airports.
I wish there were other ways to sort this data — by rating, for example, or category — and I looked for or couldn’t find an RSS feed for updates on the latest data collections (did I miss it?) It’s a great idea to become more transparent; a tool to keep the public posted on how transparent the government is becoming would be just as handy.