Playing with the National Data Catalog

I first read the announcement about the National Data Catalog over a week ago, but decided to play with it a little before I wrote about it. But first, what the heck is the National Data Catalog? From the site, located at “The National Data Catalog is an open platform for government data sets and APIs, making it easy to find datasets by and about government, across all levels (federal, state, and local) and across all branches (executive, legislative, and judicial).” At this writing data is cataloged from, the District of Columbia, Utah, and the Sunlight Foundation. For once, a site I’m reviewing is not in beta! No no no. It’s in alpha. D’oh!

You can do a keyword search or you can browse the data, and I started with browsing. Just going to browse the data brings about 1485 results, but you can narrow that somewhat by specifying jurisdiction, organization, source type, and release year. Available data sets are presented in a table which includes dataset name and (usually) some kind of description, star rating (if any; the ones I looked at usually didn’t have one), jurisdiction, organization, and formats. I saw all kinds of formats: XML, MAP, CSV, ATOM, XLS, ESRI, etc. (You can download data sets right from the collection browsing if you like.) Collections have their own detail pages, which also allow you to do data downloads and which have a little more information and spaces for comment.

Examples of data sets of I found: School Election Districts in DC, Active Mines and Mineral Plants in the US, and gall bladder removals in Utah hospitals (huh?) It looks like the Federal government has the most data sets here.

While there’s plenty you can do with a CSV file and a spreadsheet, several of these formats require more intense manipulation. As you might expect the National Data Catalog has an API along with a certain amount of documentation. Impressive, but naturally I want more data sets….

Peer 2 Peer University Starts Round Two

Thanks to Creative Commons for the heads-up about Peer 2 Peer University, which has announced its second round of free and open online courses. Read this and sign up quick, because the registration deadline is February 28…

What the heck is P2PU? The tagline for the site is “Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything,” which should give you a good overview. The site, which is run by volunteers, is trying to create a source for high-quality, low cost education.

Currently the site is in its second phase of courses, which will run from March 12 to April 23. You can get the course list at Courses offered include “Solve Anything! Building Ideas through Design,” “Managing Election Campaigns,” “Intro to Concepts in Behavioral Economics and Decision Making,” and “Climate Resilient Cities”. You’ll have to register on the site before you can sign up for the courses.

I don’t know what’s on tap after this next round of courses — pilot phase three? — but you can follow Peer 2 Peer U’s blog at