Data.gov–freely accessible data in standard formats from the USA federal government

Have you ever wondered where the world’s copper smelters are?  Or pondered reservoir storage data for the Colorado river?  Had questions about the residential energy use of US households?

Now you can find the answers to these questions, using data.gov, the stated purpose of which is “to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.”  I’ve been writing for a while about the publishing power of the internet, but data.gov takes this to a whole new level.

It’s definitely a starting point, not an end, as there are only 47 raw datasets that you can access.  They cover a wide range of data and agencies, and were apparently chosen to kick things off because they “already enjoy a high degree of consensus around definitions, are in formats that are readily usable, include the availability of metadata, and provide support for machine-to-machine data transfer.”  The four main formats for data provided by data.gov are XML, CSV, KML and ESRI.  (There are also a number of widgets, and tools you can use, including the census factfinder.)

More datasets can be requested, and I’m hoping that they will be rolled out soon.  What a playground! Go take a look!

Update, 4:55: Here’s a great article on the whole process and problem.

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Boulder Facebook Developer Garage, part II

I attended the first Boulder Facebook Developer Garage, and it was a hoot (are people under 60 even allowed to use that word in that context?).  The second one is coming up in next week–I got a message from Kevin Cawley, who is playing some role in organizing this shindig.  All the details are here: Boulder Facebook Developer Garage, part II.

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Where does the cloud live?

The network is becoming more and more essential to my every day life.  Sun was right!  But I haven’t put much thought into what the cloud actually is.  Luckily, First Monday has a paper about that very topic.

“Where is the Cloud: geography, economics, environment and jurisdiction in cloud computing” gives a nice overview of aspects of cloud computing that I have not spent much time thinking about. It isn’t too in depth, but gives a nice overview of cloud computing from a non technical perspective and a good look at how the pleasant abstraction of cloud computing actually intersects with the real world.

In addition, there are lots of interesting factoids in the paper, including “Collectively, the data centers in the U.S. consume electricity on level with a sizeable city — equal to the energy consumption of Las Vegas”, “Google has submitted a patent for water–based data centers that would use energy generated by the ocean to power and to cool the servers, with the ships housing these data centers positioned in international waters”, “The Canadian government has a policy forbidding public–sector IT projects from using U.S.–based hosting services to avoid U.S. laws like the USA PATRIOT Act” and “in January 2008, Amazon Web Services was storing 14 billion units of data, varying in size from a couple of bytes to five gigabytes, and handling 30,000 requests to its database per second”.

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