Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Proposed new terms of data use

Expand Messages
  • aronpilhofer
    ... Let s hope it s a low floor, because I wanted to let folks know we ve just released our campaign finance API. Not necessarily of great use to this group,
    Message 1 of 15 , Oct 15, 2008
    • 0 Attachment
      > Bah! APIs! The next time someone says API I'm gonna jump out a window.

      Let's hope it's a low floor, because I wanted to let folks know we've
      just released our campaign finance API. Not necessarily of great use
      to this group, but who knows.

      http://developer.nytimes.com/docs/campaign_finance_api

      Incidentally, I agree that API's are a rather crappy way of
      distributing data en toto, but who is arguing this as an either/or?
      There is significant value in both.

      First, you mention how horrible it would be should the FEC create an
      API. But not everyone has the technical know-how to handle, what, 12?
      13? million FEC records, much less make sense of the arcane poorly
      documented system they use to categorize and code individual records.
      If you don't know what you are doing, you can end up completely
      shooting yourself in the foot.

      And don't even get me started on the electronic filings, which is what
      we are using for our own API. The process of massaging those data into
      something meaningful is far far more complicated than it should be.
      (Like, who's the genius who decided not to require campaigns to
      disclose their aggregate amount of unitemized donors?)

      So, why should you be required to become a campaign finance expert in
      order to use the data? That's an artificial and unnecessary barrier.

      Second, not everyone wants all 8 kazillion records. They may only care
      about specific donors, or specific candidates, or specific localities.
      A well-written API (ours is a work in progress, so, don't judge it
      just yet) is another way of lowering the barrier of entry.

      I agree that the term and the concept is getting a bit overused. But
      that isn't a compelling reason NOT to make access to data easier for
      people.

      >Again, I'm not actually enacting this policy over my data.

      On the specific point that started this thread, it might be a good
      time to gently remind you that this is not your data. It's the
      public's data, which you (and god bless you for having done it) have
      taken the time and effort to make available in a rational format for
      the betterment of all.

      It is a lesson I think we all learned on the playground: sharing is
      not always reciprocal. There are going to be people out there who
      take, and don't give back. I understand your frustration, but I don't
      think adding some new requirement is going to help all that much, and
      may actually end up hurting more than anything else.

      My 2 cents,
      Aron
    • Josh Tauberer
      ... Well, look, I wasn t making a statement about APIs in general. I was responding to a response to my statement about contributing to the commons, and I was
      Message 2 of 15 , Oct 15, 2008
      • 0 Attachment
        aronpilhofer wrote:
        > Incidentally, I agree that API's are a rather crappy way of
        > distributing data en toto, but who is arguing this as an either/or?
        > There is significant value in both.

        Well, look, I wasn't making a statement about APIs in general.

        I was responding to a response to my statement about contributing to the
        commons, and I was saying that an API doesn't contribute the data to the
        commons.

        In the case of the Times's FEC API, the data is already available in
        bulk from the FEC. You're providing an additional service to make things
        easier, and I say that is only a good thing. You're also a commercial
        enterprise, with different goals, and I meant to only be addressing the
        strictly nonprofit/transparency world, though I know I didn't say it.

        > On the specific point that started this thread, it might be a good
        > time to gently remind you that this is not your data.

        For all the time I put into it, I think I get a little say in how it is
        used (if you access my server to get it). I have no moral obligation to
        provide the data to everyone. At worst it would be hypocritical to start
        adding restrictions when I talk about openness, which is why I don't
        actually have any.

        And the irony is not past me that if I actually add a restriction,
        someone could fork the project.

        > There are going to be people out there who
        > take, and don't give back.

        But that doesn't mean I shouldn't have an expectation about what they
        *ought* to be doing. The fact that someone isn't contributing data that
        they have back doesn't mean I stop asking.

        --
        - Josh Tauberer
        - GovTrack.us

        http://razor.occams.info

        "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
        falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
        Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
      • aronpilhofer
        ... Fair enough. I move to strike my statement from the record. ... I guess that depends on what restrictions you do decide to slap on it, if any. I m not
        Message 3 of 15 , Oct 15, 2008
        • 0 Attachment
          > Well, look, I wasn't making a statement about APIs in general.

          Fair enough. I move to strike my statement from the record.

          > For all the time I put into it, I think I get a little say in how it >is

          I guess that depends on what restrictions you do decide to slap on it,
          if any. I'm not telling you anything you don't know -- but that's part
          of the deal when you decide to open things up. People take and don't
          play nice. It sucks, but you can't really have it both ways.

          >The fact that someone isn't contributing data >that
          > they have back doesn't mean I stop asking.

          No one said that. But putting some kind of license on the data to
          enforce it, that's another matter.
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.