Re: Proposed new terms of data use
> 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.
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
>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,
- aronpilhofer wrote:
> Incidentally, I agree that API's are a rather crappy way ofWell, look, I wasn't making a statement about APIs in general.
> distributing data en toto, but who is arguing this as an either/or?
> There is significant value in both.
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
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 goodFor all the time I put into it, I think I get a little say in how it is
> time to gently remind you that this is not your data.
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 whoBut that doesn't mean I shouldn't have an expectation about what they
> take, and don't give back.
*ought* to be doing. The fact that someone isn't contributing data that
they have back doesn't mean I stop asking.
- Josh Tauberer
"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
Tortoise (in "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
> 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 >isI 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 >thatNo one said that. But putting some kind of license on the data to
> they have back doesn't mean I stop asking.
enforce it, that's another matter.