Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Don't let a shiny interface make open data less useful

Rufus Pollock, Give Us the Data Raw, and Give it to Us Now, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, November 7, 2007.  Excerpt:

One thing I find remarkable about many data projects is how much effort goes into developing a shiny front-end for the material. Now I’m not knocking shiny front-ends....But shiny front ends (SFEs from now on) do have various drawbacks:

  • They often take over completely and start acting as a restriction on the way you can get data out of the system. (A classic example of this is the Millenium Development Goals website which has lots of shiny ajax which actually make it really hard to grab all of the data out of the system — please, please just give me a plain old csv file and a plain old url).
  • Even if the SFE doesn’t actually get in the way, they do take money away from the central job of getting the data out there in a simple form....
  • They reflect an interface centric, rather than data centric, point of view. This is wrong. Many interfaces can be written to that data (and not just a web one) and it is likely (if not certain) that a better interface will be written by someone else (albeit perhaps with some delay). Furthermore the data can be used for many other purposes than read-only access. To summarize: The data is primary, the interface secondary.
  • Taking this issue further, for many projects, because the interface is taken as primary, the data does not get released until the interface has been developed. This can cause significant delay in getting access to that data....