Part of Obama's pledge for greater governmental transparency in his first term was the Web site Data.gov, a massive repository for datasets on all manner of government statistics, including hot-button topics like health care and the environment. It's come a long way since launch--it now has more than 250,000 datasets, compared to 47 at launch--but it never received the popularity (read: Web traffic) the administration expected. That was in large part because it was a massive repository of governmental datasets, designed in standard-issue governmental Web site format.
Wired got a look at the new version, which will launch this Friday, and there've been a ton of changes that make the service much more approachable for the everyday interested party. The main ideas: an aesthetic redesign, and a new focus on presenting information people care about in ways that are more understandable than giant spreadsheets.
So instead of dozens of columns indicating average body fat percentage, now you can check out detailed information on health and obesity, county by county. Want to know if your home county fares better or worse than the national average in consumption of fruits and vegetables, or percentage of smokers? That's all there, in easy-to-read visuals, maps, and graphs.
One of the coolest implementations is something that's in effect now, but which I (and, it seems, pretty much everybody else in the country) didn't know existed: on-time flight trackers. On a given day, it tracks the average amount of time it takes to get through any security line at an airport, so you can time your trip accordingly. It even does it in an incredibly cool and efficient way, using Twitter.
To report security wait times using your cellphone, bookmark flyontime.us/m/lines/security or tweet “#airportsecurity [three-letter airport code] in” when you enter the security line, and “#airportsecurity [airport code] out” once you’ve gotten through.
How great is that? There are lots of other new features to come, including some kind of monitoring or statistic study of the oil spill in the Gulf. I just hope people actually use it this time--a lot of that will depend on the administration's ability to advertise the site and why people should use it, because features like that flight tracker are so cool, easy, and useful that I'd imagine most people would take advantage if they knew about it.
The redesigned Data.gov should launch this Friday, May 21st.