Scratching an Itch: The Open Data Bank

The Open Data BankEngineers, especially those of the software variety, have various types of projects to work on. Some pay the bills, some are for learning, some are to help others’ goals, and then there are the ones that we say “scratch an itch.”

It’s hard not to operate in a world of ideas without having a few of your own, and some ideas just keep popping up. If you’re lucky, someone else does it right and you can reap the benefits, but often you just have to go out and do it. These projects are often done at personal expense “to see if it works” or “because I can”, and not for fame or fortune. I have a few of these kicking around, and it was a new year’s resolution of mine to actual get some of them into the wild. So, as the first of these, I’d like to officially announce a new project that I’ve been working on (and one of the reasons for the lack of blog posts). The Open Data Bank.

The ODB is a simple idea. While tinkering with other projects, I’m often in need of data. Sometimes this is to test things out, sometimes it’s to get things started, but everytime it seems like I have to go and find it anew and coax it into some useful format. I assume that others like me have the same problem, and hopefully ODB will be a useful contribution to the tinkering ecosystem to complement other tools like open source libraries.

For the layman, the ODB is a place where we can put “open data”, that is to say, data that can be shared without restriction. Not only is the data open, but the formats it is shared in are open as well. Formats like XML and JSON don’t have to be licensed from anyone, and therefore people are free to write tools to read it.

If you’re interested in participating or just keeping track of the ODB, there’s a Google Group you can join and share info, ask questions, or offer ideas to improve it.