Monday, April 25, 2011

Creating an information resource

I recently created a Google Fusion Table with the data collected from the 2008 Michigan Department of Agriculture migrant licensed housing list. With 2008 being the most recent data made available, I decided to use an online tool that takes a pdf and turns it into xls. After doing some data cleanup, I then uploaded the data as a csv file into Google Fusion Tables. You can take a look at the table here and view the screencast tutorial here.

The reason why I undertook this project was because I thought that while the list was useful, there was no way to manipulate the information to get a very quick look at the statistics one might truly need. How about if someone wanted to see what camp sites in the state had the earliest occupancy begin dates or latest occupancy end dates? How about if you wanted to find out which owners or townships had the most sites? With the data only provided as a pdf, you couldn't find this information except by skimming 26 pages of information.

Based on my experience with this project, I would encourage state agencies to provide data not only in pdf but also in xls and even csv so that new solutions can be built to help others gain greater value from the information provided.

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