Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Government Data and the Greater Cloud

These days, so much is being made of cloud computing from the "capacity-on-demand" perspective, that I thought I'd take the time to review an interesting "service" that I consider an element of the "cloud system" in the larger sense. It's not a Web Service as such, but a site that performs a valuable service that can be utilized in business or government applications.

John Udell introduce me to EveryBlock with his discussion of how EveryBlock is exposing the value of free access to government data. This public information site is heavily processing data readily available from public agencies, allowing any user (or other system) to query the data in ways not originally intended by the agency. John has an excellent example of these types of queries, but I played around with the site a little, and I can see that this is an excellent resource. Imagine what this service can do for the legal, construction and journalism industries.

Of course, John notes that the government data isn't nearly as *digitally* available as it needs to be. I hate to "me too" his post, but I have to concurr. These agencies aren't *good* cloud citizens until they expose their public data via a (hopefully simple) API.

(Caveat: I am still trying to determine if EveryBlock has an API, but their site HTML looks parsable enough.)

Many of the "cloud computing" definitions I've seen lately have had to do with how easy it is to move resources around between "capacity-on-demand" vendors. I want to submit that the "cloud system" is everything that is available to support computing via the Internet, including the key services that are ready to be integrated into other applications. Google Maps for instance. Or Flickr. Just as long as they remain decoupled from the clients that use them, any electronically accessible Internet property has a potential to contribute to the cloud system.