Federal Government Data Sets Published As Postman Collections With Mocked API Paths And Organized in API Workspaces

I have been working on creating, publishing, refining, and bringing attention to federal government datasets and API since 2012, with time spent in DC working for the Obama administration. I received a Knight Foundation Grant in 2016, and I’m super passionate about making government data more accessible and usable, so naturally I’m going to keep investing in government data while working with Postman. I am finding Postman to be an amazing platform for moving forward my government data work, empowering data stewards to do what they do best with some new tools, processes, workflows, and approaches to curating and making data available for consumption, augmentation, enrichment, and most importantly something anyone can put to work.

To begin this work and build a proof af concept I took some data sets from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on state and federal prisons and prisoners to demonstrate what is possible when you build Postman collections from government data, making it available its portable machine readable collections that can be shared via URL or shared Postman workspaces, making them accessible via mocked APIs that return data in a JSON format. While anyone can visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website and get at this data on their own, I’ve spent time cleaning up the CSV or spreadsheet files, organizing them into side by side simple mocked API endpoints, and wrapped as a single collection so you don’t have to click around, download, and deal with all of the data differences. I’m a big fan of open government data, but I’m a big fan of open government data that is usable.

I am going to spend a couple of hours each week taking the government data I track on more accessible via Postman collections and workspaces. I’ll be converting data to JSON, and making available as mocked APIs that are accessible via a variety of collections and workspaces. I’ve created a workspace specifically for Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, and published a prisons API collection with four separate mocked paths, and resulting JSON examples fo the data:

  • Prisoner Mental Illness - A breakdown of prisoners with mental illness by demographic.
  • Prisoner Population by State - Showing the number of prisoners within each state.
  • Prisoners with HIV - Details of prisoners who have HIV within state and federal prisoners.
  • Supervised Population - More breakdown of populations who are under supervision.

There are many other prison related datasets available at the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website. I will keep working my way through them, cleaning them up, and publishing them as collections. No doubt I will learn some better organizational, naming, and other skills along the way. This is why I do this. I mean, I want to make the data more accessible, but most importantly for me personally is that I get better at working with public data, converting spreadsheets and CSVs to JSON, and making it more available and accessible for use in other systems and applications. I’m also going to play with making available as both CSV and JSON so that all my collections can still be easily used in spreadsheets by humans, as well as within other applications using JSON.

While I think the cleaning up and refinement of existing government data sets is valuable by itself, I’m more stoked about the potential of organizing them as well defined Postman collections, breaking down the data into folders, and other well named collections, making them usable in applications via mock APIs, and all organized via collaborative workspaces where you can invited a wide variety of consumers, is the big shift for me. If you’ve worked with public government data at all you know it is cumbersome and time intensive. If someone can take these datasets and clean them up, organize and make them available in a single place for other developers, and non-developers to put to work the potential is pretty significant. I will keep plugging away at my open data work, and see where it takes me. If you want access to any of my workspaces and are interested in helping coordinate around the work of a single agency or in general, please ping me at [email protected], or use @apievangelist on Twitter.