Guide to Sharing Your Data

by Kin Lane, API Evangelist Twitter LinkedIn Github Email

So you want to share some data-- perhaps out of the goodness of your heart, perhaps it makes you look good or perhaps you're required to do so.

Whatever the case, sharing your data should be done in such a way so that the data is truly open and accessible. First:

Putting data in a PDF does not really constitute opening and sharing your data!

    I don't care how much we all love (or hate) the PDF. PDF has a lot of good uses, but sharing data is not one of them. PDF is a Portable Document Format and is great for sharing documents, but it does'nt provide and structure for data. So if you take your data and publish it online in a PDF form you are not making your data open or accessible.


    Posting an Excel file to the Internet is a good step, if you speak Microsoftese, but it would be better to export it as CSV (Comma Separated Values) or TSV (Tab Separated Values). This at least keeps your data structured and by putting it on the Internet your are opening it up.

    If you really want to think a little further ahead, you might consider importing your Excel spreadsheet as a Google Doc. This will make it public, and will accomplish the same goals aspublishing as Excel, CSV or TSV but you also have the added collaboration, sharing and API that comes with Google Docs.


    If you truly care about the openness and accessibility of your data, you will publish it using a Restful API. Provide clear documentation on how use your API, and provide as many samples of code in as many different programming languages as you can.

    Take time to consider your goals in publishing your data to the web, and your intended audience. Make your data as open and accessible as you can.