Here’s a few snippets of comments, emails and other communications I’ve had this week in response to specific posts or just the blog in general. Each one touches on why I love blogging and my readers and why this blog has come to mean so much to me.
Venting, and finding out your not alone…
So, yesterday I got a little bit into a hate-on for Statistics Canada’s website. It wasn’t the first time and pretty much every time I do it I find another soul out there whose had their soul crushed by the website as well. Take this comment from last week:
Re: Stats Canada’s website being unusable. I completely frickin agree. God. Has anyone in government actually tried to use that website? An econ professor gave our class an assigment last year that involved looking stuff up on Statscan. Half of our class failed the assignment because they gave up and the other half had the wrong data, but got the marks anyways for trying. I think he actually took that assigment off of the grading at the end. It’s a bloody gong show…
Sometimes it makes me feel more human knowing that others are out there struggling with the same thing. StatsCan does great work… I just wish they made it accessible.
…and then having some kind souls find some solutions for you.
But as nice as knowing you’re not alone… even better is how often the internet connects you to others who just happen to have that esoteric piece of knowledge that saves the day.
I agree, Stats Can is one of the worst government websites out there (specifically those stupid CANSIM tables), one that, as a policy analyst with XXXXXXXX Canada, i frequently have to use to get data. I had the data for XXXXXXX and it wasn’t hard to get it for the country.
This kind soul led me straight to a completely different page on statscan that happened to have the data I was looking for. (for those interested, it was here).
And they weren’t the only one. Another reader posted a link to the data over twitter…
Thank god there is an army good natured amateur and professional experts experienced in navigating the byzantine structure of the statscan website!
So… thank you! I’m going to try to grind out an updated pan-North American version of the Fatness Index this weekend.
But this week also had that other rewarding ingredient I love to get: hearing about a post helped, incrementally, foster better public policy. This came in via email from a public servant about yesterday’s blog post:
Your blog today provided a good example in a meeting with government colleagues about the benefits of opening data. It illustrates the implications of not releasing data to the public (e.g. stifling innovation)… It resonated well with them.
This is a huge part of why I blog. Part of it is to explore ideas, part of it is to introduce ideas and thoughts, but a big piece of it is to enable public servants and do just this, helps small internal government meeting (on subjects like open data) go a little more smoothly.
So to everyone out there, be it policy wonks, students, public servants, politicians or ordinary, engaged citizens. Thank you. It was a good week. We wrote some good posts, some good comments, had an original story on the stupidity of the census, and maintained sanity in the face of the StatsCan website. Thank you everyone for making it so fun. Hope you all have a great weekend. – Dave
: ) I try to spread the open source meme wherever I go – in my department or elsewhere – and you are one key resource I keep telling people about because the prose you produce is intelligible, intelligent and of sound reasoning on the issues. It’s all uphill most days, but if we’re all pulling in the same direction, it should work, right?
Btw, I don’t even bother using the Statscan self-serve features. I just call up the statscan person who proactively contacted me the last time I used the service and it, of course, buggered up – this person resolved all the issues. Most of them know full well how problematic the ICT interfaces are, and they insert themselves willingly as a human link to fix the issues. There are some wonderful folk over there, working under very trying conditions.
Oh, hey – that’s all of us!
This isn’t an ideal solution, but it’s a good way to start finding the right types of data … go to Google and type search-term site:www40.statcan.ca e.g., median income by province site:www40.statcan.ca
Calling them up is helpful too. They’ll point you in the right direction and they can discuss the data set (at least the people I spoke with)
Thank-you, David, for leading the way towards Real government transformation. You’ve inspired me to start blogging about where things are at in BC :)