I thought I’d share with you (now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to calm down) the process of publishing some open data via Data.gov.uk – the site that aims to make public data more easily accessible.

 

If there’s a slightly less frustrating method of doing it, I’d very much like to know…

 

Day one:

Arrive at site. Look for a handy button labelled ‘Publish data’ or a useful link saying something like ‘How to publish your data on this site’, or some such like. Start to feel slightly stupid when you can’t find anything relevant.

Notice the ‘Sign up’ link, but note that signing up will only enable you to join the forum, post comments etc. No information is given about publishing data.

Try the FAQs – do you want to know what a mashup is? No. Try the search – do you want to browse through 99 unrelated documents? Not really.

Scratch head. Mutter. Give up.
 
Day two:

Take deep breath. Repeat all steps from day one, in the certainty that you’ve missed something really, really obvious.

Determined not to be put off again, fill in the registration form. Wait several hours for the confirmation email, retrieve it from the spam filter, then login.

View the discussion forum, in which people are saying things like:

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but how do I submit a dataset to this site?

and…

This may sound like a silly question, but how do I add new data to a dataset I have already created?

 

By rummaging through the replies on the forum, find a link called “Guidance: Including data into the data.gov.uk index”. Hang on, you might just possibly be on to something here…

The guidance is to “send your username to your departmental family’s lead” so that you can be given publisher access. Rummage a bit further and discover that the lead for local authorities is the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Send polite email to the DCLG (using the email address given on the guidance page) asking for publisher access, including your data.gov.uk registration details, council details, information about why you need access, and your deadline for publishing data on the site. Wait.
 
Day three:
Continue to wait. Wait all day. Eventually follow the “failing all else” advice given on the web page you found yesterday (which you thankfully bookmarked) and forward your polite, clearly-explained message to the Public Data people at The National Archives.

Also publish frustrated message on Twitter:

which is quickly picked up on by Will Perrin from Talk About Local (and member of the Local Public Data Panel), who asks you to email him the details if he can help.

Go home at 6pm, missing the email that arrives at 6.13pm telling you that the Local Public Data Unit – Transparency Division (your lead at the DCLG) have now forwarded your email to data.gov.uk

This email also makes a comment about your spending data (which isn’t what you enquired about), thus making clear that the person who received your message didn’t bother to read it properly.
 
Day four:
Email Will Perrin with the full details. Will sends your request to the Cabinet Office and asks them to help move things along.
 
Day five:
Spend the morning helping people to use technology in the neighbourhood that your project is based in (and which feels like a very long way away from all this publisher access gubbins).
 
Day six and seven:
Wait (but without much hope, it being the weekend).
 
Day eight:
Receive an apology from The National Archives, asking “Please could you register on data.gov.uk and send me your username” – thus making it clear that the person who your message has eventually been forwarded to hasn’t bothered to read it properly either.

Reply with a reminder that you are already registered.

Wait a couple of minutes.
 
Ta – dah! You have now been granted publisher access to data.gov.uk
 
You will now receive two separate guidance documents, each listing the various fields that you’ll need to fill in on the site – with two different sets of instructions in some cases. You’ll be really amused by one of the documents, which starts by telling you who to email to get publisher access.
 
Day nine:
The process finishes with you having finally entered your information and looking in vain for a button saying “Publish” or some such like, but finding only something called “Submit query”.
 
I do have a query: Is it just me, or is this whole process not very easy, accessible or transparent?
 
 
Diane Sims, Kirklees Council