The Atlantic published an article entitled “iGov: How Geeks are Opening Up Government on the Web” by Douglas McGray that discusses API Documentation and examines the possibilities when government agencies allow access to their raw data in an open, standard file format. The article uses the BART system as an example:
Turns out, it didn’t. In 2007, Google engineers asked public-transit agencies across the country to submit their arrival and departure data in a simple, standard, open format—a text file, basically, with a bunch of numbers separated by commas—so Google Maps could generate bus and subway directions. A handful of agencies, including BART, decided to go a step further and publish that raw data online. Once they did that, any programmer could grab the data and write a trip planner, for any platform.
“It’s not 1995,” BART’s Web-site manager, Timothy Moore, explained. “A single Web site is not the endgame anymore. People are planning trips on Google, they’re using their iPhones. Because we opened up our schedule, we are in those places.”
“We can’t envision every beneficial use for our data,” Moore told me. “We don’t have the time, we don’t have the resources, and frankly, we don’t have the vision. I’m sure there are people out there who have better ideas than we do. That’s why we’ve opened it up.”
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