Thinking more about the work programme for the Task Force and the layered model I described earlier, there is a need for an additional layer above the Presentation Layer.
INTERACTION LAYER – the methods used for engaging with people interested in the data being presented, including both reactive, e.g. accepting comments, and proactive, e.g. introducing material into blogs and social networks, methods.
This goal of increasing interaction around government data is an important part of the Power of Information analysis and a number of activities are underway in this area.
An early priority amongst these is to produce guidelines for civil servants who already want to interact with social media but are unsure about the propriety of this.
Tom Watson blogged his initial ideas on some guidelines a few weeks ago. This has fed into a more formal process that was triggered by PoI report recommendation 13 –
To maximise the potential value of civil servants’ input into online fora, by autumn 2007 the Cabinet Office Propriety and Ethics and Government Communications teams should together clarify how civil servants should respond to citizens seeking government advice and guidance online.
This clarification is an essential element to enable the development of a sound Interaction Layer. With these rules in place, with a public version expected soon, we can work on further building expertise and capacity within government for engagement with social media.
Article by Richard Allan, Task Force Chair.
Models for presenting information over the internet have often been driven by their ‘shiny front ends’. The user-facing website is all important and the supporting data is somehow squeezed into this.
Thinking has moved on over recent years with a developing understanding of the importance of separating data from its presentation. If nothing else, this allows for simpler changes to the presentation layer as, for example, websites are redesigned.
We can take up this thinking in the Task Force and consider the architectures that are needed for public sector data to advance the Power of Information goals.
The following model is presented as an initial contribution to this discussion:
PRESENTATION LAYER – the public-facing front end, typically a set of web pages
ANALYSIS LAYER – any form of interpretation of the raw data, typically for summary presentation
ACCESS LAYER – all the information needed to access the data, including technical, legal and commercial aspects
DATA LAYER – the raw data sets
This sketch will be fleshed out over coming weeks into a more comprehensive model against which sources of public sector information can be tested.
This will allow us to understand and work on overcoming any barriers in the data and access layers that prevent innovation in the analysis and presentation layers.