[@OKau] Standard format for publishing CSV spatial data on data.gov.au - feedback, comments?

Steve Bennett stevage at gmail.com
Wed May 6 05:12:24 UTC 2015

On Wed, May 6, 2015 at 2:33 PM, Craig Thomler <craig.thomler at gmail.com>

> My questions and concerns are not about the specific fields you include,
> but around the need for another standard.

Sure. Maybe the word "standard" isn't quite right - perhaps "convention"
would be better. Virtually any time people exchange data through a format
with definable attributes (like an Excel spreadsheet, a geoJSON file etc)
there's a fair chance they'll up with conventions about how to name and use
those attributes. So if the open data community doesn't want another
"standard", we'll just publish this as a "guideline for contributors to
National Map".

> Can you explain what problems this standard will solve and why no existing
> standards are not able to solve them?

It will provide concrete guidance to data providers who want to know the
best way to name a field containing a postcode, or a latitude and
longitude, or an LGA.
It will, if followed, simplify the process of using data known to follow
the standard, by removing the guess work.
It's a small step towards frictionless data <http://data.okfn.org/> and
linked open data, where data can flow between different tools and
applications with a minimum of additional context.

If there are existing standards that do this, I'd love to hear about them.

Did you consider extending an existing standard to solve these problems
> before reinventing the wheel by creating another new standard (ANS)?

Isn't formalising conventions as applied to CSV files an example of
"extending an existing standard"?

Does your standard make it harder or impossible for a data provider to meet
> another standard? Particularly one that they are required to meet on a
> mandatory basis for legal or contractual reasons?

Good question. I'm not proposing any prohibition on other fields, so this
standard would only conflict with another if the other proposed some
different contents for the same field, or if the other standard prohibited
fields included here. In the worst case, the result would probably be no
worse than a data provider having to publish two different CSVs to meet the
two different sets of requirements.

> What futureproofing is being built into this standard to stop the next
> person working at National Maps, or elsewhere in government, from throwing
> it out and creating another new standard?


> Have you calculated the cost for data providers to meet your standard?
> What benefits will they get to offset these costs?
> What incentives are there for data providers to follow your standard? Will
> you compensate them for the cost of meeting it?

The additional cost of renaming fields to meet the standard is likely to be
pretty trivial for most data custodians, I believe.  I mean, look at it.
All it says is "call your state column this, and call your LGA column
that". We've probably all experienced the horrors of being forced to comply
with some ghastly 1000 page spec, but that's a very different kettle of

The short term benefit is: "your data automatically appears on National
Map". If that benefit is not enough to justify the cost of meeting it, then
the data provider obviously shouldn't do it.

> Who will endorse this standard as an actual standard? Will be be an
> industry or government-backed standard, or just a one-man/agency
> pseudo-standard?

Let's start out with "pseudo-standard". Maybe it will become some kind of
de facto community standard that people use because it does something
useful for them. Something like https://github.com/mapbox/simplestyle-spec

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