Geek-Speak Glossary & FAQ

Maryland has a rich American history of democratic participation and citizen-led self-governance. Open government is simply the next evolution. Open, accessible, human-friendly and restriction-free information like makes it all possible.

What the Heck Are “Open Government” and the OpenGov Foundation?

We're a scrappy little non-profit, non-partisan outfit working to open government. That means making it easier for people to access and use as much government information as possible. We believe innovative technology can help deliver a government that listens, works for its citizen-users, and learns from them. We are dedicated to putting better data and better tools in more hands. Our goal is to make or adapt those tools to be easy to use, efficient, scalable and free. Democracy means everyone should have chance to be a hands-on contributor.

Click here to learn more about Team OpenGov and click here to get your hands dirty with us.

What’s an API (Application Programming Interface)?

According to The Wise Geek, an API is “a set of data structures, protocols, routines and tools for accessing a web-based software application. It provides all the building blocks for developing programs with ease.” The API lets others plug into our data so they can build software programs and applications that interact (and stay updated) seamlessly.

<<<Learn more about APIs>>>

What’s “Open Data”?

A good working definition comes from the Open Knowledge Foundation: “Data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike.” We’re all living better because of it. Will it rain tomorrow? Every TV news forecast, weather app or website runs on open weather data at some level. Lost? That map in your pocket runs on open data from the Global Positioning System (GPS). These - and an exploding constellation of products and services - are made possible by open data. Imagine the possibilities if all government information came this way!

<<<Learn more about open data>>>

Are There Other Open Government & Open Data Advances I Should Know About?

Yes. President Barack Obama has recognized that the ability to freely access, reuse and redistribute public information - in the manner made possible by - is central to healthy socities and democracies in the 21st Century. In his historic December 2009 Open Government Directive, the President instructed all federal agencies to publish their data:

“ in an open format that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by commonly used web search applications. An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information.”

Open access advances aren’t limited to the federal government. Right here in Maryland, smart and tech-savvy public servants have made good progress making both city and state public data truly public. Highlights include:

What’s XML (Extensible Markup Language) and A “Bulk XML Download”?

XML is a document format that is both machine-readable and human-readable. That means it contains baked-in structures that computers, software and apps can understand, without all the technical gobbledygook that makes most machine-readable documents unintelligible to people. On, you’re reading XML (and so is your computer!). Popular uses of XML are Microsoft Office, Apple iWork, Libre Office and RSS.

A “bulk XML download” is a way for software developers to obtain a full set of the XML documents in a given set all at once.

<<<Learn more about XML>>>