I keep coming across neat tools that claim to support ‘open government’ and ‘open standards’, but have no indication of which governments or regions they are relevant to.
The Open Data Standards website is a case in point. It’s facilitating the development and fine-tuning of open standards, but for a while I suspected that it was relevant only to the US or Canada. It was only when I dug into their ‘Contact us‘ page that I found the following sentence:
“Open Data Standards has members in several countries around the world and is headquartered in Chicago, IL”.
However, there is still no indication of which countries are finding it useful. I can’t imagine it will ever be possible to have truly universal standards because different places have different civic structures and different ways of referring to them.
I feel a bit bad about singling out Open Data Standards because it’s just one example of many tools and services that don’t make it clear which jurisdictions they are supporting.
This lack of context is frustrating for me because it means I can’t recommend these tools to people in the UK as I don’t know whether or not they’re relevant. But it also suggests a lack of clarity and connectedness – openness, even – across the board. If you want to be open, accessible and useful you also need to communicate what you’re doing as clearly as you possibly can.
So I guess this post is really a plea: when producing tools for public use please make it clear which public they’re for.