Launching and Marketing the Open Data Portal

Getting an open data portal off the ground can involve several steps. It’s worth noting that members of the public open data community generally don’t expect perfection on the first try, and are quite tolerant of problems in both data catalogs as well as the data itself. City leaders earn public trust and praise by acknowledging these imperfections and working to correct them.

Pre-Launch and Beta-Testing

Although it isn’t mandatory, launching a publicly accessible open data portal before formally announcing it can be valuable. It provides the opportunity to work with a limited community to identify and correct any major problems. During this pre-launch period, it is important to ensure all site visitors understand that it may be unstable, difficult to use, and that the available data may be temporary and subject to change. During this stage, it is common for websites to include a “beta” label somewhere prominent or require visitors to acknowledge a message indicating the site is “pre-launch.” Cities may opt to include a beta-testing period for public feedback as part of their executive order or governance plan.

Official Site Launch

Formally launching an open data portal requires the voice of the Mayor. This step is largely a communications and marketing effort. Although an open data launch announcement is powerful by itself, its reach can be dramatically magnified when tied to other policies, initiatives, or even local events. Cities often use a wide array of media channels to get the word out, including a press conference, press release, email outreach, website homepage banner, social media messaging, and more. An in-person announcement by the Mayor is often organized through local technology sector events.

Public Engagement

Open data signals the city's openness to collaboration on important city problems and can represent a new mode of public participation in city problem identification and decision-making. Beginning an open data program with visible and authentic public involvement improves the momentum for open data both inside and outside of government. For these reasons, it's useful to begin thinking about how to involve members of the public in the open data program from the earliest stages of your open data release. See Engaging the Community for more.

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