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Right now we have a problem, that problem is lots of useful data is fragmented across lots of websites. Valuable information that is available but just too hard to find hinders everyone, people seeking services, people trying to collect the information to help steer people to the services, and people trying to use that data to make decisions.


The solution is using good data standards in general and Open Referral in particular.


Data standards are a widely agreed upon way of using and storing data to help make things easier for everyone. An open data standard is one which is available to everyone with the goal of making it easy for people to share data and to take that data and use it.


Below you can see two examples of open data standards being put to use. Here you can see has tagged and organized it’s data in such a way that Google can parse it and pull out pretty much all the information you care about. Below you can also see the same thing when you search for a movie and it shows various locations and showtimes with links to easily purchase tickets. On the right there is lots of extra information like reviews, runtime, rating and a trailer.



What is happening here is specific bits of data are being tagged and the google search results is setup to treat that data in a special way. Using the movie as an example all the theaters have, on their own, tagged each of their showtimes with a special tag. Then when Google crawls their site it automatically finds that wherever it’s located and compiles the data into what we see.


A more relevant example would be referral services like hotlines. Currently if a hotline wants to have a good base of resources to refer people to it’s going to require a significant investment. Aside from the initial setup cost maintaining it takes a lot of time. New resources are created, old ones go out of date, and the information you want is often buried in a different location on each website.


This is where Open Referral comes in, it is a system for tagging and organizing data that is specifically designed for health and human services. With this it would be easy to always have the current, well formatted, data at your fingertips. When this has a decent level of adoption you will be able to reliably have all the data at your fingertips and be confidant that if the data changes things will keep working and you won’t even notice.


The main obstacle to this working is adoption, this hinges on getting a critical mass of people to put their data in this format and to develop tools to take advantage of this data. As handy as it would be if people went in and changed their sites to use this more realistically it will probably be something that is written into the contract when a site is being built or overhauled.


The one thing I want everyone who reads this to do is take a good hard look at your upcoming projects and see if Open Referral is something you can incorporate in.


For more information on Open Referral you can visit their website or watch this presentation given by Greg Bloom, the lead organizer of Open Referral.


Yesterday we had a presentation on some of the core features of Google Analytics and talked about some of the best practices and common pitfalls in using it. If you missed it yesterday or are just curious to see what the big deal about analytics is check out the video below. In this video we focus on Google Analytics but the theory holds up no matter what analytics package you are using so it's well worth checking out.

This webinar was presented by Chris Tuttle of Idealware and Brain Rowe of LSNTAP. 

If you watched the video please take a minute to fill out this survey and give us some feedback.


We have just put up video from the Google Docs webinar we hosted a little bit back. The webinar has been chopped into three parts, one each for Docs, Sheets, and Slides, and put into a play list along with our videos on GIS mapping which make use of Fusion Tables. If you missed the webinar or want a refresher on what we covered please check out that playlist.




What’s the benefit of a tech investment, and when it is worth the expense? What’s the best way to think about the return on investment of a technology project in quantitative terms? In this session, we’ll talk through the core concepts around how to consider and weigh the costs and benefits of technology projects. Then we’ll work together as a group to collaboratively identify some of the most effective and measurable elements you can use to predict the return on investment for innovative projects. You’ll leave with a clear framework to help you think through innovative technology investments at your own organization.

Presented by 

Laura Quinn of Idealware
John Greiner of Just Tech, LLC
Brian Rowe of LSNTAP

The slides for the presentation can be found here.

And please fill out this survey to help us continue to bring you these videos.


If you are using Skype and Dropbox for your personal use you may be ok but you may want to think twice about using them for things that you need to keep secure. The EFF has released a scorecard that rates over 40 different messaging services on seven point ranging from encryption to code audits. This scorecard was launched late 2014 but has been kept updated  with the most recent change being 2016/3/13. Of the most commonly used applications FaceTime and iMessage are only popular messaging apps that are relatively secure, and there are quite a few apps that have been developed and been marketed as secure which score higher still.


For the full list follow this link.

In more recent news last friday at the ABA Techshow there was a panel called “Can They Hear Me Now? Practicing Law in an Age of Mass Surveillance” There is an excellent report that can be found here but there are several very import points that they cover but don't elaborate much on.

The main thing is that security is an ongoing process that requires work and you will never be perfect or done. Everything is the field is evolving and changing so even if you were secure a few months ago you may not be now. You should research the software you are using and see if they have a history of strong or weak security or if any new problems have been discovered, and when you are making changes and upgrades to software make security a priority. Often there are more secure alternatives to popular applications, a good example cited is SpiderOak as a good alternative to Dropbox.