Despite the vast amounts of information on the Web, finding reliable information about legal services through internet searches is harder than many expect. Basic searches — for needs like assistance with evictions, help with public benefits, or protection from domestic violence — often turn bewildering as results on Google, among other search engines, typically seem unhelpful and untrustworthy.
Every U.S. state has legal aid organizations to help people who can’t afford private law firms. But these organizations rarely have the capacity to specialize in Search Engine Optimization that can compete with private firms and even scammy operations that tend to dominate search results.
Search results don’t have to be as hit-or-miss as they are today. One promising method of improving search results is by adding specialized tags – i.e. “web markup” – to legal aid websites that help web engines better identify and index their information.
Schema.org – which represents a coalition of the major web platforms – produces such web markup for smarter search results. With schema.org’s standardized vocabulary, websites can ‘mark up’ otherwise unstructured text into structured data that can be semantically ‘understood’ by search engines.
When Open Referral first began, we worked in collaboration with the team that developed the first version of the ‘Civic Services schema’ at schema.org. We were particularly motivated by their vision of a future in which anyone could use colloquial language in their searches and easily get reliable, richly detailed results. Finally, through partnership with legal aid providers in Florida and around the country, we now have our first glimpse of that future. Continue reading
[This post is from Kin Lane, the API Evangelist, who is serving as Open Referral’s deputized Technical Lead for our OpenAPI specification project. Thanks Kin!]
Version 1.1 of the Human Services Data API specification (HSDA 1.1) is now available for review and comment.
This is an alpha implementation of our OpenAPI specification. It is built upon version 1.1 of Open Referral’s Human Services Data Specification (HSDS). Whereas HSDS is designed to facilitate raw exchange and bulk publication of resource directory data, the HSDA serves as a common protocol for resource directory APIs.
To facilitate testing, we’ve made the HSDA available in this demonstration portal. This portal is a redeployable (and forkable) reference implementation that provides guidance for working with the HSDA protocols. Implementers can use it to easily set up a “developers’ area” for their own API implementation.
Moving forward, we’ll collect feedback from stakeholders and reiterate this process twice more over the course of the summer. We’re setting a day/time for the next Open Referral Assembly now; if you’re interested, indicate your availability here. Continue reading
Last year, Open Referral introduced Version 1.0 of the Human Services Data Specification — an open data exchange format designed to make it easier for different organizations to share standardized information about the health, human, and social services available to people in need. Since then, a broad range of organizations have used the HSDS to make resource directory data easier to find and use in new ways in their communities.
We’ve received a lot of great feedback along the way, and we’re now ready to put this learning into action — by improving the HSDS itself, and making it easier for people and organizations to use.
This upgrade cycle has already begun: the Open Data Services Cooperative (read their introduction here) has already taken a series of steps to make it easier to understand, comment upon, and work with the HSDS.
Introducing our new documentation
First of all, Open Referral now has our very own Github organization, which hosts our data specification and associated materials. You can check us out here. Continue reading
This post is from Tim Davies, founding member of the Open Data Services Co-operative.
We’re really delighted to announce the Open Data Services Co-operative’s new collaboration with Open Referral on the Miami Open 211 project, and on wider developments of the Human Services Data Specification (HSDS).
At the Open Data Services Co-operative, we’re passionate about helping people publish and use open data for social impact, particularly where data standards are involved. We believe that data standards are a key part of shared infrastructure for collaboration. As infrastructure, standards need a lot of behind the scenes design, development and maintenance work. When standards operate well, most users will hardly notice them. When standards are neglected, all sort of opportunities for connection, collaboration and engagement break down. But standards are not just technical — they are fundamentally social: about connecting people as well as information. Continue reading
For many years, leaders in the Information & Referral (I&R) industry have sought to improve the reliability of exchanging the data they curate about social and human service providers in their community, with partners. In any given region or metropolitan region, it is important for these providers to know about other providers so they can provide referrals to their clients for more specialized services. However, with each provider tracking and managing their own such referral database, it adds up to a significant amount of duplicated effort and large discontinuities in data quality amongst the providers.
But what if the providers could agree upon pooling their efforts and sharing the data amongst themselves, either as a loose federation, or with one obvious centralized provider who is willing to share the data with partners? And what if, on a larger scale, they desired a similar type of pooling across their state/province or even country?
That’s where an agreed-upon data standard can facilitate the sharing of resource databases amongst partners using different software systems. … Since we want iCarol to continue to be the most innovative provider of I&R software, we are building support for Open Referral’s Human Services Data Specification (HSDS) version 1.0 directly into iCarol. Continue reading
Immediately after a disaster, information managers collect information about who is doing what, and where, and then turn this information into “3W Reports.”
While some groups have custom software for collecting this information, the most widespread tool for this work is the spreadsheet. (Indeed, the spreadsheet is still the “lingua franca” of the humanitarian aid community, which is why UNOCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange project is designed around the exchange of ‘flat’ spreadsheet-based data.)
During the ongoing migrant crisis facing Europe, a number of volunteer technical communities (VTCs) in the Digital Humanitarian Network have engaged in the work of managing data about these humanitarian services. They quickly realized they needed to come up with a shared template for this information so they could more easily merge data with their peers, and also so that during the next disaster, they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel all over again. …
Earlier this month, we published version 1.0 of the Human Service Data Specification (HSDS). Let’s take a deeper dive into it.
What is the Human Service Data Specification (HSDS)?
The HSDS is a format for data exchange, specifically designed to enable the publication of machine-readable data about health, human, and social services that are available to people in need.
HSDS is essentially an interlingua — in other words, it’s a common language that can be used by anyone to enable community resource directories to ’talk’ to each other.
Why did we develop the HSDS?
We believe that development of an open, standardized format is a necessary step in a process of reducing the costs of producing directory data, increasing the quality of such data, and promoting its re-use in valuable ways. Continue reading
We’re pleased to announce the release of version 1.0 of the Human Services Data Specification (HSDS, also known as the Open Referral format).
Read the specification here: Google Docs and Github.
The purpose of HSDS is to make it easy for community resource directory data to be exchanged among different kinds of information systems, in order to make information about helpful services easier to produce, find, and use. Continue reading