I just noticed that the upcoming San Francisco Open311 initiative is planning to coordinate its efforts with a similar initiative underway in Washington, D.C. with the ultimate goal of making their systems interoperable. This is outstanding news; it means that if a developer builds an application that targets a data set emitted by one government agency there’s a decent chance that application will work against any similar agency’s data.
After machine readability, interoperability is the final frontier for open data. It’s not enough to post meeting minutes online as PDFs (the format where data goes to die), and soon it won’t even be sufficient to post it in a machine-readable format; data needs to be structured consistently. If every municipality invents its own format, this movement will be stillborn.