California S.B. 272
California’s state and city agencies publish a lot of data. But a law requiring them to publish catalogs of everything they have makes it much easier to see what’s not yet published.
The Encampment database
One of the interesting public records requests I've seen lately came from Parker Higgins in late August 2016:
The "enCampment" data system maintained by GSA-Public Works, described in SF OpenData records as "Tracking homeless encampment location and timeframes." Specifically, a record layout for the database and a data dictionary for any codes used in the database.
What SF Public Works returned was pretty much a spreadsheet, and you can see it here on my Google Drive. It's just a multi-tab spreadsheet – next we'll look at what makes it a database.
How did Higgins learn that the city has beta software to record homeless encampments? Through the power of SB 272: Transparency Hunters Capture More than 400 California Database Catalogs
California has a law that requires all jurisdictions to release catalogs of what records and software they have. Civic hackers put together a convenient spreadsheet of how to find these catalogs; here's my mirror on Google Drive
And here we can see the Encampment database: