Mashing up the Dashboard

This post is for anyone interested in any of the Government Transparency inituatives. If you’ve been following this topic then you’re probably aware that Vivek Kundra sees a dashboard as a way of accelerating the transparency and transformation of the Government.

After watching groups like the Sunlight Foundation and Change Congress work their magic, I’ve now begun seeing much of this transformation from the inside due to my new job.

However, I still endeavor to participate externally as well and so I wanted to do some analysis on the public data.

In order to start, I wanted to import the information into Google spreadsheets, since I can kill two buzzwords at once by leveraging Cloud Computing services for Transparency!

For a while, I fought with the easiest way to import the data and wanted to share what eventually worked for me.

First, create an new spreadsheet and name your tab appropriately. Then go to the USASpending Feeds page to select the specific data you want. I suggest starting with the Exhibit 300 information since it’s typically a smaller dataset and my Exhibit 53 tab with more than 1200 rows has proven to be very slow.

Next pick, and I highly suggest reordering, the data fields you want you must then pick which Agency or Agencies you’d like info on. Again, considering that lots of data will be pretty slow.

Finally, select the CSV icon which should open the download prompt for your browser. It’s unfortunate that the implementers didn’t use a dynamic tag here because you can’t simply copy the URL. Instead I had to first download the file itself and then copy the originating URL into my clipboard (I was using Chrome so how to do this will depend on your browser).

The URL should look like a much longer version of this:…

Now that we’ve got the URL we can import everything into our spreadsheet by selecting the A1 cell and entering:


Where “<url>” is of course the long URL you copied earlier.

After a quick few seconds your data should be automajically imported!

For the Exhibit 300, things worked just great but for the Exhibit 53 data I ended up with each cell of Column A holding the full data for each entry. So in B1 I simply entered: =SPLIT(A1, “,”) (note thre’s a bug with Google where the quotes ave to be double quotes not single) and then things auto populated left to right.

Unfortunatley, the “SPLIT()” didn’t auto-populate downwards as well and dragging the function down the full B column is very very painful.

Happy Data Hacking!

About jay

I'm trying to build something interactive where I can learn from others and hopefully share useful knowledge too.
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