I stumbled across a neat new data resource at Data.gov. Its a new initiative of the executive branch to make more public data accessible. It has a limited data set at the moment, but has a lot of tools that make the data easy to manipulate for both armchair analysts and serious researchers alike.
The datasets are easily filtered by topic and agency, by file type and/or keyword. Each detail page (such as this one tracking USA river levels
) contains a very easy to read description of the data set with source information, a list of all the file types available, data dictionary, etc. There are even links to RSS feeds and embeddable widgets for your website, such as this one with emergency texts from the Centers for Disease Control:http://www.cdc.gov/widgets/SMS/SMSReader.swf
Each dataset allows for ratings on data utility, ease of access and usefulness, as well as for general comments. While it remains to be seen whether this resource will achieve its promise, it's foundation is very appealing.