API Technical Discussions

Documentation needed

I am obviously overlooking something. There must be a better way to determine a "Concept"/"Variable Name" than trudging through the xml file.

Can someone please point me in the correct direction?



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  1. Comment
    Community Member

    I believe the xml is our only source of variable name documentation for programmatically accessing api. If your looking for a specific variable, then the acs website will have more documantation: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/

  2. Comment
    Phillip Thomas

    Indeed, the documentation provided by the data owners themselves would be the most valuable source to manually navigate the variable list.

  3. Comment

    For what it's worth, I've been developing an R package ("acs.R") to work with ACS data, and it includes a lookup feature to search for tables and variables based on keywords, using the XML files for each year. The results can be passed to another function along with geographic selections, to automates the API download.

  4. Comment

    I've been able to convert the XML format into a 3-column table containing the name of the dataset, the "concept" of that dataset, and lastly the description of the dataset, e.g. "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone or in combination with other races."

    I did this by creating a C# web app...it doesn't do much other than what I described, but it made my life sane rather than trying to decipher the xml document.

    If this is what you need, or if you simply need just the information contained in the table copied and pasted into a Word document, let me know.

  5. Comment
    Dan Moore

    Have you looked at this site: http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/ReportData/MetaBrowser.aspx

    It seems to have aggregated the metadata in a useful manner. For example: http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/ReportData/metabrowser.aspx?survey=ACS2011_5yr&ds=ACS11_5yr&var=B08126004&header=True explains what that category means, etc.

    That site has more metadata than is available inn the census ACS API but I think it is a superset.

    Hope that helps.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      gary ( Idea Submitter )

      Excellent. That helps a great deal. Thanks.

  6. Comment
    Dan Moore

    I also wrote a quick start tutorial based on my experiences: http://www.mooreds.com/wordpress/archives/963

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      gary ( Idea Submitter )


    2. Comment
      Phillip Thomas

      One small correction I would like to make is that these forums were created with technical questions in mind, also a place to share any thoughts or ideas that may/may not be useful to others.

    3. Comment
      Lisa W
      ( Moderator )

      Nice tutorial! Thanks for the feedback. We did open the forum for anonymous browsing and are looking at some of the other issues you raise as we work improve the API and make the documentation more user-friendly.

  7. Comment
    Dan Moore

    Thanks Phillip. I'll modify the post. It's hard to tell from the UI that technical questions are welcome ('All Ideas' in the navbar, etc).

  8. Comment
    Phillip Thomas

    Thanks, unfortunately there is not much we can do about that, this being ideascale's site and not hosted on a Census server as the API is. The closest we could get, for the moment, Is using this "API Technical Discussions" sub forum.

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