Do I trust journalists? Not a lot. Do I believe in the scientific method?
Yes, I do, so I decided to try downloading the census data and see what

I googled "ABS census" and it took me to a likely looking page. I followed
the link and registered an account (requiring the usual name, address, phone
number, email, password for the account, password recovery
question-and-answer). I then got an email to activate the account and
request access to the Census Datapacks, so I clicked that link and did that,
and got another email saying I now had access.

At that point, it is a bit unclear what you do next to actually download the
data; there's no link to that in the email. Hmm, what now ...

So, I went back to the ABS census web page where I started and looked at it
more carefully and noticed a little box that said "Data Packs login" so I
logged in with my shiny new username and password and got taken to a page
where I am being offered hundreds of zip files for all manner of census data
collections. On the right-hand side of that web page it says in big letters
"All 2011 Census data now available to download". I downloaded one zip file
at random and it seems to contain many spreadsheets.

As I have no research experience with working with census data and didn't
bother to read any of the fact sheets or other instructions, I cannot say
exactly what all the data means. But I think I can say that a person can get
themselves started with accessing census data for free in a matter of about
5 minutes based on my own experiment. At no point in this process was there
any attempt to coerce me into buying the DVDs, providing a credit card
number, or call me a hacker, etc.

So, yes, the process could be a little bit better (the "missing link"
mentioned above), but truthfully it wasn't very hard to work out.

So I think the journalist's story that spawned this discussion is much ado
about nothing. The data seems to be there for anyone who wants it and is
prepared to invest in a short registration process. So get out there and
enjoy all that CC-BY census data.


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