Specify the metadata that describes your datasets, to make them discoverable and universally accessible. (Metadata is what data publishers use to describe their datasets, create user-friendly descriptions and tag content to help constituents find the data and make sense of it.)
Collect information via a form that pipes directly into the database, thus updating your results real-time. NOAA did this with citizen reports during the BP spill, and King County used this approach when collecting damage reports for the state.
Socrata generates code that you can use to make what you've created there show up in your Website. Everything based on the dataset will update automatically whenever the data changes. This also allows news media, bloggers etc. to display our data, real-time, on their Websites. This has been most recently used for snow closures and election results.
Users can save their own copy of the data if they like. Datasets hosted on the Socrata open data platform can be automatically downloaded in a number of file formats such as CSV, XLS, RDF, XML, or JSON.