Just in time for International Open Data Day, Azavea launched a re-designed and re-engineered OpenDataPhilly.org. Re-launching the application took more than just re-imagining what it might look like. We built the new site on a more powerful platform, migrated data, metadata, and users, and cleaned up the old database. We also worked closely with the City of Philadelphia Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) to ensure that their data, which accounts for more than half of OpenDataPhilly’s catalog, was up-to-date and well groomed. This update sets the stage for the future of open data in Philadelphia as well, because the application will be more easily maintained and extended.
We took inspiration from users’ feedback in designing OpenDataPhilly’s new look. An open data portal is important in and of itself, but it’s when the community transforms the data into information that the value of the portal is expressed. We designed a home page that would convey this value by highlighting examples of innovative and attractive applications using data from the portal. This prompted us to hold a visualization contest at the end of last year, and are now featuring some of the best entries on the OpenDataPhilly home page.
We also designed a new logo and icons to pair with the different categories of data in the portal.
Here is more on the logo from designer Christopher Taylor:
“The logo consists of two rounded squares, which represent city blocks. Each block has a circle removed from the center, which represents a node. When combined, the shapes create a void in the center that represents the openness and transparency of open data initiatives. One block appears to sit at a true 90 degree angle representing the perception of truth, while the other block is shifted a few degrees representing the actual truth told by the data. Perceptions can be altered, but data tells the true story.”
While the site got plenty of attention for its new look (and we love it, too @jefffrankl), it’s the new architecture that is most exciting to us. The new OpenDataPhilly is built on the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN), software developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation. CKAN is an open source data portal platform, which drives some of the largest open data repositories in the world, including data.gov, data.gov.uk, and publicdata.eu, among many others. We chose CKAN because it is open source, has an active development community, and offers loads of functionality extensions via plug-ins. And when there aren’t plug-ins, CKAN makes it pretty straightforward to write new ones (as we found out).
Many great features came along with the base CKAN packages. The search tool, arguably the most important tool on the site, is very robust. Organization, topic, and tag filters help narrow down searching and browsing. Depending on the type of data and where it’s located, CKAN can also display previews. The preview feature can display Excel or CSV files as tables, and it will even map GeoJSON files.
All of the above are available without registering for an account at OpenDataPhilly. Go ahead, browse, search, preview, and download to your heart’s content. Registering for an account does have its advantages, though. With a (free) account, you can follow organizations or datasets to receive alerts about updates as well as comment on datasets.
Back to the Community
Open data is cool. But OpenDataPhilly is even cooler because it is built and maintained by the Philadelphia open data community, rather than by the municipal government. No other big city open data repository can claim that. Major kudos go to Philly’s Office of Innovation and Technology for their ongoing effort in finding and releasing City data. In addition to city data, almost half of the data sets are from other organizations. The Temple’s Center for Public Interest Journalism (CPIJ) has agreed to assume management and community development responsibilities. And speaking of community CPIJ has prepared a summary of responses to the new site. We are proud to contribute to and be a part of the future of open data in Philadelphia. Check out the catalog and keep making stuff!
The relaunch of OpenDataPhilly.org was funded in part by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Azavea.