Posts Tagged ‘semantic web’
This post is something of a brain dump about some possible common principles for open data for Local Authorities. It’s pretty much the text of a post I made to the tyoc google group, which is helping to organise a TheyWorkForYou-type website for Manchetser County Council.
It’s probably not the first post on the subject (link to other ones welcome), and certainly won’t be the last, but hopefully will provide some useful thoughts for those councils or groups working on exposing their data. (Maybe if there’s anyone else interested we can get this a bit more formalized.)
My thoughts have been influenced by exposing the data from OpenlyLocal.com and also from consuming XML data from other authorities, but obviously these are only my initial ideas, and I’m using as an example OpenlyLocal urls and also those for Lichfield District Council, who’s got a great webmaster who kindly exposed all the council democratic data they could as XML.
- The api should expose the authority’s internal UIDs (as well as the id of the record in the application if it’s not the council exposing the data). The idea is to open up the data, not creating another walled garden. See http://openlylocal.com/members/3114.xml and http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/site/custom_scripts/meetings_committees…
- UIDs should be absolutely unique to the object being exposed and should not change if the name changes (so no strings for councillor IDs, as these can change if the councillors name changes, e.g. through marriage, titles or simply what they prefer to be known as).
- The api should use and expose common identifiers when possible to allow definitive identification, e.g. Wards should expose the ONS Snac Ids. E.g. http://openlylocal.com/wards/982.xml
- The api should given information about when the object was last updated. At the moment on OpenlyLocal, all objects have created_at and updated_at fields exposed. However, given OpenlyLocal.com and the ‘Your MCC’ projects are basically proxies we should possibly also expose a “last_checked_at” field, so the timeliness can be worked out.
Time for a quick update on OpenlyLocal.com — the website that opens up local government in an accessible and consistent way (a sort of local government TheyWorkForYou). Since the last post announcing the site I’ve added quite a few new features, as well as a fair bit of tweaking to the back-end .
The main ones are:
- Loads more councils (we have now opened up over 65 councils, with info on more than 4000 councillors and 2300 committees). If you council isn’t there give me a nudge and I’ll see what we can do
- Keyword filtering of committee minutes and agendas. So if you want to find a council’s minutes and agendas featuring Tesco, for example you can now do that.
- RSS feeds for minutes and agendas, including ones restricted to keywords. Just click on the RSS feed link at the bottom of the page.
- Even more Calendar feeds. You can now subscribe to a calendar for a whole council, an individual councillor, or a particular council committee.
- Added Wards to the information we’re extracting from websites.
- Added RDFa markup, to allow integration with other datasets and become part of the semantic web.
- Plus tons of backend improvements making it easier for me to add new councils, and loads of bugfixes
There’s still a long way to go, but OpenlyLocal does feel as if it’s moved a little beyond the proof-of-concept stage and is now genuinely useful for local democracy.