countculture

Open data and all that

Open Data Feeds from Councils: brain dump

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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.)

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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.

  1. 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…
  2. 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).
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Written by countculture

September 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm

One Response

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  1. This is a great project. 70 councils linked in, just another 400 to go!😉 The XML feeds are excellent. I wish you all the best with it and hope councils make their websites more accessible to whatever technique you use to mine their public data.

    Gary F

    September 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm


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