OpenlyLocal info on your website, Part 1: Google Gadgets
- As I promised at the excellent TalkAboutLocal unconference in Stoke, I’ve been working on ways of helping non-techies use the local council data opened up by OpenlyLocal.com . The first of these is a Google Gadget, which can be added to your iGoogle page or your hyperlocal Blogger blog.
Though writing a Google Gadget can be a frustrating business, adding and using it is a doddle. Basically, if OpenlyLocal is extracting the data from your local authority (and we’ve got over 70 councils so far, with more being added every week — see the parsed council list for details), the gadget will show the key info at a glance — basic contact details, updated info, members, committees and forthcoming meetings.
For iGoogle users
- Go to iGoogle and click on “Add stuff” in the top right-hand corner of the page.
- Click on “Add feed or gadget” at the bottom of the left column
- In the box that pops up enter (or paste) http://openlylocal.com/tools/gadget.xml and click “Add”. Click OK to the box asking you if you want to add the gadget.
- Go back to the iGoogle home page, and the gadget will have appeared and will need you to choose your council. Choose the council, click “save”, and you’re done.
Note you can drag the gadget anywhere you want on the page, and even add more than one copy of the gadget, if you want to have ones for different councils.
You can also share the gadget with friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. Just click on the triangle in the top right of the gadget. This is also where you go if you want to delete the gadget.
For Blogger users
- Make sure you’re logged in and go to the Customize area (the link is in the top right hand corner of the screen) where should choose “Layout” and “Page Elements”
- On the template that you’re presented with there’s a block of boxes representing widgets/sidebars, including “Add a gadget”. Click on this.
- You’ll then be given a selection of gadgets, with a menu on the left-hand side. Click the link that says “Add your own”
- A form will appear with a space for the gadget’s URL. Enter (or paste) http://openlylocal.com/tools/gadget.xml and click “Add”.
- You will be then asked to configure the gadget. Select the council and click the “Save” button.
We’re planning on introducing more features in the future, but even as it stands, I think it’s a useful tool for your iGoogle page, or if you’re a hyperlocal blogger, a great way to add up-to-date and relevant info to your blog.
The next step in making info more available is a Ning app, as quite a few hyperlocal sites seem to be using Ning as their platform of choice, and there’s someone who’s promised to write a WordPress plugin to provide the same or similar functionality to the gadget.
As Helen reported in the comments, the gadget wasn’t working in Internet Explorer. Debugging it was not a pleasant process, but I’ve now found and fixed the bug (I believe). Let me know in the comments if the are any probs. It might take an hour or so before Google updates its cache with the latest code, but then should be fine.