Open data and all that

OpenlyLocal info on your website, Part 1: Google Gadgets

with 18 comments

  1. 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 . The first of these is a Google Gadget, which can be added to your iGoogle page or your hyperlocal Blogger blog.

UK Councils Google Gadget

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

  1. Go to iGoogle and click on “Add stuff” in the top right-hand corner of the page.
  2. Click on “Add feed or gadget” at the bottom of the left column
  3. In the box that pops up enter (or paste) and click “Add”. Click OK to the box asking you if you want to add the gadget.
  4. 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

  1. 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”
  2. On the template that you’re presented with there’s a block of boxes representing widgets/sidebars, including “Add a gadget”. Click on this.
  3. 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”
  4. A form will appear with a space for the gadget’s URL. Enter (or paste) and click “Add”.
  5. 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.

By the way, you can see the code behind the gadget at (it basically makes a single call to an OpenlyLocal API url — — and then builds the gadget using javascript) and I’ll be creating a github project for it so you can help improve it/report bugs/request features.

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.

Written by countculture

October 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

18 Responses

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  1. Many thanks, Chris – will keep you updated!

    Keith Magnum

    October 13, 2009 at 9:25 am

    • I tried adding gadget for Warwickshire CC – will that be
      available soon, I could not see it o the drop down list?

      Mike Downes

      January 12, 2011 at 10:28 am

  2. Fantastic gadget.

    Hopefully East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Hull City Council will be added to your lists before too long?

    Keep up the good work supporting hyperlocal!


    Ray Duffill
    The Hedon Blogger, East Yorkshire


    October 22, 2009 at 7:10 am

  3. Hi Chris,

    Great idea for pple like me and I successfully got the gadget into my i-google page but then when I selected Worcester City Council I got error: ‘Unable to retrieve spec for HTTP error 504′

    Helen Williams

    October 27, 2009 at 10:35 pm

  4. Helen
    A 504 is a type of timeout. Just tried it with a clean install (on both Safari and Firefox) and it worked OK. What browser are you using?


    October 27, 2009 at 11:01 pm

  5. I’m using Internet Explorer 7. Probably serves me right! Just tried again and still no joy.

    Helen Williams

    October 28, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    • OK. I’ll try to test it tomorrow on IE7. Should be OK, but you never can tell with Internet Explorer


      October 29, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    • Helen
      That was a tricky bug to find, but I think it’s sorted now (may take 1 hour from now for Google to update its caches with latest code)


      November 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

  6. […] the OpenlyLocal Google gadget (see OpenlyLocal info on your website, Part 1: Google Gadgets), it’s fairly straightforward […]

  7. Hi,
    I’ve set it all up but can anyone tell me how I can import the dates for the council meetings into my google calendar? Thanks


    December 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    • You can do that from the main OpenlyLocal site, either for all the meetings for a council, or just those for a given committee, but you can’t do this yet from the gadget. However, it’s a good idea, so I’ve added it to the features list . Should be able to get it done next week, and it will appear automatically in the gadget. Feel free to add feature requests/or bug reports.


      December 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  8. […] Openly Local: Sigue la agenda de tu municipio y tus concejales Por Ignacio Soto el 16 Diciembre 2009 Leído 1 veces No hay comentarios tweetcount_url='';tweetcount_title='Openly Local: Sigue la agenda de tu municipio y tus concejales';tweetcount_short_url='';tweetcount_cnt=0;tweetcount_src='[Interesante]';tweetcount_via=false;tweetcount_api_key='R_10cf8d46f0dd9278949fe5506c084b2a';Este proyecto del Reino Unido consiste en una página web que permite el acceso a los datos sobre el trabajo que se desarrolla en el Ayuntamiento. La página estructura la información para que pueda ser comparada y reutilizada mediante mash-ups. Además de abrir la API y ofrecer datos exportables para que los programadores puedan republicar información en otras páginas, también disponen de un gadget de Google. […]

  9. […] has a Google gadget for accessing local council data, and a Ning application (although sadly Ning is phasing out its […]

  10. […] has a Google gadget for accessing local council data, and a Ning application (although sadly Ning is phasing out its […]

  11. […] OpenlyLocal Google gadget (also works on iGoogle) […]

  12. Hi Chris, any news on the WordPress plugin?

    Keep up the great work


    Matt Johnson

    April 27, 2011 at 8:05 pm

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