countculture

Open data and all that

Yet another UK Hyperlocal Directory… but this time it’s open data

with 13 comments

At OpenlyLocal we’ve long been fans of hyperlocal sites, seeing them as a crucial part of the media future as the traditional local media dies or is cut back to a shadow of its former self.

And for a while I’ve been looking for a good directory of such sites, whether pure community ones such as HaringayOnline, ones with serious journalistic depth such as Pits’N’Pots, The Lichfield Blog, or all-rounders such as VentnorBlog (who do so many things well). Mainly I wanted it for selfish reasons, so I could make OpenlyLocal a better site, by linking to relevant hyperlocal sites on council pages.

Seems to me the community could do with such a thing too, as a way of new sites alerting the community to them and of course help with their google juice. Sure, there are a few — recently the one over at hyperlocal.co.uk has been getting stronger, and is now pretty good — but there are problems, at least from my perspective.

So what are these, and why have I spent the past couple of days doing a UK hyperlocal directory as part of OpenlyLocal. Three reasons:

  1. Most importantly, I thought the directory should be open data which could be reused by anyone and not just by the person or company running the directory. The one at hyperlocal.co.uk isn’t (as far as I can tell), and so if you wanted to to put the information on your website, say to allow people to see the closest hyperlocal sites to them, you couldn’t.
  2. I thought such a directory should be run by someone who wasn’t publishing a hyperlocal site or several hyperlocal sites. Perception is important in these matters, and conflicts of interests have a way of raising their head despite the best intentions.
  3. There lots of useful things we can do when we know the location of a hyperlocal site, not just put it on a map. We can use the info in mashups, we can use it in tweets, and we can find the nearest sites to a given address — if the info is made available as open data.

So after a couple of days of coding we have the first draft of the OpenlyLocal UK Hyperlocal Directory.

Here’s how it’s different:

  1. The information on the OpenlyLocal UK Hyperlocal Directory is licensed under the CC SA licence, and can be reused by anyone.
  2. You can enter you own data. Just go to http://openlylocal.com/hyperlocal_sites, click on “Add your hyperlocal site” and fill in the form. Even specifying the area covered should be a breeze — you just drag the pointer on the map to where the blog is about, and you can also chose the radius of the circle covered by the site. We aim to approve all sites within 24 hours, and you’ll be tweeted automatically on approval from the OpenlyLocal twitter account.
  3. We allow non-commercial and commercial sites. The only sites we won’t allow are those behind a paywall or those that are pure listings sites (and don’t have a significant news or community aspect). So even local newspaper sites can be included as long as there’s free access to them.
  4. People can search for the sites closest to to them — just put an address or postcode in the search form and it’ll give you the nearest ones with distance.
  5. The list can be output as XML or JSON data for mashups or anything else, as can the results of searches for closest sites.
  6. All approved sites also appear on the correct council’s page (just choose a council when you fill in your entry).

There’s more we could do with this, but really it’s about generating a community resource, and one that’s open data. So if you want to help build the first open directory of UK hyperlocal sites first open directory of UK hyperlocal sites , get over to http://OpenlyLocal.com/hyperlocal_sites and click on “Add your hyperlocal site“.

And if you’ve got any suggestions, leave them in the comments or contact me on twitter.

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Written by countculture

January 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in api, hyperlocal, open data

13 Responses

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  1. Well done – seems like a very smart way to do it. It would probably make sense for me to use your datasource to generate the map at map.hyperlocal.co.uk.

    If I knew how to do it in a clever, programmatic way like you have done it, one thing I might also like to do is extract a hyperlocal site’s favicon.ico (if it has one), and use that as the pointer on the map.

    Rob

    January 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    • Rob
      That would be good. Would it help if I made the data available as a KML feed?
      C

      countculture

      January 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm

  2. Great idea and execution. Just one suggestion – can it be made possible to assign a site to more than one local authority.

    Our site covers parts of two boroughs – and I can think of several London local websites which span boundaries.

    Indeed, in my experience hyperlocal sites often tend to spring up in areas which are on the boundaries of more than one administrative area and thus feel they are neglected by everyone.

    James Hatts

    January 13, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    • James
      I wondered about doing that, and it might be the other way to go. The other option would be to associate the site with all councils whose boundaries it overlaps — the only trouble is until the boundary data by the govt (hopefully in April) is opened up we can’t do that calculation. Will make things slightly more fiddly to allow more than one council, but I can see that it’s probably necessary.
      C

      countculture

      January 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm

  3. Same goes for MPs actually. There are a few sites that cover multiple constituencies.

    Philip John

    January 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

  4. Very good. Are local community radio stations welcome to add their details? What if they serve a community of interest, rather than of location – is that still OK?
    Best wishes
    Cathy Aitchison
    London Link Radio

    cathy

    January 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

  5. good stuff chris – talk about local will back this map fully.

    for us the open data angle is important – allows full reuse by others and future proofs in case you meet a nasty coding accident.

    the neutrality is also important – a reason why we haven’t set up one of these ourselves.

    will also be fascinating to see others reuse the data

    we shall do all we can to cross promote and encourage the #hyperlocal community in the uk to enter their details.

    william perrin

    January 21, 2010 at 9:09 am

  6. [...] Yet another UK Hyperlocal Directory… but this time it’s open data « countculture There’s more we could do with this, but really it’s about generating a community resource, and one that’s open data. So if you want to help build the first open directory of UK hyperlocal sites first open directory of UK hyperlocal sites , get over to http://OpenlyLocal.com/hyperlocal_sites and click on “Add your hyperlocal site“. (tags: directory hyperlocal map beatblogging) [...]

  7. [...] Yet another UK Hyperlocal Directory… but this time it’s open data « countculture – Most importantly, I thought the directory should be open data which could be reused by anyone and not just by the person or company running the directory. [...]

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  11. [...] Easy to see why when looking at the diverse backgrounds of those involved – Tim Dobson, recent PCC in Manchester for The Pirate Party, lawyer Jordan Hatcher, GP Amir Hannan, entrepreneur Chris Taggart. [...]


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