We at Silk are city people. Our offices are in Amsterdam and San Francisco, two of the world’s greatest cities. We are also data people. Silk is all about embedding semantic data into every page and bringing that data to life. So its not surprising that one of our favorite data playgrounds is city data. Below is an application that we built in about 30 minutes using data from the City and County of Honolulu, in the beautiful island state of Hawaii. Honolulu’s data portal is powered by Socrata, a company we like very much.
This was a dataset of art in public places, a city and state program that not only has detailed location information but also images of hundreds of art installations. Silk can automatically import images from a list of URLs on a spreadsheet. This is how we make, in many cases, the visual, image-driven grids that you’ll see as the home page of many Silks. So, in essence, we were able to make a fully-featured web application complete with maps, grids, and detail pages on each piece of art solely by downloading Open Data from Honolulu and pushing it up into Silk.
We believe that Open Data from cities is one of the most important trends in the realm of data transparency. Cities are incredibly important to the fabric of society. The biggest cities on Earth are enormous economic drivers. Even the smaller ones are hives of insanely detailed information that until a few years ago remained largely buried in obscure databases. This goes well beyond public art.
Reporters and citizen journalists are using Open Data to build databases of crime reports, 911 calls and building permit maps. This is turning into real news coverage - like the ingenious blog posts by Ben Wellington of iQuantNY that showed which fire hydrants in New York City are grossing the most money per year. His work was picked up by Reddit and later by multiple new organizations including several of the major New York daily newspapers. The City of New York responded by making the fire hydrant markings clearer.
We plan on diving into more and more city Open Data for Silks in the near future. So here are a few of our favorite places for city data. We hope you check them out.
NYC Open Data - the Big Apple has a whopping 1100 datasets on offer. The data is relatively current and is updated frequently.
SFData - San Francisco is the digital capital of the universe. Oddly, it lags behind New York in transparency but still posts an impressive 800+ datasets and views online. The data is not as granular as New York and some key sets are missing, but its a strong effort nonetheless.
data.seattle.gov - Seattle is a recent arrival to the Open Data crowd but it already has over 1300 datasets and views on offer in its data store. The city is also aggressively updating data sets.
These are just our favorites for now but we realize that many other cities are doing great things with Open Data. The Open Knowledge Foundation, Code For American, and Sunlight.org built a wonderful rating guide for city data sites in the U.S. We’ll be checking out most of them in the near future, and we’ll also be on the lookout for data from cities outside the U.S.
If you have good resources to share or if you have questions about how to use Silk with Open Data, please drop us a line. We’re happy to work with you on any project.