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Open Data to Open Knowledge project moving to new data platform

November 4, 2016

Analytics Team

Published by:

Analytics Team

The new platform will be available to users by spring 2017.

The City of Boston’s Open Data to Open Knowledge project, which is funded by the Knight Foundation through a partnership with the Department of Innovation and Technology and the Boston Public Library, is moving to a new open data platform in spring 2017.

As part of a lengthy research effort, the City evaluated many open data platforms and picked the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN). The open source network managed by the Open Knowledge Foundation met both the current and future needs of the City’s open data efforts.  

User-generated visualizations or applications made on the current open data platform will not be immediately affected by the transition. The City will keep the current open data platform in place until summer 2017. We hope this gives users enough time to get used to the new platform.

Stay tuned for updates

We’ll continue to provide updates to you as we move forward with our new open data platform. If you have questions, you can contact the City’s Analytics Team at analyticsteam@boston.gov.

What to expect with the new platform

The Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) allows you to visualize data with charts or graphs. You also have the option of embedding this information on your website. For geographic data, the platform allows you to visualize datasets through an embedded map viewer, or explore them on the City’s mapping platform. Here is the supporting API documentation to build an application.

You will be able to search and browse the City’s open datasets through flexible search tools and spatial queries. You can also interact with datasets through preview, filter, and visualization tools. Application Developers will be able to access and integrate data sets through robust APIs. The new platform will encourage public discourse by:

  • allowing users to provide feedback on datasets (for example, note data errors)
  • make suggestions for enhancements to the site, and
  • showcase their own derivative works.

Powering the new open data platform

Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) is built with Python on the backend and Javascript on the frontend. The network uses Pylon’s web framework and SQLAlchemy as its object-relational mapping (ORM). The database engine is PostgreSQL, and its search is powered by SOLR, which is used by many popular websites and applications.

Through the platform’s modular architecture, we can develop more features, including harvesting and data uploads. CKAN is implemented by many US and international governments, non-governmental agencies, and civic organizations. They include:

Open Data to Open Knowledge project

Funding for the Open Data to Open Knowledge project came from the Knight Foundation. In 2015, the City of Boston was one of 22 organizations awarded funding through the Knight Foundation’s “Knight News Challenge on Libraries.” The national philanthropic foundation’s grant competition funded ideas that used libraries to build more knowledgeable communities.

We had three primary goals with the project:

  1. build the City’s first data catalog
  2. release an open data platform that anyone can use, and
  3. develop and deliver open data curriculum for librarians.