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Archive for October, 2017

A One Stop Shop? A Map and List of all open data portals around the world

October 22, 2017 5 comments

Data company OpenDataSoft has published a map that claims to be a comprehensive list of all open data portals around the world.  Since we in this blog are focused on being critical of data, I wondered if perhaps this map was too good to be true, so I did some investigating.  First, the map lives up to its claim of being straightforward, and is rich with data–thousands of points exist on it.  The text in the pop-up boxes is truncated, requiring the user to click for more, but other than that, the map is easy to navigate.  OpenDataSoft is concerned with data far beyond geospatial data, so it is understandable that the map sometimes points to sites that are not specific to geospatial information, though sometimes they are. For example, the Bismarck North Dakota points list the office of the state government and their data, and not specifically the North Dakota geospatial data portal, but I have no doubt that I could eventually find the geospatial data portal from the main state portal.  However, the point on the map to the north, in Minot, does point to the Ward County open GIS data portal.  Below the map is a very helpful text listing with links to these portals so that the user is not limited to simply searching on a map, which (counterintuitively to some of us in the GIS industry who naturally go for the map first) sometimes can be the slowest way to search.

The OpenDataSoft staff wrote an article explaining how they put together the map, and the article reveals some very interesting coding work and also much manual labor and therefore, dedication.  They are open to feedback from the user community.  As we have written about in the past, the chief challenge with maps and listings like this has always been – who will maintain it in the future?  The site https://opendatainception.io/ allows data users to add a portal to the map, which gives some indication that the site could be in part, crowdsourced.  If so, and if OpenDataSoft is committed to maintaining this resource, it could indeed become a very valued resource for the GIS community.  A map-based way of finding portals makes perfect sense, particularly for the geo-data user.   Whether the map contains your favorite data portal is not as important as what this map represents–the fruits of the open data movement.  I applaud the efforts of OpenDataSoft and encourage them to keep this resource updated.

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Map from OpenDataSoft of “all the open data sites around the world.”

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Categories: Public Domain Data

A review of the North Dakota State GIS Portal

October 9, 2017 2 comments

I recently had the honor of co-keynoting the North Dakota GIS conference.  While preparing for the conference, I re-acquainted myself with the North Dakota State GIS portal.  The timing was perfect because a team of dedicated and expert collaborators from many organizations had just completed work on a new portal that replaced their old Hub Explorer resource.  The new portal, accessible here, includes information on how to connect with the state’s GIS community through events and networking.  More germane to our topic in this blog, though, it also contains a link to the data sets themselves via the Hub Data Portal.   The portal is thoughtfully laid out, with the ability to view data by content type and topics.  The North Dakota GIS Hub Data Portal uses DKAN, the Drupal-based version of CKAN, the world’s leading open-source open data publishing platform. It provides a complete open source software solution for data publishers, and adheres to the API, data, and functionality standards of CKAN. The goal of this project is to combine the utility of CKAN with the ease of maintenance and extensibility of Drupal.

The portal is designed with the data user in mind:  It doesn’t include a lot of bandwidth-consuming, unnecessary graphics and maps, but allows the user to quickly go to what he or she needs.  The site also provides many options for the data user–the raw data to download, CSVs, HTMLs, XMLs, and even rest endpoints that allow the data to be consumed in web GIS platforms such as ArcGIS Online.  See the example for wildlife management areas here.  And the data sets can be very detailed, too, such as the recent addition of one-foot contours for Bismarck and Mandan.

This portal is unique in that the site includes stories about interesting projects involving people and the land in the state, with links to infographics, maps, and data.  These stories in my opinion provide good “elevator speeches” as to the positive benefits that are derived from the use of GIS, and they also provide good case studies to give students and others ideas for research projects.  The Groups tab gives useful links to “who’s who” in the state.

The site also includes a “Visual ND” site with a rich set of applications, maps, data, documents, and web sites.  The historical aerial photographs of North Dakota are also being scanned, and are available here in TIFF format.  It is my hope that these photos will eventually have REST endpoints that will allow them to be displayed directly into ArcGIS Online and other web mapping applications, such as the resource that we reviewed in Iowa, here.

We have reviewed many data portals in our book and on this blog–some good, some not-so-useful.  The North Dakota GIS Hub data portal is one of the most useful I have ever seen.

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The front page of the North Dakota GIS Hub Data Portal.

Categories: Public Domain Data