It seems that the City of Calgary has updated its open data portal. I was alerted to it not by some sort of announcement but by a tweet from Grant Neufeld who isn’t a city employee any shouldn’t be my source of information on open data in Calgary.

Nice new City of Calgary Open Data website was quietly deployed a couple weeks ago! #yycdata #yyccc

— Grant Neufeld (@grant) September 10, 2013

The new site is better than the old one. They have done away with the concept of having to add data to a shopping card and then check out with it. They have also made the data sets more obvious by putting them all in one table. They have also opened up an app showcase which is a fantastic feature. It can’t help to cross promote apps which make use of your data. There are also a few links to Google and Bing maps which do an integration with the city’s provided KML files. As I’ve said before I’m not a GIS guy so most of that is way over my head.

It is a big step forward… well it is a step forward. I know the city is busy with more important things than open data but the improvements to the site are a couple of day’s worth of work at best. What frustrates me about the process is that despite having several years on lead time on this stuff the city is still not sure about what open data is. I draw your attention to the FoIP requests CSV). First thing you’ll notice is that despite being listed as a CSV it isn’t, it is an Excel document. Second is that the format is totally not machine readable, at least not without some painful parsing of different rows. Third the data is a summary and not the far more useful raw data. I bet there is some supposed reason that they can’t release detailed information. However if FoIP requests aren’t public knowledge then I don’t know what would be.

Open data is not that difficult. I’ve reproduced here the 8 principles of open data from

  1. Data Must Be Complete

All public data are made available. Data are electronically stored information or recordings, including but not limited to documents, databases, transcripts, and audio/visual recordings. Public data are data that are not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations, as governed by other statutes.
2. Data Must Be Primary

Data are published as collected at the source, with the finest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms.
3. Data Must Be Timely

Data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data.
4. Data Must Be Accessible

Data are available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes.
5. Data Must Be Machine processable

Data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing of it.
6. Access Must Be Non-Discriminatory

Data are available to anyone, with no requirement of registration.
7. Data Formats Must Be Non-Proprietary

Data are available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control.
8. Data Must Be License-free

Data are not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation. Reasonable privacy, security and privilege restrictions may be allowed as governed by other statutes.
 The city is failing to meet a number of these. They are so simple, I just don’t get what they’re missing. The city employees aren’t stupid so all I can conclude is that there is either a great deal of resistance to open data somewhere in the government or nobody is really convinced of the value of it yet. In either case we need a good push from the top to get going.