[ckan-discuss] A few quick thoughts on data catalogue usability

Tim Davies tim at practicalparticipation.co.uk
Sun Sep 5 11:17:15 BST 2010

Hello all

In the course of writing my dissertation about data.gov.uk (recently put an
open copy up online here: http://bit.ly/bLgUFz) I had a few reflections
about open data catalogues – jotted down below in case of use for CKAN.

*1) Allowing some form of ‘track back’ against datasets
*When a non-technical user comes to look at a dataset it would be really
useful for them to be able to see if anyone has created an interface /
interpretation of it already.

I found quite a few cases in research of end-users struggling to make sense
of a dataset when good interfaces to that data had already been built and
blogged about, but without there being any link from the dataset listing to
those data uses.

Accepting track backs could also make it easier for technical users to find
blog posts / shared code etc. relating to a given dataset.

*2) Make it easy to submit new meta-data from the front-end*

Going into the wiki-editing back-end of CKAN can be a bit daunting if you
just have one extra bit of meta-data or info to add.

What about having some sort of ‘Submit extra info’ box when viewing the
dataset, with a drop-down of field-names, and a single field to give a

I suspect that would make me more likely to submit extra info such as when I
know a new version of a dataset is available but not in the CKAN listing.

*3) Package relationships*

Many packages in a repository like data.gov.uk are in fact derivatives of
other packages, or of not-yet-open datasets (e.g. lots of the school stats
are extracts from a central database). Some way of indicating (and seeing)
the relationship between packages would be useful.

Hope these quick notes are useful in some way.

All best wishes

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