[okfn-labs] Ideas for data mashups and improved visualisation for CKAN

Friedrich Lindenberg friedrich.lindenberg at okfn.org
Wed Jul 24 14:35:23 UTC 2013

Hey Gavin,

I think its great you're soliciting input, but would also consider asking
the ddj and school of data communities, as they are closer to the user end
of the spectrum. It seems really important to base this off concrete use
cases rather than the assumption that "people" will want to embed
"visualizations" to "tell a story" (this doesn't mean anything). In CKANs
specific case, there's further fun in the fact that I don't know how many
people would actually be happy to directly embed a visualization from a
government site - it seems unlikely to me, for example, that many
journalists would do that.

I would also note that the best data vis tools I know focus on doing one
thing and doing it well. Examples include DataWrapper, CartoDB, Sigma.js,
Timeline.js and most of the other amazing stuff on
http://selection.datavisualization.ch/. The "we'll glue everything together
so that normal people can use it" thing hasn't worked for anyone (Socrata,
Fusion Tables, ... but least of all: for the users). I know this is a great
temptation, but it's really just an escape into meta-problem-land when
there are plenty non-meta ones to solve.

For CKAN, I think there are two tools that I'd love to see personally:

1) A really nice JS pivot tables implementation. When you're trying to do
some exploratory analysis on data, the best thing you can get is a table.
Even better is a table of aggregates. What I would love to have is a small,
stand-alone JS library that allows me to pivot, filter and sort some data.
If this had some flexibility wrt its backend, it would be extra-awesome (OS
needs this, too). And no, facets are not really the same thing and Recline
doesn't do that now :)

2) A mashup recommender. CKAN has the unique advantage of often holding
many related datasets, and Martin and I have both done some research into
whether it could generate recommendations on which of these datasets can be
combined into a new mashup. I realize this isn't really vis, but it belongs
into the pipeline and would be pretty useful to help the process.


 - Friedrich

On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 12:38 PM, Gavin Chait <gavin.chait at okfn.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
> We would like to massively improve the data explorer and visualisation
> functionality on CKAN and are looking at open-source libraries and toolkits
> we may be able to use.
> Our brief is as follows:
> Search and select data from CKAN, overlay datasets the data to create
> mashups, and present these in an engaging and easy-to-use embeddable visual
> format.  Data would also include geospatial. Data could include transport,
> air quality, energy usage / resource efficiency, and licensing of premises
> /
> planning.
> There have been some cool new initiatives from infogr.am, Dataseed and
> Datawrapper.de. There are also some great geospatial visualisation
> libraries, like Kartograph.
> Our interest is in open source solutions to look at:
> 1. Managing diverse data alignment for the mashup;
> 2. Outputting that data to an embeddable visualisation.
> We can build on Recline and improve it, or we can work with another
> existing
> library that offers us greater flexibility.  We don't want to start from
> scratch, though.
> We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions as we look to the next
> generation of CKAN data explorer.
> Thanks and appreciated
> Gavin
> Gavin Chait
> Head of Services | skype: whythawk | M:  +44 (0) 78 9495 7090 | @GavinChait
> The Open Knowledge Foundation
> Empowering through Open Knowledge
> http://okfn.org/
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