Labs newsletter: Q2/Q3 2015

Welcome to the second Labs Newsletter of 2015! There has been excellent progress on various open data tools and initiatives across the Open Knowledge network since the last newsletter. Let’s take a look:

Labs Still <3 Discourse

Open Knowledge is in the process of centralizing community discussions on our Discourse forums. In order to do this, we’ve been enabling many new features to support mailing-list-style communication such as starting and replying to new topics via email. There’s already a lot of discussion there, so, check out the Open Knowledge Labs category, sign up, and tell us about your favorite tools!


Friedrich Lindenberg, AKA pudo, has booted up JTS-SQL, a Python library that removes some of the friction in dealing with data by automatically generating database table models based on JSON Table Schema field descriptors.

Give Me Text!

The Labs web service booted by Matt Fullerton for converting documents (e.g. PDF) to text using OCR has been given a new name “Give Me Text!” and a nice URL. Read the original announcement here.

Core Data Curators

We’re always looking for curators to help support our Core Datasets project which is aimed at collecting and maintaining (curating) important and commonly-used (“core”) datasets (e.g. GDP, ISO-codes) in high-quality, standardized and easy-to-use form. Interested in joining? Have questions? Visit us here.

OpenSpending Next

Work on the next iteration of OpenSpending is picking up steam. We recently hosted an OpenSpending Tech Hangout to demo some of our recent work. We can’t do it without you, so jump into the OpenSpending category and tell us how you’d like your government’s finances aggregated, stored, and visualized :).

Building a 100% Open-Source-based Open Data platform

Alex Corbi shares his experience participating in the development of the Open Development Mekong project, a platform built using 100% open-source technologies whose aim is to increase transparency in the South Asian countries of the Mekong basin region. The article focuses on its main component; a knowledge base platform built using CKAN. Additionally, Alex gives an overview on how the development was coordinated on GitHub and the set of additional tools developed around the project, including a plugin to connect Wordpress and CKAN, which can be used and re-purposed for future projects the attendees can find themselves in the future.

Open Data Companion

Osahon Okungbowa let us know about a mobile app he has created, Open Data Companion (ODC), which provides a unified access point to over 120 CKAN open data portals and thousands of datasets from around the world, right from your mobile device. Crafted with mobile-optimised features and design, this is an easy and convenient way to find, access and share open data.

Mexico’s new Open Data Portal

Juan Ortiz Freuler has pointed us to this report, written in non-technical language, which provides the reader with contextual data to understand the challenges the government of a developing country is facing in the implementation of an Open Data Portal. The report includes analysis of availability and quality of key datasets, critical analysis of the existing normative framework, an analysis of web traffic towards the portal, as well as insights from interviews with over two dozen professional Mexican data users.


A Model for Frictionless Science?

Steven De Costa has been doing work with open government data for the last few years, mostly around the platform capability of CKAN, and has been considering what frictionless science might look like:

I’ve been thinking about how to publish the full set of research artifacts needed to replicate and review work undertaken by labs, or to swap out data and reconstitute the research in a new context. That thinking, done only with little access to end users, has revealed the following short list of what might be published as a ‘dataset’ listing of ‘resources’…

Check out the forums to contribute to the discussion!

Get Involved

Anyone can join the Labs community and get involved! Read more about how you can join the community and participate by coding, wrangling data, or doing outreach and engagement. Also check out the ideas page to see what’s cooking in the Labs, and the newsletter page if you have items to submit to the next newsletter.