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An Introduction To The Socrata Open Data Portal

Robert Harker <>

San Mateo County Civic Engagement & Technology Meetup
September 15, 2015

The slides are available at:
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An Introduction To Open Data and the Socrata Portal

What I talk about tonight:

Overview of Open Data

Introduction to the Socrata Platform

Hands on demos

This talks slides are available at:

Follow along the demo with:

Whoami: Robert Harker.

Bay Area native.

San Mateo resident/home owner.

Linux Systems Administrator.

Open Data Evangelist.

Please make an accommodation to my severe allergic reaction to Power Point

Slides prepared using vi and W3C Slidy,
A presentation system/template implemented in 6 file CSS styles sheets and one Java script.

What is Open Data?

Open Data is API based datasets stored in the cloud:

Open Data: Technically open - Machine readable formats Legally open - Anyone can re-use and re-distribute the data Free - Free as in beer

Open Data is:

Data is published as Open Data for:

Open Data Datasets

A dataset is a self contained collection of data.

Information is published in a dataset

Open Data Datasets (Cont.)

Types of datasets

Open Data Portals

An Open Data Portal is

An Open Data Portal defines:

The County of San Mateo's Open Data portal is:

APIs are the future

The ability to use an app across many Open Data portals

Like different apps that currently use Apple's ITunes.

Problem: APIs are "User Hostile"

And its even worse because Socrata names data sets as "abcd-wxyz"

Why are APIs powerful?

APIs are powerful because they define a clear interface

Technology on either side may change

What is an Application Programming Interface, API?

A HTTP based protocol for requesting information

An API is like a conversation:

I am querying the E911 dataset for the last 200 incidents

Standards are important

Naming of datasets

Naming of data columns

Data field names and types

Metadata about the dataset

The Open Data Marketplace

Two major Players

Hosted on virtual servers

Hosted on Cloud Infrastructure as a Server, IssS, providers

ArcGIS is not an Open Data Portal.


The County made a good selection choosing Socrata:

Dominant market share: 250+ customers including:

Sound technology:

Socrata offers support

You can file Socrata trouble tickets:

Use your County Open Data portal login to open a ticket

Socrata does not have forums

Instead they want you to use Stack Overflow and ask questions

Socarata dataset publishing tools

Supports CSV and json format

Bulk upload, incremental update tools

End user upload tool if account has permission

Administrative tools to manage portal and accounts

Socrata web based User Interface (UI)

Socrata has a focus on easy to use web based tools

In Socrata a "view" is a formatted extract of the data:

Formatting tools are available to work with a dataset or view

Tools are easy to use

Allows everyday users to make useful views:

2 to 5 minute demos

A tour of the Socrata web based User Interface, UI

Make your first Socrata map

Make a mini map app

Socrata i18n internationalization

Instructions to follow along can be found on:



Interesting datasets?

Thank You

Robert Harker