There’s a ton of government data out there- you probably already know that. But it’s no good to you, right? Education statistics, financial reports… very important stuff, of course, but kind of… dry. Not exactly “every day use” sort of stuff.
Well, I’m going to try to challenge that perception a little. I signed up for a contest called NYC BigApps, which is a city-run competition to encourage use of city data. I was pleasantly surprised by the data I found. So, I thought that for a little bit of Friday fun I’d run through some of the more interesting and unexpected geo datasets. At the end, I’m going to discuss how I’m using NYC open data in my BigApps entry, Taxonomy.
The embedded maps you see are provided by CartoDB, which rocks. Seriously, go check it out. Each of the markers are clickable, giving you a sample of what data is available. The data, of course, comes from the NYC Open Data web site. I’m sure other cities have similar data out there- and if they don’t, urge them to release it.
An absolute no-brainer, this one. Everyone needs a WiFi connection every now and then, and this dataset shows you their locations, and whether they are free or paid (in the map above, green is free, orange is paid). The world is crying out for ratemywifi.com - how’s the connection speed? Does the guy behind the counter get angry when you only order one small coffee every four hours? Do you get a cool IP address or some lame 192.168 handout? What’s the hacker to amateur novelist ratio? Surely a billion dollar IPO awaits.
File this one under “I never even thought of this before”. A ton of stuff gets filmed in New York every year, and of course permits need to be approved before the cameras can roll. It turns out that the New York government has made that data public, going all the way back to the 60’s and before. Maybe next time your friends visit you can assemble a walking tour of your favourite movies. Fun fact: NYC BigApps entry Scene Near Me uses this data to text you when you check in near a filming location.
OK, OK, this isn’t exactly the sexiest dataset going, but don’t try to tell me you wouldn’t use it. Whether you’re in Central Park or just out shopping, no-one wants to buy a coffee just so that you can go to the bathroom- it’s only going to make you need to go again in half an hour. Never was there a greater resource for the public good - bathroo.my, anyone?
I don’t own a car, but I’ve heard they’re quite popular. I also heard at the BMW iVentures launch partythat parking in the city is an utterly miserable experience. So it was pleasing to see that the city has an open directory of parking garages, even including the number of parking spots in each one. As you may be able to tell from the map above, there are quite a few.
How I’m using NYC Open Data
As I said at the start of the post, I’ve used NYC Open Data myself, in my NYC BigApps entry. One sits at the heart of the app- it’s the taxi driver dataset. I use it to allow Taxonomy users to review their taxi driver- the idea is that over time we collect feedback on the best and worst drivers, as well as tracking which ones take the most efficient routes, and which ones don’t know their way around.
I made another- more fun- data mashup, though. I wanted the map in my app to be dark rather than the usual Google Maps bright and bold, so I made custom map tiles. As part of that process, I used the following datasets:
Building Perimeter Outlines
(from the NYC DoITT GIS downloads section) to create the higher zoom-level maps. I’m very happy with the way they turned out, and I’d encourage you to give them a try next time you’re making a map-based app or site:
Taxonomy is available in the App Store, and even has a web site for you to find out more.
New York City has opened up hundreds of datasets through NYC OpenData.
We are happy to have so many datasets, maps, and documents online, but we know that it can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this Tumblr: to showcase datasets that New Yorkers will find interesting, compelling and thought-provoking.