Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 2): Building an Open Source Website

The previous post explained why a streamlined structure for organising cultural event data is necessary for creating an open data source and what currently is offered in terms of a method for this type of event schema.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Benjamin Beker)

Once a standardised method of tracking cultural event data online is decided upon, it can be utilised by any organisation that aims to add others’ event data to their website or downloadable app. All this related data has to be stored somewhere, and most websites store data in databases. There are several options available; some you might already have access to if you have Microsoft’s Office Suite, which includes Excel and Access, and some are free, like MySQL, an open source database. In addition, if you do not already have a website, there are several user-friendly methods of creating your own website either from scratch or using site-provided templates. Excellent sites that allow users to create their own websites are WordPress, Drupal, Blogger, Google Sites, and Jekyll.

Additionally, there exists online software that focuses on facilitating open data websites, such as CKAN and DKAN. Both CKAN and DKAN are mostly utilised in government-related websites, not events or culture-related data. Currently, the UK government uses CKAN alongside Jekyll, which is primarily a blogging platform, just like WordPress and Blogger, and the US government uses CKAN alongside WordPress. CKAN is built using the Python programming language, while DKAN uses the PHP programming language. DKAN is preferred by those who already use PHP or Drupal since users do not have to learn a new system or programming language. DKAN has many of the same functionalities as CKAN, and it’s seen as a complimentary offering to CKAN.

Whichever platform is chosen to build an open data website, the standardised vocabulary discussed in the previous post needs to be utilised in the website’s HTML to document all cultural event information. Most websites allow users a choice of editing the HTML either as text  or through a more user-friendly interface. The text version is necessary for embedding the metadata for the cultural event data. While this may seem intimidating for those who do not have a programming background, it really is a simple task.  All that is required is the addition of tags around the pertinent information.  The difficult task is deciding upon a standardised vocabulary!

Have you thought about creating a website listing cultural events data or adding cultural events data to your current website?  What types of problems have you encountered?  Please leave your comments below!

In the next post, we’ll take a look at some of the apps that are possible when you have access to cultural event data that is also open data.

Read the previous post: Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 1): Background for Creating an Open Data Source for Kent Cultural Events

Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 1): Background for Creating an Open Data Source for Kent Cultural Events

One of the main goals of Culture Kent is to provide a streamlined method for cultural events to be listed online. This will provide many opportunities for broadening the potential audience, publicising cultural events, and including smaller organisations. However, there are many steps required before this becomes a realisations.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Manu Palomeque)

First, all potential cultural organisations need to use the same terms to describe variables such as their customer, event type, date, time, duration, and location. When listed on a website using HTML, the code all websites are written in, these terms will have property tags. Common HTML tags are, used to indicate the start of html code, and , which indicates an image. As you can see, HTML tags let webcrawlers (they are on the internet and an read websites) know what types of elements are used in a website.

Even more specific tags can be used, and these are called metadata. Like HTML tags, they need to be consistent to make it easy for webcrawlers to identify similar tags. So when an event is listed online, additional tags can be included in the HTML. These types of tags would enable organisations to easily find cultural event data on websites and include the events to their own websites’ calendar of events and potentially build apps to engage audiences and develop a datapool of cultural event information that is accessible to the public (open data). Although great things are possible, there still needs to be a standardised method of attributing cultural events data online.

Currently, already provides some vocabulary for Event Data, cultural events might require more specific or additional terms. Culture Kent is working with Deeson and a Steering Group chaird by Visit Kent to try to figure out how to best create a standardised vocabulary for cultural event data.

Have you run into similar problems of creating a schema for your events data?  Do you know of any other schema that might be useful?  Please leave your comments below!

The next post will examine various technologies that are being considered and how they work towards the our goals.