The course presentation consistent of 5 modules, covering a range of topics, from a government data overview to a discussion of javascript visualization principles.
Description

Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of interest in increasing transparent access to all types of government data. However, despite the large amount of interest, there have remained a number of technical and organizational challenges in effectively realizing key open government goals.

In response to these challenges, a joint team from Harvard and MIT has developed the GovData Platform. The GovData platform makes advances in the online presentation of large datasets, and is designed to be a game-changing contribution in the Open Government arena.

The one-week GovData winter course aims to develop participants' data parsing and visualization abilities and offers a series of hands-on coding experiences in which participants can get directly involved in GovData development. By the end of the week, we aim to assemble a motivated team of contributors going forward to help launch the initiative.

5-day Course Plan

Day 1 -- Government Data 101: A tour of the Open Government Initiative & GovData platform.

Day 2 -- High-powered data APIs with Python, MongoDB, GeoDjango, and Apache Solr.

Day 3 -- Hands-On Coding Experience: Parsers

Day 4 -- Interactive Visualizations with Javascript, HTML5 and processingJS.

Day 5 -- Hands-On Coding Experience: Visualizations


Dates & Times

The course will be offered twice:

@ MIT:
January 10th-14th
1-5pm daily
NOTE ROOM CHANGE:
Media Lab, Building E14, Rm 633 (Mon & Fri), Rm 240 (Tues-Wed) and Rm 525 (Thurs).

@ Harvard:
January 17-21
1-5pm daily
CGIS South, Knafel Building, Rooms K262 (Mon-Wed) & K354 (Thu-Fri).

Prerequisites

At least a year of general programming experience required. Familiarity with the Python programming language STRONGLY recommended, and at least some understanding of Javascript helpful.

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Syllabus

The course will take place over 5 days, each session commencing at 1PM in the afternoons, and lasting approximately 4 hours.

Day 1: General Overview
Day 2: Backend Tools: Writing High-powered Data Parsers
Day 3: Backend Hands-on Coding Experience

Participants will split into small groups to get hands-on experience building example parsers. Possible data sets that we will work on include:


Day 4: Frontend Tools: Creating Interactive Visualizations with Javascript and HTML5
Day 5: Frontend Hackathon: Creating a dynamic browser for the Federal Data universe

Participants will split into small groups that will be organized to work on aspects of a visualization. The goal will be to create a dynamic hierarchical visualization for directed browsing of all the federal data holdings, based on the GovData /sources API. The visualization may include:

The GovData Project: A Platform for Next-Generation Open Government

Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of interest in increasing transparent access to all types of government data, spurred in part by Open Government initiatives from a variety of Federal, state and local agencies. Despite the large amount of interest, however, there remain a number of technical and organizational challenges to effectively realizing key open government goals.

In response to these challenges, a joint team from Harvard and MIT has developed the GovData Platform, a cutting-edge technology for capturing, organizing and presenting government data on the web. This platform makes major advances in the online presentation of large datasets, and is designed to be a game-changing contribution in the Open Government arena.

The fundamental innovation is that GovData actually acquires and hosts ALL the data locally.

Existing government data portals (like data.gov and data.gov.uk), provide data catalogs: compendiums of web links to other more area-specific government data portals. Though the metadata in these catalogs is standardized, the individual linked-to data sites are designed and maintained completely independently, and the underlying data is in not standardized across catalog entries. These efforts therefore cannot support unified APIs for detailed search and access to the data itself. Consequently, public-facing frontend applications (like interactive data visualizations) must be written separately for each dataset, requiring application designers to understand, compile, and parse each data source one by one.

In contrast, the GovData project is a full-fledged data collection that maintains updated versions of all the data on local servers. With a complement of several hundred data parsing pipelines for acquiring and processing data from a large range of data-producing federal agencies, GovData centralizes and standardizes key pieces of Federal data holdings.

Leveraging the actual hosting of all the data, GovData is able to create a number of key features that significantly advance Open Government goals: