RB Search Gizmos

Exploring Local Maps and Data Feeds With Nosy Raleigh

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been putting together a Web site called Nosy Raleigh. On one hand I wanted a place where I could aggregate a lot of information about Raleigh, North Carolina, and on the other hand I wanted to see what you can make when you concentrate on open data for just one area.

I started Nosy Raleigh by using some of the datasets from the  Raleigh Open Data initiative to make a Leaflet map that shows police reports, traffic accidents, and construction permit issuances for the last six months. That part is called Crashes, Crime, and Construction.

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That was a lot of fun to make; I hadn’t realized how easy it was to put maps and data together thanks to Leaflet. But I didn’t want the only map on the site to be about crime and car crashes; there are plenty of good things about Raleigh to put on a map! I don’t know all of them myself, though, so I relied on the Wikipedia API to make Nosy Raleigh Wikipedia.

NosyR Wikipedia searches in a radius of up to 10000 meters from a Raleigh address to find locations represented by Wikipedia pages. You’ll find everything from parks to city districts to historic buildings to non-profit organizations. Each map icon has an information card that provides some information about the location as well as external links to authoritative information.

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Mapping out Wikipedia pages to real-life locations and then adding authoritative links makes a useful page, but I wanted to add something that used dynamic date-based data in addition to location. Raleigh  has six major institutions of higher education, so I got the relevant part of the College Scorecard datasets, augmented it with Wikidata, and made Nosy Raleigh Higher Education.

In addition to mapping the locations of colleges and universities around town, NRHE takes university-related RSS feeds from various online sources and offers them in a drop-down menu. Choose a source and you’ll get a list of the last ten updates. The feeds come from a Google Sheet that’s being populated via an IFTTT recipe and which automatically publishes as a CSV file (Because of how Google treats public files, I don’t have to worry about CORS errors when I fetch it via JavaScript.) In the cases where a university doesn’t have RSS available, I’m making do with a site: search delivered as a Google Alert RSS feed. It does find news, but more slowly than a built-in RSS feed would. I have more feeds to add as they populate their datasets.

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I was really happy with how the Higher Education page turned out, but I wanted to expand the list of feeds beyond local higher education institutions. So I made Nosy Raleigh Local News , which aggregates RSS feeds / Google Alerts of local news sources and blogs. Once I made it I realized that I didn’t really have a place to easily scan through local news. This page lets me flip through local news offerings in a few minutes without getting overwhelmed by ads, autoplaying video, etc. I have more sources to add to this page, which I’ll probably do this afternoon.


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While I was gathering up RSS feeds to add to the site, I got distracted by the fact that Wake County (Raleigh is in Wake County) Public Libraries had RSS feeds. It has RSS feeds for everything, too – new books, highest-rated books, search results, and more. I got distracted by that and decided to see if I could put up a map of Wake County’s public libraries along with the latest books in various categories and it worked great!

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I know I’ve barely scratched the surface with even Raleigh’s open data, so I expect I’ll be playing around with this to see how much I can add to it for a good little while. Will I be able to figure out how to include Raleigh’s press releases? Stay tuned…

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