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Tools for Transparency: Opening Up Data with Socrata

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Socrata logoI've been a long time fan of Google Fusion Tables and have written about the service previously. The platform is great for using and sharing data, but I'm realizing that it pales in comparison to services like Socrata.

Socrata offers a similar service with the same goals of making data easy to find, easy to use and easy to explore.  The most obvious difference between the two services is the level of thought and detail that has gone into making Socrata accessible and user-friendly.  Exploring data sets, embedding and sharing information, creating charts, graphs and maps, measuring engagement of your data and communicating with others on the platform is quite simple. Fusion Tables is missing most of these features and completely lacks a social layer.

At Sunlight, we use Socrata to add context to our blog posts and offer further detail to our projects. To show you a simple example of how you can quickly embed data on your site, check out this list of 23 independent expenditure-only committees I've embedded below -

Powered by Socrata

You can sign up for an account at opendata.socrata.com. Once you're logged in, you can make changes to your profile, begin to explore data, import your own data and test out the various features of the service right away. Because the site is social, you can also search Socrata to find interesting data sets and use them how you see fit. If you're looking to connect more directly with other users, check out the chat function, something that definitely puts this service over the solo experience of Fusion Tables.

For more information on Socrata, check out this video from ABC.com. (Sorry about the ad at the beginning!)