Right off the bat, as soon as it was agreed upon, the flip was switched at their site and people were able to get shape files from what looked like the parks and recreation division of the city. Hey, it’s a good start. It means that the nerds behind Open Data Ottawa can work together to create fun apps and websites to show Ottawa citizens where parks are, pools, etc. This is not a bad thing, by any means. It is simply a start and I am glad that it started with something.
Mind you, this comes from someone with a few years of geospatial background who is used to collecting data from different levels of government. It always makes me happy to see more cities in Canada releasing their data, shapefiles are perfect for me.
Of course, not for everyone.
There has been some complaints about not being able to use shapefiles for anything or that it is properitary, when ogr2ogr can use it quite nicely. This means that open source projects such as GRASS and QGIS are easily able to open a .shp file, nevertheless the web mapping community such as OpenLayers and MapServer. Technically, it’s not open. It’s essentially the geospatial equivalent of pdf. It’s not open but it’s been around long enough that we all know how to work with it and we all do. Anything is better than e00 files. 😉
In short, what happened when the City of Ottawa decided to release data is that many people cheered and the techies winced when they got a look. If it wasn’t the format, it was the limited data or the license. I can’t disagree with any of these, to be honest, except for the shape files. If you are releasing geospatial data and you are only going to release one format to begin with, you should go with shape files as that is what geospatial people know. And in this city, there are more than enough geospatial geeks. Is the data sets limited? Of course, but they had just decided that they were going to release the data, so better a little than nothing. Is the license agreement a bit terrible and bizarre? Yes, however I doubt that the City of Ottawa has heard much about OpenStreetMap and cares that much about what license they use for their data.
One thing at a time, boys. Next stop, let’s get more data, more tools and a better license. They’ll all come with time, but this isn’t the time to give up on Open Data Ottawa. This is the time to run with it!