Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Ireland’s Companies Registration Office (CRO) launches #opendata API

conor 25th of February 2012 by conor

I was thrilled to get an email from Colm Ahern in Enterprise Registry Solutions telling me that the CRO now has an API which was just launched last week. This is the first time the CRO has done anything like this and I’m hugely impressed on many different levels.

I’ve been banging on about the lack of Government Open Data for years and built a few small things but nothing needle-shifting. Whilst we’ve had lots of bandwagon jumpers in the past 12 months yakking about it, the CRO has gone and done the hard work. The team in there deserves both publicity and congratulations for their efforts.

The API itself is a straightforward familiar RESTful one and currently provides all of the free data that the normal CRO site gives you. Pay-for data is not there yet. You need an API key to access the API and they provide some good examples in PHP, Python etc so that even the most inexperienced programmer can make use of it. Data is returned in XML or JSON.

You do have to register and there is a postal component to that. Yeah yeah, I know, but I also totally understand where they are coming from on this. Remember, they have never done anything like this as an organisation. Technically there is nothing stopping them giving out keys to anyone who registers online but they have to provide confidence at every management level that the system will scale, won’t be abused or won’t have bots slurping down the entire DB 24×7 etc.  I am sure that once they see how it is being used, the sign-up process will be relaxed.

I’ve played a tiny bit with it this afternoon and it was a doddle to use. The sample PHP code has everything you need. I’m already thinking about the kinds of mashups that might be possible with the data, particularly around location and general data mining. Some ETL into Google Fusion Tables might be fun. Hmm, I wonder what type of useful Twitter feeds you could create?

They are looking for feedback from developers on the API. Please sign up, kick the tyres, build some code and let them know what you think.

I fervently hope this will open the floodgates for Irish #opendata. It shows how any system, no matter what the technology, can be wrapped in a simple RESTful API and made available to the public. I hope everyone working in IT in the public sector and Government sees what the guys in the CRO have done and thinks “hell yeah, let’s do it”.


What Cloud Provider Do You Use?

conor 7th of June 2011 by conor

There’s been an awful lot of spoof and nonsense written about the cloud in the past few months. As for the hilarious predictions on the number of people who will end up employed in the area in Ireland…….

But the positive reality on the ground is that more and more companies are using some form of cloud hosting. Given that the Web2Ireland readership is definitely in the early adopter bracket, we wanted to get some sense of what you are all using. Is it mainly generic servers like AWS or are people moving more towards platform specific hosting like Heroku or Google AppEngine? Is anyone using Azure in anger? What about IBM? Feel free to use the poll and leave a comment.

If there is enough interest, we may follow it up with a more detailed why/what/when survey.

[polldaddy poll="5121095"]


Web2Ireland now running on Digital Mines

conor 22nd of January 2011 by conor

We have moved this blog over to Digital Mines and it is now running beautifully (and quickly!) on an Irish AWS instance. Getting setup on Digital Mines was a doddle.

Digital Mines

The process to get WordPress going was extremely straightforward and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for more welly than a shared host can provide.

Full deployment instructions over on my geek blog. When I get a chance I’ll do it as a script so it becomes a single-ish click install.

The Ireland API

conor 17th of January 2011 by conor

As anyone who has followed my writing over the years on various blogs knows, I have a particular bee in my bonnet about Government APIs and freeing all public sector data. Unless there is some absolute secrecy requirement on that data, it should be made available to the Irish people, to do with what they will.

But I have lost lots of hair and gained lots of pounds waiting for it to happen here. I watch in despair as the UK and US race ahead and we sit here without even a bloody working postcode system. Just look at in the UK or CodeForAmerica in the US.

So do we just sit and wait or do private sector companies and tech communities take the lead and show the Public Sector how it’s done? Do we lead by example rather than just brow-beating?

We’ve already seen it happen, most notably with KildareStreet but also with Loc8 postcodes. People and businesses sick of waiting, solve the problems themselves by taking whatever poor public data there is already and doing something useful with it and on top of it.

There has also been a recent community initiative with to collect together available datasets but it doesn’t seem to have gained much momentum.

So where else can we leverage exisiting datasets and groupings to benefit the country and those elsewhere who care deeply about Ireland?

I think we should look again at the idea I mentioned way back around the diaspora and genealogy. At the moment we have:

  • Irish/UK/US historical census data
  • National Library records
  • Church records
  • Geni data
  • Ellis Island data
  • Mormon Data
  • Family Tree DNA Testing
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • The living Irish Diaspora and their knowledge of their families
  • Ordnance Survey Map data
  • OpenStreetMap Data
  • Phonebook data
  • Irish emigrant groups around the world
  • Irish-Americans working in thousands of tech companies

Would it be possible to build an API around this data, starting simply and iterating out? Enabling people to search and mashup by names, dates, locations and Y chromosome? Think of the platforms that such a thing would enable? Now wire that into the social graph!

If there was one co-ordinating organisation concerned with building the relationships needed to get this data and providing the APIs but letting people build any app they want, wouldn’t that be incredibly powerful?

Such an org could co-ordinate with churches to have parishioners transcribe all of records that are still in paper form. They would have the clout to get access to currently-non-public government data. They could then help Government departments and state/semi-state bodies build good APIs on their data.

They could also co-ordinate with all the emigrant groupings in UK, USA and elsewhere to fill in missing holes in records. Colleges could get involved. What about all the Alumni data?

One or two simple but powerful example apps could be built to show what’s possible.


Quick Poll:

[polldaddy poll="4403590"]

Facebook Hacker Cup

conor 20th of December 2010 by conor

It’s a Worldwide Programming Competition kicking-off today. $5,000 cash and all the glory to the winner. Do it.