April 2013
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Palo Alto Data access via Google Fusion Tables

palo_altoThis was an interesting piece of information passed along to me from Margaret Carlin.  The City of Palo Alto is making some of its GIS data available through Google Fusion Tables.

There  are a number of different data access methods out there (check out CKAN, Socrata for some other options) – and of course we use WordPress for LA County’s GIS Data Portal.

What I like about the Palo Alto Portal:

  1. You can interact with the data directly in the portal – you can zoom around, and using the Fusion Tables you can interact with the data right away inside of the site.  Right now that is the one thing I want to be able to do within WordPress – allow users to play with the data before they download (our GIS Viewer (http://gis.lacounty.gov/gisviewer) is a place to do this, but there is a lot of manual work to get data in there.
  2. The styling is nice and streamlined.

What I don’t like about using Fusion Tables

  1. You cannot download the data – you can only access via the Google API.  This “walled” garden approach does not unlock the data for public use, it limits what can be done with it.  This appears to be a setting within the Fusion Tables that Palo Alto didn’t enable, so it is available.
  2. KML is not a GIS format – there is no topography.  Even if I could get to the KML, I am not going to use Google Earth to do any real analysis – I would need to convert to a shapefile.
  3. The data symbolization is very generic – you don’t know what it means – we use ArcGIS layer files to provide labelling and symbolization guidelines where they are needed.
  4. The interactivity is pretty limited – but that’s a minor issue.
  5. There is no search tool.  Right now there are 6 datasets – what happens when there are more than 50?  We in LA County are tracking over 400 datasets, and we organize them by theme, source, etc.




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