Industrial Permit Processing Towards a semantic map of Sheffield’s industrial polluters

Firstly, although the days of laying out pages using tables seems to have gone, that methodology seems to have been replaced by an almost-as-bad use of css classes which talk about the parts of a content management system rather than the semantic content of the page. A key example of this can be found in lists of permits, where the relationship between a permit and it’s name has to be inferred from its sequential position within a parent element. Being able to look through all the class='permit' <li> tags in a page would have been much easier than the spaghetti needed in the referenced code.

[highlight]Personal thought[/highlight] We’re going to need to think hard how we feed back to the council recommendations on semantic markup as a part of the final project report.

More interestingly – w’ve chosen a CSV for this information as a useful example (in this case) of a way to export data from one system, allow a domain export to annotate and update, and then re-consume. A key insight here is the need to establish stable reference identifiers. For the generated CSV, we’ve created a transparent reference from the components of the URL that should, hopefully, be human understandable and reusable. This will allow us to detect updates and changes to information when it’s sourced from several authoritative sources.

This might be particularly useful in the context of the open data Sheffield Information Directory. This open source directory has two primary features:

  1. it allows users across organisational boundaries to edit shared records with permissions appropriate to roles and
  2. at the front end, allows users to visualise specific sub-groupings.

For example, here is the map of sites in the sheffield food network collection. If organisations listed in this map happen to have environmental permits, then the same organisation is listed in two different contexts, and staff from the environmental department will see different permissions to staff from the food network, and be able to edit different properties.This might make a useful tool to allow editing of permit tracking records where organisations granted permits are treated holistically across the council.

Moreover, because the council are unlikely to ever coordinate all groups to use a single system, the use of a simple open interchange format will enable aggregations to create meaningful relations between different data sets – in this case, industrial polluters, and sites where people pick wild food.

Although we don’t quite have the AQ+ permit map yet, this is a solid step towards having the data to prepare such a beast. Watch this space.

Ian Ibbotson

Open source developer and contributor working in libraries, local government, culture and learning.