What it is, and isn’t
- What does it do?
- How is this different from Everyblock.com?
- Can I use OpenBlock to manage all my content?
How To …
- What’s the fastest way to try it out?
- How can I set up OpenBlock for my city?
- Can I run OpenBlock outside the United States?
- Where can I download OpenBlock?
- Where do I get news data to use with OpenBlock?
- What kind of data formats can I feed in?
- Where do I get streets, blocks, and other location data for OpenBlock?
- Do you have a hosted version that I can use?
- Can I include data that doesn’t have a date?
- Can I include data that doesn’t have a location?
What It Is (and Isn’t)
What does it do?
OpenBlock is a “hyperlocal news” platform. It provides a local news database, with various kinds of news, each with a location and a date and any other information you want. You can use it principally in two ways:
- As a standalone website where users can browse by location (right down to the single-block level!), by date, or by kind of news.
- Or as a service you can integrate with other websites in various ways – via a REST API, via custom RSS feeds, and/or via custom widgets you can embed in your pages.
How is this different from Everyblock.com?
OpenBlock actually began life as the everyblock.com codebase. The two projects are now proceeding independently (but amicably). For more history, see the documentation.
Can I use OpenBlock to manage all my content?
You don’t want to do that. OpenBlock is not a content management system (CMS). It is good for aggregating and slicing and dicing hyperlocal news. Lots of content doesn’t make sense as “hyperlocal news”.
Is it stable?
OpenBlock 1.0 was officially released in August 2011. Also, the codebase was quite mature when everyblock.com initially released it – after all, they had already been using it to run everyblock.com in production for quite some time.
What’s the release schedule?
OpenBlock 1.1 will add a few features and should be out during September 2011. Also watch the blog for announcements.
Who are you guys?
How To …
What’s the fastest way to get it running?
Try cloning our Amazon AMI. This allows you to skip several pages of install docs in a couple minutes.
How can I set up OpenBlock for my city?
Can I set up OpenBlock outside the United States?
Be warned that there are a number of parts of OpenBlock which assume US addresses. People are currently trying to set it up in Canada and Spain (that we know of), but there are stumbling blocks. You’ll want to ask for help on the discussion list.
Where can I download OpenBlock?
Where do I get news data to feed into OpenBlock?
If you’re setting up OpenBlock for its API and/or widgets capabilities, and want to integrate it with your existing website, you’ll probably just feed in data that you already have. But if you’re setting it up as an aggregator of hyperlocal news, this may be your biggest challenge. Availability of regularly updated local data varies a lot from place to place. You’ll just have to look around and see what you can find.
What kind of data formats can I feed in?
Almost anything you can find on the web. OpenBlock has infrastructure for dealing with various data formats: RSS and Atom feeds with or without geographic extensions; CSV files; and screen-scraping HTML websites. Data can even be scraped from PDFs. This does require some Python scripting. Have a look at our scraper tutorial page.
Alternatively, we have introduced a simple REST API that allows pushing news into the system via HTTP.
Where do I get streets, blocks, and other location data for OpenBlock?
In the USA, you might consider using TIGER/Line data from the US Census.
See the geographic data documentation.
Do you have a hosted version that I can use?
No. We have no plans at this time for offering OpenBlock as a hosted service.
Can I include data that doesn’t have a date?
OpenBlock is heavily geared toward displaying information that happened in one particular place at one particular time – in a word, news. If you have data that has a location but no meaningful date, one thing you can do is create Places and categorize them using PlaceTypes. These will be optionally displayed as markers on some maps. This is not fully documented yet.
Can I include data that doesn’t have a location?
No, that doesn’t really make sense. If it doesn’t have a date and a location, it’s not local and it’s not news, and it doesn’t make sense for OpenBlock.