Open Data Now!
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The OpenDataNow project is to create a central repository of scraped data in convenient formats that everyone can use right now, without needing to write their own screen scrapers. This repository is managed by a collection of screen scrapers maintained by the Ottawa open data community through GitHub.


At one of the Open Data Ottawa events in April, it became apparent that people working on different projects had all written their own screen scrapers, and many people had neat ideas but were lacking the data necessary to make them reality.

Our hope is that OpenDataNow will help the community spend less time writing screen scrapers and more time doing awesome stuff.

Where can I find...

How does it work?

OpenDataNow is really just a bunch of scripts that run on a server running Debian GNU/Linux (sid). Scripts can be written in Ruby, Python, Java, or whatever, as long as it can be made to run in this environment.

Whenever changes are pushed to the GitHub repository, the server automatically runs "script/stop", kills any running processes, pulls the changes, updates the crontab, and restarts the server by running "script/start". (See script/root/cycle-daemon for details.)

Some tasks (such as installing new Debian packages) must be done manually by a system administrator, but the idea is to let others maintain the repository with as little administrator intervention as possible.

How can I help?

The best way to help is to fork the GitHub repository at, push your changes, then send us a pull request.

  • Contribute screen scrapers. More screen scrapers means more data available for everyone in the community.
  • Contribute data transformations. Data in XML when you prefer JSON? Write a translator.
  • Write automated tests. Right now, we have no way of knowing when a scraper stops working. Automated testing would helps us a lot.
  • Write documentation. The documentation for OpenDataNow is pretty sketchy right now.
  • Make web pages. The OpenDataNow website is basically non-existant at this point. It could use improvement.
  • Get others involved. We need all the help we can get.

Who's behind this?

Is this legal?

OpenDataNow arose out of discussions at an event organized by Open Data Ottawa, a grassroots organization that will be launching Ottawa's first open data hackfest on April 24, 2010. Coinciding with the hackfest, the City of Ottawa will begin releasing their data to the public in formats suitable for re-use. The idea is that, eventually, most city data will be made public in a manner similar to in the U.S. In the meantime, the community has received permission to scrape City of Ottawa data ourselves. (At least, that's what was announced at the last Open Data Ottawa event.)

Copyright (for the scrapers)

Copyright (c) 2010 Dwayne C. Litzenberger

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see