18

CKAN is sponsored by OKFN and runs data.gov, so what would be the benefits of switching to Socrata? Negatives? I'm partial to staying in line with OKFN, but I admit that its completely biased and I am in the dark about Socrata and their products.

  • 2
    This may be quite a loaded question... curious if the responses can be combined into a neutral answer. – Ulrich Feb 11 '14 at 11:33
  • i don't follow... – albert Feb 11 '14 at 13:00
10

I'm also quite biased because I work on CKAN and DKAN, but four things to add:

1) Both CKAN and Socrata are often integrated in various ways with a Content Management System such as Wordpress (data.gov) or Drupal (data.gov.uk), in order to more readily provide a more full featured web portal including use cases like telling stories around data, creating groups to collaborate around the data, etc.

2) If this CMS use case is relevant for you, and especially if your organization already uses Drupal for its websites (and/or has a PHP-savvy than Python-savvy team), do look at "DKAN" as well (http://nucivic.com/dkan). DKAN seeks to mimic the features and API of CKAN natively within Drupal, so there's just a single LAMP stack of software to deal with rather than an integration of two different open source platforms, as in the case of Wordpress+CKAN or Drupal+CKAN.

3) I think open-source / lack of "vendor lock-in" is a big deal; even if you're buying a turnkey SaaS solution, I would always go with a one that you could always change your mind and take over direct responsibility for if you ever need to. For now, CKAN and DKAN are stronger in that regard.

4) Both CKAN and DKAN are available in the cloud on IaaS platforms like AWS and Azure, as well as in SLA supported SaaS versions. Open source + SaaS = OpenSaaS (http://opensource.com/government/14/1/opensaas-and-government-innovation).

13

Firstly, let me note that I work at Socrata with Ian.

I agree that maintaining technical options and preventing lock-in is important but, I disagree that Socrata fosters lock-in of any kind.

Lock-in, for open data, could come from two sources--the data and the API.

Socrata enables customers and users to download the data via a huge number of open standards (CSV, JSON, etc.) so there is no risk of lock-in at the data level.

Socrata has also released an open source version of our server that can be self-implemented to provide, essentially, the API server at the heart of our SaaS offering. We make this available to the community so that, should one of our customers ever decide to stop working with Socrata, they could stand up compatible API servers to support any important apps they'd created on top of our platform. This prevents lock-in at the API level.

Ben

  • Are there any tools to allow a customer to download their entire Socrata contents in one (long) step? – Steve Bennett Mar 20 '15 at 1:35
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    Where is this open source version of the server? Is it on GitHub? – Kyle Falconer Feb 10 '16 at 23:35
  • @KyleFalconer Looks like it is at open-source.socrata.com/the-code – nealmcb Mar 30 '17 at 18:06
10

With respect to the question about Socrata and CKAN complementing each other, I also work at Socrata and support a number of Federal agencies on data publishing efforts. I’m seeing more and more cases where Socrata and CKAN are both part of a federated ecosystem of data publishing activities rather than one monolithic catalog that must serve everyone. IMO we’re seeing a larger shift towards decentralization where individual data publishers might use whatever standards-compliant platform happens to be the best fit for their end users’ needs, and can federate into other catalogs that provide useful pathways for their users to find the data.

Take health as an example. CDC has a huge public health / education mission, and might choose to publish data and create APIs using Socrata (or something else), while at the same time federating into other catalogs (e.g. healthdata.gov, data.gov, etc). Sometimes the biggest potential value might be created by publishing a single dataset extremely well, and providing it in a way that maximizes its utility for different audiences (e.g. a great API for developers, raw datasets for researchers, visualizations and maps for less savvy audiences). I think this is a good thing, as so much open data has very specific and devoted communities around it. Individual publishers (and even individual data owners) can have flexibility in how they serve it up while at the same time ensuring it is discoverable to the widest possible audience.

8

Just a quick response from CKAN --

Second, there are some basic differences about the tools. Socrata is a turn-key product solution; CKAN requires technically-savvy people to implement and maintain their project solution. One approach is not universally better than the other, they are just different.

We (the OKF) also offer a hosted solution where all the set-up/maintenance can be handled by our team -- as well as the opensource self-hosted version.

  • 1
    I guess here's the link: services.okfn.org/hosting It's a shame that there are no prices or specifics quoted - it's all "get in touch". – Steve Bennett Mar 20 '15 at 1:37
  • @SteveBennett I agree. Now redirected to viderum.com which says it is "an open data solutions provider spun off from Open Knowledge." – nealmcb Mar 30 '17 at 17:47
5

There are a number of lenses through which a choice of platforms can be viewed. I will suggest one other ... from the perspective of risk management.

CKAN, especially the option of taking the code base without OKF support, requires a user to essentially bear all risks associated with install, integration and platform service and updating on an ongoing basis - as well as the full lifecycle of data management. For some, this will be fine if they have a technical team prepared to handle this. But each function carries risks. OKF's hosted offering shifts some of that risk (eg, for setup and hosting) back to OKF, but at a price. Other risks remain on the customer.

For solutions by firms like Socrata, a chunk of that risk is shifted to the solution provider. For many, shifting much of the technical load to a vendor allows them to concentrate their limited resources (and team) on the harder and more important tasks of managing data supply chain and promoting reuse of data which is where the real value is. For many governments, agencies and orgs, they simply do not have the bandwidth or team to successfully do it all. This can have real implications for how much use a platform gets at the end of the day, as some governments have found.

In many ways, this comes down to what risks a user is best positioned or willing to bear and where they prefer to invest their limited resources.

The issue of lock-in is also in many ways an issue of risk, but there is no generic answer on this. Open standards--especially with respect to data and APIs--goes a long way to neutralizing the real lock-in risks with respect to an Open Data platform.

  • 1
    Not clear what the distinction is between "OKF's hosted offering shifts some of that risk...back to OKF, but...Other risks remain on the customer" as versus "for solutions by firms like Socrata, a chunk of that risk is shifted to the solution provider." Seems to me that hosted SLA supported CKAN/DKAN solutions remove risk/effort from customer in exactly the same way that Socrata does... In both cases, it's SaaS or PaaS... in both cases, vendor fully supports the stack and the customer, no? (full disclosure: I'm a vendor of the "NuCivic Data" hosted DKAN solution). – ahoppin Jan 14 '15 at 19:52
4

I am going to admit some bias up-front by saying that I work for Socrata. But I'm also a believer in open source, so please afford me a chance to provide a thoughtful response with three points.

First, I don't consider CKAN vs Socrata as an "either / or" decision. Sure, both the OKFN and Socrata have a similar vision for our customers. But looking at how governments are actually deploying CKAN, I would say that Socrata is an extension of a CKAN project. Even with data.gov, CKAN is the architecture, but the White House and some Federal agencies are still using Socrata to accomplish their Open Government goals in a way that CKAN cannot.

Second, there are some basic differences about the tools. Socrata is a turn-key product solution; CKAN requires technically-savvy people to implement and maintain their project solution. One approach is not universally better than the other, they are just different.

Third, since another part of your question is on Socrata's products, I'll mention that most people end up comparing CKAN against Socrata on the basis of Open Data Portals. But Socrata also has two other products: "GovStat", which is an open performance solution, and "API Foundry", which is an automation tool for Developers.

Of course, just as with the open data movement as a whole, there is so much more that both organizations deliver beyond catalogs and beyond transparency.

  • i'm aware of products, i'm talking specifically about the portal. – albert Feb 9 '14 at 19:02
  • 1
    albert, your question specifically asked about products ("I am in the dark about Socrata and their products"). Can you clarify your comment and what you are expecting in your answer? Perhaps edit your question to be more specific? – Megan Squire Feb 9 '14 at 22:46
  • i'll edit my question up top – albert Feb 12 '14 at 10:21
  • 1
    Can you expand on "some Federal agencies are still using Socrata to accomplish their Open Government goals in a way that CKAN cannot."? I would think that could explain if there are reasons for migrating to Socrata even when you have a working CKAN install. (as the ease of setup of a turn-key solution wouldn't apply in this case) – Joe Feb 12 '14 at 11:51
  • Re: "Socrata is a turn-key product solution; CKAN requires technically-savvy people to implement and maintain their project solution," I don't think that's the apples to apples comparison-- CKAN Express (hosted CKAN), Accela CivicData (hosted CKAN), & NuCivic Data (hosted DKAN) are hosted & supported services, comparable to Socrata's hosted & supported open data portal. There're strengths/weaknesses of each respective underlying platform, & distinctions in terms of open source or not, but imho there isn't a material distinction in re: "approach" bec. there are SaaS solutions for all. – ahoppin Jan 14 '15 at 20:02

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