The CKAN API: a Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network

Raymond Yee, July 23rd, 2008

Comprehensive Knowledge Archive NetworkFolks interested in “open knowledge” should check out CKAN (Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network)

CKAN is the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network, a registry of open knowledge packages and projects (and a few closed ones). CKAN is the place to search for open knowledge resources as well as register your own.

It’s not by accident that OKF should pick a name that is reminiscent of CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network), a major resource for Perl programmers.

CKAN Shakespeare

What exactly is “open knowledge”? According to the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF), the sponsors of CKAN:

Simply put: it is knowledge that is open! To be more specific, by knowledge we mean any kind of content, information or data: genes to geodata, sonnets to statistics. By ‘open’ knowledge we mean knowledge which anyone is free to use, re-use and redistribute without legal, social or technological restriction. For more details and a really precise explanation of what this means see the Open Knowledge Definition.

I find one of the most intellectually interesting part of the Open Knowledge Definition to be the notion of “conformant licenses” — what licenses are thought to embody the concept of open knowledge and which ones don’t. I’m glad to see that CKAN nonetheless allows packages to be associated with a “Non-OKD Compliant::Other” license.

What will you find at CKAN? Among the current list of packages are highlighted “a set of Shakespeare’s works, a global population density database, the voting records of UK MPs, or 30 years of US patents.” And in true open knowledge style, you can add to CKAN and edit existing records.

Of particular interest for ProgrammbleWeb readers is the CKAN REST API for reading and writing metadata about packages and tags. The output of the API is JSON output. For example,

http://www.ckan.net/api/rest/package

returns a list of all the packages, while

http://www.ckan.net/api/rest/package/shakespeare

returns a JSON array about the entry about the Open Shakespeare project.

Who is behind OKF? Among the people associated with OKF is co-founder and director Rufus Pollock:

As well as working heavily with the OKF he is also a member of Creative Commons UK, a country coordinator for the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, and on the board of the Open Rights Group. In addition he is a researcher in Economics based at Cambridge University.

For more, see our CKAN API Profile.

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