Getting Started on our Open Data Platform

Top tips for getting started

With so many features, the Socrata platform can be overwhelming. However, each individual feature is relatively straightforward to start using. Here, we provide quick information to accomplish some common tasks. At the bottom, we provide links to more detailed documentation and step-by-step videos. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with the Office of Information Technology Team if you are struggling to figure something out. We are here to help!

(1) Easily find what you need with our data catalog

At the top left of the page is a link to our Data Catalog. An image of the page is shown below. The catalog is a great "home base" for navigating the site. It is simply a list of all of our content on Socrata, including datasets, visualizations, stories, etc. You can click the categories, types, or tags on the left side of the screen to filter the list down to what you want. You can do the same thing, but with your own terms, in the search bar at the top.

Screenshot of Public Data Catalog

(2) View our stories and dashboards

Our stories and dashboards on Socrata are a great way to see and interact with up-to-date data and understand context and trends using visualizations that we have created.
Stories are a way we can explain or analyze an issue through a combination of text and dynamic visuals. Dashboards are a particular type of story that are designed to provide quick and actionable insights. Below is a link to an example dashboard. You can find all of our stories in the catalog.
Screenshot of a chart labeled "VA-Wide Trust and Outpatient Surveys: Scores and Targets"

(3) Previewing and downloading data

Once you click a dataset within the catalog, you will be taken to its "Primer" page, which contains all its metadata, a fancy word for "information about the data." Metadata describes the data; it provides an understanding of what the data is and how to use it.  To view the data within your browser, at the top of the Primer page, click the "View Data" button. If you want to download the data, from the Primer page you can select "Export" to export to a number of different formats.
Screenshot of page showing the "Export" functionality of datasets

(4) Creating your own visualizations

One of the more powerful features within Socrata is the ease with which anyone can start visualizing and interacting with data.
Create a chart:
The 2-minute video below demonstrates how to create a chart from a dataset.
Create a map:
The 6-minute video below shows you how to create a map.

(5) Getting the exact dataset you need

Our datasets are made available in the Data Catalog. The first, 2-minute video below shows you how to filter a dataset to only include the exact information you want to see. The second 2-minute video shows you how to aggregate up to the exact level of detail you are interested in. If you save your view to your account, your unique view into the dataset will update automatically as we update the original data.

Links to more videos and helpful articles

The Socrata platform is a powerful tool with many features that are beyond the scope of this article. For the full set of basic, introductory videos, see this page. However, we encourage you to just explore the site and what it can do. Most of the features and controls are intuitive and can be learned with just a bit of exploration. If you're stuck, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions. For the full Socrata help documentation, see this Socrata Support page. For developers looking to use the more advanced Socrata features for easy analytics or to build web or phone apps, see Socrata's developer documentation here.