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3. ChattaData HowTo - Find The Right Data
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Find the Data You Need on ChattaData

We are both blessed and cursed with the large amount of data stored on the ChattaData Open Data Portal. Blessed because having so much data means we can solve a lot of problems and cursed because… sometimes it’s hard to find what we need. Eventually, you learn how to use the Browse Filters and Search Tool to find what you are looking for and that is what this guide will cover.

Here are some key terms that will be referenced in this How To Guide:

Catalog - The catalog is the combination of all of the assets that you have access to. On more than one place on the portal you can click on the ‘Catalog’ button to be taken to a browsable page that shows different assets. You can filter this list to narrow down what you are browsing

Assets - This is the overall term for every type of ‘thing’ that is hosted on the Open Data Portal. Assets included datasets, views, charts, files, maps, etc. When you create a new visualization, or filtered view, they are referred to throughout the site as ‘assets’.

Visualization - Visualizations are a catch-all term that explain different ways of turning data into interesting and presentable graphics. Some of our data contains locations and addresses, those can be used to make maps. Others contain dollar amounts for spending categories, those can be used to create charts or histograms showing average spending in an area over time. Visualizations are the real bread and butter of ChattaData, this is what you’ll make yourself to help make sense of the data on the portal.

Metadata - This term technically means ‘data about data’ and that is exactly what it is. A dataset’s metadata describes when the data was last updated, the dataset contact (most often a City employee), the number of views/downloads and how many rows and columns it contains. The metadata further describes a field/column to help make sense of the rows in the dataset.

Export - Depending on the type of Asset you are viewing, there is usually an ‘Export’ button at the top right of the page that allows you to download data or map files. In the case of a dataset, view or chart asset, you will be downloading data. Maps, however, may allow you to download map layers as well as data (such as location information) shown on the map.


Covered in the previous Exploring How To Guide, we will be focused on the functionality of the Search and Browse Catalog portions of the site. Here’s a quick reminder of how those can be accessed from the Main Page. There’s the search bar at the top (where even seasoned ChattaData veterans start their work) and the Catalog links in the cards and toolbar sections.

The Search tool works like search on any other website though it’s not quite as smart as Google. You can’t ask it questions, instead, you have to be more specific and usually keywords are the easiest way to get started finding the data or visualizations you want

The Catalog link takes you to the same page as the Search tool will but without any restrictions on what is shown. You will see every single dataset, file, chart, map, etc. (also known as ‘assets’) that are accessible by your user.

What follows are some more details, tips and tricks on how to use these sections of the site.

Asset Catalog

The asset catalog, found by clicking on ‘Catalog’ or performing a search, contains a list of all of the assets your user has access to on the ChattaData Open Data Portal. Once you are on the Browse Catalog screen (seen below) there are several options to filter and sort the list of assets shown. This is also where you can select the asset that you want to explore further. Here’s a brief explanation of what’s on this page.

  1. Filters - The list of filters ranges from authority (who created it?), category (where does it fit?), view types (is it data? a chart? map?), organization (who does this fall under?) and tags (could be keywords, dates, etc.)
  2. Search - Covered in more detail below, this search field lets you start over with your list and find new assets by performing another search
  3. Results - The results section shows the number of results returned from the combination of search performed and filters applied. You can also clear your filters and start over with the ‘clear all’ button
  4. Sort By - Allows you to sort the results based on a number of different factors. The default option ‘Most Relevant’ shows the most relevant assets to the search terms provided. You can change it to show most accessed (popular) or recently added/updated (if you know what you are looking for is new) in order to find the right assets
  5. Results - The most important section on this page shows all of the results you have found through your search and applied filters. These detailed rows provide information about each of the assets and help you decide which one you to select for your next data endeavor

  1. Title - The title of the asset describes what it is. Usually it is straightforward and generic but can sometimes contain more information such as ‘Top 8 Service Requests in 2021’ instead of just ‘Service Requests’
  2. Type - There is a long list of possible options for what type of asset you are looking for and the ‘View Types’ filter can help narrow the selection down. Here are a few popular types but be sure to explore them all
  1. Story - A combination of several assets along with a story narrative, we tend to call them ‘dashboards’ too. Sample
  2. Map - When possible, we try to map our data to gain further insights about it Sample
  3. Dataset - Datasets are probably most easily thought of as an (sometimes very large) Excel spreadsheet. In fact, you can export them and open them in Excel. The datasets/views are what visualizations are generated from Sample
  4. Filtered View - Same thing as a dataset but it has been modified in some way, usually by adding/removing columns or filtering on a column to make it a smaller number of records than the original dataset. If the dataset is the parent data source, the Filtered View is it’s child because it inherits its data Sample
  5. Chart - Bar/Column graphs, pie charts, histograms, timelines, etc. Sample
  1. Metadata - this section shows when the asset was updated and how many views it has. A high number of views usually means it’s a popular dataset and the updated date can let you know if it’s something that is current. It is worth noting a story may have an old date for ‘updated’ but still contain updated data so don’t discount a story that seems old if it fits what you are looking for.
  2. Description - Hopefully gives you enough information to help you decide whether or not this is the data/chart/map you need.

Search Tool

The search tool is used by novices and experts alike. Now that we’ve looked over how to browse and filter data, all that’s left is using the Search Tool to narrow those results further.

At the top of the page and throughout the site, you’ll be able to access the search tool and the results page is the same as what was covered in the ‘Browse’ section above. Regardless of where/how you access it, the search tool is the same and will lead to the same results page. It works just like any other search tool, type in your term(s) and hit ‘Enter’ but it’s not exactly Google. Here are a few tips to make searching easier

Your results may vary since new datasets are updated and created every day but in this case, the top result is a map showing Fire Response Times over the Last 30 Days. See if you can find this Map, then click on it to view it

In order to know if you’ve found the data and/or visualization you are looking for, it’s good to know what you are looking at. There are several types of visualizations and this one in particular is a Map. Let’s go over what’s shown on this page so you can decide if it’s what you need.

  1. Search - The search bar on a map is a search for a particular address. You could put in your own address, hit ‘Enter’ and it would zoom into your area. Then you could see fires with high response times nearby
  2. Layers - These layers can be turned on and off to show and hide data on the map.
  1. The two layers on this map show fire stations and fires, trying toggling them on and off to see how the map changes
  1. Filters - These filters, unlike the ‘Browse Datasets’ filters, are specific to what you are looking at on the page.
  1. Incident Date - You can view incidents with a longer/shorter timespan by changing this date
  2. Specific Incident Code… - You can limit the map to only showing certain types of incidents.
  1. Export - Export the data associated with the map.
  1. When you click ‘Export’ you are given the option to download ALL data or FILTERED data.
  1. All Data - downloads everything that can be show on the map
  2. Filtered Data - downloads only the results that you have filtered to show on the map.
  1. Oftentimes people download the data in order to put it into their own software such as Excel to sort or Tableau or Microsoft BI to create complex visualizations

This has been a very brief overview of how to find what you are looking for on the ChattaData Open Data Portal. It also gave a quick introduction of how to use a Map visualization so you can further determine if the data fits your needs.

The next step is How To Make Your Own Visualizations.