A Three-Year Problem Solved in Two Hours
For three years, Ashley Massey sought a way to create an easy-to-update, online map of resources for Oregon boaters. Her odyssey ended with her first map on Socrata.
How much time did she need to make it? Two hours.
How much did it cost her? Nothing.
Mayday! Troubled Technology Waters
“My job is to reach out and grab as many people’s attention as I can about the Marine Board’s mission of boating safety, education and access,” says Massey, public information officer for the Oregon Marine Board.
Massey found a great solution with open data. Her journey towards it began in 2007.
2007 – The Marine Board’s seven-year-old Microsoft Access® database of boating facility information was damaged.
2008 - Massey and colleagues recompiled all of their boating access information and entered it into Google Maps®. “We had to manually enter each boat ramp location and manually place the dot on the map. It was very labor intensive,” says Massey.
2009 – Disaster occurred when all of their work in Google Maps® was accidently deleted.
2010 – Massey spent six months researching vendors and price agreements. “The cheapest solution we found was for $100,000, and it wasn’t capable of doing searches, so it really wasn’t an option,” says Massey.
A Seaworthy Solution
In the summer of 2010, Oregon’s eGovernment Program Manager Wally Rogers presented the state’s new open data portal hosted on Socrata. Massey recognized the solution to her problems. “I was so excited. I said, ‘I’m ready to rock’n’roll.’ We already had a dataset and a vision for the look-and-feel ready to go,” says Massey.
Rogers sat down with her that day, taught her how to upload a dataset, and visualize it in a map. Once the main map view was created, Massey and colleagues were able to add icons and images. Massey had her first map completed in less than two hours.
Keeping Oregon Boaters Buoyant
The following datasets (and more) are now available to Oregon’s boaters on Socrata’s platform:
- Where to find clear gasoline
- Where to purchase aquatic invasive species permits
- Where to register a boat
- Boat ramp locations
- Pumpout and dump stations
- Floating restrooms
- Navigation obstructions
- State-approved “clean” marinas
- Location-specific waterway regulations
Setting Sail with Her Platform
“I really appreciate the speed and ease of updating. [The portal] helped us move toward real-time, digital information which is much more cost-effective and up-to-date than print publications.”
“Citizens can create new views of the same data, and layer datasets on top of each other to create custom maps.”
“I love the ability to embed code and share it with others. I have embedded maps based on certain datasets on boatoregon.com. And, it turns out that those are some of the most popular datasets available on Oregon’s open data portal.”
A Boatload of Savings
The regulation handbook that the Marine Board would produce every two years would cost about $150,000, “and it would only last two years,” Massey emphasizes.
Time Savings: “Using Socrata has essentially shaved 50 percent off the time I used to use for print publications. I now have more time I can put into doing public relations and marketing that I didn’t have time to do before.”
Efficiency: “Now, when we find out about a facility change, we have a form through the platform that our boating and waterway managers can submit to us. When we approve it, it automatically populates the dataset. It’s live.”
Accuracy: “We have minimal data entry now. And we’re getting [the information] from the source – the boating facility managers who operate the sites.”
Cost Savings: “We used to send out yearly surveys and only half, if that, would get returned. We’d do follow-up phone calls and annual site tours. Getting people out of the office and on the road to verify the condition of boat ramps was a huge expense. We’ve got over 1,000 boat ramps in Oregon.”
“Using the platform is saving money and making operations so much more efficient. We’re even getting pictures from the waterway managers that we can import directly into the dataset.”
Happiness: “I can’t sing the praises of our open data platform enough. It’s completely changed the way we look at doing business.”
Embarking on a Bright Future
Massey takes advantage of every new feature Socrata creates. “The capabilities continue to grow. Socrata keeps us updated on their latest innovations and platform development. When we see new opportunities to enhance the maps, we seize them. The maps keep getting better and better,” says Massey.
What are Massey’s biggest data dreams for the future? “I hope that one day all of Oregon’s natural resource agencies can share our data and, ultimately, our resources. Together, we have the information that people want, whether they are camping, boating, fishing or hiking. How awesome would it be to get all the information recreationists seek in one location online?” xx