Site Admin Documentation

This is a short introduction to how to administer an Open Data Census.

Note: it assumes that a census instance has been booted for you (and is not about the technical side of deploying a census instance)

  • Table of contents {:toc}

Overview of How a Census is Structured

A Census is a survey built around 4 axes:

  • Place – e.g. a country of a city
  • Dataset – e.g. Timetable
  • Question – a specific question we ask about each dataset (e.g. "does it exist", "is it machine readable")
  • Time – usually a year

We then ask for each Place / Dataset / Time combination for an answer to the set of "Questions".

The set of answers to the Questions for given Place / Dataset / Time combination is called a Submission.

When a Submission has been reviewed and deemed accurate it becomes an Entry in the Census.


New submissions

  • Contributors visit the /submit/ page to make a new Submission
  • This Submission is now queued awaiting review by a reviewer (see next item for details of what that will mean)
    • The approve_first_submission config variable can be set to TRUE in order to approve the first submission for a place/dataset/year automatically, without review.
    • Reviewers can be set in three places:
    • In the config sheet, where the reviewers can review all data for the instance
    • In the datasets sheet, where the reviewers can review all data for a particular dataset
    • In the places sheet, where the reviewers can review all data for a particular place

Reviewing a submission

  • A reviewer visits the place page for a given place (e.g. /place/gb) – normally they will do this via the front page
  • A reviewer clicks on the "View Submission" button next to a pending submission:


  • A reviewer visits the review page for a submission
    • You must be logged in to review
    • You must be an authorized reviewer to review (see reviewers config option below)
  • The reviewer reviews or rejects the submission
    • If approved the submission will now become the "entry" for that place and show up in the overview and elsewhere
    • If rejected the submission will be marked as rejected and will no longer show up


Configuration of a census site is down via Google Spreadsheets. Each spreadsheet must be "public on the web" and "published to the web" (see Google Spreadsheets for details on how to ensure this).

We can divide the configuration required for a site into two types:

  • 'Site config' – the fundamental configuration for a site, such as the title, plus, links to the other config files required (e.g.: places, datasets and questions)
  • 'Census config' – the list of Places, Datasets and Questions to use for this census. The site config contains pointers to where to find this.

Both types of configuration should be stored in publicly accessible Google spreadsheets (one file for app config and one each for places, datasets and questions).

Our recommended approach is to have all of these as separate sheets in one large google spreadsheet that is made 'public on the web' (you can then access those sheets as CSV files).

Here is a Template General Config Spreadsheet.

The Site config options (the first sheet in that spreadsheet) are fully documented in the Appendix below.


Configuring your Census

For the Census to work properly you need to do some initial basic configuration:

  • Add a list of places for the Census to cover – see Setting up Places below
  • Set title value in your General Config as appropriate e.g. "US City Open Data Census"

Next steps:

  • If you want reviewing to work you will need to configure the list of reviewers – see instructions below

Extras – set additional content e.g.

  • Add a logo – navbar_logo config variable
  • Some short text on the front page – 3-4 sentences about what this is – overview_page config variable
  • About page – about_page config variable
  • FAQ page – faq_page config variable

Setting up Places

  • Add places to the Places sheet in your Config Spreadsheet
  • The id column should only have lowercase ASCII alphanumeric characters and '-'. For example:
    • OK: 'sanfrancisco' or 'san-francisco'
    • Not OK: 'san francisco' (space) or 'SanFrancisco' (uppercase) or 'München' (non-Ascii character)
  • The Name column can have any characters you like (including non-ASCII)

Remember to reload the config once you have finished to have your new list of Places show up in the app.

Setting up Reviewers

To give a user Reviewer 'privileges' you must add them to the reviewers config – see below.

Reload the Config

Once the system administrator has added your new Site to the registry, and you have subsequently configured your Config, Places and Datasets sheets, you need to load your data in to the database.


Remember to reload your config settings here anytime you make a change, so that it is reflected in the database.


This section describes how to have site content presented in languages other than English.

There are 2 types of material that could be localized:

  • General site content (note this content is quite limited as most text on the site comes from configurable info)
  • 'Configurable' content such as question titles and descriptions, the names and descriptions of datasets etc

To have your site presented in a given language you need to:

  • Make sure the relevant content is translated (if not already done, you'll need to do it) – instructions in next sections
  • Configure your Census site so that a particular language is shown – see the locales config option in the config options section below

Translating Questions

This is about translating the question descriptors used in the submission forms etc. To translate question information:

  • Make a copy of the standard questions spreadsheet
  • Add a column Question@{LANG} and Description@{LANG} where {LANG} if your 2 digit iso code
  • Enter translations of the english values of Question and Description in your new columns
  • Notify the Open Data Census Managers on the discussion forum that the translation is done
  • The Census Managers will then incorporate your translations back in the the main questions spreadsheet

Translating Datasets

This is about translating the dataset information (title, descriptions etc). To translate dataset information:

  • Add a column Title@{LANG} and Description@{LANG} to the Datasets sheet – if you are running off the default, standard set of city datasets then make a copy of this sheet to do this
  • Translate the original title and description into your language and enter into the new columns you created
  • Notify the Open Data Census Managers on the [discussion forum[discussion-forum] that the translation is done

Translating General Site Content

Customizing the List of Datasets

Note: here is the Standard City Datsets sheet

  • Go into your Config Spreadsheet
  • Fill out the sheet named "Datasets" in your config spreadsheet following the structure provided. You can ignore the Category column.
    • It is important to add reasonably detailed descriptions for the datasets so people are clear what they are looking for and how to answer.
    • We recommend not having more than ~ 15-17 datasets in your Census
  • Copy the URL of the spreadsheet (make sure you have the Datasets sheet showing when you do this)
  • Paste this URL as the value for the datasets key in the General Config sheet (add this key if not present)
  • Reload the config

General Config Options

These are the config variables you can set in the the "General Config" sheet of your config spreadsheet (a Google Spreadsheet or online CSV file).

Those marked with a (*) must be set.


Site title – used on the website etc


Short version of the title


Set list of language locales that should be available for your site. See Localization above for more details. Format is space separated 2-digit language codes. First language is the default for the site. For example, to have a site in German and English (German by default) set value to:

de en


List of reviewer emails separated by commas.


URL to a Google Spreadsheet (make sure url is to actual sheet you want) or online CSV file containing a list of datasets to ask questions about.

The structure should follow that in the standard city datasets.


URL to a Google Spreadsheet (make sure url is to the actual sheet you want) or online CSV file containing a list of places to ask questions about.

The structure should follow that in

You can optionally add a Reviewers column that accepts a comma separated list of emails. These users will then have access to approve or reject revisions submitted for datasets in that place.


Questions are not customizable. The app will behave unexpectedly with different questions.

questions must be a URL to a Google Spreadsheet (make sure url is to the actual sheet you want) or online CSV file containing a list of questions about.

These questions will then be used instead of the standard questions.

The spreadsheet MUST follow structure as in the default questions spreadsheet.


Determines whether the first submission requires review by a reviewer.

Default is FALSE i.e. all submission must be reviewed.


Content for the overview on the home page (this is just content for top of page above results summary table).

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Instructions for the top of the submit page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Instructions for the top of the review page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Content for the FAQ page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.

Note: you have access to 2 special variables that can be used in your html or markdown:

  • {{ "{{questions" }}}} - this will be replaced by a table of all the questions
  • {{ "{{datasets" }}}} - this will be replaced by a table of all the datasets


Content for the about page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Content for contribute page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Content for the tutorial page.

You can use markdown or HTML format.


Set to true to add an “Add new location” button to the overview, linking to /faq#missing-place.

Default is false

HTML for logo at top right of navbar

Here's some sample HTML (replace links and image with your own!):

<a href="" title="" target="_blank">
  <img src="//" alt="Logo" />

Logo will be scaled to 30px height (so best is if it is already 30px)


Custom CSS

Custom footer content


Supply a google analytics key to use on the site


Custom support url linked from the top-level 'Support' navigation item. If absent, the discussionForum global settings will be used instead.