As a first foray into playing with some of Chicago’s public data I decided to take a look at the food inspections data. I started off by making a proof of concept — a basic web form for searching by address or restaurant name. On the face of it, this isn’t a whole lot more useful than the search on Chicago’s data portal site, though it does cull some of the less immediately interesting columns. The next step was building a Firefox Add-on that activates when you go to yelp (install the xpi or check out the source code). When you visit a restaurant’s page it automatically inserts the latest inspection data in a collapsible box underneath the restaurant’s star rating.
This was my first time writing a Firefox Add-on and figuring out where to start turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected. There are a couple of different ways to extend Firefox, and while Mozilla has some fantastic documentation, there were a lot more choices that needed to be made up front than I realized (such as do you use the Add-on builder vs. the Add-on SDK). I decided to use the Add-on builder, Mozilla’s in-browser IDE for developing Add-ons that only need access to high level APIs.
Obviously this is still alpha software. There’s bound to be bugs, and I can guarantee you that the inspection data could look prettier. If you do decide to give it a whirl, please let me know of any bugs you find on the issues page or via email.