The importance of good quality data is more crucial now than ever. With Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) powering many applications, the impact of poor quality data is no longer localized in a single data source, such as a website. Instead, the impact is transferred over to all programs, applications and websites that use the data. This knock-on effect has serious consequences, which affects:

  • how the University of Waterloo is being perceived;
  • the impression of the affiliated and federated institutions of waterloo, faculties, departments and schools; and
  • the reputation of students, faculty members, and staff members.

It is important to keep in mind that University of Waterloo websites are the first frontier and most preferred method for stakeholders worldwide to attain information about the University. If poor quality information is presented to the stakeholders, it will reflect poorly on the University of Waterloo. See tips to improve quality of data.

Waterloo Content Management System (WCMS) and the University of Waterloo Open Data API

Did you know that website content from WCMS sites feed into the UWaterloo Open Data API?

Open data is data that can be accessed, used, re-used, and shared by anyone. It can:

  • improve efficiency, effectiveness, performance, and productivity of services on campus.
  • encourage participation of campus, local, and tech communities with the University.
  • boost the University's digital reputation and online presence.
  • spark innovation and creativity to improve the University's reputation.
  • increase spin-off companies from the University by helping to enable the development of new products and services.
  • provide customized information, like the UWaterloo Portal (and future portals, programs, and applications), to individuals to improve quality of life.

The UWaterloo Open Data API uses WCMS website content as a data source. It currently features over 40 different datasets, allowing anyone to build programs, applications, and websites using these datasets. Examples of applications using the UWaterloo Open Data API:

  • Portal - communication tool that delivers personalized information that students need, just when they need it.
  • Flow - social course planning website.
  • WatCard - track balance and transaction history.
  • WATisRain - navigate between buildings without going outside.
  • UW Menu - weekly menus for on-campus eateries.

See Waterloo Tools website for more applications. Applications may also run on multiple platforms, such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and digital signage.

A TV used as a digital signage showing the Chemical Engineering department news, events, time, date, temperature, and banner.

Digital signage showcasing Chemical Engineering department at Engineering 6.

Currently, the WCMS content types that feed into UWaterloo Open Data API are:

  • News Items
  • Events
  • Blog Posts
  • Services
  • Locations (available to a specific website only)
  • Food Outlets (available to a specific website only)
  • Vending Machines (available to a specific website only)

Screenshot of a news item on Faculty of Environment website. Page title, date and body content sections are highlighted.

News item on the Faculty of Arts WCMS website with audience set to current undergraduate students. This feeds into UWaterloo Open Data API.

Portal news widget with Faculty of Environment news item highlighted.

News widget on Portal for an undergraduate student in Faculty of Arts. Data is fed from UWaterloo Open Data API, which is being fed from the Faculty of Arts WCMS website.

"BA, Beef with Snow Peas" and "Non-Vegetarian" content on UW Food Services website, as well as on UWaterloo Menu app.

Food Outlet content type feeds the UWaterloo Open Data API, which then feeds data to the UW Menu application (bottom right).

Tips to improve data quality

  • Compliance with accessibility and usability guidelines.
  • Implement writing for the web tips:
    • use headings and sub-headings to structure content
    • use simple, clear and concise language style when creating content
    • use ordered or unordered lists instead of paragraphs
    • create succinct and meaningful link text, and always link to the original sources
    • proofread all content regularly
  • Provide correct, complete, and non-confidential content in a to-the-point manner.
  • Ensure content is up-to-date and relevant to the time of year.
  • Use the correct content types for the data (e.g., use Events content type to promote department seminars, public lectures and other events, instead of using News Item content type).
  • Use the fields available and use it correctly for the data (e.g., use Cost field to enter the cost of attending the event, instead of entering it in the body).
    Cost field.
  • Use taxonomy terms and use it correctly for the data (e.g., if there is a conference for current graduate students, select "Current graduate students" in Audience field and "Conference" in Type field).

    Current graduate students option checked in Audience taxonomy.

    Conference option checked in Event type taxonomy.

This is an exciting time with so many sites in the WCMS, we can supply quality data that can help people get news and blog posts, and find events and services that are relevant to them. Keep that quality data coming!