Setup Guide: Create a data catalog to display and share your GitHub datasets with PortalJS

Luccas Mateus

Luccas Mateus

The github-backed example added to PortalJS is intended to provide users with an easy way to set up a data catalog that can be used to display and share data stored in GitHub repositories. With this example, users can quickly set up a web-based portal that allows them to showcase their data and make it accessible to others, all this being done thru the configuration of a simple datasets.json file.


To get a feel of the project, users can check the live deployment.

Below are some screenshots:

Front page

Individual dataset page

How to use this example as a template


You can also create a new project by clicking on the "Deploy" button below. Vercel will clone the example on a new repo under your user or organization on GitHub and set up a deployment for it.
Then, you can clone the new repo on your machine and start editing it.

Create a new app with create-next-app

Run the following commands:

npx create-next-app <app-name> --example
cd <app-name>

Setup a GitHub token

This project uses the GitHub API, which for anonymous users will cap at 50 requests per hour, so you might want to get a Personal Access Token and add it to a .env file inside the folder, like so:

GITHUB_PAT=<github token>

Setup the datasets list

The datasets.json file serves as a list of datasets that should be in your data portal. Edit the this file to your liking. Some examples can be found inside this repo:

Run the app

Run the app by executing the following command:

npm run dev

Congratulations, your new app is now running at http://localhost:3000.


Deploy with Vercel

By clicking on this button, you will be redirected to a page which will allow you to clone the example into your own GitHub/GitLab/BitBucket account and automatically deploy it.

GitHub token

You have to set up GITHUB_PATH as an environment variable on Vercel. To do that, go to the project's page on Vercel, then click settings, look for "Environment variables" and create a new environment variable. Refer back to the previous section if you are not sure about how to create a GitHub token.

Editing the new deployment

You can now clone the new repo on your machine and start changing it. Simply follow the "How to use this example as a template" section skipping the first step.


Note that whenever you push changes to the new repo these are going to be automatically deployed by Vercel.

Structure of datasets.json

The datasets.json file is simply a list of datasets, below you can see a minimal example of a dataset

  "owner": "fivethirtyeight",
  "repo": "data",
  "branch": "master",
  "files": ["nba-raptor/historical_RAPTOR_by_player.csv", "nba-raptor/historical_RAPTOR_by_team.csv"],
  "readme": "nba-raptor/"

It has

  • A owner which is going to be the github repo owner
  • A repo which is going to be the github repo name
  • A branch which is going to be the branch to which we need to get the files and the readme
  • A list of files which is going to be a list of paths with files that you want to show to the world
  • A readme which is going to be the path to your data description, it can also be a subpath eg: example/

You can also add

  • A description which is useful if you have more than one dataset for each repo, if not provided we are just going to use the repo description
  • A Name which is useful if you want to give your dataset a nice name, if not provided we are going to use the junction of the owner the repo + the path of the README, in the example above it will be fivethirtyeight/data/nba-raptor

Extra commands

You can also build the project for production with

npm run build

And run using the production build like so:

npm run start