All posts by Adam Tinworth

Open Data Camp 7: Day One Pitches

Drawnalism catching the pitches for Open Data Camp 7 Day One

Open Data Camp 7 is underway — and this time, we’re in London. With rain driving outside, the Geovation offices are bright and buzzy, and a new wave of campers is waiting to pitch sessions.

Here’s what’s being offered for today:

  • Sparql 101 – hands on session for linked data
  • Decolonising data – colonising hasn’t ended for some countries. For example, Nigeria only became independent in 1960 – that impacts on the data sets
  • So you want to start an open data business? Learn and share.
  • Where does stuff come from – and where does it go? Data for supply and waste chains.
  • What is non-commercial when it comes to database licences? A discussion.
  • What should we teach the kids about data?
  • How do we open a toilet data set? Business models for data providers.
  • Metadata, especially qualitative metadata – how do we communicate bias and make it somewhat machine readable?

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How can we become better open data producers?

Our session host, Dan Barrett, head of data and search at the UK Parliament, noted that he’d heard two clear messages from the conference so far:

  1. We need to work ever more closely with the users of the data
  2. Need to avoid working on a technical solution that makes an assumption about who our users are and how they will use the data

What else would make data producers better?

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Building engagement with Open Data

A few years ago, our session host, Rory Gianni, through being involved with several open data initiatives, saw that some went on to great success and some weren’t sustainable. One factor that seemed to make a difference was engagement – if you are not involving people outside te organisation, why are you doing it? Even if you’re being driven by the stick of legislation, you could still capture why others would be interested.

He has a set of digital engagement notes on GitHub. These follow on from the five stars of open data engagement, conceived at UkGovCamp in 2012.

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Getting Better Open Data at national, regional and local levels

The UK is amongst the best in the world at releasing Open Data at a national level – but the same can’t be said at other parts of government. What can be done?

Could it be that the data at lower levels is less accessible? For every piece of valuable data, there’s at least one local authority doing it well, but rarely more than a couple. For example, around 100 local authorities have published business rates data, but several hundred more haven’t. The vast majority of local authorities haven’t published empty homes data.

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Registers: Accountable government lists of things

What is a Register?

Registers are lists of things published on the web and available via an API.

You maintain accountability, via Blockchain-like technologies called Merkle Trees, which allows you to track back through previous changes, and a single source of truth, meaning that people link back to the central source. A Register has a named owner, responsible for the maintenance and updating of that data. They are sometimes called “Custodians” and should be a subject expert in that field. It is possible to have multiple Custodians. There is a Register of Registers – produced by the GDS.

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What does a good data strategy look like?

Chatham House rule session, so no direct reference to organisations or people included.

A data strategy should be in support of a goal.

What makes a good strategy useful?

What are you going to do?
How are you going to do it?
How does it fit into the context of what you are doing?

Sometimes you need to look beyond the immediate goals for open data. But it’s possible to look too high – pay attention to quick wins. What are the most effective things you can do? Those quick wins? Or doing the foundations for the next step?

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Food waste: is there a role for open data in reducing it?

The amount of food waste in the UK is a huge number, particularly if you translate it into animals. Much of what’s being done about it is in the reduction phase, by redistributing food.

What we don’t know is: are there hotspots for food waste? Supermarkets like Tesco have informal arrangements with charities to pass on food, but don’t really track the wastage systematically. It’s also hard to quantify what is food waste, and what isn’t. All the councils have to report “green” waste that includes garden and plant waste, so it’s hard to separate it. But they don’t track where it goes and how it is treated.

From the value chain perspective it’s better for food to be redistributed rather than recycled.

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Getting started with OpenStreetMaps

Open Street Map – if you’re going to edit it, you should look at it first!

Much of the power in it is in the layers you can add over the top, visualising various sets of information. You can also add background layers – like arial imagery from Bing.

To edit it, you need to create an account. Then? You needy to both do the surveying and add it into the system. Some people take notes and sketches, some people use apps.

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Opening up research data

Can we — and should we — free up more research data as open data? A Open Data Camp 6 panel addressed this head on.

One attendee has working with data about rocks rolling down rivers – there are platforms like FigShare that people use, that are more document management. There’s also a reluctance to publish raw data rather than process data, which is much less useful. There’s a huge amount of opportunity here, as open research is something people are just not doing.

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