Networked Planet and Open Data Camp 4

Originally posted on the Networked Planet blog

Only a few weeks to go! Open Data Camp numero 4 is being held at the Pierhead in Cardiff on the Saturday and Sunday, 25-26th of February. ODCamp instantly became my favourite data focused event after I attended the second ODCamp in Manchester and then helped bring it to Bristol for ODCamp3. You can read my other blog posts if you want to dive deep into my ODCamp journey.

Since volunteering with the ODCamp organising committee for the Bristol event, I was invited to remain on the organising team to help make future ODCamps happen. I was more than happy to accept and am really delighted to be part of a team made up of such friendly, proactive humans. NetworkedPlanet were proud to be one of the key sponsors of ODCamp3 in Bristol, and remain committed to sponsoring ODCamp4 and future events as we are so impressed with the team’s ability to foster an environment that nurtures forward-thinking ideas and debate surrounding production and consumption of open data in the UK.

Enough of my gushing about the people who run and attend ODCamps – if you’ve not been to one then here’s a quick run down…

ODCamp is a free un-conference. Unconferences are a particular format of event that doesn’t pre-plan a programme of sessions. Instead, session ideas are “pitched” by the attendees at the start of the day and then, using a show of hands to judge size of space required, pens, and sticky notes, the volunteer crew (called “camp-makers” at ODCamp) create the programme for the day. ODCamp covers costs by offering various sponsorship levels, the list of sponsors helping make ODCamp4 happen is available here.

Creating the session schedule

At my first ODCamp I didn’t plan on pitching a session, but over the course of the first day and chats in the evening afterwards, I realised that a small session on converting CSV data formats to RDF linked data formats might be useful to a few people. I pitched it on the Sunday morning, and that afternoon ran a small workshop messing about with Open Refine to show people how you get from CSV to RDF as basically a “demystifying RDF” workshop.

The structure of ODCamp massively appeals to me because the content is so obviously influenced by the attendees. The organising team have a really good balance of hands-on when it comes to keeping the event flowing and dealing with all the logistics, whilst staying more hands-off to allow the content and discussions to grow organically. Sessions might be round-circle discussions, presentations about tools or projects, building and making of new projects, all kinds of things! You don’t have to pitch a session based on your own subject-knowledge, sessions can be pitched around a question or topic that you want to know more about, and the “pitch” becomes a shout out for other attendees with more knowledge in that area to share in a session.

Break out spaces

The hardest thing is to choose which sessions to go to, you will undoubtedly have 2 or more sessions that you want to attend at the same time. Luckily ODCamp encourages people to move between sessions instead of feeling they must remain for the entirety of one, and this way you can dip in to more than one interesting session (a top tip is to follow the live-tweeting from attendees in other sessions). Some sessions also get covered by the amazing talents at Drawnalism, who live-draw infographics of key points from session content, which are then tacked up around the main room for all to benefit from.

Live drawing capture the key points from sessions

ODCamp releases the free tickets in batches, and each batch “sells out” in a matter of minutes. Those who are unable to attend are strongly encouraged to update their registration so that others can make it in their place. ODCamp4 is already at full capacity but there may well be extra releases if there have been any cancellations, so set your twitter feed to give you notifications from @ODCamp if you’ve not already secured a ticket.

If you’ve already got a ticket then I’ll see you there, if you miss out this time, ODCamp5 will be along before you know it.

Open Data Camp - Bristol

All photos used in this post are by Nigel Bishop, licensed CC BY-NC 2.0