Open Data for Newbies

Open Data for n00bs

This session set out to create an open document (of course) full of resources and tools about open data. Leader Simon Redding said he wanted to find out where the gaps are; so they can be filled over time.

Other participants said such a resource would be useful for guiding communities towards data sources hey could use. This might address some of the issues surfaced during the expert Q&A session, which discussed concerns about the direction of the open data movement.

Participants argued that making data resources more easily discoverable – and “less scary” – was essential for holding government to account and creating information and tools that communities could use.

Is a directory enough? 

Despite this, participants in the discussion debated whether a list of resources would be enough. They pointed out that communities wanting to use open data would need help and advice on what open data was and what it might tell them, and advice on how to use it to solve particular issues.

Simon suggested that “recipes” for using open data might be added to the resource. “If one group somewhere has a really good way of getting hold of data about dropped kerbs or whatever they could put it in as a kind of recipe for doing it somewhere else.”

Going further, he added, whole tools might be included, such as Open Toilet Map, that could just be ‘lifted’ and populated with local data. However, participants suggested even this might not be enough; and that consultancy or “community champions” might need to offer both ideas and technical advice.

Where it wasn’t possible to inject this level of resource, they suggested that a list should try and cater for both communities and data experts. “Mark Braggins has done this with Hampshire Hub. You can go on there as a citizen and see things about your local area, or you can go on as a developer and see data sets that are available,” one suggested.

“So perhaps that’s a good model of this kind of half and half resource.” It would be useful, the group agreed, if there was a list that directed people towards hubs of this kind. One member said she was working on a similar project for government, councils, companies and others involved in highways issues, and this was another kind of community that might be represented.

Simon set a challenge to create an initial list of 20 items “that say if you have a problem around transport, or whatever, then this might be useful, and if not these are people who could help.”

He argued that while individual communities might have complex issues to resolve, many had common problems: “Toilets might be one, potholes might be one, green space might be one.” Pointing people towards proven ideas for addressing these issues might enable progress to be made relatively rapidly, he suggested.

Specific resources suggested covered: traffic, in the form of car accidents (, roadworks (, cycling (, and potholes: city issues, such as the use of brownfield sites and homelessness (which CentrePoint is mapping); public health (via Public Health England and the Health Observatories) (and also open prescribing, which opens up GP data).

If you have ideas, then contact Simon @simonredding; or watch out for the Google Document link Tweeted from this account.