A Shed load of ideas – Open Data Camp 2

ODCamp 2 Clean copies_2It’s nearly two weeks since the second UK Open Data Camp – the unconference devoted entirely to open data.

The first Open Data Camp was held ‘down South’ in Winchester, and this time headed ‘up North’ to Manchester.

The hosts – Digital Innovation (part of the Manchester Metropolitan University) – have a brilliant venue called The Shed, which is just a few minutes walk from Manchester Oxford Street and Piccadilly stations.

Up against it

Dave Mee and Sian Thomas greeting participants
Dave Mee and Sian Thomas greeting participants

Having encountered some travel problems with the first event, when planning the dates for ODC2, we carefully avoided Manchester’s regular football fixtures.

Our cunning planning had a flaw, however, as we found ourselves up-against TWO major rugby events AND a boxing match which we hadn’t known about earlier in the year.

Despite the clash – and resulting traffic, transport, and accommodation chaos – there was a good turnout on both days, albeit after a bit of a slow start, particularly on Sunday*.

The choice of dates, combined with lurgies, also meant that several of the organising team couldn’t make it, and we sorely missed James Cattell, Lucy Knight, Hendrik Grothuis and Pauline Roche.

Been there, done that, got the T shirt

T shirts designed by Sasha Taylor
T shirts designed by Sasha Taylor

We were fortunate to have Julian Tait on the organising team this time, who worked tirelessly with Jamie Whyte to make all the local arrangements, including sorting out discounts at nearby eateries.

Julian also organised super-speedy printing of the T shirts, which he collected on Friday, and ran an excellent session on crowdsourced Internet of Things.

Jamie Whyte, who facilitated, and pitched a session
Jamie Whyte facilitated & pitched

Having been local lead for the first event, I rather enjoyed being in the background this time.

Jamie Whyte wasn’t so lucky, and ‘was volunteered’ to step into James Cattell’s shoes as facilitator. I must say, Jamie did a marvellous job, at very short notice. 

I did have a half-baked idea I’d dreamt up during GovCamp Cymru (which was held right next door to the Doctor Who Exhibition in Cardiff) about pitching a session on using open data for time travel, but in the end decided not to, as there were already lots of really interesting pitches, including:

The Sessions

Title Session lead
West Midlands Fire Open Data Risk.  Jason Davies
Edible giving Gregory Marler
Government data programme Paul Maltby
Open data ideas for young people Jag Goroya
Food open data Sian Thomas
Open Street Map (Missing maps and humanitarian) Gregory Marler
Linked data #nerds Ric Roberts
Greater Manchester Poverty Action Steven Flower
#Open Defra Andrew Newman
Making open data suck a bit less Christopher Gutteridge
Crowdsourced #iot Julian Tait
Supply chain management in open data Glyn Jones
Open Addresses John Murray
Let go of the O – it is just data Andrew Newman
Help the Isle of Man do it right Kirsty Hemsley
Data visualisation Jamie Whyte
Lidar 4 3D – What would you do with it Christopher Gutteridge
Realtime Open Data James Moulding
Open Data + Health Care (Discussion)  John @kellasj
Open Data for culture and heritage SK53
Open Refine CSV > RDF Jen at NetworkedPlanet
Address Wars Bob Barr
Feedback Open Data Camp

We were fortunate to have Matthew Buck of Drawnalism on-hand, who brilliantly captured the essence of the session pitches:

ODCamp 2 Clean copies_3

All the classical elements

Fotothek Theosophie PhilosophieGlancing through the list, I was reminded of the elements as imagined by ancient philosophers: Earth, Water, Air and Fire.

There were sessions about three of those – Earth, Air and Fire. As a slight aside, it’s interesting to see the classical elements visualised as layers as early as 1617 in this copper engraving on paper

The other classical element – Water – is rather conveniently the topic of new latest Geovation Challenge, which seeks to tackle the global issues around water.

Real issues

As with the first Open Data Camp, I was really pleased to note that this wasn’t ‘just’ people ‘talking-up’ open data (although, there was some of that), or talking tech (although there was some of that, too) – it was also people finding and showcasing ways to use open data and associated technologies to overcome real-world issues like poverty, educationfood banks, and health care.

There were also some open data publishers, keen to engage with users and potential users of their data. DEFRA and Environment Agency were on-hand, as were Ordnance Survey OS was also one of our fab sponsors, speaking of which…

Our Fab sponsors

Ric from Swirrl (one of our sponsors) running a session on linked data
Ric from Swirrl (one of our sponsors) running a session on linked data for nerds

If you were at Open Data Camp 2, you may have noticed the complete lack of hard sell (in fact any selling) by the sponsors, all of whom just wanted to help make Open Data Camp happen, and do their bit for the open data movement.

Open Data Camp wouldn’t be ‘a thing’ if it wasn’t for organisations who are prepared to help cover the costs of free events.

On behalf of the organising team, I’d* like to express our huge and sincere thanks to the sponsors, particularly our hosts Digital Innovation, and main sponsor the DaPaaS Project.

The usual quandary

As usual, I was torn between which sessions to go to, as they were all really interesting. I don’t have time to go into detail in this post, but I was particularly impressed that Minister John Shimmin and Kirsty Hemsley from the Isle of Man Government was prepared to attend to seek advice from the open data community on ‘how to do open data right’. I was only present for part of that session, and I hope that someone will blog about it in detail.

ODCamp 2 Clean copies_6I was also impressed that Paul Maltby – the UK Government’s newly appointed Director of Data – pitched a session on what’s happening in the UK Government around data (including open data).

There was lots of interest in that session, which ended up being held in the main space with no parallel sessions, thereby becoming known as an ‘unkeynote’.

The term stuck, as the (nearly) final session on Sunday was a fascinating and highly entertaining talk from Dr Bob Barr about the ongoing battle for UK Addresses, now known as the Address Wars.

Looking back, looking forwards

I’m enjoying reading the blog posts and other output – including photos from Giuseppe Sollazzo and Sasha Taylor – from Open Data Camp, which we’re signposting to from the Open Data Camp home page. It’s really useful to have a record of what was discussed. So often, it’s these stories which become valuable resources to call upon in the future. On which note, I’ll also be including them in the mix over on Open Data Aha!

We’re also just beginning to think about the next Open Data Camp…


* We are soaking up the feedback – including the difficulty getting early morning trains on a Sunday – and will be incorporating it into planning for Open Data Camp 3, which will (probably) be in around 6 months

** I confess, I’m a little conflicted here, as the company I founded recently, AHA Digital, is also one of the sponsors

Photo credits

Drawnalism images drawn and photographed by Matthew Buck

T shirts by Sasha Taylor on Flickr

Jamie Whyte by Giuseppe Sollazzo on Flickr

Classical elements Deutsche Fotothek on Wikimedia Commons