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.
Are we engaging in what the community actually wants to achieve? Or are we coming from a data perspective. Start with the need, and then come to the data.
Is it push or pull? Do you need to go to a community for data, or are you bringing you data skills to help people solve problems?
The interface team in Northern Ireland is tasked with dealing with the peace walls – Interfaces – which separate Protestant and Catholic areas of Belfast and elsewhere – which are due to come down by 2023. The program has a Twitter account and Facebook accounts to increase engagement with individuals and communities concerned.
Cupar Way is the largest of the interface structures.
In order to get them down, then government has committed to only removing them with the consent of the involved communities – but actually reaching this point present significant challenges. And some of these areas are the most deprived in Northern Ireland.
If open data providers are concerned about how often their data is used, that opens the door to user research. But are they more interested in finding our what else people could do with the data? That’s a much harder task. The user research questions could easily bias the data.
Could it spiral out of control, as the definition of “user” grows too wide?
There’s a fundamental challenge around user research for open data: what would you do if you knew? also, many open data users are highly technical – is that something that makes it harder to run user research, if you’re not yourself technical?
An expert panel session at Open Data Camp 3 turned out to be less of a Q&A on the minutiae of data sets and their use than a passionate debate about the direction that the open data movement is taking.
There was concern that after much excitement – even hype – about the impact that simply releasing data sets could have, disillusion was setting in as decision making processes remained unchanged and communities remained unaware of the information sources available to them – and the impact this could have. The debate concluded with some passionate calls to make it easier to uncover data and to make it less ‘scary’, so that more people could use it.