Just a few days after Halloween, and with pumpkins adorning the refreshment tables at Open Data Camp 7, campers gathered at the end of day two to swap open data horror stories. Or, as leader Dan Barrett put it, to learn from their experiences and mistakes. Because that can be cathartic — and helpful for others.
A reflection on working at [a large public institution] and spending six years trying to improve its open data division. “I recognised that there was a division between its work and public understanding of what it did. And I thought open data could help to bridge that.” Things were going fairly well. “And then they went spectacularly badly, and the work stopped.”
What did the teller learn? “That it is important to own the story of your own work, and to think about how you tell it to other people,” particularly in an environment in which others are seeking to benefit from telling a counter-narrative, “discounting the work you do, playing down the benefits of what you do”, and diverting resources to other priorities. “So that is the lesson I am taking into a new role: Tell stories that resonate with everybody about data.”
Continue reading ODCamp 7: Horror stories…
Day two of Open Data Camp 7 at Geovation in London started with a session on public sector procurement data, and how it could be used to encourage green initiatives. Ian Makgill introduced the session. His company has a site that captures public tender information and makes it “freely available to everyone” and then analyses the data to say “oh look, this is how much work this company has got” or “here’s a trend in a particular kind of spending.”
However, he said, while this was interesting, it wasn’t having a big impact on organisational behaviour. But: “What we realised is that suppliers are very interested in when contracts are coming to an end. That’s understandable, but it’s also a massive leverage point at which the public could encourage procurement that reduces carbon.”
After all, government spends around £12.9 billion a year on things, and those things are responsible for about 17% of carbon output, because they are things like roads, and airports. So there should be an opportunity for experts and the public to get in and argue that setting a contract in a different way will induce change.
Continue reading ODCamp 7: Going green(er) with open procurement data
One of the final sessions of the first day of Open Data Camp 7 in London was led by Anneka France from The Rivers Trust. She she had wanted to run the session because she had wanted to get hold of the National Soil Map because she wanted money for an EU-funded project to restore peatland for climate mitigation and flood prevention.
The National Soil Map is covered by a commercial licence, and the charity was quoted £25,000 to get the data it needs. Which it can’t afford. But then Anneka heard about the ‘pillars of power approach’ “which has been used to overthrow governments” and wondered if it could help. Continue reading ODCamp 7: Using a pillars of power approach to opening data
Andy Dudfield, who works for “a small charity” called Full Fact, which checks out the claims made by politicians and others, said he had pitched this session because “fact checking is hard to do” and “we are always looking for ways to make it go faster.”
So, he said, “one of the things that we would like to do is to look at using open data for fact checking” and he would like his audience to tell him about any good open data sources for the job. And, also what the caveats were likely to be.
For example, he said, Full Fact might be asked to check a claim that crime had risen: were there good open data crime statistics, and how would the organisation know where they came from, and whether any change was ‘real’ or a statistical artefact? Continue reading ODCamp 7: Just the facts: fact checking with open data
So… open data. What is it? How do you find it, use it, and get value from it? As ever, Open Data Camp opened with the session that reveals all.
Camp maker Katherine Rooney started with an even more basic question: what is data? Campers gathered at Geovation in London suggested it was an “information set” or “usable information that could be easily shared” while others suggested that to be data, information needed to be “structured” in order to be meaningful.
Katherine then moved onto the ‘open’ bit, and said “open data is data that is open to anyone” and “for any purpose.” However, campers heard, it does not have to be free; although, of course, open data enthusiasts want it to be available at the lowest cost and as easily as possible.
This raised the question of where open data comes from. Lots of people publish open data:
- government bodies
- public authorities
- private companies.
But how do you know that published data is open data? “What we are looking for is an open data licence,” Katherine explained. “And that licence lives with the data as metadata.”
Continue reading ODCamp 7: Open Data 101 (aka Open Data for Newbies)