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…
There’s a tendency to focus on personal data as the major risk of open data. But there has to be more than that.
ODI Devon has made a policy of holding its meetings around the county. This avoids everything becoming Exeter-centric, but there is a cost to hiring the meeting rooms, and as they publish their spending as open data, it’s led to some criticism.
Continue reading Open Data Horror Stories: 2017 Edition
A cathartic session of data ranting, where Open Data Camp attendees shared their data horrors under the Chatham House rule:
Horror: A PDF full of screenshots
Looking for the location of fire hydrants? If you make FOI requests, you’ll be told they’re national security, or private data or… One council did send the info – but as a PDF. And in the PDF? Screenshots of Excel spreadsheets.
Lesson: Ask for a particular format…
Horror: Paved with good intentions
A government ministry was asked for its spending data, but had to be fought all the way to the Information Commissioner, because they argued that they had intended to publish, and that was enough to give them leeway not to publish. he Information Commissioner disagreed.
Lesson: Just saying “intent” does not let them off the hook
Horror: Customer Disservice
An angry Twitter user asking about his broadband speed was sent a huge dataset of broadband speeds by postcode, as a zipped CSV. And was a bit cross when he realised he couldn’t use it. So a member of the organisation helped out by creating way of reading it – and got told off by his manager for helping the public.
Lesson: No good deed goes unpunished.
Horror: The art of the inobvious search
Googling a list of GP locations, they found an NHS search service – no place to download it. ONS? 2006 data. It took her getting angry, walking away from the computer, and coming back and making a ridiculous search to find it. If you aren’t make it accessible, why bother?
Lesson: Just creating data isn’t enough.
Continue reading 11 Horror Stories of Open Data