Tag Archives: ODcamp9; open data; PID;

Open data man


Terence Eden, who runs Open Ideas, publishes data about himself. “I have published some of my medical scans, and from solar panels at my house,” he said.

Who else publishes information about themselves? In some ways, everyone in the room. LinkedIn profiles. Blogs. Pictures on social media. Strava. Sports results. Participation in challenges. More accidentally: location data from phones. And that data will reveal other things. Jobs. Where people were (or are). Where they bought some of the things they are wearing or making.

However, a lot of this data will be curated. People will post the jobs they got, but not the ones they didn’t. They might record good run times, but not bad ones: particularly on apps that use league tables to encourage gamification.

Terence said one of the reasons he had decided to consciously post some data about himself was to provide a more complete picture. Posting his scans prompted “a good response” from people with similar issues. Posting solar panel information counters the argument that they only work when it’s sunny.

That, he said, is a good thing to do, because it shows what’s normal. “It is nice to have non-outlier people posting stuff,” he argued. “If you only get the king of the mountains posting on Strava, it can distort people’s idea of cycling.”

Of course, there is some deeply personal information that most people won’t want monitored. Although it may be collected – Terence pointed out that many offices will have sensors that detect whether someone is at a desk. And people’s idea of where the limits lie will vary. Some people who use diabetes monitors post their readings in social media.

Important data sets, from haircuts to school photos

After a quick stretch and move around, the session moved on to discuss what kind of personal data people might like to know. Haircuts, Terence suggested.
It might sound random, but the trivial data in Samuel Pepy’s diary is fascinating. And the number of times people get their haircut might tell us something about economics or social trends.

At a personal level, apps that record music downloads or beer provide a record of what we listen to and like and how this changes over time. Data collected by apps like Zoe with its Blue Poop Challenge track health over time.

Sometime’s, it’s obvious that this information will only be of interest to the individual who collected it. Sometimes, it isn’t. When newspapers publish pictures of children starting school, they are wanting to sell copies to parents and grandparents. But in 50 or 100 years, these might be valuable social records for researchers. Who knows when personal data gains public value?