Tag Archives: session

Would you like to run a session at Open Data Camp? That’s awesome. Here are a few tips.

Whether you have been to an unconference or not, we are thrilled you would like to run a session at Open Data Camp! Many attendees reach out to us beforehand asking if a topic is suitable or not, and how to best run the session. After years of feedback and experiments, what we know is that we don’t want Open Data Camp to be too strict about formats. We’ve seen all types of sessions: conversations, presentations, panels, “unkeynotes” (a posthumous definition), debates (I had something akin to a – friendly – boxing match with Jeni Tennison last year!).

If you still have doubts, the short story is simple and based on two broad tips:

1) have some ideas ready beforehand, summarise these in a short pitch on the morning, adjust according to feedback

2) the Law of Two Feet is your master: people might go if the session isn’t what they were expecting, and that is good.

Don’t worry about attendees numbers or about rehearsing to give the talk of your life. An unconference isn’t TED. I’ve once been the only attendee in a BarCamp session about 3D printing your own CT Scans (a bit creepy, I know), and I still remember what I learnt.

Open Data Camp is all about discussions, so please imagine your session with a major conversational component. However, attendees often ask if they can bring a presentation. After loads of discussions and past experiments, we have decided that we don’t want to discourage people who come with a prepared slide-deck, but we have some caveats:

1) first of all, we cannot guarantee projectors or screens at the camp, so please make sure your presentation can work without slides, or by showing them on your laptop

2) try and limit the frontal presentation to about 10 minutes and imagine it as a kickstarter for a discussion; Gavin Freeguard did this amazingly at Open Data Camp 4 with his “Tale of two datasets”

3) alternatively, use your slides as a prompt for the discussion, and have something to engage in an exchange every slide or two; John Murray with his legendary sessions about LIDAR, or Alasdair Rae with his great session on gaining insight from mapping are good examples to follow.

Photo CC BY-SA Adam Tinworth

Tell people honestly what you would like to do and ask them what they expect: your sessions needn’t be a monologue worth of George Bernard Shaw, it is ok to have an unpolished set of ideas and present them as they come. Think, however, that alternatives to presentation are often better received. The aforementioned debate between me and Jeni Tennison was pitched on the day out of a random conversation, and it was entertaining for us to hold it as well as for the over 40 attendees that turned up. If you prefer a conversation that doesn’t involve defending positions, that is fine too: make sure you allow all opinions to be expressed in full.

Of course, you might want to have some support. If you fear you might not be able to stop someone speaking for too long, for example, talk to us beforehand and we’ll send you one of our lovely campmakers. All a campmaker will do is to ensure that the session allows everyone some space, and that no one takes over without reason. Equally, if you want someone to take notes at the session, please let us know so we can send a note-taker or arrange for the notes to be broadcast on our blogs.

If you have any question, please do not hesitate to get in touch!


Open Data and auto-discovery

Hi, my name is Christopher Gutteridge, I work for the innovation and development team of the University of Southampton, created the first version of their open data service data.soton.ac.uk and am one of the founders of data.ac.uk </bragsheet>

For a long time I’ve been interested in open data from organisations. Each organisation owns its own data but there’s lots of value in many organisations publishing similar open data in similar ways. Your organisation isn’t special it almost certainly has some of:

  • sites, buildings, rooms, desks
  • people, teams, departments, job roles
  • key webpages: contact us, search, freedom-of-information, message from the boss
  • a product catalogue
  • places (physical or online) where you can get a service which may have opening hours and specific offers of a service at a price, from coffee to brain surgery to car parking
  • research outputs or publications
  • social media accounts
  • news and notices
  • events

The exact data you store or publish about these things may vary (this includes the links between things, eg people-in-buildings). However, the basic concepts should be the same for many organisations and we’ve been looking at ideas around how to share this information without the need for Google or Facebook to act as an intermediary. The schema.org route is cool, but it doesn’t solve the problem I want to solve because web crawling embedded data isn’t the best way to get a dataset. Also, there’s no trust that data found by crawling

http://www.badgers.ac.uk/jeff/ is really official information, and not just a demo but Jeff the PhD student.

At data.ac.uk we have created a simple mechanism to discover such predictable information sets from an organisation from the web homepage. We are using this to autodiscover lists of research equipment in the UK academic sector and it has proved both effective and cheap (sustainable) while protecting the community from the risks normally associated with a hub that collates data suddenly going away. At the time of writing, 16 organisations, including 5 of the Russell Group, have implemented the OPD (organisation profile document), which is basically an auto-discoverable FOAF profile in Turtle which also describes the information sets an organisation has. While we’ve piloted this technique, it is by design anarchistic — anybody can expand and add to it. I want a web of data which doesn’t require silicon valley heavy hitters to let me work with open data.

Oh, there’s also equipment.data.ac.uk which now has open data from 40 contributing ac.uk institutions. Actually, there’s a whole lot of other datasets: http://www.data.ac.uk/data

I’ll be attending the Open Data Camp on Sunday and I’d love to tell you more about our work, either one-on-one or maybe in a session.