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Open Data Camp UK: Bursting out of the Open Data Bubble

Marieke Guy - February 24, 2015 in Events, open knowledge

“But nobody cares about Open Data”

This thought was voiced in many guises during last weekend’s Open Data Camp. Obviously not entirely true, as demonstrated by the 100+ people who had travelled to deepest Hampshire for the first UK camp of its kind, or the many more people involving themselves in Open Data Day activities around the world. However the sentiment that, while many of us are getting extremely excited about the potential of Open Data in areas including government, crime and health, the rest of the planet are ‘just not interested’ was very clear.

As a non-technical person I’m keen to see ways that this gap can be bridged.

Open Data Camp was a 2-day unconference that aimed to let the technical and making sit alongside the story-telling and networking. There was also lots of cake!

Open Data Camp t-shirts

Open Data Camp t-shirts

Open Data Board Game

After a pitch from session leaders we were left with that tricky choice about what to go for. I attended a great session led by Ellen Broad from the Open Data Institute on creating an Open Data board game. Creating a board game is no easy task but has huge potential as a way to reach out to people. Those behind the Open Data Board Game Project are keen to create something informative and collaborative which still retains elements of individual competition.

In the session we spent some time thinking about what data could underpin the game: Should it use data sets that affect most members of the general public (transport, health, crime, education – almost a replication of the national information infrastructure)? Or could there be data set bundles (think environmental related datasets that help you create your own climate co-op or food app)? Or what about sets for different levels of the game (a newbie version, a government data version)?

What became clear quite early on was there was two ways to go with the board game idea: one was creating something that could share the merits of Open Data with new communities, the other was something (complex) that those already interested in Open Data could play. Setting out to create a game that is ‘all things to all people’ is unfortunately likely to fail.

Discussion moved away from the practicalities of board game design to engaging with ‘other people’. The observation was made that while the general public don’t care about Open Data per se they do care about the result it brings. One concrete example given was Uber which connects riders to drivers through apps, now with mainstream use.

One project taking an innovative approach is Numbers that Matter. They are looking to bypass the dominant demographic (white, male, middle class, young) of technology users and focus on communities and explore with them how Open Data will affect their well-being. They’ve set out to make Open Data personal and relevant (serving the individual rather than civic-level participant). Researchers in the project began by visiting members of the general public in their own environment (so taxi drivers, hairdressers,…) and spoke to them about what problems or issues they were facing and what solutions could be delivered. The team also spent time working with neighbourhood watch schemes – these are not only organised but have a ‘way in’ with the community. Another project highlighted that is looking at making Open Data and apps meaningful for people is Citadel on the Move which aims to make it easier for citizens and application developers from across Europe to use Open Data to create the type of innovative mobile applications they want and need.

The discussion about engagement exposed some issues around trust and exploitation; ultimately people want to know where the benefits are for them. These benefits needs to be much clearer and articulated better. Tools like Open Food Facts, a database of food products from the entire world, do this well: “we can help you identify products that contain the ingredient you are allergic to“.

Saturday’s unconference board

Saturday’s unconference board

“Data is interesting in opposition to power”

Keeping with the theme of community engagement I attended a session led by RnR Organisation who support grassroots and minority cultural groups to change, develop and enhance their skills in governance, strategic development, operational and project management, and funding. They used the recent Release of Data fund, which targets the release of specific datasets prioritised by the Open Data User Group, to support the development of a Birmingham Data and Skills Hub. However their training sessions (on areas including data visualization, use of Tablau and Google Fusion tables) have not instilled much interest and on reflection they now realise that they have pitched too high.

Open Data understanding and recognition is clearly part of a broader portfolio of data literacy needs that begins with tools like Excel and Wikipedia. RnR work has identified 3 key needs of 3rd sector orgs: data and analysis skills; data to learn and improve activities; and measurement of impacts.

Among the group some observations were made on the use of data by community groups including the need for timely data (“you need to show people today“) and relevant information driven by community needs (“nobody cares about Open Data but they do care about stopping bad things from happening in their area“). An example cited was of a project to stop the go ahead of a bypass in Hereford, they specifically needed GIS data. One person remarked that “data is interesting in opposition to power“, and we have a role to support here. Other questions raised related to the different needs of communities of geography and communities of interest. Issues like the longevity of data also come in to play: Armchair Auditor is a way to quickly find out where the Isle of Wight council has been spending money, unfortunately a change in formats by the council has resulted in the site being comprimised.

Sessions were illustrated by Drawnalism

Sessions were illustrated by Drawnalism

What is data literacy?

Nicely following on from these discussions a session later in the day looked at data literacy. The idea was inspired by an Open Data 4 Development research project led by Mark Frank and Johanna Walker (University of Southampton) in which they discovered that even technically literate individuals still found Open Data challenging to understand. The session ended up resulting a series of questions: So ‘what exactly is data literacy’? Is it a homogeneous set of expertise (e.g. finding data), or is the context everything? Are there many approaches (such as suggested in the Open Data cook book or is there a definitive guide such as the Open Data Handbook or a step by step way to learn such as through School of Data. Is the main issue asking the right questions? Is there a difference between data literacy and data fluency? Are there two types of specialism: domain specialism and computer expertise? And can you offset a lack of data expertise with better designed data?

The few answers seemed to emerge through analogies. Maybe data literacy is like traditional literacy – it is essential to all, it is everyone’s job to make it happen (a collaboration between parents and teachers). Or maybe it is more like plumbing – having some understanding can help you understand situations but then you often end up bringing in an expert. Then again it could be more like politics or PHSE – it enables you to interact with the world and understand the bigger picture. The main conclusion from the session was that it is the responsibility of everyone in the room to be an advocate and explainer of Open Data!

“Backbone of information for the UK”

The final session I attended was an informative introduction to the National Information infrastructure an iterative framework that lists strategically important data and documents the services that provide access to the data and connect it to other data. It intended as the “backbone of information” for the UK, rather like the rail and road networks cater for transport. The NII team began work by carrying out a data inventory followed by analysis of the quality of the data available. Much decision making has used the concept of “data that is of strategic value to country” – a type of ‘core reference data’. Future work will involve thinking around what plan the country needs to put into play to support this core data. Does being part of the NII protect data? Does the requirement for a particular data set compel release? More recently there has been engagement with the Open Data user group / transparency board / ODI / Open Knowledge and beyond to understand what people are using and why, this may prioritise release.

It seems that at this moment the NII is too insular, it may need to break free from consideration of just publicly owned data and begin to consider privately owned data not owned by the government (e.g. Ordnance Survey data). Also how can best practices be shared? The Local Government Association are creating some templates for use here but there is scope for more activity.

With event organiser Mark Braggins

With event organiser Mark Braggins

Unfortunately I could only attend one day of Open Data Camp and there was way too much for one person to take in anyway! For more highlights read the Open Data Camp blog posts or see summaries of the event on Conferieze and Eventifier. The good news is that with the right funding and good will the Open Data Camp will become an annual roving event.

Where did people come from?

Where did people come from?

#openbelgium15, the Open Data Discussion after Open Data Day

Guest - February 23, 2015 in Events, OKF Belgium

This is a guest blog post by Pieter-Jan Pauwels from Open Knowledge Belgium.

Skærmbillede 2015-02-25 kl. 14.23.29

This past weekend has been buzzing with activities around the world during #OpenDataDay. In Belgium however they saved their strength for this week in order to host the #openbelgium15 conference, featuring industry examples, community workshops and much more. Over 180 people are gathering in Namur to attend and you can too via streaming. The whole day Open Knowledge Belgium will broadcast activities for the online audience.

“Auditorium Félicien Rops” is the plenary session hall and also the workshop room for “Open Data Tools & Standard” and “Local Open Data”. The “Plein Ciel” hall will host the “Open Transport session” as well as the “Open Science session”.

You can let us know what you think through the hashtag #openbelgium15 on Twitter, or read much more about the conference on the official website. Enjoy!

Auditorium Félicien Rops (plenary sessions):

Want more data? If you are still interested in knowing more about how the OKFestival budget was spent, we have published details about the events income and expenses here.

If you missed OKFestival this year, don’t worry – it will be back! Keep an eye on our blog for news and join the Open Knowledge discussion list to share your ideas for the next OKFestival. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Storytelling with Infogr.am

Heather Leson - October 21, 2014 in Events, Interviews

infogram

As we well know, Data is only data until you use it for storytelling and insights. Some people are super talented and can use D3 or other amazing visual tools, just see this great list of resources on Visualising Advocacy. In this 1 hour Community Session, Nika Aleksejeva of Infogr.am shares some easy ways that you can started with simple data visualizations. Her talk also includes tips for telling a great story and some thoughtful comments on when to use various data viz techniques.

We’d love you to join us and do a skillshare on tools and techniques. Really, we are tool agnostic and simply want to share with the community. Please do get in touch and learn more: about Community Sessions.

Open Humanities Hack: 28 November 2014, London

Lieke Ploeger - October 10, 2014 in Events, Meetups, Open Humanities

This is a cross-post from the DM2E-blog, see the original here

On Friday 28 November 2014 the second Open Humanities Hack event will take place at King’s College, London. This is the second in a series of events organised jointly by the King’s College London Department of Digital Humanities , the Digitised Manuscripts to Europeana (DM2E) project, the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Humanities Working Group

Humanities-WG The event is focused on digital humanists and intended to target research-driven experimentation with existing humanities data sets. One of the most exciting recent developments in digital humanities include the investigation and analysis of complex data sets that require the close collaboration between Humanities and computing researchers. The aim of the hack day is not to produce complete applications but to experiment with methods and technologies to investigate these data sets so that at the end we can have an understanding of the types of novel techniques that are emerging.

Possible themes include but are not limited to

  • Research in textual annotation has been a particular strength of digital humanities. Where are the next frontiers? How can we bring together insights from other fields and digital humanities?

  • How do we provide linking and sharing humanities data that makes sense of its complex structure, with many internal relationships both structural and semantic. In particular, distributed Humanities research data often includes digital material combining objects in multiple media, and in addition there is diversity of standards for describing the data.

  • Visualisation. How do we develop reasonable visualisations that are practical and help build on overall intuition for the underlying humanities data set

  • How can we advance the novel humanities technique of network analysis to describe complex relationships of ‘things’ in social-historical systems: people, places, etc.

With this hack day we seek to form groups of computing and humanities researchers that will work together to come up with small-scale prototypes that showcase new and novel ways of working with humanities data.

Date: Friday 28 November 2014
Time: 9.00 – 21.00
Location: King’s College, Strand, London
Sign up: Attendance is free but places are limited: please fill in the sign-up form to register .

For an impression of the first Humanities Hack event, please check this blog report .

Connect and Help Build the Global Open Data Index

Heather Leson - October 1, 2014 in Community, Events, Open Data Census, Open Data Index

Earlier this week we announced that October is the Global Open Data Index. Already people have added details about open data in Argentina, Colombia, and Chile! You can see all the collaborative work here in our change tracker. Each of you can make a difference to hold governments accountable for open data commitments plus create an easy way for civic technologies to analyze the state of open data around the world, hopefully with some shiny new data viz. Our goal at Open Knowledge is to help you shape the story of Open Data. We are hosting a number of community activities this month to help you learn and connect with each other. Most of all, it is our hope that you can help spread the word in your local language.

Open Data Index @ OkFest 14

Choose your own adventure for the Global Open Data Index

We’ve added a number of ways that you can get involved to the OKFN Wiki. But, here are some more ways to learn and share:

Community Sessions – Let’s Learn Together

Join the Open Knowledge Team and Open Data Index Mentors for a session all about the Global Open Data Index. It is our goal to show open data around the world. We need your help to add data from your region and reach new people to add details about their country.

We will share some best practices on finding and adding open dataset content to the Open Data Index. And, we’ll answer questions about the use of the Index. There are timeslots to help people connect globally.

These will be recorded. But, we encourage you to join us on G+ /youtube and bring your ideas/questions. Stay tuned as we may add more online sessions.

Community Office Hours

Searching for datasets and using the Global Open Data Index tool is all the better with a little help from mentors and fellow community members. If you are a mentor, it would be great if you could join us on a Community Session or host some local office hours. Simply add your name and schedule here.

Mailing Lists and Twitter

The Open Data Index mailing list is the main communication channel for folks who have questions or want to get in touch: https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-data-census#sthash.HGagGu39.dpuf For twitter, keep an eye on updates via #openindex14

Translation Help

What better way to help others get involved than to share in your own language. We could use your help. We have some folks translating content into Spanish. Other priority languages are Yours!, Arabic, Portuguese, French and Swahili. Here are some ways to help translate:

Learn on your own

We know that you have limited time to contribute. We’ve created some FAQs and tips to help you add datasets on your own time. I personally like to think of it as a data expedition to check the quality of open data in many countries. Happy hunting and gathering! Last year I had fun reviewing data from around the world. But, what matters is that you have local context to review the language and data for your country. Here’s a quick screenshot of how to contribute:

Steps to track Open Data

Thanks again for making Open Data Matter in your part of the world!


(Photo by Marieke Guy, cc by license (cropped))

Join our first Regional Community Mentoring and Skill-share Gathering

Christian Villum - September 23, 2014 in Community, Featured, Meetups

Open Knowledge community gathering

We are glad to announce our first official Community Mentoring and Skillshare Gathering to be held in Mexico City on October 3, 2014 in connection with the ConDatos and AbraLatam conferences. The event will kick off a series of similar regional events on other continents later this year and into next and will serve to enhance our virtual skill sharing and mentoring activities.

The Community Mentoring and Skillshare Gathering is a 1-day event scheduled to take place right after the ConDatos and AbreLatam conferences in Mexico next week. Open Knowledge community members from Latin America will join other grassroots open activists from across the region to build relationships, share skills, and find mentors.

The event is a pilot that will explore new ways of supporting the global (and often virtual) open knowledge community by organising face-to-face skill sharing and mentoring activities around relevant regional open events. The intention is to use these gatherings to jumpstart a community lead mentorship programme, an idea that we have been discussing with community members for a few months (see here for more details). The mentorship programme is intended to be largely self-sustainable, community/peer-to-peer driven and of benefit to both newcomers and more experienced community members. The program should run on volunteer basis, to ensure broad commitment and inclusivity. We are honoured to be able to experiment with this idea in collaboration with our community in and around Latin America following AbreLatam/ConDatos this month in Mexico, and hope to learn a lot about the needs and desires of community members seeking mentorship – as well as how we can make the most of in person gatherings to strengthen both our skills and community.

Powered by the Partnership for Open Data

The series of events are organized in close collaboration with the Partnership for Open Data and in partnership with SocialTIC. One goal of the Partnership for Open Data is to support the development of strong open knowledge communities around the world, and the aim of the community summit will be to run a number of peer to peer skillshares designed to strengthen the open community’s ability to continue to grow and diversify.

A day full of activities

Activities at the event will include a mentoring brainstorming session, where we will discuss how and why mentoring is needed in the network, actual skill sharing sessions as well as some time dedicated to discussing how we continue to support and teach each other online after we return to our respective cities and countries.

In this same spirit of peer-to-peer support, the Partnership for Open Data and Open Knowledge will host a skillshare corner at the ConDatos. One of the activities that we will be running is a Open Data Census community sprint in which we will try to expand the community of contributors to the open data census.

Community building of the programme and upcoming community calls

In order to ensure that we make the most of the time we have all together and put together a programme that suits the needs of the Latin American open community, we would like to invite you to participate in one of the following community calls to discuss the ideas mentioned above:

  • Tuesday, 23th of September, 6 pm CET/12 pm EDT (HANGOUT LINK)
  • Thursday, 25th of September, 9 pm CET/3 pm EDT (HANGOUT LINK)

If you are unable to attend one of the above calls but would like to suggest ideas, we would love to hear from you via this idea submission form or on email local (at) okfn (dot) org.

How to join

If you are in Mexico next week and would like to participate, please register for the event to let us know you will be coming.

As this event is being organised with and for the Latin American open data community, the event will be facilitated in Spanish.

Lastly, we would like to extend a warm thank you to our friends at SocialTIC for helping to make this happen! We are looking forward to seeing you all next week in Mexico!

Matchmakers in Action – Help Wanted

Heather Leson - September 11, 2014 in Community, Events, Ideas and musings

Do you have a skill to share? Want to host an online discussion/debate about an Open Knowledge-like topic? Have an idea for a skillshare or discussion, but need help making it happen? Some of you hosted or attended sessions at OKFest. Why not host one online? At OKFestival, we had an Open Matchmaker wall to connect learning and sharing. This is a little experiment to see if we can replicate that spirit online. We’d love to collaborate with you to make this possible.

photo by Gregor Fischer

How to help with Online Community Sessions:

We’ve set up a Community Trello board where you can add ideas, sign up to host or vote for existing ideas. Trello, a task management tool, has fairly simple instructions.

The Community Sessions Trello Board is live. Start with the Read me First card.

Hosting or leading a Community Session is fairly easy. You can host it via video or even as an editathon or a IRC chat.

  • For video, we have been using G+. We can help you get started on this.
  • For Editathons, you could schedule it, share on your favourite communications channel and then use a shared document like a google doc or an etherpad.
  • For an IRC chat, simply set up a topic, time and trello card to start planning.

We highly encourage you to do the sessions in your own language.

Upcoming Community Sessions

We have a number of timeslots open for September – October 2014. We will help you get started and even co-host a session online. As a global community, we are somewhat timezone agnostic. Please suggest a time that works for you and that might work with others in the community.

In early October, we will be joined by Nika Aleksejeva of Infogr.am to do a Data Viz 101 skillshare. She makes it super easy for beginners to use data to tell stories.

The Data Viz 101 session is October 8, 2014. Register here.

Community Session Conversation – September 10, 2014

In this 40 minute community conversation, we brainstormed some ideas and talked about some upcoming community activities:

Some of the ideas shared including global inclusiveness and how to fundraise. Remember to vote or share your ideas. Or, if you are super keen, we would love it if you would lead an online session.

(photo by Gregor Fischer)

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