At the Open Knowledge Foundation we have been working hard to support the development of open data catalogues around the world. The main purpose of these is to make official datasets easy to find and to reuse — whether by researchers, journalists, or web developers building new applications or services for citizens.

Work is underway in Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, and, of course, in the UK with Most of these data catalogues will be built and maintained by the public in the first instance — thanks to the wiki-like nature of the software behind CKAN, our open source registry for open data.

Once a data catalogue is up and running, the next step is to populate it with information about government datasets. Recently we’ve been thinking of ways to encourage people to start adding this kind of information. While in the past we’ve had data discovery workshops and package parties, in recent weeks we’ve been talking with a number of open data advocates in different countries about putting on a series of ‘Data Hunt’ events. These would turn the process of finding and documenting interesting (and hopefully open!) government datasets into a game.

In particular we’d like to record details of the following for official documents and datasets:

  • What is it? (description)
  • Where can I find it? (URL/download URLs)
  • Can I reuse it? (legal/licensing information)
  • Has anyone else created a version of it that is machine-readable / in format X / etc?

We’re still in the early stages of planning for these events — but thought we’d put out a call for input at the outset. Below are some of the things that we’re currently thinking about:

  • How can we structure the events to be as fun as possible? E.g. should we have teams? Points? Prizes? Different categories (the most datasets added, the most open datasets added, the most interesting datasets added, …)?
  • Would it be useful to have a how-to guide for Data Hunt participants — e.g. with ideas on where to find datasets, what kind of information to look for, how to tell if a dataset is openly licensed or not, and so on?
  • Should we try and coordinate events internationally — e.g. to have several around the world at the same time?

If you have any cunning thoughts or suggestions about any of these points – please drop us a comment on this post! also if you’d like to help out — e.g. by organising an event in your country, by designing a nice logo, etc — we’d love to hear from you!

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.