Turin: Italian Open Data kicks off!

This post was cowritten by Friedrich Lindenberg, CKAN developer, and Stefano Costa, lead of OKF Italia. Driven by the powerful combination of late-night espresso and a room full of italian open data enthusiasts, the Italian instance of CKAN received a major push of new pacchetti dati last thursday in Turin. Most of the data sources […]

Let’s build a Debian for Development Data

The following guest post is from Rolf Kleef who is a member of the OKF’s Working Group on Open Knowledge in Development. It was originally posted here. I just returned from an intense week in the UK: an IKM Emergent workshop in Oxford, and the  Open Government Data Camp in London had me almost drowning […]

Let’s do an International Open Data Hackathon

The following guest post is from David Eaves who is the founder of and a member of the OKF’s Working Group on Open Government Data. The post originally appeared on Let’s do it. Last summer, I met Pedro Markun and Daniela Silva at the Mozilla Summit. During the conversation – feeling the drumbeat […]

The Zen of Open Data

Just spotted this on the New Zealand open government data ‘ninjas’ list. Why have principles when you can have poems? ;-) The Zen of Open Data, by Chris McDowall Open is better than closed. Transparent is better than opaque. Simple is better than complex. Accessible is better than inaccessible. Sharing is better than hoarding. Linked […]

Notes and reflections from #ScotGovCamp

Yesterday I went to ScotGovCamp in Edinburgh and had a lovely time. Spent more of it chatting in the hallway than participating in the sessions; but have detailed notes from the Open Data session led by Chris Taggart of Openly Local, and scatterings from elsewhere. Open Data Chris cites his membership of OKF’s Open Government […]

Introducing the Panton Papers

Peter Murray-Rust — Cambridge University chemist, Open Knowledge Foundation Advisory Board member and tireless advocate for open data in chemistry — has recently started a series of blog posts about open data, focusing on issues related to the Panton Principles for open data in science. The first is called Open Data: why I need the […]

We Need Distributed Revision/Version Control for Data

In the open data community, we need tools for doing distributed revision/version control for data like the one’s that already exist for code. (Don’t know what I mean by revision control or distributed revision control? Read this) Distributed revision control systems for code, like mercurial and git, have had a massive impact on software development, […]

Opening up European public sector information: two recommendations

Last week I participated in the third (and sadly final!) conference of Communia project, a European thematic network on the digital public domain. The theme of this conference was University and Cyberspace and several of the talks articulated a vision in which universities, academics, and students play a key role in creating, curating and promoting […]

Why Share-Alike Licenses are Open but Non-Commercial Ones Aren’t

It is sometimes suggested that there isn’t a real difference in terms of “openness” between share-alike (SA) and non-commercial (NC) clauses — both being some restriction on what the user of that material can do, and, as such, a step away from openness. This is not true. A meaningful distinction can be drawn between share-alike […]

Dig the new breed, Part III – wrapping it all up

This is the third in the amazing series of guest blogs from Ant Beck on the impact of linked open data for archaeology. Part 1: New approaches to archaeological data analysis, as seen in the DART and STAR projects Part 2: Considering the ethics of sharing archaeological knowledge OK, to recap we have: A scientific […]

Dig the new breed, Part II – open archaeology and ethics

The second in this great series of three guest blogs by Ant Beck. See Part 1 for applications of linked data and remote sensing in archaeology. Part 3 will wrap things up and talk about the disruptive implications of linked open data for impact of archaeology. Open Science provides the framework for producing transparent and […]

Open government data in the UK, US and further afield: new report

We’re extremely proud that – the UK Government’s open data portal – uses CKAN, OKF’s open source registry of open data. In the months in 2009 that led up to the release of, OKF worked closely with the Cabinet Office to help them realise their vision of making public data publicly available in […]

The cake test of freedom

At last week’s Jornadas SIG Libre in Girona, Ivan Sanchez of the Spanish OpenStreetmap community told me about the cake test of data freedom. What is the cake test? Easy: geographic data, or a map, is open only if someone can make you a gift of a cake with your map on it. The cake […]

Book Search, Museum View, and Exploitation

Read today a Google Books PR piece on the Guardian website. Of out-of-print or hard-to-get books, it says, “Although copies may be available in libraries, they are effectively dead to the wider world.” Also heard today that Google Street View is proposing inside views, museum interiors. Last week, I and some OKF people heard a […]

7th Communia Workshop, Luxembourg

We recently attended a workshop in Luxembourg as part of Communia, the EU policy network on the digital public domain. There was a focus on bringing together themes from previous events to make a series of policy recommendations to the European Commission (watch this space!). Below are a few notes highlighting some of the talks […]

INSPIRE Directive heading towards UK law

INSPIRE, the directive establishing a spatial data infrastructure for environmental information in Europe, is heading into UK law at last. DEFRA is doing a consultation on the transposition of the law and OKFN will hopefully co-submit a response by 26th May with the Open Rights Group, a summary of the responses is on the okfn-discuss […]

Comments on the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data

Here I briefly comment on the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data as the protocol strongly advocates a position of ‘PD’-only. As will be apparent from the earlier essay on Open Data: Openness and Licensing I do not entirely share this view. The Protocol gives 3 basic reasons for preferring the ‘PD’ approach […]

Facts and Databases

[This post is an addendum to the earlier essay on Open Data: Openness and Licensing] It is important to be clear that any IP ‘rights’ in data(bases) are not ‘rights’ in the facts those data represent but in the ‘data collection’ (or database). Here I try to explain the difference (fairly crudely) with some examples. […]

Open Data: Openness and Licensing

Why does this matter? Why bother about openness and licensing for data? After all they don’t matter in themselves: what we really care about are things like the progress of human knowledge or the freedom to understand and share. However, open data is crucial to progress on these more fundamental items. It’s crucial because open […]

Open organisations, need for two more definitions!

If starting a new, public interest, organisation, there are three obvious principles you might like to have. Finance – have all bank transactions automatically public in real time. Plus accounts. Software – all software made by the organisation to be open source. Information – voluntarily subscribe to some sort of FOI law. The software one […]

Some Agricultural History via Open Economics

One of the active Open Knowledge Foundation projects is Open Economics. A substantial part of that effort ends up being data acquisition and ‘cleaning’: getting hold of economic data, parsing it into (computer) usable form and adding it to the Store. (Wouldn’t it be nice if that data was already nicely packaged up or at […]

A Wikipedia of English law

Writing in Times Online in April 2006 the eminent Professor Richard Susskind, legal tech guru and adviser to the great and good, spelt out his vision for a “Wikipedia of English law”: This online resource could be established and maintained collectively by the legal profession; by practitioners, judges, academics and voluntary workers. If leaders in […]

Open Data Going Mainstream?

Bret Taylor’s recent post entitled “We Need a Wikipedia for Data” has been garnering a lot of attention around the blogosphere. While his suggestions are not particularly novel, the post and the attention it has garnered, is, I think, indicative of the growing interests in the issues of (open) data and its importance for the […]

On data transport through payment networks

I recently ran across the Cruickshank Report, a review written in 2000 of the state of payment information systems in the UK, and enjoyed what it had to say about “money transmission” (Think ATM networks, point-of-sale networks in shops, credit card networks, as well as intra-bank schemes for larger sums.) A lot of value is […]

Big Art Mob, public art and open heritage resources

I’ve just been poking around at the Big Art Mob website which was launched by Channel 4 earlier this year and picked up a Royal Television Society Innovation Award earlier this month. It aims to “create the UK’s first comprehensive survey of Public Art” using user-submitted camera phone pictures and a Google maps API. Though […]

Keeping “Open” Libre

Last week I attended the Jornadas gvSIG, the developer/user gathering for the open source GIS project supported by the regional government in Valencia. There seems to be a very supportive climate towards free software and open licensed data in Spain. I was impressed to hear people from commercial consultancies and local government information and infrastructure […]

The IPCC Data Distribution Centre – environmental data licensing

We’ve recently started looking into how much environmental data made available on the web is open in accordance with the Open Knowledge Definition. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a Data Distribution Centre (DDC) – which is a good start to see what data is available. The DDC “offers access to baseline and […]

Give Us the Data Raw, and Give it to Us Now

One thing I find remarkable about many data projects is how much effort goes into developing a shiny front-end for the material. Now I’m not knocking shiny front-ends, they’re important for providing a way for many users to get at the material (and very useful for demonstrating to funders where all the money went). But […]

British History Online: Why the Restrictions?

British History Online is a site created and run by Institute for Historical Research (part of the University of London I believe) and the History of Parliament Trust and located at: (note the ‘’ domain name signifying the official academic status though rather unusually they do run ads). Their purpose is clearly stated on the […]

WorldMapper: Is Its Data Open?

WorldMapper produces a whole variety of illuminating cartograms to show the distribution of various statistics across the world from royalties to the level of military spending. While looking at the site I immediately started to wonder about the openness both of the maps themselves and the underlying data (to my mind while the maps are […]

What Do We Mean by Componentization (for Knowledge)?

Background Nearly a year ago I wrote a short essay entitled The Four Principles of (Open) Knowledge Development in which I proposed that the four key features features of a successful (open) knowledge development process were that it was: Incremental Decentralized Collaborative Componentized As I emphasized at the time the most important feature — and […]

Copyright not applicable to geodata?

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard new questions and opinions about open licensing of geographic information, coming from several different directions. Specifically: Local and regional authorities in Italy and in New Zealand among others, have been looking into whether it is appropriate to use a Creative Commons license for geodata. Richard Fairhurst of […]

The Nature of Information

“We are moving towards a world in which all information is software and all software is information.”

Collaborative Development of Data

$ This version: 2007-02-15 (First version 2006-05-24) $ We already have some fairly good working processes for collaborative development of unstructured text: the two most prominent examples being source code of computer programs and wikis for general purpose content (encyclopedias etc). However these tools perform poorly (or not at all) when we come to structured […]

Copyright and the Digital Age

I authored the following short essay for publication in a pamphlet produced by the RSA entitled Promoting innovation and rewarding creativity: A balanced intellectual property framework for the digital age. The pamphlet was published at the beginning of January and along with my piece included items by Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of the RSA), Lynne […]

An Open Search Service: Regulating Search the Open Way

The inspiration for writing this, as well as much of the information contained herein, came from the search Roundtable which took place at the IDEI Toulouse ‘Conference on the Software and Internet Industries’ on January 20th 2007. An earlier version of this essay as well as notes from the Roundtable can be found in this […]

Thinking about Annotation

Annotation means the adding of comments/notes/etc to an underlying resource. For the present I’ll focus on the situation where the underlying resource is textual (as opposed to being an image, or a piece of film or some data). Various things to consider when implementing an annotation/comment system: Addressing and atomisation: Are annotations specific to particular […]

Striking confirmation from Google of the problems with ‘open’ APIs

As of December 5th 2006 Google stopped issuing API keys for their SOAP search API. They appear to want to move people to their ajax service which provides much less freedom for the client to process and manipulate the data (in fact it appears it is very hard to get at the data any more […]

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Is It Going to be Made Open?

Over a four year period in the mid-1990s a team of scholars centred on the Du Bois institute at Harvard compiled a comprehensive database of transatlantic slave-trading voyages. Over 27,000 individual journeys were recorded for the period 1650-1867 covering more than 2/3 of all voyages that took place. The data includes extensive demographic (and mortality) […]

UK National Statistics: Are They Open or Not?

I’ve used data a couple of times from the UK’s national statistics site: The other day I went there to investigate their licensing as part of an effort to do a simple survey of the openness of various UK government agency’s data. To summarize their copyright statement (full details are in 1): National statistics are […]

Open Knowledge Drives Out Closed (in the Long Run)

After Gresham’s Bad money drives out good though with opposite sense. Open knowledge here is taken as given by the open knowledge definition and, in its essentials, means the knoweldge (data/content/…) must be freely accessible, reusable and redistributable. Closed by contrast means knowledge for which access and reuse are restricted in some manner, for example […]