A look back at Open Data Camp 3: After the Watershed

This post was first published on the Open Data Camp blog.

It’s several weeks since the third UK Open Data Camp. In case that means nothing to you:


‘Camp’ is a term commonly used to refer to an ‘unconference’, which basically means it’s an event with no predefined agenda – instead, attendees ‘pitch’ session ideas to each other.


‘Data’, refers to text, words, numbers, images, sound and video etc. (Hang on, what’s the difference between data and information? See this useful explanation.)


‘Open’ means that the publisher of the data has made it available with little or no restriction on its use, as set out in a licence. The most common licence for public sector in the UK, is the Open Government Licence, which is usually referred to by its acronym, OGL. There are lots of other licences. For a detailed overview, take a look at the Guide to Open Licensing.

“Open data is data that anyone can access, use and share.”

Open Data Campers

So, Open Data Camp is an event where people – from lots of different sectors, and with many different perspectives  – get together to discuss absolutely anything to do with open data. There’s also networking, socialising, and generally a good time is had by all.

Just a few of the many who attended Open Data Camp 3

Just a few of many who attended the third UK Open Data Camp.

On tour

There’s a widely held view that national events favour London. As the nation’s capital, and most densely populated city in the UK,  that’s perfectly understandable, but there’s a risk that other cities across the UK might be overlooked. From the outset, therefore, Open Data Camp has (so far) deliberately avoided the metropolis.

That’s not to say we don’t love London too – we do – it’s just that there’s loads of open data activity right across the UK, not in just one place.

Previously, Open Data Camp has pitched-up in Winchester (South-East), and Manchester (North West). This time, we were in Bristol, in the beautiful South West of England.*


There’s  masses going on in Bristol , and it’s a leading light in the UK Smart City scene with Bristol is Open – a joint venture between Bristol City Council and University of Bristol:

Using data sensors, smart city technologies will be able to respond in real-time to everyday events including congestion, waste management, entertainment events, e-democracy, energy supply and more. Together we are creating an open programmable city region.

Amongst (many) other things going on, there’s Bristol Girl Geeks and a very active South West Data Meetup. And, of course, Bath: Hacked is just down the road as well.

Digital Bristol Week

Digital Bristol Week

The timing for Open Data Camp was perfect for it to be featured as part of Digital Bristol Week – a week-long  series of workshops, masterclasses and other events, coordinated by the BBC Academy.


Our venue was the lovely Watershed – ‘Cultural cinema and digital creativity centre’ – right by the Harbourside. We were also really fortunate to have access to the adjoining Pervasive Media Studio, which meant that we had a large and really versatile space available.


Harbourside in Bristol (Watershed is the blue building on the right)

Capturing what happened

The introduction and session pitches were livestreamed both days, and are embedded below for your viewing pleasure. The pitches from both days were used as the basis for the session grid, which became the agenda for the weekend.

The list of sessions is also included to give you a flavour of what was discussed. Most of the sessions have notes taken by volunteers. N.B. The notes are blank for a small number of sessions. If you led or attended Open Data Camp and can add anything to the notes, please do.

Session pitches were livestreamed

Julian Tait livestreaming session pitches

Some people had *lots* of session ideas

Some people had *lots* of session ideas


Welcome / introduction & session pitching PT1


I don’t have room here to go into detail about individual sessions. Fortunately, that’s not a problem because…


Open Data Camp 3

Two of the team from Drawnalism

Drawnalism were on-hand, with 2 artists AND 2 writers. Their output was phenomenal, with LOTS of drawings and blog posts published ‘live’ as the weekend progressed.

18 ODCamp Session - hacking the hack

‘Hacking the hack’


‘Data standards: sampling chickens in an open data way’

Capturing the essence of GODAN (Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition)

Blogs and bloggers

Many people have already blogged about their own experience of Open Data Camp, or have continued to build on themes identified during the weekend. Here’s a list of posts (so far):

Sometimes, nothing beats a great big sheet of paper and lots of post-its

Sometimes, nothing beats a big sheet of paper, with lots of post-its

There’s also a great Storify put together by Pauline Roche, and photos:

          • here by Nigel Bishop
          • here by Neil Ford
          • here by Mark Braggins (inc some videos recoded by Angharad Stone)
          • here by Adam Tinworth

Thank you

Open Data Camp 3 keywords (1)So, that’s it for this post. I’d just like to finish off by thanking everyone involved in making the third Open Data Camp such a success. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Watershed and Pervasive Media Studio for being superb hosts
  • Bristol Packet for a fab boat trip, and Angharad Stone for organising it
  • All our sponsors, who are magnificent, forward-thinking, and undemanding. If you haven’t already done so, please take a look at their web sites, and show ’em some love on Twitter.
  • All the volunteers and co-organisers
  • EVERYONE who participated

Open data Camp 3 (some of) the organisers and volunteers

Pictured left to right, from the back:


  • We are very aware that all three camps so far have been in England, whereas it’s ‘UK’ Open Data Camp. Don’t worry, we are on the case. Open Data Camp 4 will return towards the end of 2016, somewhere in the UK.


Picture credits


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Open Data Camp: Hitting the road again

This post was originally published on the Open Data Camp blog.

We’re back

First, there was Open Data Camp, in Winchester (Feb 2015).

ODCamp1 screenshot

Then, came Open Data Camp 2, in Manchester (Oct 2015).

ODCamp2 screenshot

Guess what’s coming next….


Open Data Camp 3 teaser

Back on the road again

We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that the Open Data Camp unconference charabanc is hitting the road again, and will be coming to Bristol the weekend of 14th & 15th May 2016.

5356584351_5237a99a93_z (1)

Bristol Charabanc No 173 Operated By Bristol Tramways & Carriage Co. Ltd.

Three = Free

As usual, Open Data Camp 3 will be free to attend. This is possible because:

  • the organisers are unpaid volunteers. This time, we’re also collaborating with South West Data and the ODI Bristol.
  • the generosity of sponsors, who are prepared to stump-up some cash to cover costs like venue, refreshments, merchandise, pre & post-event drinks, stationery, live drawing etc. Without sponsorship, we simply wouldn’t be able to hold these events.
Matthew Buck of Drawnalism 'In the Moment' at ODCamp1

Matthew Buck of Drawnalism ‘In the Moment’ at ODCamp1

Thank you already

We are delighted to announce that we already have two major sponsors:

We are hugely grateful. Networked Planet and Bristol City Council: You are, quite simply, marvellous.

Can you support ODC3?

There will of course be all sorts of other costs to cover, and we are therefore seeking other sponsors to help us make the event go with a whizz and a bang.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please get in touch.

Watch this space

We’ll share more details on the Open Data Camp web site in the next couple of weeks, including the ticket release schedule, and information about travel & accommodation.

That’s it for now.

Picture credits


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Using Data as a policy maker – Pt1

This is the first in a series of posts about an event: Using Data as a policy maker, which was held in Winchester, in November 2015. This post first appeared on the Open Data Aha! blog.

Using data for policy – Aha!

John Denham standing at a podium, with three people on a large screen behind him

John Denham welcoming attendees

Wearing my ‘Open Data Aha!‘ hat*, I teamed up with Southern Policy Centre and Know Now Information to organise Using Data as a policy maker, which was held in the Performance Hall in the Winchester Discovery Centre.

If you aren’t already familiar with them:

The event was hosted by Hampshire County Council, in association with Hampshire’s open data store: Hampshire Hub.

In this post I’m going to talk a little about the event, and focus on some aspects of a talk delivered over Skype by colleagues from the Australian City of Bendigo.

Great line-up

There was a superb lineup of speakers, including Trevor Budge and several colleagues from Bendigo in Victoria, Australia who sacrificed their evening to share their experiences with us, and Jamie Whyte who travelled all the way to to Winchester and back from Trafford by train, resulting in a very long day. The full line-up of speakers was:

Hello, good evening, and welcome

Cllr Keith Mans speaking at ODPolicy

Cllr Keith Mans speaking on behalf of Hampshire County Council

Izaak Wilson from Southern Policy Centre opened proceedings, and handed straight over to John Denham who, amongst other things, chairs the Advisory Board for Southern Policy Centre.

John briefly welcomed attendees on behalf of Southern Policy Centre, and thanked Bendigo colleagues for giving-up their evening in order to share their experiences with us. He then handed over to Cllr Keith Mans, Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council.

Cllr Mans summarised Hampshire County Council’s own data policy, which is to be open by default. He explained that the Council aims to routinely use open data as part of the evidence base for Council policy making.

He also mentioned that, in March 2015, Francis Maude recognised Hampshire County Council as a local authority open data “champion”, just one of sixteen across the UK. (N.B. An extract from the letter was read out by Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Roy Perry, at Cabinet earlier this year.) 

I was really pleased to hear Cllr Mans add that he’s personally very enthusiastic about open data, and is a keen supporter of Hampshire Hub.

Large planet, small world

Although it was first thing in the morning for us in the UK, it was evening in Australia, and Cllr Mans quickly handed over to Trevor Budge and colleagues in Bendigo to share their experiences with us. As he did so, Cllr Mans mentioned that several of his own grandchildren live in Bendigo. Small world…


View of central Bendigo and eastern suburbs from Camp Hill

The Bendigo Story

Screenshot from the Community Profile

Screenshot from the Greater Bendigo Community Profile

Trevor Budge and colleagues gave a fascinating talk about how data helps to inform policy and decision making in Bendigo. I was a little anxious early-on, when Trevor said words to-the-effect that the sheer volume of data relating to Bendigo can cause delays, as people want to probe more, before making a decision. Given the sums of money sometimes involved in public services, and the potential impact on people’s lives, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

I was already aware that the Victorian Government is very strong on open data – it’s been progressively opening-up spatial and other data on data.gov.au, including statistics to other departments and the public – but what I was less aware of is just how bigan issue (lack of) water has become in Australia in recent years.

Between two extremes

The city of Bendigo is in one of the driest areas in Australia, and is already being impacted very heavily by climate change. Consequently, data about water is absolutely critical to policy and decision making.

While “average” rainfall (at 525mm per year) in Bendigo doesn’t look too bad when viewed over several years, that average is calculated from extreme wet and (most recently) extreme dry. Most farmers have been unable to harvest a crop in the last year, and every drop of water is precious.

Call that a farm?

Some farms in Australia are vast, running to hundreds of thousands of hectares. Much of the natural vegetation was cleared over a 150 year period to make space for grazing and crops, and it’s believed this has contributed to the extreme dryness currently being experienced throughout much of Australia.

Once vegetation is cleared, there’s nothing to bind the topsoil, much of which then gets lost through erosion. Additionally, salt is a major issue, as it’s brought to the surface when evaporation exceeds the amount of water added. There are now strict controls in place to try and mitigate this. I was amazed to hear that even the largest landowners have to get permission to cut down just a couple of trees on their land.

Data as a resource

With such great emphasis on water, erosion, salt and vegetation, really detailed mapping is needed, and organisations like the Bureau of Meteorology provide vast amounts of very detailed data. This requires huge computing capacity, which is increasing exponentially all the time. They map not just high level weather data, but also provide maps tailored to different segments of customer base, including farmers, state government, and policy makers.

Aquifer salinity: An example of one of the many datasets used to inform users through National Map in Australia

Aquifer salinity: An example of one of the many datasets used to inform users through National Map in Australia

Buying and selling water

There are climate mitigation measures, such as the government buying pollution credits from big business. Water is bought and sold for irrigation and agriculture, and is assigned a use – you cannot buy or sell water unless it’s been an assigned a use.

Regulation and control exist at local, state and federal level and – while these extreme measures haven’t completely resolved the problem – the signs are that fundamentally it’s working, and crops like rice and cotton are being replaced by higher value crops.

Since the event, I noticed the excellent National Map which gives map-based access to spatial data from Australian government agencies, including all sorts of water-related layers.

Mustn’t go on

Screenshot from teh Bendigo Community Compass

Screenshot from the Bendigo Community Compass

I’m conscious this could become a lengthy blog post, so I won’t go into detail about the other aspects of the Bendigo talk which caught my attention, but it’s worth noting that that data (private, shared, and open) is being used to inform policy in various other areas.

Indicators are another good example of how data is helping to inform policy. Instead of a lengthy debate about priorities, policy makers used the indicators, and the entire debate about what would be the top three, took just five minutes. They are:

  1. Health and wellbeing
  2. Youth unemployment
  3. Promotion of the city

Data through many lenses

The are so many ways of looking at the data, that Bendigo uses a variety of apps and websites, some the links for which are included below:

Next post

In my next post I’ll take a look at some of the other excellent presentations given during the event.


  • Not literally – I don’t actually possess an Open Data Aha! hat**
    ** having said that, I might just get one – wonder what type of hat it would be?

Photo credit

“Central bendigo from botanic gardens”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Central_bendigo_from_botanic_gardens.jpg#/media/File:Central_bendigo_from_botanic_gardens.jpg

Posted in Data, Environment, Evidence, Farming, Hampshire, Hampshire Hub, Local Infrastructure, Maps, Open Data, Transparency and Decision Making | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Using Data as a policy maker – Pt1

Demonstrating the value of open data – GP Pressure Map

Screenshot 2015-04-08 12.46.43I was really pleased to see GP Pressure Map featured on the BBC’s South Today programme on 31st March.

GP Pressure Map – part of the Open City Data Platform – was one of the “highs” I mentioned in my final post on the Hampshire Hub: Leaving on a high.

The utility, created by Leo Valberg and Nick Allott of Nquiringminds uses open data from a variety of sources – including the Hampshire Hub – to show which areas in Hampshire will see increases in demand for GP services between now and 2020.

Leo wrote about it in detail in his blog post Back story: the data journey in the production of the GP pressure map. This is just one example of the sort of functionality which will be delivered as part of the Open City Data Platform which Nquiringminds is leading.

Variations appeared on BBC TV, and also as an item on BBC Radio (which mentions Hampshire Hub):

BBC Radio interview:
[audioplayer file=”http://nquiringminds.com/files/2015/04/South_Today_-_31_03_2015.mp3?_=1″ bg=”ff7f1a” leftbg=”ff7f1a” lefticon=”294781″ track=”ff1b2c” tracker=”ffff00″ text=”000000″ righticon=”294781″ width=”500″ rightbg=”408080″ volslider=”ffffff” skip=”ffffff” titles=”BBC Radio interview about GP Pressure Map with Nick Allott of Nquiringminds”]


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Leaving on a high

This post was originally published on the Hampshire Hub on 30th March 2015.

Deep breath

I’m leaving Hampshire County Council, and am stepping down as lead for the Hampshire Hub.

There, I’ve said it.

Looking back

I wrote my first post Hampshire Hub (Thoughts on What a Hampshire Hub might be) in February 2012. In those days, HH was a tiny ‘thinking aloud’ web site I’d cobbled together using WordPress (which is what I was using for my own blog).

A few months later, a few of us in the Research and Intelligence team at Hampshire County Council put a business case together, asking the Council to stump up the cash to fund a project to create a local information system for Hampshire.

Local information systems are nothing new, and there had been a previous attempt in Hampshire a few years earlier which had grand ambitions, but didn’t make it for various reasons including technological limitations and lack of partner buy-in.

We spent some time studying the previous project in an attempt to learn from the past, and surveyed all the other local information systems we could find in the U.K. We were pretty pleased with a response rate of nearly 50%, and used the results to help inform our own Hampshire Hub business case July 2012.

Build it and they will come

We (the County Council) knew other organisations would be interested, but but didn’t think it was realistic to ask potential partners for money in advance, so we proposed that the County stump up all (approx £100k over several years) of the funding to get something up and running. The Council’s corporate management team agreed, and we set about approaching potential partners.

Building the Hub

We built some functionality into the ‘thinking aloud’ site to the extent that we were able to refer to it as a ‘prototype’ without anyone sniggering. We began publishing open data, both locally sourced and also national data that applied to Hampshire (using data packs supplied by OCSI).  We also built a broad partnership, with representatives of 20+ organisationsregularly participating in meetings of the strategic partnership board.


By 2013 we had built sufficient functionality  – and published enough open data – that we started calling the system the ‘interim’ Hampshire Hub. We didn’t pretend it was a ‘proper’ data store, however, and began exploring the market for possible technological solutions to help us deliver the vision for the Hampshire Hub. My clumsy attempt to represent that vision is shown below.


Five stars

In 2014 we appointed linked data specialists Swirrl to help deliver the Hampshire Hub vision, and they’ve given us a superb data store, built on 5 star linked open data. Development isn’t fully complete, and there will be a succession of further improvements in the coming six months or so, as well as lots more lovely open data. There are also plans to link-up with others producing linked open data, such as the DCLG’s Open Data Communities.

We are the champions

In parallel to developing the Hampshire Hub, we’ve been engaging with others trying to do similar things across the UK. What started as a few of us chatting, has turned into a fully-fledged open data champions’ network. Hampshire is one of sixteen authorities identified by the Cabinet Office as leaders and exemplars of local open data, and this was acknowledged by Leader of Hampshire County Council during Cabinet.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, hosted a meeting for council leaders and senior executives of the sixteen local authorities to recognise the work done to-date.  In his speech at the Open Data Champions event on 24th March 2015, Francis Maude said:

Since the very beginning we have been keen that local authorities reap the benefits of open data and some of the most innovative work is now taking place at the local level.

Here today we have 16 local and regional authorities that have been identified as open data champions, whose work is truly trailblazing.

They are setting the standards in open data and transparency by putting data back into the hands of citizens to create opportunities for innovation, economic growth, better public services and new levels of accountability. They are recognising the fundamental role that data and digital will play in the local authority of the future, and are putting it at the forefront of public service transformation.

BlueLight Camping


BlueLightCamp returns 6-7th June

BlueLightCamp returns 6-7th June

We’re currently planning the next BlueLightCamp, which will be the weekend of 6-7th June, hosted in Birmingham by West Midlands Fire Service.I’m one of the organisers of BlueLightCamp – an annual unconference and open data hack for the emergency services community. In May 2014 we brought BlueLightCamp to Hampshire, which helped bring about a little bit of engineered serendipity, including a ground-breaking initiative which brings predictive analytics to the open data and emergency services community in the UK, and a really neat utility @3dayfloodwhich automatically tweets Environment Agency flood warnings for the next three days.

Open Data Camping

ODCamp Open Addresses

One of many outputs from Open Data Camp

I have to admit, there was more talk than ‘making of stuff’ with open data, but some of that talk was fantastic, and – rather than being a mutual back-slapping event – helped overcome real-life problems. There are lots of blog posts about that on the Open Data Camp home page.What started with a speculative tweet at the end of October 2014 turned into a (UK) first ever Open Data Camp, which was held in February 2015. Over 150 people gathered in Winchester over a weekend to talk and do neat stuff with open data.

We’re now starting to plan the next one which will besomewhere in the North of England, in around October 2015. Prior to that, Open Data Camp will be dropping-in to BlueLightCamp in June. See Jamie Whyte’s blog post for more about all of that.

It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it


GP Pressure Map (click to launch)

GP Pressure Map (click to launch)

One of the things which really excites me about the Hampshire Hub is that people are treating it like it’s a public resource (clue: it is). If you’ve not looked before, take a look at the initiatives currently under way. The majority have been started by people OUTSIDE of the Hampshire Hub partnership. Sure, we’re collaborating with and supporting them, but much of the energy and drive is coming from outside.

WUDoWUD data on the Hartree Visualisation Screen

WUDoWUD data on the Hartree Visualisation Screen

We’re also helping people to stay in their own homes for longer,  breaking new ground predicting weather-related emergency blackspots, and using open data to identify those GP surgeries who will be under the most pressure due to increases in demand .Traditionally, very few people get excited about open data, but some of these initiatives are really quite, er, sexy: there’s 3D visualisation, (not) Rocket Science, and crowdsourcing.

Several of the companies who have instigated new initiatives using the Hampshire Hub are now collaborating with each other – if it hadn’t been for the Hub, they might never have met.

Onwards and upwards

My own time leading the Hampshire Hub is coming to an end, and I’m sad to be leaving. That said, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and am really excited that there’s so much momentum. I’m handing over the leadership to my friend and colleague Warwick Currie, who I’m confident will ensure the Hub continues to thrive.

I haven’t quite decided what I’m doing next personally, but I’m in no doubt that it’ll be something in the digital / open data space. I’ll undoubtedly continue to use open data, and Hampshire Hub, just from a different perspective. I wish Hampshire Hub well, and all who sail in her.

Posted in Hampshire, Hampshire Hub, Local Information System, Open Data, Protohub, Transparency and Decision Making | Tagged | 4 Comments

If you open stuff up, good stuff happens

This is a slightly edited version of a post originally published on DATA.GOV.UK

Open Data Camp as featured on DATA.GOV.UK

Open Data Camp features on the front page of DATA.GOV.UK

I rather like the phrase: “Engineering Serendipity” which – as I choose to interpret it – means something like ‘creating conditions which maximise the chances of good stuff happening’. If you’re interested in a fuller discussion of Engineering Serendipity, there’s the excellent article written by Greg Lindsay over on Aspen Ideas.

I’ll come back to engineering serendipity a bit later. Please bear with me in the meantime, however, as I veer off-course to talk briefly about TV chefs.

Don’t watch, just cook

I love good food, and also enjoy cooking, but I never watch cookery programmes on television. I totally ‘get’ why people find the genre entertaining and informative, it just doesn’t do-it for me personally. My view is: if I have enough time to watch someone else cooking, then I might as well spend the time preparing a meal.

TV Chefery

When I say I “never” watch cookery programmes, it isn’t strictly true – I did watch some TV chefery a couple of weeks ago, as an episode of the “Hairy Bikers” was on in the background during a family get-together. In this particular episode – filmed in Bangkok during a recent tour of Asia – the Hairy Bikers were seeking the perfect recipe for Thai Green Curry.

Big break

They visited Aunty Daeng, a self-taught cook with an international reputation. Apparently, Aunty’s big break came when she prepared a meal for a royal visit to the government department where she was working at the time. The royals were so impressed, they invited her to become their private chef.  Had the royals not had the opportunity to taste Aunty Daeng’s food, she might still be working in a government department.

For all I know, Aunty Daeng’s old job may have been hugely worthwhile, and I’m not knocking working in a government department. My point is that a set of circumstances were created which led to Aunty Daeng’s career taking off.

What’s this got to do with Open Data?

I’m glad you asked.

Several times recently, I’ve noticed a combination of ‘chance’ and open data leading to good things that weren’t anticipated by the publishers of the data. Here are a few examples:

Blue Lights and severe weather events

BluelightCamp is a free annual unconference and open data hack which brings together people with some sort of interest in emergency services. In previous years, BlueLightCamp has been linked with British APCO’s annual exhibition in Manchester, and in 2013 we introduced an open data hack element.

In 2014 we held BluelightCamp in Hampshire instead, which meant that, for the first time, BlueLightCamp ‘met’ Hampshire Hub. This led to the birth of a new initiative: WUDOWUD. I won’t go into the detail here, as there’s an article about it on British APCO’s web site, co-written with Chris Cooper of Know Now Information.

Food, pubs and bus stops

food hygiene pubs tweetLast November, we held the latest in a series of ‘Informing Hampshire’ events which are pitched at (mostly) people who help inform public service decision-making in-and-around Hampshire.

One of the presenters was Chris Gutteridge from the University of Southampton who mentioned during his presentation that he’d taken Food Hygiene Certificates open data (published by the Food Standards Agency), together with Public Transport open data, and presented it (along with lots of other useful stuff) on a map for students and staff.

That could be handy for anyone looking for a pub which serves food, and is near to a bus stop (for the correct bus to get home again later). From a public safety perspective, people finding decent pubs with good public transport links are probably less likely to be tempted to drink-and-drive. From a bus company perspective, that’s more bums on seats. From an open data publisher’s perspective, it’s positive proof that it’s worthwhile releasing useful data like Food Hygiene ratings, as they’re actually being used.

University of Southampton open data map screenshot

 Open data up in the air

st-catherinesIn 2014 we released aerial photography for the whole of the county of Hampshire. This includes high resolution imagery, together with height data, near infrared, and the routes flown.

As we were focusing on introducing the new Hampshire Hub, we didn’t have time or resources to provide a delivery mechanism for the aerial photography as a separate project, so we just made the data available under the Open Government Licence (OGL).

A couple of months ago we were approached out of the blue by the Geodata team at the University of Southampton who have obtained funding to create an online portal to let users explore and download 3D representations of the aerial open data. Geodata have obtained funding to do the development at no cost to the Hampshire Hub, and will make their site available to the public for free. In the words of Jason Sadler who leads the Geodata team: “If you open stuff up, good stuff happens.”

A fair wind

wind map screenshotThe next example isn’t Hampshire-specific, it’s global. I first heard about it during a presentation given at The Graphical Web, an event run by Alan Smith, who leads the Data Visualisation team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). If you haven’t seen The Graphical Web before, I heartily recommend it, and all of the presentations were recorded and are available through the site.

Cameron Beccario gave a talk about The Wind Map: a ‘visualization of global weather conditions forecast by supercomputers updated every three hours’. Actually, it’s not ‘just’ that, and amongst other things includes ocean temperatures and waves, regularly updated. It’s a superb undertaking, and is the result of many hundreds of hours of effort.

The Wind Map is an excellent example of really good stuff happening when data is opened up. It wouldn’t have been possible had the data not been made freely available by the U.S. National Weather Service and others.

Open Data Camp – Engineering Serendipity

Ok, I confess, there’s a sub-plot here. Part of the reason for writing this post is to plug an event I’m co-organising. It’s Open Data Camp, which is in Winchester on the 21-22nd February 2015. Yes, that’s a weekend.

As far as I’m aware, it’s a UK-first, combining the ‘unconference’ format with a theme of open data. There will also be opportunities to ‘make stuff’ with open data over the weekend.

Tickets are being released in batches through Eventbrite. You’ll have to be quick, though, as they’re going fast.

Thank you sponsors

The organisers* are really grateful to Hampshire County Council for letting us use their fabulous HQ venue free of charge, and Matthew Buck of Drawnalism who donated the artwork and branding we’re using for the event.

Several others have offered their support and we’re following-up on the detail. We still seeking additional sponsors to help make the event go with a bang, so if you’re interested, please get in touch.

It’s a kinda magic

I’m convinced magic will take place at Open Data Camp, just like it does at other unconferences like UKGovCamp. Open Data Camp is open to the public, is free to attend, and spans all sectors. I’m hoping that new initiatives, ideas and collaborations will ‘pop-out’ from Open Data Camp – even though I’ve no idea what they might be. As event organisers we’re just trying to create the conditions which maximise the chances of good stuff happening.


  • There are a bunch of people on the organising team for Open Data Camp, ranging from as far North as Manchester, and as far south as Devon:



Posted in blogging, BluelightCamp, Open Data | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hampshire Hub taking shape


Some of the themes included the new Hub

We’ve been working hard for the last few months to get the new Hampshire Hub data platform into shape.

There are three main strands of work at present:

  • adding new features to Swirrl’s PublishMyData platform
  • preparing an initial collection of linked data datasets
  • building the Area Profiles application

Facelift and overhaul

PublishMyData is getting both a facelift and an engineering overhaul, if that isn’t too mixed a metaphor.

We’ve been adding a range of user interface enhancements to improve data navigation and presentation – to make data easier to find and use.

Behind the scenes we’ve been rebuilding the data management code, to lay the foundations for more robust and flexible tools for site administrators to edit, check and publish data. The Hub will hold a large number of datasets from across the many organisations in the Hub partnership, so good tools for maintaining the collection are a priority.

Data packs as linked data

So far we have been preparing a large collection of statistical reference data in linked data form, based on ‘data packs’ provided by OCSI.

OCSI gathers and collates statistics from a large range of public sources and organises them in a convenient form for local authorities. Swirrl has been setting up data transformation pipelines to convert this data into the RDF Data Cube format, a W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium) standard for publishing statistical data as linked data. Once organised like this, it becomes easy to filter and query the data, providing a great starting point for flexible data selection and visualisation tools.


The other strand of data processing and loading has been around planning applications. Hampshire County Council has been working with the districts in Hampshire, the Local Government Association, the Local e-Government Standards Board and the Department for Communities and Local Government to establish a standard way for local authorities to share information on planning applications as open data. The data from an initial group of district councils is being prepared for loading to the Hub.

Area Profiles

And thirdly, we have started development of an Area Profiles application, that will present a selection of data on the districts, wards and parishes across the Hub partnership, giving a visual overview of the population, economy, health, housing and education in each area.

Lots done, lots still to do

There’s a lot of hard work still to do, but with internal prototypes up and running, the project team is very enthusiastic about how it’s going to turn out. We should be ready to start sharing a public prototype soon.

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The Business Case for Open Data

Martin Tisné, UK Policy Director for Omidyar Network, and Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics have published a new report Open for Business: How Open Data Can Help Achieve the G20 Growth Target

The report considers the potential for open data, and provides an economic estimate of its value.

You can preview and download the report below, and more information is available on the Omidyar Network website.

[gview file=”http://www.omidyar.com/sites/default/files/file_archive/insights/ON%20Report_061114_FNL.pdf”]
Posted in Business, Data, Economy, Open Data, Report, Research, Socio-Economic, Transparency and Decision Making | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on The Business Case for Open Data

Data sharing between public bodies

In autumn of last year, the Law Commission launched its Consultation into data sharing between public bodies. If you haven’t read it before, you can preview and download the document at the end of this post.

Scoping exercise

Law Commission

Unlike other consultations, this one was a scoping exercise, aiming to investigate ‘the root causes of the reported obstacles to data sharing between public bodies.’

Collection of personal data, and transfer of such data from one public sector body to another, within a public sector body, or to the private sector can be of fundamental importance to the successful delivery of public services, the identification of risk, and to the development of innovative digital products that use amalgamated anonymised data.  In healthcare and safeguarding fields, for instance, data sharing can be vital for monitoring quality, detecting abuses and for research purposes.

Low public acceptance

Yet, as identified by the Law Commission, ‘a low public acceptance of data sharing and a low level of trust in the way it is undertaken by public services, along with negative media coverage’ may create hindrances to sharing.

Review after review continues to criticise the lack of robustness in data sharing arrangements between public bodies.  To take one example, the Serious Case Review into the abuse committed against vulnerable adults at the Winterbourne View Care Home noted that drawing together all the information held by various public bodies and by the private owner of the home, together with complaints from patients and parents, would have identified the risks to which patients at Winterbourne View were subject.

Data sharing seminar

On 1st July, the Centre for Information Rights at the University of Winchester will be hosting a seminar focussing on the results of the Law Commission’s data sharing consultation.

Centre for Information Rights data sharingPublic Law Commissioner, Nicholas Paines QC will be speaking about the Commission’s findings and the possibilities for reform, and there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion with Nicholas and members of the Law Commission public law team.

Who should attend?

This seminar will be of particular interest to public sector organisations, private sector organisations that work with the public sector, health and social care professionals, lawyers, digital innovators and information professionals.

The event is free but booking is essential: to book please click here.  Registration and refreshments start at 3.30pm.


This event is accredited under the Solicitors Regulation Authority CPD scheme: Code FKF/DLUW

Marion Oswald, Head of the Centre for Information Rights, University of Winchester



[gview file=”http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/cp214_data-sharing.pdf”]
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Ghost writing, hubs, and autoawesome

Screenshot from Ghost Writing BlogI’ve been blogging off-and-on for a few years. My first post, in December 2011, was on WordPress.com. I then briefly tried Tumblr, before settling on this self-hosted WordPress site. It gave me the flexibility I wanted, and tied in quite nicely with projects like BlueLightCamp which also uses WordPress for its web site.

The Day job

As part of my day job I’m leading the Hampshire Hub project on behalf of twenty or so partners. We developed the original ‘thinking aloud’ site using WordPress and have progressed through ‘prototype’ to what we’re currently referring to as ‘interim’.

Whizzy new data store

We just appointed Swirrl to deliver the next phase which will involve a whizzy new data store built on linked data. As part of the move to the new platform it’s possible we’ll be using a different blogging product. Whilst not decided for certain yet, it’s looking likely that’ll be Ghost. If you’ve not heard of Ghost before, it’s an open source software project which, according to its web site, is:

Free to use, free to modify, free to share, free to redistribute. You can do anything you like with the software, without legal restriction. When you download a copy of Ghost, you own it. It’s completely yours.

This all sounds jolly good, and very much in line with Hampshire Hub’s principles of openness and re-use. Besides which, I’m enjoying learning something new.


Screenshot 2014-05-26 14.53.43Ghost uses Markdown which I haven’t really used before. My first impression was that it’s not as intuitive as WordPress, but I’ve actually warmed to it quite quickly. There are loads of cheat sheets like the example on the right, shared by Designshack, which are really handy. If I give up the Ghost (sorry) then I can simply copy my posts back in to WordPress, which also supports Markdown (via a plug-in).


My Ghostly experiment coincides with me enabling Auto-Backup on Google Plus. Auto-Backup is automatically saving a copy of all my photos – on all my connected devices – to folders on Google Plus.


Google Plus also has a feature called “autoawesome” which – amongst other things – attempts to stitch together photos it recognises as being part of a sequence.  Viewed individually ‘autoawesomes’ can be quite impressive. Viewed en-masse they can be incredibly distracting, as you can see from this small selection in the video below.

I’m therefore including just one example at the end of this post.

Ghost writing

If you’re interested in seeing some of my Ghost written ‘auto-awesomed’ wildlife pics, they’re over on my Ghost blog. Fox mouthing


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