Data for the Community: New research for Power to Change

Power To Change: empowering people

Power to Change is an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England. With an endowment of £150 million in 2015 from the Big Lottery Fund, Power to Change helps local people run community businesses.

“Our vision is to create better places through community business. We will use our endowment to strengthen community businesses across England. This means providing money, advice and support to help local people come together to take control. At a time when many parts of the country face cuts, neglect and social problems, we want to make sure local areas survive and stay vibrant. We do so by being bold, collaborative, open and informed.”

New research

In May 2017 Power to Change commissioned Giuseppe Sollazzo and myself to look at pockets of activity where data assets are being used locally.

When we met to discuss the project, Gen Maitland Hudson, who heads up Data and Learning at Power To Change, explained that they already had a good sense of the kinds of problems that people face when trying to use data at a local level, but were less clear about what data is already being used, and the extent to which it provides reasonably reliable information. Power to Change wanted to learn more about what is already happening around community data use, to help inform the targeting of future support.

Our approach: talk to those who know

Giuseppe and I both have extensive networks and, between us, know lots of data practitioners across a range of different sectors and locations. We drew up a long list of people to talk to, which we narrowed down to those we knew were actively using data at a local level. We then spent several months over the Summer conducting interviews. We originally anticipated interviewing around a dozen people, but ended up speaking to more than twenty to try and get a good cross-section from different sectors and locations.

Having completed the interviews, we wrote up our notes, pulled the various strands together into a spreadsheet, and tagged the conversations with a set of meaningful keywords and dataset names. We then analysed the results, and identified a number of common themes and a few similarities among organisations.

The report

Our report: Data for the Community, which was published today, uncovers pockets of activity around data, highlights some areas of difficulty, and identifies some good practices which may be useful to community groups wishing to produce and use good quality information about their neighbourhoods.

 
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Announcing Open Data Camp 5

This post was originally published on the Open Data Camp blog

We are delighted to announce that Open Data Camp is returning once again. Open Data Camp 5 will be the weekend of 21/22 October at Queen’s University Belfast, in the Computer Science building

The Computer Science building at Queen’s University

We are really grateful to Queen’s University, and the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in particular,
for letting us use their magnificent Computer Science building, and to Suzanne and Cormac from OpenDataNI for making such a convincing case for Belfast to host our next event.

In case you’ve no idea what Open Data Camp is, here’s a quick recap:

Open

‘Open’ means that data has made available with little or no restriction on its use, as set out in a licence.

Data

‘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.)

Camp

‘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.

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

More info to follow

We will let you have lots more information in the coming weeks, which will of course include details of ticketing, travel and accommodation.

Photo Credit

Cormac McConaghy

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Revisiting ‘free’ Twitter reporting and analysis tools in 2016

sketch1477833401787In January 2012 I wrote  Ten of my favourite reporting and analysis tools for Twitter. Lots of people commented and suggested their own favourites, so a couple of months later I wrote a follow-up, imaginatively entitled Ten (more) of my favourite reporting and analysis tools for Twitter.

I re-read both posts a few days ago, and tried out some of the links I’d not used recently. As expected, a lot has changed over the last few years.

In this post, I’ll revisit the two lists from 2012, noting what’s changed, what’s working, and what’s kaput.

Choose a subject

For all of the tools mentioned here, I’m going to see what they can tell us about Twitter activity for the hashtag #opendata. In case you’ve not heard of it, ‘open data‘ is data (like spreadsheets, files, videos, images etc) that anyone can access, use and share.

Before we begin

If you choose to try any of these tools yourself, you’ll need a Twitter profile, and – due to a change in the Twitter Application Programming Interface (API) – you’ll probably need to log in, and authorise the tool to access Twitter on your behalf. If you do so, please take care before agreeing to anything, and note you can easily revoke these permissions again via the apps settings in your Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/settings/applications

22 tools?

Yes, based on the previous two titles, the total should add up to 20, but I tagged on a couple of extras at the end of my second post, so I’ve included them here as well.

  1. Sentiment 140

Sentiment 140 (which in my first post was called Twitter Sentiment) assesses the sentiment or ‘mood’ expressed in individual tweets. I’m generally pretty skeptical about automatically detecting sentiment in individual tweets, particularly as a tweet could be sarcastic or might be issued by a parody account, but a quick look can be useful to assess the overall mood on a given topic.

In this example, at a glance, the mood about open data appears generally very positive, with just 1 negative, 14 positive and 4 neutral tweets. From this single snapshot, I’d say that Sentiment 140 has summed up the mood pretty well, as open data is generally perceived as a good thing, but there’s still lots to do (like have a coherent set of standards).

screenshot-2016-10-30-12-10-23

2. Tweet Archivist

Tweet Archivist (which in the earlier post was called The Archivist) is presented as “Essential analytics for tracking and archiving Twitter.” In 2012 the tool was completely free, but functionality is limited to a snapshot in time, and there’s more available when you subscribe. This is what you now get when you enter a search term and hit “Try it for Free”.

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It’s clear that this is just a snapshot, and you would need to subscribe for the list to be updated regularly.

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Each of the headings on the right can be expanded by clicking the arrow on the right. Some of the word clouds potentially be quite useful as quick pointers to who the most active / influential users are, what other hashtags are being used. From this, you might note that opendata commonly appears with other hashtags, like #bigdata and #openscience, and that there are some particularly active opendata tweeters like @OpenDataSoft and @DSMeu.

screenshot-2016-10-30-12-33-43

If you find a heading interesting, you can click on the word or magnifying glass, and see more information. One aspect I really like about Tweet Archivist, is that it lets you embed the charts on your own web site if you wish to do so, or in a blog post like I’m doing here (note you can scroll down through the chart to see a list, which is clickable). It also looks like these individual charts are updated regularly, even with the free version.

3. Twitalyzer

Appears to be defunct, and the link times-out.

4. Hashtagify

I still use Hashtagify regularly, and I think it’s one of my favourite favourites. It’s basically a quick, easy and friendly way to explore which hashtags people use in conjunction with each other. From the front page, you type a hashtag and hit return. You’ll then be presented with a summary screen, and you can click between the tabs to see top influencers, how the hashtag is used over time, and individual tweets displayed on a wall.

screenshot-2016-10-30-14-50-08

I particularly like Advanced Mode to explore related hashtags, as in the screenshot below.  It can be really useful to know which combinations of hashtags people use when tweeting. In this example, I’ve started with the #opendata hashtag, then switched to advanced mode, and clicked on the SmartCities bubble to see all of the other hashtags which people use when they talk about Smart Cities on Twitter

screenshot-2016-10-30-14-54-44

Table Mode is another useful view – showing whether hashtags are increasing or decreasing in popularity over time.

screenshot-2016-10-30-14-58-57

All in all, there are some really good features available for free with Hashtagify, and it looks like there are many more available with the various subscription options. I’d personally welcome the ability to embed charts, but that doesn’t currently appear to be possible in either the free or paid versions.

5. Topsy

6. Topsy Social Analytics

Topsy, and it’s associated Topsy Social Analytics is defunct, and the link times-out, which is a shame, as the analytics used to have some pretty neat features.

7. tweetreach

tweetreach is still going strong, and I’ve used their service a few times over the years. This is an extract of what you see once you’ve selected a search term from the front page. You get a list of up to a hundred free, and thereafter you can buy a full report. You can also download the data or get it as a PDF report if you prefer. It’s fairly basic, but quite useful as a snapshot record.

 

screenshot-2016-10-30-15-15-16

 

8. Hashtags

In my previous post I described Hashtags as “a simple tool that allows you to specify a hashtag and see recent tweets using that hashtag”. That’s still very much the case for the free version, as most of the functionality is only available to paying subscribers. There really isn’t enough substance in the free version for it to remain on a list of free tools.

9. Hashmash

Defunct, and the domain is up for sale.

10. Favstar

Still exists, but I couldn’t find anything worth mentioning, and it wouldn’t feature on my list nowadays. If you like celebrity gossip, then maybe have a look at Favstar.

11. TweetGrid

Currently unavailable and the site says “Due to Twitter’s API changes, TweetGrid will be down for a bit. Be back soonish?”

12. Crowdbooster

Crowdbooster still exists, but only offers a ‘free trial’, so no longer counts as a free tool

13. Trendsmap

I’m pleased to report that Trendsmap is still a useful tool, which gives you information for free! In the example below – whilst there’s nothing relevant to my chosen hashtag open data – there are various tags and words displayed on a map for a chosen area. If you’re interested in Twitter activity for an area or region, then this could be really useful. In this example, there are quite a few tags and words which refer to running, and specifically the Great South Run, with a higher concentration near Portsmouth. If you find something which interests you, Trendsmap allows you to click on a word, and a selection of tweets associated with that word will be displayed on the right hand side. For a free tool, that’s pretty good! There is also more information and detail available to paying subscribers.

screenshot-2016-10-30-16-15-22

14. Tweetstats

Tweetstats offers to graph tweets for an individual profile. In my original post I noted that it takes a few minutes to generate the graphs, but that it was worth the wait. However, at the time of writing it’s been longer than half an hour with the message “magic happening”, so I am reluctantly concluding it’s no longer working (either that, or it’s a long term spell!)

screenshot-2016-10-30-16-54-42

15. Nutshellmail

Another one bites the dust. Sadly, Nutshellmail is no longer available.

16. Crowdfire

Crowdfire (formerly Justunfollow) is another tool pitched at individual users. I use it occasionally to see if there are accounts I follow which have stopped tweeting (in which case I unfollow them). There are various other facilities as well – recent followers / unfollowers, keyword follow etc – but I tend not to use them.  Crowdfire also offers to automatically send a Direct Message (DM) to new followers. Please do not use this as it is extremely annoying!

screenshot-2016-10-30-16-35-38

17. Bing twitter maps

Another one which is defunct.

18. Twitter profiling

The site still exists, but the tool no longer works

19. Addictomatic

The site still exists, and offers some results for a few news sites, but no longer works for Twitter (as it has not been upgraded to work with the new Twitter API)

20. Spezify

The site still exists, but only a few search results are displayed and I gave up waiting as the screen seemed to lock-up.

21. Twazzup

Twazzup offers real time monitoring of Twitter, and highlights the top keywords associated with a search term or hashtag. You can also hover the mouse over a keyword to see a list of tweets, with the keyword highlighted within individual tweets. This can be useful in finding out what’s going on in the world of opendata at a particular point in time.

screenshot-2016-10-30-17-03-47

22. Aaron’s Twitter Viewer

Site exists, but is unusable (returns an error message)

Surviving free tools

So, that’s 15 eliminated from my original list of 22. Here are the survivors as a simple list:

  1. Sentiment 140
  2. Tweet Archivist
  3. Hashtagify
  4. tweetreach
  5. Trendsmap
  6. Crowdfire
  7. Twazzup

So, only seven free tools which are still worth mentioning. That’s it for this post. In the next one, I’ll have a look around for new tools and add them to the list.

If you know of any great tools, please ping me a comment with a link and I’ll add it to the list.

Bye for now

 

 

Picture credits

Featured image The British Library on Flickr: Image taken from page 391 of ‘Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair … Fourth edition’ https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11126167773/in/photolist-hXbw3R Slightly embellished to colour the bird blue.

 

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Pez Machines delivering self-driving cars, and other musings

This is the third instalment in a series of posts about transport in the future. The previous ones are:

  1. What does the future hold? [Transport]
  2. Thinking aloud: Back to the Future [of Transport]

I have no idea how many I’ll write on this subject – I’m still digesting comments, accumulating links and reading material, so there may be a few more yet.

More about self-driving cars

So far, I’ve unconsciously been thinking of UK and Europe, but there are all sorts of considerations when you look beyond that.

There are also practicalities like storage for self-driving vehicles when they’re not being used.

50 implications

Bromford Lab kindly shared my earlier posts on Twitter. When I had a look back through their timeline, I realised they had already shared some cracking articles. For example:

Wow, what a list! Compiled by Geoff Nesnow, there are quite a few familiar ones, but a load more which tweaked my imagination. For instance, consider the potential impact of driverless cars on traffic policing (7), auto insurance (8), and traffic lights (9).

The Luggage

Another one on Geoff’s list which really made me think was number 15 :

There will be many new innovations in luggage and bags as people no longer keep stuff in cars and loading and unloading packages from vehicles becomes much more automated. The traditional trunk size and shape will change. Trailers or other similar detachable devices will become much more commonplace to add storage space to vehicles

I’m sure it’s not what Geoff had in mind, but for some reason it made me think of Thunderbird 2.

I confess, I’m a Thunderbirds fan, and reckon it was ahead of its time in many ways. However, I suspect that, instead of one large pod, there will be many smaller pods, more akin to shipping containers, but which have their own power, and can fly…

Shopping channel

The last one on Geoff’s list I’ll specifically mention is number 34:

Local transport of nearly everything will become ubiquitous and cheap — food, everything in your local stores. Drones will likely be integrated into vehicle designs to deal with “last few feet” on pickup and delivery. Perhaps this will accelerate the reduction of traditional retail stores.

616b4980342de50f3684c6eef4221f0d_4a43f75f-c9fa-4095-9406-ebf0700a3cef

f82f7ab788624b23d24883fcca628189_d52c25cb-c4a1-48fd-bf6d-d742cf7b7507

I rather hope small retailers take the initiative here – some have been remarkably prescient and resilient.

I confess, I’ve gratuitously included two photos* of my great grandfather, James Sinclair, who was a retailer in Orkney early in the 20th Century. He had a shop with premises, and also provided a delivery service, initially horse-drawn, and then deploying new-fangled automotive technology. If you’re interested, there are many fascinating images on the fascinating Orkney Image Library web site.

I can’t help but wonder what he might have made of this:

On the high seas

Back to shipping, this is another great share from Bromford Labs:

This article, written by Ben Schiller for Fast Company explores the implications of autonomous vehicles on the high seas.

Übermensch?

Then there’s the recent news: Uber loses right to classify UK drivers as self-employed.

A major win for self-employed drivers – right?

But for how long, given Uber’s aspirations:

 

Pez machines

That’s about it for this post. I guess I better also explain that the ridiculous title for this post came out of a Twitter conversation with Annemarie of Common Futures. Annemarie made a serious point, to which I gave a silly reply.

Ok, not an entirely serious suggestion, but the idea of vehicles stored and distributed underground may not be entirely out of the question. Geoffrey Hoyle was thinking about that one back in 1972 in his remarkable book 2010: Living in the Future (link is to a BBC article about the book)20161028_134506

 

screenshot-2016-10-29-17-34-17Photo credits

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Thinking aloud: Back to the Future [of Transport]

cars-in-full-motion-endless-cable-railway-san-fransisco

Public transport comes in many forms

A few days ago, I blogged: What does the future hold? [Transport], in which I began thinking aloud about what transport might look like in the future.

It followed a Twitter conversation with John Murray and Caroline Robinson, and was prompted by Rob Price‘s article in Business Insider: Aggressive drivers are going to bully self-driving cars.

Damn, forgot Hyperloop…

There’s a new development on the horizon which I completely forgot to mention – Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, in which pods or capsules, suspended in low pressure tubes, whisk travellers from city-to-city, at speeds of over 700mph. This video from ColdFusion is a great introduction to Hyperloop.

It’s early days, but it appears that Hyperloop might be a real alternative to air travel over certain distances, and could potentially link-up with other forms of public transport, like high speed rail, and more local, personal-use alternatives like autonomous vehicles.
The second video, from Transpod suggests how the interior might look for in economy, business and private family pods.

Different perspectives – what about car enthusiasts?

statelibqld_2_179851_1913_model_t_ford_takes_a_couple_off_on_their_honeymoon_1913

Model T Ford – someone’s pride and joy

Since my earlier post, I’ve also read Autonomous Cars- Am I missing something? by Jim Reid in which he looks at autonomous vehicles / self-driving cars from the car enthusiast’s viewpoint. There are also some interesting comments at the end of his article, words to the effect that, for many, the very act of driving a car is a pleasure, the car is an object of beauty, and a source of great personal pride.

So why is it that manufacturers almost perfected the driving experience with man/woman and machine in perfect harmony that they then decide that ‘man’ no longer wants to control the machine they are inside travelling at speed. When has ‘man’ or ‘woman’ became so emotionally detached from the motor car that they WANT autonomous self driving cars?

I think I need to update my thinking, and accept that future transport will not just be about getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’; there’s more to it than efficiency, and doing our bit to minimise damage due to climate change: There’s also driving for pleasure, cars both as personal possessions, and as art-forms in their own right. The same probably applies to motorcycles.

Updating…

I’m including an extract from my original post here, and updating it slightly to take account of these points (updates are in bold, italics).

I reckon, in 10 years time…

  • car ownership will no longer be the norm for most people* [for whom their primary reason for owning a car currently is personal transportation]
  • we’ll be able to book / summon a vehicle at will
  • options will include
    • people, basic transport
    • people, mid-range comfort
    • people, luxury, on holiday etc
    • single (expensive), multiple occupancy (mid-price), group travel (cheapest)
    • moving bulky goods (accompanied)
    • moving bulky goods (unaccompanied)
  • most vehicles will be in continuous use, except when they’re being charged and maintained
  • car parks will become prime development land
  • vehicles will be electric, of course, with long life, interchangeable batteries (if batteries are still even needed)
  • rail will continue to be popular, and will become better value once it is returned to public ownership. There will continue to be guards on trains, but not drivers.
  • vehicles won’t necessarily be on roads, though that’ll continue to be the norm for some years until self-driving airborne vehicles come of age and alternative technologies like Hyperloop are established
  • there won’t be a long term problem with aggressive drivers, as there won’t be [m]any drivers
  • * Very rich people will still of course continue to collect luxury cars and maybe even drive them on sunny days, and car enthusiasts may choose to retain their cars* to continue their driving pleasure

*Still wondering about ownership

evans-s-road-engine-and-steam-boat

Many transport options

I still wonder about car ownership. Sure, people who live in beautiful locations – and for whom the drive to work is pure pleasure – may well choose to continue to own their vehicle, but I suspect numbers will diminish in time, particularly as new generations find their basic transport needs met by ubiquitous, autonomous vehicles.

That’s it for now

That’s all for this post – I suspect I’ll need to do a few more updates!

Photo credits

The British Library Image taken from page 272 of ‘Gately’s World’s Progress: https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11185785126/in/faves-55353663@N06/

Model T Ford via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StateLibQld_2_179851_1913_Model_T_Ford_takes_a_couple_off_on_their_honeymoon,_1913.jpg

British Library Evans’s Road-Engine and Steam Boat https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11306561233/in/faves-55353663@N06/

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What does the future hold? [Transport]

John Murray shared an interesting article this morning

The gist of the article is that – whilst autonomous vehicles can be instructed to take obey laws, follow rules, and react to environmental conditions etc – humans could  exploit that ‘weakness’ and ‘bully’ self-driving cars.

A conversation ensued on Twitter, some of which I’ve included here:

There were several separate threads, and I’m sure was only one example of many such conversations taking place elsewhere.

What started as a tweet sharing an article about the anticipated behaviour of a small number of drivers towards self-driving cars, swiftly morphed into a conversation about private versus public transport, planning, transport strategy, and climate change.

What’s the problem?

Phew! Where do you start? There are all sorts of factors, conflicts and complexities around transport, so the possibilities are endless. What follows is a quick brainstorm of some of those, in no particular order:

  • Car manufacturers want to maximise profit, so try to sell as many cars as possible, at the highest price they can
  • Car drivers value their independence, and are reluctant to use public transport as an alternative
  • In many places, public transport just isn’t good enough to compete with privately owned cars anyway (no service before / after certain times)
  • Councils are under pressure to cut costs, making them increasingly unlikely to subsidise public transport
  • Climate Change looms large – lots of pressure to cut emissions
  • Ownership of rail infrastructure, management, maintenance, and train operating companies is complex and full of conflicts
  • Poor links between different modes of public transport (rail, bus, tram, ferry etc)
  • People’s needs are complex and changing (young couple becomes couple with baby…young family…family with dog(s)…with disability…elderly couple etc)
  • Planning rules are slow and can be rigid
  • Problems vary according to geography, average income, population density etc
  • Local authority regimes have very different views about how to address transport issues
  • Technology is changing rapidly, and brings disruption at many levels
  • Technology also enables other forms of disruption, like the sharing economy (look at the impact of Uber and the like)
  • Governments come and go, politicians have to stand for election and rarely like to continue the policies of their predecessor (but even this could change…liquid democracy anyone?)
  • It’s a long list…add your own

So, what does the future hold?

jess_dixon_in_his_flying_automobileI’m personally convinced that the attraction of owning a car will diminish as the range of options improves. If you could step out of your door and be whisked away to where you want to go, for a good price, with the minimum amount of hassle, would you be tempted? Would it matter to you if that was called ‘public’ or ‘private’ transport?

I reckon, in 10 years time…

  • car ownership will no longer be the norm for most people*
  • we’ll be able to book / summon a vehicle at will
  • options will include
    • people, basic transport
    • people, mid-range comfort
    • people, luxury, on holiday etc
    • single (expensive), multiple occupancy (mid-price), group travel (cheapest)
    • moving bulky goods (accompanied)
    • moving bulky goods (unaccompanied)
  • most vehicles will be in continuous use, except when they’re being charged and maintained
  • car parks will become prime development land
  • vehicles will be electric, of course, with long life, interchangeable batteries (if batteries are still even needed)
  • rail will continue to be popular, and will become better value once it is returned to public ownership. There will continue to be guards on trains, but not drivers.
  • vehicles won’t necessarily be on roads, though that’ll continue to be the norm for some years until self-driving airborne vehicles come of age
  • there won’t be a long term problem with aggressive drivers, as there won’t be any drivers

That’s my quick effort. I fully expect to be proven wrong on many of these.

  • Very rich people will still of course continue to collect luxury cars and maybe even drive them on sunny days

Photo credit

This work is from the Florida Memory Project hosted at the State Archive of Florida https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jess_Dixon_in_his_flying_automobile.jpg#/media/File:Jess_Dixon_in_his_flying_automobile.jpg

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Thoughts about Talk About Local #TAL16

Last Saturday I left the house in the dark, and caught the first available bus. It had to be something good to get me out of bed that early in the morning at a weekend.

It was…

#TAL16 – the hyperlocal unconference.

If you’ve not heard of hyperlocal before, it’s an increasingly popular form of journalism, produced for, and by, local people.

If you’re interested, there’s lots more detail in the 2014 UK Hyperlocal Community News collaborative research report.

Local, where?

screenshot-2016-10-22-13-00-18

Map of UK hyperlocal sites

I’m glad you asked – there’s a handy map of all known UK sites at http://hyperlocal.uk/. It lets you zoom in and explore sites near to you.

If you want the data behind the map, that’s also available to download, thanks to Mike Rawlins.

If there isn’t a hyperlocal near you, then perhaps there should be…

Unconference

An unconference is a bit like a conference, except there is no pre-defined agenda (and it’s a lot more fun). I’m a big fan, and have co-organised a few like Open Data Camp and BlueLightCamp, and helped out at others like UKGovCamp and GovCamp Cymru.

The Talk About Local (TAL) unconference has been running for years, but I’ve only been to one before. It’s co-organised by Will Perrin, this year assisted by Mike Rawlins. #TAL16 was hosted by Birmingham City University in the fab Curzon building.

Who was there?

It was a diverse group, including bloggers, journalists, students, researchers and academics.

Welcome and introductions

After the welcome, everyone introduced themselves. [Tip: you may find the audio is more useful than the video in the Periscope which follows]

The sessions

People interested in pitching a session queued up at the front of the room, and said a few words about their idea, which they also wrote on a post-it note. The post-it notes were arranged on the session grid, thereby forming the agenda.

I pitched a session, asking if open data is useful for hyperlocals. More about that later.

Who is your audience?

The first session I went to explored who the readers of hyperlocal and community news sites actually are.

Jerome Turner has been doing some fascinating research, some of which he kindly shared:

[gview file=”http://www.drustvo-antropologov.si/AN/PDF/2015_3/Anthropological_Notebooks_XXI_3_Turner.pdf”]

Jerome has been using every method possible to find out how people use hyperlocal, and exploring how it fits into everyday life. This includes face-to-face meetings, visiting local groups, surveys, desktop reviews, analysing Facebook etc.

I didn’t write much down during the session, but comments included:

“mix banal with other content: what’s the best Chinese takeaway….and what do you think of regeneration policy?”

“people may not be comfortable commenting on politics, but they’ll happily send in a picture they took of snow”

“Facebook is popular for hyperlocals, because it’s a place people already are”

There was also a really interesting discussion around what constitutes local, and how the answer depends on scale. For example, a loose paving slab affects my street, but a proposed airport expansion affects the whole city, whereas photos from Mrs Miggins’ class are specific to individuals.

The Unawards

TAL has a tradition of giving what have become known as unawards. These items are worthless financially, and yet are highly sought after and coveted by those who receive them. This year’s glittering ceremony was captured in full colour on Periscope, and highlights included a lifetime achievement unaward for Nick Booth

I was extremely surprised – and very pleased – to receive my very own unaward for banging on about open data a lot (or words to that effect).

Hyperlocals and open data

screenshot-2016-10-22-15-24-20Speaking of open data, I’m really interested in the extent to which open data is, or could be, used for information / news gathering and dissemination, and pitched a session to that effect. Umar Hassan also pitched a data-stories-related session, and we ended up attempting to cover both in a single session.

As you can see from the screenshot above, our timeslot was immediately after lunch, and we were up against some serious competition. I mean, who can resist a headline like “You Won’t Believe These Amazing Five Reasons People Start Hyperlocal News”?

Who visits open data sites?

We began by asking “do you visit open data sites, or download open data to use in stories?” The short answer was “no”, though some of those present had downloaded open data in the past.

That’s not to say that open data doesn’t feature at all – it does, it’s just that it might already have been packaged by intermediary sites. Some of those mentioned* included:

  • They Work For You
  • FixMyStreet
  • Open Charities
  • Open Corporates
  • Observatory of Economic Complexity
  • Public Health observatories
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) e.g. Census, neighbourhood statistics etc

I didn’t note them all, but the gist seemed to be that all the sites mentioned take data from various sources (including “the crowd”), and then package or present it in a way that enables the visitor to quickly and easily find what they are looking for.

There are also some useful resources to help people find local open data, including UK Local Government open data resources (Owen Boswarva) and Local Open Data Discovery (Steve Peters)

Actually, the Hyperlocal map I mentioned earlier is a good example of this point. Someone built a useful map which enables you to quickly find and access hyperlocal sites in the UK. The data has been made available with an open license, which means that any of us can use the same data and build our own maps should we wish to do so. However, the reality is that the vast majority of us don’t, as we’re too busy doing  our own thing.

The session sped past, and my notes are skeletal, so I’m hoping that others present might help fill in the gaps. I was left wondering if what’s needed is something like:

The Hyperlocal’s Guide to the Galaxy

screenshot-2016-10-22-16-41-53

Something to help translate data into human?

A guide which helps you find information (and supporting data) about a local area, without you having to start from scratch.

Perhaps with lots of charts – population, demographics, transport, health etc which can easily be embedded on local news sites – with the appropriate crediting, of course – and of course the option to download the supporting data.

As you can tell, I haven’t thought this through yet, and it may well be that there’s already something out there  which does this. If so, please comment and share links to any good stuff.

 Out of time

I’ve run out of time (and steam) for this post. if you’ve made it this far, thanks for persevering. I’ll just finish by signposting to a few other write-ups from the day:

#TAL16: Talk About Local’s Latest Hyperlocal Unconference

Talk About Local 2016 Round-up

Talk About Local Unconference 2016: hosted by BCU

* I’ve listed some of the sites mentioned during the session – not all of these necessarily make use of open data, but all make information easy to find

Photo credits

Babel Fish – Screenshot from Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTNuldPhP20&feature=youtu.be&t=28m20s 

Follow-up comments (Twitter)

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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

‘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

‘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

‘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.*

Bristol

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.

Watershed

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.

20160505_103147

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

Saturday

Welcome / introduction & session pitching PT1

Sunday

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

Drawnalism

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’

ODCamp-Day-Two_5

‘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
DSC_2362

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

Pictured left to right, from the back:

Notes

  • 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….

Correct!

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…

Central_bendigo_from_botanic_gardens

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.

Notes

  • 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment