All posts by Lyn Whitfield

What makes for a good API?

One of the first questions to come up on day two of Open Data Camp was “what is an API?” One of the last issues to be discussed was “what makes a good API?”

 

Participants were asked for examples of application programming interfaces that they actually liked. The official postcode release site got a thumbs up: “It was really clear how to use it and what I’d get, and I can trust that the data will come back in the same way each time.”

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A tale of two datasets

Controversially, Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the Institute for Government, was allowed a PowerPoint presentation at Open Data Camp 4. However, it was in a good cause.

 

His slides enabled him to give some concrete examples of the data in the Whitehall Monitoring Project, which he runs. The project monitors the shape and size of government, the morale of civil servants, and other factors.

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What is data, open data… and what on earth is an API?

Day two of Open Data Camp in Cardiff opened with another session on the basics. What is open data, who can use it and what is it useful for?

More open data for newbies

Also, going back a step: “What is data?” Session participants suggested that while the public or ‘newbies’ might equate data with statistics, ‘data’ was much broader than that. It might be the raw data – or numbers – on which the stats were based. But it might also be text, or photographs.

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Learning to love Linked Data

Linked data has been a topic of discussion at successive Open Data Camps. So at Open Data Camp 4 in Cardiff, Jen Williams of Networked Planet whipped through the basics.

Linked Data at Open Data Camp

“When people talk about linked data they are talking about putting it into a statement,” she said. “So in a normal spreadsheet, you have a lot of columns… with linked data you start with an identifier and then go to the column header, the ‘known as’, and then you go to the value. Continue reading Learning to love Linked Data

Do we need portals for open data?

After a quick sandwich lunch, people attending the Open Data Camp in Cardiff were challenged to a debate. Is a single point of access, aka a portal, the best way to open up access to data sources?

 

Speaking for the debate was Giuseppe Sollazzo, who co-authored a report on the NHS and open data. “One of the things we have discovered is that there is a recommendation for a single point of access. I am not necessarily a fan of a portal, but at this point we have no other option. Continue reading Do we need portals for open data?

Using open data to support Welsh speakers

The Welsh government has set ambitious targets to increase the number of Welsh speakers. At the moment, there are perhaps half a million, but by 2050 the government wants to see 1 million.

 

Session leader Ben Proctor said this presented an interesting open data challenge. “One of the things we have been kicking around in ODI Cardiff that there might be some useful things to do from a data point of view to inform this [target],” he said.

“We have been looking at whether there are existing models for language growth – there probably are, but we can’t find them – and if not can whether we can take some standard growth models and use them.

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What open data standards do we need?

Terence Eden from the Government Data Service had one of the most reacted-to pitches at Open Data Camp 4. Surely, he suggested to the more than 100 attendees packed into Cardiff’s Pierhead, data should always be released as pdf?

Open Data Standards

Of course, this was a joke. And at the session on ‘what open data standards do we need’ he said he had insisted that government departments released data in open document format.

This wasn’t openness for openness sake, he added. It was because he didn’t think it was reasonable for open data users to be expected to buy licenses for expensive, proprietary database and software projects where good, open and free alternatives existed.

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Open data ecosystems

The aim of the session was to map some open data ecosystems – because, as session leader Leigh Dodds of Bath:Hacked put it:

“We are often struggling to work out where the value is coming from.”

He added: “We often try to identify users and publish case studies, but there are lots more people working in open data than just publishers and users, so we want to try and capture some of these. We want to test out some roles, and find out how they fit together in a value analysis.”

Dodds had come up with a list of potential roles, which he was keen for the session to test out. These are available at bit.ly/odcamp-mapping: along with a sample map of Bath:Hacked’s own ecosystem.

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The nuts and bolts of open data camp 3: a group review

New Doc 15_1

Feedback from day two: was mostly procedural (or what one delegate called ‘hygiene’ issues):

The goldfish bowl approach to debate?

Pro votes: 2. Anti votes: 1 Pro points: you know where the debate is coming from. Anti points: It’s against the spirit of an unconference; makes it hard to contribute; in principle you can signal that you want to take part or step out, but can you, actually?

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