Would you like to run a session at Open Data Camp? That’s awesome. Here are a few tips.

Whether you have been to an unconference or not, we are thrilled you would like to run a session at Open Data Camp! Many attendees reach out to us beforehand asking if a topic is suitable or not, and how to best run the session. After years of feedback and experiments, what we know is that we don’t want Open Data Camp to be too strict about formats. We’ve seen all types of sessions: conversations, presentations, panels, “unkeynotes” (a posthumous definition), debates (I had something akin to a – friendly – boxing match with Jeni Tennison last year!).

If you still have doubts, the short story is simple and based on two broad tips:

1) have some ideas ready beforehand, summarise these in a short pitch on the morning, adjust according to feedback

2) the Law of Two Feet is your master: people might go if the session isn’t what they were expecting, and that is good.

Don’t worry about attendees numbers or about rehearsing to give the talk of your life. An unconference isn’t TED. I’ve once been the only attendee in a BarCamp session about 3D printing your own CT Scans (a bit creepy, I know), and I still remember what I learnt.

Open Data Camp is all about discussions, so please imagine your session with a major conversational component. However, attendees often ask if they can bring a presentation. After loads of discussions and past experiments, we have decided that we don’t want to discourage people who come with a prepared slide-deck, but we have some caveats:

1) first of all, we cannot guarantee projectors or screens at the camp, so please make sure your presentation can work without slides, or by showing them on your laptop

2) try and limit the frontal presentation to about 10 minutes and imagine it as a kickstarter for a discussion; Gavin Freeguard did this amazingly at Open Data Camp 4 with his “Tale of two datasets”

3) alternatively, use your slides as a prompt for the discussion, and have something to engage in an exchange every slide or two; John Murray with his legendary sessions about LIDAR, or Alasdair Rae with his great session on gaining insight from mapping are good examples to follow.

Photo CC BY-SA Adam Tinworth

Tell people honestly what you would like to do and ask them what they expect: your sessions needn’t be a monologue worth of George Bernard Shaw, it is ok to have an unpolished set of ideas and present them as they come. Think, however, that alternatives to presentation are often better received. The aforementioned debate between me and Jeni Tennison was pitched on the day out of a random conversation, and it was entertaining for us to hold it as well as for the over 40 attendees that turned up. If you prefer a conversation that doesn’t involve defending positions, that is fine too: make sure you allow all opinions to be expressed in full.

Of course, you might want to have some support. If you fear you might not be able to stop someone speaking for too long, for example, talk to us beforehand and we’ll send you one of our lovely campmakers. All a campmaker will do is to ensure that the session allows everyone some space, and that no one takes over without reason. Equally, if you want someone to take notes at the session, please let us know so we can send a note-taker or arrange for the notes to be broadcast on our blogs.

If you have any question, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

 

Open Data in Northern Ireland – what’s happening??

We recently blogged about our excitement that Open Data Camp is coming to Belfast! As we said in that post:

“This is hugely exciting news for everyone interested in the release of & the re-use of Open Data here in Northern Ireland, providing the local open data community with a fantastic opportunity to engage with colleagues working with open data in other parts of the UK and further afield.”

In this guest post for Open Data Camp, we thought we’d provide a bit of background on what has been happening around open data in Northern Ireland.

Open Data in Northern Ireland – what’s happening??

Northern Ireland was a bit of a late starter to Open Data, but we hope because of this we have been able to learn from others about what works and what does not….

The NI open data portal went live in November 2015 and in 2017 we were placed 10th in the Global Open Data Index out of 94 nations/regions assessed! We were delighted at this placing, however, we still have a huge amount of work to be done in order to realise our goal of making all NI public sector data ‘open by default’.

Background

Strategy

“Open by default” is the position of the Northern Ireland Open Data Strategy published in 2015. There are obvious exceptions in respect of personal data, security, commercial, intellectual property rights or environmental importance.

There are nine open data principles in the strategy, and these determine how we implement open data in Northern Ireland. You can read all about them in the NI Open Data Strategy.  

Portal/s

There is one portal for all Northern Ireland public sector open data – OpenDataNI. This is a CKAN platform which is supplemented with a Microsoft Azure cloud for larger datasets. It went live in November 2015 and we are concentrating on getting key datasets that are in demand published.

The aim of the ODNI portal is to establish & promote best practice standards, to not only enable access to the data but also to ensure that it conforms to metadata standards & open accessibility standards.

The portal has the facility for users to Suggest data to be published – Departments then have 10 days to reply to say if the data can be released (i.e. does not fall within any of the exceptions in the strategy) or not and if it can be released, they must put forward a date by which the data will be published.

Users can also comment on published datasets and on other people’s suggested datasets.

Outside of the public sector there is the Detail Data portal which is part of the detail data project – a BIG Lottery NI funded partnership between the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and The Detail investigative journalism website.

The aim of the project is to develop the ability of the voluntary and community sector to use data effectively to create and enhance social, economic and environmental value.

The positives – So what is working?

OpenDataNI Portal

Technically enforcing the mandatory creation of DCAT metadata in order to publish open data has been very successful.

Enforcing a mandatory level of 3 Stars of open data has also been successful.

To date, we have 260 datasets published on the open data portal with an average audience of just over 2000 users per month which is steadily increasing.

We have had some key datasets published including all government held LiDAR data for rivers, road upgrades and key heritage sites. There are also 450,000 rows of prescription data published on the site per month, totalling a staggering 5.4 million rows of data per year – we now have 4 years’ worth of prescription data published.

Stimulating reuse

We currently have 16 showcases published on the portal; via twitter, we promote these showcases and seek more from the OD user community so as to demonstrate what they are doing with open data. We have showcases on topics ranging from an application to identify trees in Belfast City Council area, to an interactive visualisation of car accidents in Northern Ireland.

We also ran a successful challenge last year asking participants to use data from OpenDataNI to create new and innovative teaching resources for either primary or secondary level schools.

The 2 winning projects were Our Raging Planet aimed at geography students to simulate natural disasters such as volcanoes and earthquakes in a local environment, and Gaff Game which teaches students to learn SQL programming language using datasets from OpenDataNI to find the best place to live in Belfast. You can check out our video about the challenge or read more about it.

User community

We are increasingly working with a wider user community for NI open data. We have an internal Implementation Board driving forward the open data strategy with representation from all 9 government departments. But we also have set up an Open Data Advisory Panel which consists of local private sector companies, academia, voluntary and community, open government representatives and local technical activists. We consult them for advice and as a sounding board for ideas.

The ODI Belfast node launched in September 2015. It is a Learning and Networking Node which aims to contribute to the local and regional development of open data, ensuring open data for everyone.

The node has been a great addition to NI providing training, completing research projects, holding open data events and generally promoting the benefits of open data for Northern Ireland. ODI Belfast is based at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA).

The Ulster University runs an Interactive Media BA (Hons) course and now has a module entirely devoted to working with OpenDataNI data!

The barriers – What is not working?

Despite extensive engagement by the OpenDataNI team with the broader NI public sector, we are still faced with low levels of proactive publication of open data by our public sector…. the majority of releases are driven by the Suggested Dataset mechanism by the user community.

What we are hoping will change this is a combination of

    • more targeted engagement at senior level to highlight the benefits of publishing data as open data;
    • we are also planning to publically release a dashboard created from our open data publications, of the numbers of datasets by publisher and also the status of the suggested datasets; and
    • we are also working towards automated data publishing and are currently running a pilot project.

We obviously are open to all other suggestions and are really looking forward to #ODCamp in Belfast, where we can chat with others who may be able to tell us what in their experience helps.

Tourism plug!

Belfast has much to offer attendees from here and further afield…. just by way of example, Belfast was named as the best UK city at the 2016 Guardian and Observer Travel Awards.

Visitors to Open Data Camp 5 in Belfast can be assured of the warmest of warm welcomes, and we hope that many will avail themselves of the opportunity to take in some of the many sights and attractions that Belfast and the surrounding area has to offer whilst here. Here are some links to find the top things to do in Belfast before and after #ODCamp!

Discover Northern Ireland

Visit Belfast

 

The Data Place sponsors Open Data Camp

 

The Data Place is delighted to be a sponsor for Open Data Camp 5; democratising the publishing and use of open data is something we firmly believe in and there are few better ways to do that than by bringing people together to talk, experiment and collaborate.

Although we only formally launched a few months ago, we’ve spent over a year participating in data-focused events around the country to get a real understanding of what people need from data and how they can get the most from it.

Screenshot from The Data Place

We’ve seen at first hand the importance of data communities—intersecting interest groups who believe in the power of data to tackle problems, find new opportunities and hold those in power to account—and Open Data Camp has proved to be one of the most fertile grounds for their emergence and development.

So, as sponsors of the latest event we’re actively supporting the growth of this important forum, but we’re also being a little bit selfish: taking an active role allows us to benefit even more from the wisdom, ideas and needs that help us build a better product. And, of course, it’s a pretty fun weekend.

Announcing Open Data Camp 5

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

Open Data Camp 4: bigger, better, wetter

This post is a repost of Giuseppe’s Medium blog post

I am slowly coming back to life after Open Data Camp. Being in Cardiff was amazing, if not for the weather, which is partly to blame for my current heavy cold. I have not been that wet since I walked up the Snowdon six years ago. Despite the weather, this Open Data Camp has been probably the most amazing we have run since starting in Winchester two years ago — with some caveats. Here are some stats coming from the participants who shared their data (>50%).

The highest participation ever recorded at an Open Data Camp

The most mind-boggling figure from this camp is the total number of attendees: we checked in 125 people on day one, and 103 people on day two (most of them, but not all, returners from day one). To put things in perspective, the highest participation on any day one had been at Open Data Camp 3 in Bristol, with a total tally of 93.

What’s more striking is the very low drop-out rate. We counted 134 unique attendees out of 147 tickets sold. In the unconference industry, a drop out rate of 30% is considered normal, and ours was only 9%. A 91% attendance level for a free event is something I would have never expected. It is testament not just to Open Data Camp being a great event — hey, I’m blowing my own trumpet here! — but to the community being very committed to attending.

Most of the UK was covered

Look at the pin map on the left (or play with Angharad’s interactive map). People who declare their travel origin are from all over the place: Sunderland to the North, Norwich to the East, Hastings to the South. However, the map on the right suggest the magnitude of attendance is higher somewhere in the South of the country. Let’s make a chart…

 
Participant origin in the UK

We can still do better, location wise

Looking at the data, it is evident that most attendees come from the English South or Wales. Is transport an issue? Potentially. However, one of the ideas behind Open Data Camp is in fact to bring Open Data around the country, rather than getting people to attend, so I would not be extremely negative about it. If anything, these chart suggest where to bring Open Data Camp next — if almost 70% of the attendees come from Wales and the South (including London), we should focus on making the next event happen where we only have few attendees: Yorkshire, the North East, Scotland, Northern Ireland.

Attendance by town and region of origin

Some people travelled a long distance

I had a huge grin on my face when I realised we had attendees from 4 continents. The non-European attendees were just 3, but their contribution was really useful. Hearing about Open Data in Seattle and Bangalore is certainly something that can make UK Open Data better.

The median distance travelled was 86 miles, which is more or less how far Southampton, Oxford, or Plymouth are from Cardiff.

 People travelled some distance to get to Open Data Camp

Diversity

Of course, some thought needs to be given to the diversity of Open Data Camp. The organising team did relatively well on gender balance, with over half of the members being women. So I was a bit disappointed upon realising that overall the event saw twice as many men as women (I leave those who did not declare their gender here in the chart, as I think this might be another symptom we need to address). What was your feeling as an attendee?

Open Data Camp seems to be pretty well received among people of a diverse range of ages, but if there is anything we can do to improve please let us know.

We have no data about ethnic background at this stage, but it might be something we would need to monitor in the future.

Gender and age data

On the way to Open Data Camp 5

It’s going to be difficult to beat Open Data Camp 4:

  • the biggest Open Data Camp so far
  • the first in a (former) parliament building
  • the first with armed police
  • the first in which I pitched a session (pushed by Jeni — and actually this was the first session I ever pitched at an unconference…)

When we started organising Open Data Camp in late 2014, I was skeptical: I thought this would be a one-off event and I was resigned that interest would move elsewhere. Instead, if I can summarise Open Data Camp 4 in one key learning point, I can say that interest in Open Data is getting hotter and hotter.

There were many users of data, new to the community, who are extremely keen on data releases and clear, open processes; there was an incredibly well attended session, “Open Data for beginners”, which had to be repeated due to demand; we had, for the first time, data journalists attending, interested in keeping pressure on the government to publish data timely and accurately; we had professionals who work in fact-checking, now using government data to partially automate their fact-checking processes.

Equally, there is a demand for better data, open standards, and clear processes by veterans of Open Data. Open Data shouldn’t come at a massive expense to the taxpayer, but I still think it is beneficial to the efficiency of the public sector if processes that generate data are made clear, de-duplicated, and documented — and the Open Data agenda has clearly been pushing in this direction.

It seems evident to me that Open Data needs to be consolidated — and, preferably, approach releases from a problem-driven perspective (as I somewhat suggest here) — but it is also evident that the community is becoming richer thanks to people belonging to different areas of expertise, interest, and activism, starting to join in. I look forward to continuing the discussion at the next camp.

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.”

Continue reading What makes for a good API?

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.

Continue reading A tale of two datasets