Tag Archives: linked data

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

Epimorphics at Open Data Camp 3


An Open Data Camp in Bristol? We’d be mad to miss it.

At Epimorphics we’re really excited to see the Open Data Camp journey come to the connected digital city so close to our home, we are so excited that we are happy to be sponsoring and supporting the visit.

Some of us are ODCamp newbies, but the last 6+ years has shown that open data is part of our DNA, for example we’ve been working on exciting projects with others such as the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, Land Registry and Companies House to get their open data out there, accessible and usable as linked open data. We’re looking forward to meeting and chatting with some kindred spirits.

A handful of Epimorphs will be around at Open Data Camp 3, so if you have a particular interest in open data about water quality at beaches and elsewhere, river levels and flood alerts, house prices and indices or company profiles – do seek us out and we’ll be very happy to help you get going. Or maybe you’ve got some data of you’re own and would like to breath some life into some lifeless URIs we can introduce you to some of open-source tools we use or make.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Bristol and learning and sharing ideas.

Linking University Data – the open way

Warning: Liveblogging – prone to error, inaccuracy, and howling affronts to grammar. This post will be improved over the course of a few days.

ODCamp 22-02-15_1


What should the university-centric data.ac.uk site be? It’s still a matter of debate, but in the meantime, Chris Gutteridge from the University of Southampton has it up and running while that’s resolved.

The starting point was a list of Universities – one more loved that the one on the UK government site. He strongly believes that every time you publish data, you should create something that ordinary people can use, not just the files.

The hub is really, really noddy – but it is a hub, and others can link to it. And that enables linked data around universities. They’ve been funded to the tune of £250,000 over two years. So what did they do with the money?

Open university data – so far

Equipment resourse

They built equipment.data.ac.uk – and they insisted that there was a contact link for whom you should tell if the data was wrong. They’re getting better at finding the equipment from the webpage – so they’re insisting that after the discovery phase, the equipment data should be auto discoverable. The bronze/silver/gold ranking helps motivate authorities.

They scan every ac.uk homepage once a week. If you’re not part of this at the moment – you can just add the data, and they’ll find it

University Web Observatory

They’ve built a web observatory, analysing how ac.uk domains use the web.

Searchable university news feed

They’re scraping the RSS feeds of the sites, too, to create a combined, searchable news feed of University information.

Purchasing codes

CPV Codes – could be incredibly useful for university purchasing information.

What next?

They have 2/3rds of the Russell Group involved – not because they believe in Open Data, but because they want their equipment advertised, and this is the easiest way for them to do it. But it acts as a trojan horse for the idea.

Next? Maybe university experts for media appearances. Hospitals ward data? Auto-discovery of that from hospital homepages would replace the idea of a central source. In fact. all of these distributed efforts mean that you replace dependence on a central broker whose funding – or interest – may wane.

Lincoln has developed an idea of a semantic site map, by marking up types of pages, called Linking-You.

“You can’t force people to use standards. you want them to embrace them because they’re better”

Food, hygiene and the open data challenge

Warning: Liveblogging – prone to error, inaccuracy, and howling affronts to grammar. This post will be improved over the course of a few days.

ODCamp 21-02-15_14_Food_Standards_Agen

Hosted by Dr Sian Thomas, Food Standards Agency

The Food Standards Agency has a big commitment to open data – but is honest that it’s not always in a useful format. Dr Thomas asked for suggestions for improving that, and the room had plenty of ideas…

The more ways of accessing the data, the better was the message: RSS, CSVs, APIs, etc. Tab separated data is “old fashioned” – but pretty easy to deal with. However, she’s only got a team of four, and is responsible for a lot more than open data (like date protection, FoI, and so on…). They’re dependent on other data-collecting organisations opening up what they do.

Supply chain open data could be a really interesting perspective, especially for the rural part of the economy. DEFRA has a lot of open data on that. But once it enters the supply chain it becomes commercial data, and no-one releases that. Some supermarkets release some data, but far from all, and in theory you can do more down the packaging chain. By law you need to know one step above and one step below – who you bought it from and who you sell it to. It’s not a standard format, though. Also, food is traded as a commodity, so it often changes had without physically moving. That said, DEFRA is right at the top of the list of bodies that release data.

Data quality: how do authorities describe supermarket canteens? As the company it’s in – or the contract catering company actually running it. There is a standards quality programme – but there are cultural factors that come into play. For example, in a more affluent area the forms of food consumed might be inherently more risky – rare meat and chicken liver paté. They notice the quality issues most in Wales, where there’s mandatory scores on the doors of the rating, and that’s changed things.

The App Gap

There are lots of apps around some of this data – but they never seem to get past competition wins into existence, or at least into consumers’ hands. Maybe they should approach people like Yelp and TripAdvisor? It’s been mooted before. There’s strong correlation between their scores and food hygiene ratings. Maybe they could be used as a trigger for reinspection?

Could food hygiene data enrich open street maps? Sure. Pub data to highlight pubs they don’t have marked right now, or warning signs for dodgy takeaways. But address data is a problem – what do you do about hospital sites, with multiple outlets on a postcode, or a great restaurant next to that dodgy takeaway.

Updates are a problem too – we’re only getting an annual snapshot of more rapidly updated date. Could we get an RSS feed of changes, for example? Parsing the existing XML can be tricky. In Belfast people use backslashes in range addresses that breaks a lot of operations.

Accounting for allergies

Food contamination alerts for allergies need more work. They’d really like to take the RSS feed of allergy updates, and make them filterable by specific allergy, but they’re not allowed to invest in that kind of service. Could you relate that to barcode scanning? Yup, in theory. That would allow some apps to check for the update.

Allergies are a complex area – we have undiagnosed people, we have inaccurately self-diagnosed people, and not comprehensive picture of what foods are creating the biggest issues. There are some files available on the Food & You section of gov.uk, and generally decent figures on the diagnosed people.

Food poisoning outbreaks are hard to pinpoint quickly – unless it can be identified via social media. For example, an outbreak via a curry festival was identified by social media before the labs managed to do so.

Linking open data

We’re happy to be sponsoring the first Open Data Camp UK and we’re looking forward to hearing, and seeing, what people are doing with Open Data. To us, as data publishers, the best thing about opening up data is the freedom it gives you to create something useful.

But if you link your open data the possibilities really open up. So, in that spirit, this post is about what publishing Linked Open Data really means and some of the practical advantages it has.

Linked Data is:

“a method of publishing structured data [on the web] so that it can be interlinked and become more useful.”

linked data switchWith Linked Data, each data point (i.e thing or fact) has its very own URL on the Web. This is unique and because it’s readily available on the internet, people can look it up easily. And Linked Open Data can also contain links to other facts, so you can discover more, related data.

The linked data “cloud”

But Linked Data also rocks if you want to make something with the data. This is because when you look up the linked data page, all the metadata about it is embedded in: so there are no ambiguous column names to slow you down.

And if data is published as linked, as well as being published on a web site, it means that it comes with APIs, including a SPARQL endpoint – so developers can query the data in a variety of formats and use the data in their own programs.

But it’s not just for the techies – if you’re not technical, linking up your open data has other advantages.

  • It makes it easier to work with open data across organisations and departments because it’s not locked into silos: anyone can access it, making it truly open.
  • Linking open data with other data sources and having specific names for things saves time and effort when problem solving. Take a look at Steve Peters’ post on Joining The Dots across departments.
  • It’s low cost and sustainable – you convert the data once and reuse it – again and again. As part of our PublishMyData service, you can update your data yourself.
  • By linking your open data, it makes it easier to create apps and visualisations which are a friendly, quick way in to the data.
Swirrl's event space at Manchester's Museum of Science and Technology
Swirrl’s event space at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Technology

And on 21st April 2015 we’ll be sponsoring an event of our own: Local Open Data:Reaping the Benefits.

This is a one day event at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. Its aim is to bring together people working with, or interested in, data at a local level.

You can check out our awesome speakers here, or register your interest.


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Photo credit

The linked data cloud features in the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linked_data and is attributed to Anja Jentzsch