Killing Open Data Softly?

As usual there has been a little pause between blog posts, and it has taken a bout of the flu and utterly dull daytime TV to prompt this one.

Over the past few months I have starting thinking about what might be making doing Open Data a more difficult job. My first concern is linked data (stands back and prepares to be shot down in flames). Linked data is a great idea, don’t get me wrong, but it is really quite hard to do (even after a 30 minute whirlwind tour in Costa with Rob Styles from Talis). So many authorities are struggling to get to grips with the concept of open data (or get the concept but just won’t do it) this adds a layer of complexity and potential cost that may put some off. Let authorities learn to crawl, toddle, then walk, don’t go asking them to run a marathon yet!

I am also sensing the possibility that the wikileaks saga may put the concept of open data in a bad light. Those of us who think open data is vitally important will accept the Anonymous response for what it is,  those who haven’t yet seen the light  may see the whole thing as just an inconvenience and would rather buy their presents through PayPal than hold our governments to account.

Finally, (and I really will get some critisism for this!) what about the people who are clamouring for our data? We have been getting some great results from our Hack Warwickshire competition, but not that many. Someone wrote a really good post recently, which I can’t track down at the moment, asking people to start showing what is being done with open data. It’s really hard to demonstrate to data owners of an authority why they should open up data if we can’t show good examples of how it might be used. I’m particularly interested in the correlation of data, proving why all kinds of data should be released – you never know what you might uncover!

My final thought: reluctance to share stems from early childhood. We’ve all sat there in classes shielding our work so other kids can’t see what we’re doing. Although back then it was because we didn’t want them to see our answers, now it’s because we don’t want people to see our mistakes.

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3 Responses

  1. You said: “Someone wrote a really good post recently, which I can’t track down at the moment, asking people to start showing what is being done with open data.”

    Perhaps what @steiny shouted out in his speech to the opengovdatacamp?

    “The second way we can avoid a stroll down cock-up boulevard is cease tinkering around with demos and hacks and pretty-but-useless visualisations and bloody finish something useful.”

    http://steiny.typepad.com/premise/2010/11/open-data-how-not-to-cock-it-up.html

    When it comes to LGov Spending data the “something useful” will not appear until a) data is produced in a format that can easily be melded and compared and b) when there is SINGLE URL FOR EACH SUPPLIER.

    I feel sure moves are afoot to produce such datasets where point b) has got to be somehow manufactured in the short term, whilst we wait for this government to get off its arse and release Company House dereferencable URIs.

    Once data to this standard starts appearing, even if it only 2 councils out of 450 – then there will be something for developers to get their teeth into.

    Even then – answers to the REALLY IMPORTANT questions such as “What the hell was that vast payment for?” will not be fathomable until it is clear which service was sated by a given payment.

    That requires even more work from the originators of the data.

    OK, so Council X paid Supplier A £100,000 for Service M but what the hell was that FOR, when it comes to vast and incompressible IT spends in particular (….climbs aboard favourite hobby horse) we still wont be able to find out (dereference it) because the eGovRegister which showed which Council used which IT system suppliers for which application has now been squirrelled away from view thanks to SOCITM and the DCLG since July this year.

    Here is a lovely puzzle for Christmas, by the way we took out and burned some of the pieces so you can never see the full picture. But hey! Merry Christmas!

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/unlocking-service/2010/09/01/EGovRegister

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/unlocking-service/2009/03/11/CompaniesAPI

  2. I also wrote a piece recently suggesting that in order to win hearts and minds we need to be able to demonstrate the benefits of open data (I wouldn’t call it ‘really good’ though):

    ‘So open data is a good thing? Why?’
    http://localdata.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/?p=117

  3. That’s it Michael!! I thought it was a very good post (that’s why I remembered it!)

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