Tag Archives: odhd

International Open Data Day Feb 23rd: Vancouver Edition

So International Open Data is rapidly approaching! All around the world people are organizing local events to bring together developers, designers, policy wonks, non-profits, government officials, journalists, everyday citizens and others to play, chart, analyze, educate and/or build apps with open data.

For those of us who started International Open Data Day, it was never designed to be just a hackathon. Rather we’ve always wanted it to be an event that anyone interested in data, and interested in open data about their community in particular, could come to. So if you live in Vancouver and that is you… please sign up here. If you live somewhere else, check out the wiki as there are events happening all around the world.

So what do we have planned in Vancouver? And what will be some fun projects to work on?

Open Data Dating!

Well, this year, generously, the event will be taking place at City Hall and we are expecting some staff to be on hand. Following the lead from the excellent organizers in Ottawa were going to run some open data dating. Specifically, we’ll have city staff share with us what is some of the data they have, how they are using it, and answer questions participants may have. These conversations often spark ideas on behalf of both staff and participants about useful analysis or apps that could be created, or important data that should be collected.

Budget Visualization

Stéphane Guidoin from Montreal is trying to get people at Open Data Events across Canada (and possibly around the world) to input their city’s budget data into Where Does My Money Go so we can toy with creating some visualizations of city budgets. Not sure yet that we can get the budget data, but think it could be scrapped – but am nonetheless hopeful.

Homelessness and Rental Properties

One of the big priorities of city government is homelessness. The city is gearing up to launch a database of infractions affecting rental properties. Councillor Reimer – who is been a strong supporter of open data and addressing homelessness – will be on hand and has several ideas about how this data could be used to help the city, and residents, better understand the nature of some of the challenges around housing and foster support for more and better housing.

Air Quality Egg Hacking

My colleagues at the Centre for Digital Media at the Great Northern Way Campus have recently procured an Air Quality Egg and are hoping to explore how they can hack this hardware. We been dreaming up a scenario where we deploy may 10-30 of these around the lower mainland to get realtime measurements of the air quality. For the Centre for Digital Media, we’d love it if we can create a dashboard for the measurements from these eggs, as it would enable residents to compare air quality from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Biking Apps

Since I’m now just throwing ideas out there… (Cause that is what happens on open data day), another idea Councillor Reimer shared involves the newly released bike rack data from the City of Vancouver (which this fine gentleman mapped in very short order). An app that does nothing more than load, locate you, and point you to the direction of the nearest bike rack could be helpful to bikers. But if the location of the user could be anonymously shared with the city… it would be hugely valuable to them as it would provide some insight about where people are when they are looking for bike racks. This could allow the city to deploy its bike rack infrastructure more efficiently and save on (re)installation/moving costs.

And lots, lots more…

Obviously, there is lots more that happens, people network, brainstorm projects of their own, join established projects… or just learn about what is possible. Hopefully these ideas give you some insight into what is possible. That said, if you think you don’t have the right skills, please come anyways… we’ll find you a way to participate.

Presently the City of Montreal just tipped over 100 participants for their open data day. Ottawa regularly has similar participation levels. I confess that I’ve been a little slow in getting the word out, so please do consider coming and… pass the word along!

 

Again, one can sign up here.

The event will be taking place at City Hall on February 23rd, from 9:30am until 5:30pm.

 

International Open Data Hackathon Wiki now live – 14 cities added in 24 hours

Just a brief update for those interested in participating in or organizing an event for International Open Data Day on February 23rd, 2013.

The Wiki

The Open Data Day wiki (sans logo, so a little rough around the edges) is now live and ready for action.

The wiki is where organizers can list the city in which they’ll be putting together an event and where interested participants can find local events and let people know that they’ll be attending (to give organizers a sense of numbers) and what projects, workshops, discussions or other activities they are interested in participating in.

It has been awesome to see that in the first 24 hours of the wiki being up how 14 different people have stepped forward and listed their city as a place where they will be hosting an event. Better still, I’ve been contacted by numerous people saying they would like to host an event who have not yet added their city to list, so if you have not yet done it, please do so! The wiki is super easy to edit. If you are thinking of organizing event you can use my city, Vancouver, as a template for how to organize your city’s wiki page. But feel free to innovate and do you own thing!

Translations

A number of people have asked me about translating the opendata day website. We have not yet translated the version (except to portuguese which will be posted soon). So if you are interested in making a translation please do so. I’m happy to share that it is really easy!

The html for the site is on github. For those who know how (and it is VERY easy to learn) please feel free to fork the code and write a version in your language. I will approve it! Already THackday Portugal has done an updated portuguese version of the new site.

One warning, there is a good chance that I’ll edit (not heavily – but a little) the page once or twice before the event. I will let people know if I make changes.

Super excited about the response so far and hope the wiki helps people see what is going on and coordinate activities more effectively.

International Open Data Day – An Update

(Can’t read the whole post? Important stuff is highlighted in grey below.)

Two years ago, I met some open data advocates from Brazil and Ottawa, and we schemed of doing an international open data hackathon. A few weeks later, this blog post launched International Open Data Day with the hope that supporters would emerge in 5-6 cities to host local events.

Instead, on December 4th, 2010, an amazing group of volunteers organized events in 60 cities on every continent except Australia (OK, and Antartica). A year later, our second effort enjoyed similar success – including Australia this time! We also benefited from a generous informal partnership with the Random Hacks of Kindness, who let our open data hackers participate in spaces where they were organizing hackathons on the same day.

A number of people have been asking me about this year’s International Open Data Day. First, I want to apologize to the community of wonderful people who have been asking me if will we do it again. Between an outrageous travel schedule, work commitments and, most happily, the advent of my little boy – whose 36 hour birth(!) prevented me from participating in Vancouver’s Open Data hackathon last year(!) – I have been remiss in not organizing and communicating information regarding this year’s event.

So, over the past 4 weeks I’ve been consulting with some of the previous year’s organizers (I deeply apologize if I have not spoken to you), and here is the status update:

  1. I’ve been reminded of the awesomeness, organizational skill, patience and general wonderfulness of open data advocates around the world
  2. We are DEFINITELY DOING International Open Data Day and WANT YOU TO PARTICIPATE
  3. For a number of reasons* we are MOVING THE EVENT TO FEB 23rd, 2013.
  4. We are more keen than ever to have this not just be about hacking code, but reusing other projects and BROADENING THE COMMUNITY by using data to do all sorts of things from analysis to visualizations and even just sharing an interesting insight.

So with that in mind, here are a few things that are going on as we speak.

  • If you are interested in participating in, or organizing an International Open Data Day event in your community, please join the Open Data Day mailing list. We’ll post any updates there, and it is a great place to ask questions and get to know other organizers.
  • You may have noticed that opendataday.org is not working. Yikes! We know! We are in the midst of transferring the site over to the Open Knowledge Foundation, who has generously offered to manage it.
  • Once we get the site up – and especially the wiki – I’ll be hitting the mailing list again asking people to start registering their cities, noting locations and sharing information. In the past, the wiki has been amazingly well organized, which has been exceedingly helpful and awesome.
  • For those interested in hosting an event, there is a great guide on how to do so, thanks to Kevin McArthur, Herb Lainchbury and Donna Horn – that can be found here.
  • We are starting to reach out to some of our past partners including The Open Knowledge Foundation, Data.gov/White House, the World Bank, ScraperWiki, the Sunlight Foundation, various Hackerspaces, Hacks and Hackers – and anyone else who wants to be involved, we’d love to hear from you.
  • Feel free to send me an email if you have any thoughts, questions or concerns.

Okay, apologies for the long blog post and the delay in communicating about this. If you have participated or organized an event in the past, thank you. I hope you’re excited about doing it again and that the new date works for you!

Am looking forward to hearing from you.

*Those reasons being: too close to various holidays, too much at the best time of summer in the southern hemisphere, too little time to organize, timing around the Code for America fellows being in their partner cities.

Open Data Day 2011 – Recaps from Around the World

This last Saturday was International Open Data Day with hackathons taking place in cities around the world.

How many you ask? We can’t know for certain, but organizers around the world posted events to the wiki in over 50 cities around the world. Given the number of tweets with the #odhd hashtag, and the locations they were coming from, I don’t think we were far off that mark. If you assume 20 people at each event (some had many more – for instance there were over 100 in Ottawa, Vancouver had close to 50, 120+ in New York) it’s safe to say more than 1000 people were hacking on open data projects around the world.

It’s critical to understand that Open data Day is a highly decentralized event. All the work that makes it a success (and I think it was a big success) is in the hands of local organizers who find space, rally participants, push them to create stuff and, of course, try to make the day as fun as possible. Beyond their hard work and dedication there isn’t much, if any, organization. No boss. No central authority. No patron or sponsor to say thank you. So if you know any of the fine people who attended, or even more importantly, helped organize an event, please shake their hand or shoot them a thank you. I know I’m intensely grateful to see there are so many others out there that care about this issue, that want to connect, learn, meet new people, have fun and, of course, make something interesting. Given the humble beginnings of this event, we’ve had two very successful years.

So what about the day? What was accomplished? What Happened?

Government Motivator

I think one of the biggest accomplishments of Open Data Day has been how it has become a motivator – a sort of deadline – for governments keen to share more open data. Think about this. A group of volunteers around the world is moving governments to share more data – to make public assets more open to reuse. For example, in Ireland Fingal County Council released data around trees, parking, playing pitches & mobile libraries for the day. In Ontario, Canada the staff for the Region of Waterloo worked extra hard to get their open data portal up in time for the event. And it wasn’t just local governments. The Government of BC launched new high value data sets in anticipation of the event and the Federal Government of Canada launched 4000 new data sets with International Open Data Day in mind. Meanwhile, the open data evangelist of Data.gov was prepared to open up data sets for anyone who had a specific request.

While governments should always be working to make more data available I think we can all appreciate the benefits of having a deadline, and Open Data Day has helped become just that for more and more governments.

In other places, Open Data Day turns into a place where governments can converse with developers and citizens about why open data matters, and do research into what data the public is interested in. This is exactly what happened in Enschede in the Netherlands where local city staff worked with participants around prioritizing data sets to make open.

Local Events & Cool Hacks

A lot of people have been blogging about, or sharing videos of, Open Data Day events around the world. I’ve seen blog posts and news articles on events in places such as Madrid, Victoria BC, Oakland, Mexico City, Vancouver, and New York City. If there are more, please email them to me or post them on the wiki.

I haven’t been able to keep track of all the projects that got worked on, but here are a sampling of some that I’ve seen via twitter, the wiki and other forums:

Hongbo: The Emergency Location Locator

In Cotonou, Benin the open data day participants developed a web application called Hongbo the Goun word for “Gate.” Hongbo enables users to locate the nearest hospital, drugstore and police stations. As they noted on the open data day wiki, the data sets for this application were public but not easily accessible. They hope Benin citizen can use it quickly identify who to call or where to go in emergencies.

Tweet My Council

In Sydney, Australia participants created Tweetmycouncil. A fantastic simply application that allows a user to know which jurisdiction they are standing in. Simply send a tweet to the hashtag #tmyc and the app will work where you, what council’s jurisdiction you are in and send you a tweet with the response.

Mexican Access to Information Tracker

In Mexico City one team created an application to compare Free of Information requests between different government departments. This could be a powerful tool for citizens and journalists. (Github repo)

Making it Easier for the Next Guy

Another project out of Mexico City, a team from Oaxaca created an API that creates a json file for any public data set. Would be great for this team to connect with Max Ogden and talk about Gut.

Making it Even Easier for the Next Guy

Speaking of, Max Ogden in Oakland shared more on Gut, which is less of a classic app then a process that enables users to convert data between different formats. It had a number of people excited including open data developers at other locations such as Luke Closs and Mike West.

Mapping Census Data in Barcelona

A team of hackers in Barcelona mapped census tracts so they could be visualized, showing things, like say, the number of parks per census tract. You can find the data sets they used in Google Fusion Tabels here.

Foreign Aid Visualizations

In London UK and in Seattle (and possibly other places) developers were also very keen on the growing amount of aid data being made available and in a common structure thanks to IATI. In Seattle developers created this very cool visualization of US Aid over the last 50 years. I know the London UK team has visualizations of their own they’d like to share shortly.

Food Hacking!

One interesting thing about Open Data Day is how it bridges some very different communities. One of the most active are the food hackers which came out in force in both New York and Vancouver.

In New York a whole series of food related tools, apps and visualization got developed, most of which are described here and here. The sheer quantity of participants (120+) and projects developed is astounding, but also fantastic is how inclusive their event is, with lots of people not just working on apps, but analyzing data and creating visualizations to help others understand an issue they share a common passion for: the Food Bill. Please do click on those links to see some of the fun visuals created.

The Ultimate Food API

In Vancouver, the team at FoodTree – who hosted the hackathon there – focused on shipping an API for developers interested in large food datasets.  You can find their preliminary API and datasets in github. You can also track the work they’ve done on their Open Food Wiki.

Homelessness

In Victoria, BC a team created a map of local walk-in community services that you can check out at http://ourservices.ca/.

BC Emergency Tweeting System

Another team in Victoria, BC focused on creating twitter hashtags for each official place in the province with the hopes that the province’s Provincial Emergency Program.

Mapping Shell’s Oils Spills in Nigeria

The good people at the Open Knowledge Foundation worked on getting a ton more data into the Datahub, but they also had people learning how to visualize data, one of whom created this visualization of oil spills in Nigeria. Always great to see people experimenting and learning!

Mapping Vancouver’s Most Dangerous Intersections for Bikes

Open Data hacking and biking accident data have a long history together and this hackathon I uploaded 5 years worth of bike accident I managed to get from ICBC to Buzzdata. As a result – even though I couldn’t be present in Vancouver – two different developers took it and mapped it. You can see @ngriffithshere and @ericp’s will be up soon. It was interesting to learn that Broadway and Cambie is the most dangerous intersection in the city for cyclists?

Looking Forward

Last year open data day attracted individual citizens: those with a passion for an issue (like food) or who want to make their government more effective or citizens lives a little easier. However, this year we already started to see the community grow – the team at Socrata hosted a hackathon at their offices in Seattle. Buzzdata had people online trying to help people share their data. In addition to these private companies some of the more established non-profits were out in force. The Open Knowledge Foundation had a team working on making openspending.org more accessible while MySociety helped a team in Canada set up a local version of MapIt.

For those who think that open data can change the world or, even build medium sized economic ecosystems, over night, we need to reset their expectations. But it is growing. No longer are participants just citizens and hacktavists – there are real organizations and companies participating. Few, but they are there. My hope is that this trend will continues. That open data day will continue to have meaning for individuals and hackers but will also be something that larger more established organizations, non-profits and companies will use as a rallying point as well. Something to shoot for next year.

Feedback

As I mentioned at the beginning, Open Data Day is a very decentralized event. We are, of course, not wedded to that approach and I’d love to hear feedback from people, good or bad, about worked or didn’t work. Please do feel free to email me, post it to the mailing list or simply comment below.

 

 

Postscript

Finally, some of you may have noticed I became conspicuously absent on the day. I want to apologize to everyone. My partner went into labour on Friday night and so by early morning Saturday it was obvious that my open data day was going to be spent with her. Our baby was 11 days over due so we really thought that we’d be in the clear by Dec 3rd… but our baby had other plans. The good news is that despite 35 hours of labour, baby and boy are doing well!

Using Open Data to Map Vancouver’s Trees

This week, in preparation for the International Open Data Hackathon on Saturday, the Vancouver Parks Board shared one neighborhood of its tree inventory database (that I’ve uploaded to Buzzdata) so that we could at least see how it might be leveraged by citizens.

What’s interesting is how valuable this data is already (and why it should be open). As it stands this data could be used by urban landscape students and architects, environmentalists, and of course academics and scientists. I could imagine this data would even be useful for analyzing something as obtuse as the impact of the tree’s Albedo effect on the city’s climate. Of course, locked away in the city’s data warehouse, none of those uses are possible.

However, as I outlined in this blog post, having lat/long data would open up some really fun possibilities that could promote civic engagement. People could adopt trees, care for them, water them, be able to report problems about a specific tree to city hall. But to do all this we need to take the city’s data and make it better – specifically, identify the latitude and longitude of each tree. In addition to helping citizens it might make the inventory more use to the city (if they chose to use it) as well as help out the other stakeholders I outlined above.

So here’s what I’ve scoped out would be ideal to do.

Goal

Create an app that would allow citizens to identify the latitude and longitude of trees that are in the inventory.

Data Background

A few things about the city’s tree inventory data. While they don’t have an actual long/lat for each individual tree, they do register trees by city address. (Again, you can look at the data yourself here.) But this means that we can narrow the number of trees down based on proximity to the user.

Process

So here is what I think we need to be able to do.

  1. Convert the addresses in the inventory into a format that can be located within Google Maps
  2. Just show the trees attached to addresses that are either near the user (on a mobile app), or near addresses that are currently visible within Google Maps (on a desktop app).
  3. Enable the user to add a lat/long to a specific tree’s identification number.

Awesome local superstar coder/punk rock star Duane Nickull whipped together a web app that would allow one to map lat/longs. So based on that, I could imagine at desktop app that allows you to map trees remotely. This obviously would not work for many trees, but it would work for a large number.

Tree-MApper-Screen-shot-11

You’ll notice in the right-hand corner, I’ve created an illustrative list of trees to choose from. Obviously, given the cross-section of the city we are looking at, it would be much longer, but if you were zoomed in all the way I could imagine it was no longer than 5-20.

I’ve also taken the city’s data and parsed it in a way that I think makes it easier for users to understand.

tree-language-parsed

This isn’t mind-blowing stuff, but helpful. I mean who knew that dbh (diameter at breast height) was an actual technical term when measuring tree diameters! I’ve also thrown in some hyperlinks (it would be nice to have images people can reference) so users can learn about the species and ideally, even see a photo to compare against.

Tree-Mapper-Screenshot-2

So, in short, you can choose a tree, locate it in Google Maps and assign a lat/long to it. In Google Maps where you can zoom even closer than ESRI, you could really pick out individual trees.

In addition to a desktop web app, I could imagine something similar for the iPhone where it locates you using the GPS, identifies what trees are likely around you, and gives you a list such as the one on the right hand side of the screenshot above, the user then picks a tree from the list that they think they’ve identified, stands next to the tree and then presses a button in the app that assigns the lat/long of where they are standing to that tree.

International Open Data Hackathon, Dec 3rd. It's coming together.

So a number of things have started to really come together for this Saturday Dec 3rd. I’ve noticed a number of new cities being tweeted about (hello Kuala Lumpur & Oakland!) and others adding themselves to the wiki. Indeed, we seem to be above 40 cities. It is hard to know how many people will be showing up in each given city, but in Vancouver I know that we already over 20 registered, while in Ottawa they are well above 40. If other cities have similar numbers it’s a great testament to the size of the community out there interested in playing with open government data.

A few thoughts to share with people as we get ready for the big day.

1. Leverage existing projects.

I’ve mentioned a few times that there are some great existing projects out there that can be easily leveraged.

In that vein I’ve noticed the good people at the Open Knowledge Foundation, who are behind OpenSpending (the project that powers WherDoesMyMoneyGo.org) have not only made their software easier to use but have put up some helpful instructions for creating your own instance up on the wiki. One hope I have for Saturday is that a number of different places might be able to visualize local budgets in much easier to understand ways. OpenSpending has the potential of being an enormously helpful tool for communities trying to understand their budget – hopefully we can provide some great examples and feedback for its creators.

In addition, the folks at MySociety have provided some helpful advice on the wiki for those interested in spinning up a version of MapIt for their country.

2. Get Data Now, Not on Saturday!

Here in Vancouver, my friend Luke C asked if we could get bicycle accident data for the city or province as he wanted to play around with it and maybe visualize it on December 3rd. It just so happened I had a contact at the Insurance Company of British Columbia (ICBC) which insures every vehicle in the province. I reached out and, after going through their request process, now have the data set to share with Luke.

The key piece here: now is the time to check and see if data you are interested in is available, see investigate what is out there, and request it from various stakeholders if it is not.

3. Share Your Code, Share your Data

Indeed, one advantage of having the BC bicycle accident data early is that I can start sharing it with people immediately. I’ve already uploaded the data set (all 6400 lines) onto BuzzData’s site here so others can download it, clone it, and share their own work on it. That way, even if Luke and I get separated, he’s still got something to hack on!

So please do let people know where they can find data you are hacking on, as well as project you’re hacking on. The Open Data Day Projects 2011 wiki page currently sits empty (as should be expected). But take a swing by the page 2010 project page, notice how it is quite full… I’d love to see us replicate this success. I’m hoping people link to not just their projects, but also Github repos, scraperwiki creations, BuzzData accounts and other places.

If you have a project and you think people in open data day hackathons in other cities might be interested, put it in the project page and tweet about it using the #odhd hashtag. You may discover there are people out there who feel as passionately about your project as you do!

4. Let’s Get Connected

Speaking of sharing, my friend Edward O-G, who is organizing the hackathon in Ottawa, did a great job last year setting up some infrastructure so people from different hackathons could video conference with one another. This year I think we’ll try using Google hangouts on google+. However, there is a non-trivial risk that this will not scale super well.

So…

Edward also suggested (brilliantly) that people create YouTube videos of whatever they create during the hackathon or in the days and weeks that follow. Please post those links to the Open Data Day Projects 2011 wiki page as well. There were a few projects last year that had youtube videos and they were very helpful, particularly when a project isn’t quite ready for prime time. It gives us a taste of what will be available. It also becomes something we can point people to.

5. Have Fun, Do What Is Interesting

Remember, Open Data Day is about meeting people, learning about open data, and working on something that you feel passionate about. This is all very decentralized and informal – no one is going to come and save your hackathon… it is up to you! So make sure you find something you think is worth caring about and work on it. Share your idea, and your passion, with others, that’s what makes this fun.

Can’t wait to hear what people are up to. Please feel free to email or tweet at me what you’re working on. I’d love to hear about it and blog about them.

 

Here in Vancouver, the open data hackathon will be happening at the offices of FoodTree, which has some of its own developers working on Open Food data.(If you haven’t signed up yet, definitely do so here).

 

 

Open Data Day – a project I'd like to be doing

As some readers and International Open Data Hackathon participants know, I’m really keen on developers reusing each others code. All too often, in hackathons, we like to build something from scratch (which can be fun) but I’ve always liked the idea of hackathons either spurring genuine projects that others can reuse, or using a hackathon as an excuse to find a project they’d like support and contribute to.

That’s why I’ve been really encouraging people to find open source projects out there that they’d find interesting and that will support others efforts. This is a big reason I’ve been thinking about MapIt and the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Where does my Money Go project.

In Vancouver, one project I’m eventually hoping we can contribute to is Adopt-a-Hydrant. A project out of Code for America, the great thing about Adopt-a-Hydrant is that it can be adapted to become an adopt an anything app. It’s the end goal of a project I’m hoping to plan out and start on during the Hackathon.

Here in Vancouver, I’ve been talking with the Parks Board around getting a database of all the cities trees opened up. Interestingly this dataset does not include location data (Lat/Long) for each tree… So what would initially be great is to build a mobile phone app that will show you a list of trees near the address the user is currently at, and then allow the user to use their phone’s GPS to add the lat/long data to the database. That way we can help augment the city’s database. Once you begin to add lat long data then you could map trees in Adopt-a-Hydrant and create an Adopt-a-Tree app. Citizens could then sign up to adopt a tree, offer to take care of it, maybe notify the parks board if something is wrong.

I consider this a fairly ambitious project, but it could end up engaging a number of stakeholders – students, arborists, retirees, and others – that don’t normally engage in open data.

I know that the crew organizing a hackathon in Hamilton, Ontario are also looking to create an instance of Adopt-a-Hydrant, which is awesome. We need to both track what worked and what didn’t work so that the kinks in Adopt-a-hydrant can be worked out. More users and developers like us will help refine it further.

If you are planning a hackathon for the Dec 3rd International Open Data Hackathon, please be sure to update the wiki, join the mailing list, and if you have a project your are planning on working on, please email the list, or me directly, I’d love to blog about it!