Tag Archives: vancouver

Creating effective open government portals

In the past few years a number of governments have launched open data portals. These sites, like www.data.gov or data.vancouver.ca share data – in machine readable formats (e.g. that you can play with on your computer) that government agencies collect.

Increasingly, people approach me and ask: what makes for a good open data portal? Great question. And now that we have a number of sites out there we are starting to learn what makes a site more or less effective. A good starting point for any of this is 8 Open Government principles, and for those newer to this discussion, there are the 3 laws of open data (also available in German Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Dutch and Russian).

But beyond that, I think there are some pretty tactical things, data portal owners should be thinking about. So here are some issues I’ve noticed and thought might be helpful.

1. It’s all about automating the back end

Probably the single greatest mistake I’ve seen governments make is, in the rush to get some PR or meet an artificial deadline, they create a data portal in which the data must be updated manually. This means that a public servant must run around copying the data out of one system, converting (and possibly scrubbing it of personal and security information) and then posting it to the data portal.

There are a few interrelated problems with this approach. Yes, it allows you to get a site up quickly but… it isn’t sustainable. Most government IT departments don’t have a spare body that can do this work part time, even less so if the data site were to grow to include 100s or 1000s of data sets.

Consequently, this approach is likely to generate ill-will towards the government, especially from the very community of people who could and should be your largest supporters: local tech advocates and developers.

Consider New York, here is a site where – from I can tell – the data is not regularly updated and grumblings are getting louder. I’ve heard similar grumblings out of some developers and citizens in Canadians cities where open data portals get trumpeted despite infrequent updates and having few data sets available.

If you are going to launch an open data portal, make sure you’ve figured out how to automate the data updates first. It is harder to do, but essential. In the early days open data sites often live and die based on the engagement of a relatively small community or early adopters – the people who will initially make the data come alive and build broader awareness. Frustrate the community and the initiative will have a harder time gaining traction.

2. Keep the barriers low

Both the 8 principles and 3 laws talk a lot about licensing. Obviously there are those who would like the licenses on many existing portals to be more open, but in most cases the licenses are pretty good.

What you shouldn’t do is require users to register. If the data is open, you don’t care who is using it and indeed, as a government, you don’t want the hassle of tracking them. Also, don’t call your data open if members must belong to a educational institution or a non-profit. That is by definition not data that is open (I’m looking at you StatsCan, its not liberated data if only a handful of people can look at it, sadly, you’re not the only site to do this). Worst is one website that, in order to access the online catalogue you have to fax in a form outlining who you are.

This is the antithesis of how an open data portal should work.

3. Think like (or get help from) good librarians and designers

The real problem is when sites demand too much of users to even gain access to the data. Readers of this blog know about my feelings regarding Statistics Canada’s website, the data always seems to be one click away. Of course, that’s if you even think you are able to locate the data you are interested in, which usually seems impossible to find.

And yes, I know that Statistics Canada’s phone operators are very helpful and can help you locate datasets quickly – but I submit to you that this is a symptom of a problem. If every time I went to Amazon.com I had to call a help desk to find the book I was interested in I don’t think we’d be talking about how great Amazon’s help desk was. We’d be talking about how crappy their website is.

The point here is that an open data site is likely to grow. Indeed, looking at data.gov and data.gov.uk these sites now have thousands of data sets on them. In order to be navigable they need to have excellent design. More importantly, you need to have a new breed of librarian – one capable of thinking in the online space – to help create a system where data sets can be easily and quickly located.

This is rarely a problem early on (Vancouver has 140 data sets up, Washington DC, around 250, these can still be trolled through without a sophisticated system). But you may want to sit down with a designer and a librarian during these early stages to think about how the site might evolve so that you don’t create problems in the future.

4. Feedback

Finally, I think good open data portals want, and even encourage feedback. I like that data.vancouver.ca has a survey on the site which asks people what data sets they would be interested in seeing made open.

But more importantly, this is an area where governments can benefit. No data set is perfect. Most have a typo here or there. Once people start using your data they are going to find mistakes.

The best approach is not to pretend like the information is perfect (it isn’t, and the public will have less confidence in you if you pretend this is true). Instead, ask to be notified about errors. Remember, you are using this data internally, so any errors are negatively impacting your own planning and analysis. By harnessing the eyes of the public you will be able to identify and fix problems more quickly.

And, while I’m sure we all agree this is probably not the case, maybe the face that the data us public, there will be a small added incentive to fixing it quickly. Maybe.


Creating Open Data Apps: Lessons from Vantrash Creator Luke Closs

Last week, as part of the Apps for Climate Action competition (which is open to anyone in Canada), I interviewed the always awesome Luke Closs. Luke, along with Kevin Jones, created VanTrash, a garbage pick up reminder app that uses open data from the City of Vancouver. In it, Luke shares some of the lessons learned while creating an application using open data.

As the deadline for the Apps for Climate Action competition approaches (August 8th) we thought this might help those who are thinking about throwing their hat in the ring last minute.

Some key lessons from Luke:

  • Don’t boil the ocean: Keep it simple – do one thing really, really well.
  • Get a beta up fast: Try to scope something you can get a rough version working in day or evening – that is a sure sign that it is doable
  • Beta test: On friends and family. A lot.
  • Keep it fun: do something that develops a skill or let’s you explore a technology you’re interested in

ChangeCamp Vancouver, GovCamp Toronto & Open Data Hackathon

For those in Vancouver, ChangeCamp will be taking place Saturday at the W2 Storyeum on 151 W Cordova. You can register here and propose sessions in advance here. I know I’ll be there and I am looking forward to hearing about interesting local projects and trying to find ways to contribute to them.

I’ll probably submit a brain storming session on datadotgc.ca – there are some exciting developments in the work around the website I’d like to test out on an audience. I’d also be interested in a session that asks people about apps they’d like to create using open data. It will be interesting to get a better sense of additional data sets people would like to request from the city.

Out in Toronto, I’ll be speaking at GovCamp Toronto on June 17th at the Toronto Reference Library. I’m not sure how registration is going to work but I would keep an eye on this page if you are interested.

Finally, on the 17th SAP will be hosting an open data hackathon for developers in Vancouver. A great opportunity to come out and work on projects related to Apps 4 Climate Action or open data projects using city of Vancouver data (or both!). I was really impressed to hear that in Ottawa a 130 people came to the first open data hackathon – would love to help foster a community like that here in Vancouver. You can RSVP for this event here.

Hope to see you at these events!

Apps for Climate Action Update – Lessons and some new sexy data

ttl_A4CAOkay, so I’ll be the first to say that the Apps4Climate Action data catalog has not always been the easiest to navigate and some of the data sets have not been machine readable, or even data at all.

That however, is starting to change.

Indeed, the good news is three fold.

First, the data catalog has been tweaked and has better search and an improved capacity to sort out non-machine readable data sets. A great example of a government starting to think like the web, iterating and learning as the program progresses.

Second, and more importantly, new and better sets are starting to be added to the catalog. Most recently the Community Energy and Emissions Inventories were released in an excel format. This data shows carbon emissions for all sorts of activities and infrastructure at a very granular level. Want to compare the GHG emissions of a duplex in Vancouver versus a duplex in Prince George? Now you can.

Moreover, this is the first time any government has released this type of data at all, not to mention making it machine readable. So not only have the app possibilities (how green is your neighborhood, rate my city, calculate my GHG emissions) all become much more realizable, but any app using this data will be among the first in the world.

Finally, probably one of the most positive outcomes of the app competition to date is largely hidden from the public. The fact that members of the public have been asking for better data or even for data sets at all(!) has made a number of public servants realize the value of making this information public.

Prior to the competition making data public was a compliance problem, something you did but you figured no one would ever look at or read it. Now, for a growing number of public servants, it is an innovation opportunity. Someone may take what the government produces and do something interesting with it. Even if they don’t, someone is nonetheless taking interest in your work – something that has rewards in of itself. This, of course, doesn’t mean that things will improve over night, but it does help advance the goal of getting government to share more machine readable data.

Better still, the government is reaching out to stakeholders in the development community and soliciting advice on how to improve the site and the program, all in a cost-effective manner.

So even within the Apps4Climate Action project we see some of the changes the promise of Government 2.0 holds for us:

  • Feedback from community participants driving the project to adapt
  • Iterations of development conducted “on the fly” during a project or program
  • Success and failures resulting in queries in quick improvements (release of more data, better website)
  • Shifting culture around disclosure and cross sector innovation
  • All on a timeline that can be measured in weeks

Once this project is over I’ll write more on it, but wanted to update people, especially given some of the new data sets that have become available.

And if you are a developer or someone who would like to do a cool visualization with the data, check out the Apps4Climate Action website or drop me an email, happy to talk you through your idea.

Open Data: An Example of the Long Tail of Public Policy at Work

VancouverGraffiti_AnalysisAs many readers know, Vancouver passed what has locally been termed the Open3 motion a year ago and has had a open data portal up and running for several months.

Around the world much of the focus of open data initiatives have focused on the development of applications like Vancouver’s Vantrash, Washington DC’s Stumble Safely or Toronto’s Childcare locator. But the other use of data portals is to actually better understand and analyze phenomena in a city – all of which can potentially lead to a broader diversity of perspectives, better public policy and a more informed public and/or decision makers.

I was thus pleased to find out about another example of what I’ve been calling the Long Tail of Public Policy when I received an email from Victor Ngo, a student at the University of British Columbia who just completed his 2nd year in the Human Geography program with an Urban Studies focus (He’s also a co-op student looking for a summer job – nudge to the City of Vancouver).

It turns out that last month, he and two classmates did a project on graffiti occurrence and its relationship to land use, crime rates, and socio-economic variables. As Victor shared with me:

It was a group project I did with two other members in March/April. It was for an introductory GIS class and given our knowledge, our analysis was certainly not as robust and refined as it could have been. But having been responsible for GIS analysis part of the project, I’m proud of what we accomplished.

The “Graffiti sites” shapefile was very instrumental to my project. I’m a big fan of the site and I’ll be using it more in the future as I continue my studies.

So here we have University students in Vancouver using real city data to work on projects that could provide some insights, all while learning. This is another small example of why open data matters. This is the future of public policy development. Today Victor may be a student, less certain about the quality of his work (don’t underestimate yourself, Victor) but tomorrow he could be working for government, a think tank, a consulting firm, an insurance company or a citizen advocacy group. But wherever he is, the open data portal will be a resource he will want to turn to.

With Victor’s permission I’ve uploaded his report, Graffiti in the Urban Everyday – Comparing Graffiti Occurrence with Crime Rates, Land Use, and Socio-Economic Indicators in Vancouver, to my site so anyone can download it. Victor has said he’d love to get people’s feedback on it.

And what was the main drawback of using the open data? There wasn’t enough of it.

…one thing I would have liked was better crime statistics, in particular, the data for the actual location of crime occurrence. It would have certainly made our analysis more refined. The weekly Crime Maps that the VPD publishes is an example of what I mean:

http://vancouver.ca/police/CrimeMaps/index.htm

You’re able to see the actual location where the crime was committed. We had to tabulate data from summary tables found at:

http://vancouver.ca/police/organization/planning-research-audit/neighbourhood-statistics.html

To translate: essentially the city releases this information in a non-machine-readable format, meaning that citizens, public servants at other levels of government and (I’m willing to wager) City of Vancouver public servants outside the police department have to recreate the data in a digital format. What a colossal waste of time and energy. Why not just share the data in a structured digital way? The city already makes it public, why not make it useful as well? This is what Washington DC (search crime) and San Francisco have done.

I hope that more apps get created in Vancouver, but as a public policy geek, I’m also hoping that more reports like these (and the one Bing Thom architects published on the future of Vancouver also using data from the open data catalog) get published. Ultimately, more people learning, thinking, writing and seeking solutions to our challenges will create a smarter, more vibrant and more successful city. Isn’t that what you’d want your city government (or any government, really…) to do?

On Journalism & Crowdsourcing: the good, the bad, the ugly

Last week the Vancouver Sun (my local paper) launched a laudable experiment. They took all of the campaign finance data from the last round of municipal elections in the Lower Mainland (the Greater Vancouver area in Canada) and posted a significant amount of it on their website. This is exactly the type of thing I’ve been hoping that newspapers would do more of in Canada (much like British newspapers – especially The Guardian – have done). I do think there are some instructive lessons, so here is a brief list of what I think is good, bad and ugly about the experiment.

The Good:

That it is being done at all. For newspapers in Canada to do anything other than simply repackage text that was (or wasn’t) going to end up in the newsprint sadly still counts as innovation here. Seriously, someone should be applauding the Vancouver sun team. I am. I hope you will to. Moreover, enabling people to do some rudimentary searches is interesting – mostly as people will want to see who the biggest donors are. Of course, no surprise to learn that in many cases the biggest donors in municipal elections (developers) give to all the major parties or players… just to cover their bets. Also interesting is that they’ve invited readers to add “If you find something interesting in the database that you want to share with other readers, go to The Sun’s Money & Influence blog at vancouversun.com/influence and post a comment” and is looking for people to sniff out news stories.

While it is great that the Vancouver Sun has compiled this data, it will be interesting to see who, if anyone uses their data. A major barrier here is the social contract between the paper and those it is looking to engage. The paper won’t actually let you access the data – only run basic searches. This is because they don’t want readers running off and doing something interesting with the data on another website. But this constraint also means you can’t visualize it, (for example put it into a spread sheet and graph) or try to analyze it in some interesting ways. Increasingly our world isn’t one where we tell the story in words, we tell is visually with graphs, charts and visuals… that is the real opportunity here.

I know a few people who would love to do something interesting with the data (like John Jensen or Luke Closs), if they could access it. I also understand that the Vancouver Sun wants the discussion to take place on their page. But if you want people to use the data and do something interesting with it, you have to let them access it: that means downloading it or offering up an API (This is what The Guardian, a newspaper that is serious about letting people use their data, does.). What the Sun could have done was distribute it with an attribution license, so that anybody who used the API had to at least link back to The Sun. But I don’t know a single person out there who with or without a license wouldn’t have linked back to the Sun, thanked them, and driven a bunch a traffic to them. Moreover, if The Sun had a more open approach, it could have likely even enlisted people to to data entry on campaign donations in other districts around the province. Instead, many of the pages for this story sit blank. There are few comment but some like these two that are not relevant and the occasional gem like this one). There is also one from John Jensen, open data hackathon regular who has been trying to visualize this data for months but been unable to since typing up all the data has been time consuming.

At the end of the day, if you want readers to create content for you, to sniff out stories and sift through data, you have to trust them, and that means giving them real access. I can imagine that feels scary. But I think it would work out.

The Ugly:

The really ugly part about this story is that the Vancouver Sun needed to do all this data entry in the first place. Since campaigns are legally required to track donations most track them using… MicroSoft Excel. Then, because the province requires that candidates disclose donations the city in which the candidate is running insists that they submit the list of donations in print. Then that form gets scanned and saved as a PDF. If, of course, the province’s campaign finance law’s were changed so as to require you to submit your donations in an electronic format, then all of the data entry the Sun had to do would disappear and suddenly anyone could search and analyze campaign donations. In short, even though this system is suppose to create transparency, we’ve architected it to be opaque. The information is all disclosed, we’ve just ensured that it is very difficult and expensive to sort through. I’m sadly, not confident that the BC Election Task Force is going to change that although I did submit this as a recommendation.

Some Ideas:

1) I’d encourage the Vancouver Sun to make available the database they’ve cobbled together. I think if they did, I know I would be willing to help bring together volunteers to add donation data from more municipalities and to help create some nice visualizations of the data. I also think it would spark a larger discussion both on their website, and elsewhere across the internet (and possibly even other mediums) around the province. This could become a major issue. I even suspect that there would be a number of people at the next open data hackathon who would take this issue up.

2) Less appealing is to scrape the data set off the Vancouver Sun’s website and then do something interesting with it. I would, of course, encourage whoever did that to attribute the good work of the Vancouver Sun, link back to them and even encourage readers to go and participate in their discussion forum.

Case Study: 3 Ways Open Data are making Vancouver better

It is still early days around the use of Open Data in Vancouver but already a number of interesting things are afoot.

Everybody here knows about Vantrash – which has just garnered its 1500th user. Our goal was to get to 2500 users (as this would represent 1% of the city’s households) and would really be more like 3% market penetration given that many households have private garbage contractors. This without any advertising or marketing.

But Vantrash is no longer the only example of open data hard at work. Three other stories have emerged – each equally interesting:

Big Players Start to Experiment – Microsoft:

Microsoft recently held an internal apps competition – I served as a judge – and many of the winners I blogged about back in February have been released and updated for public use (and the code, so that others can fork or improve the applications). Indeed, on Thursday at Goldfish in Yaletown, Microsoft held a demo event so people could see what they’ve been up to. (There’s a full article here.)

My favourite was VanPark2010 – an application for finding parking spaces, and parking meter costs/hr around the city. One of the things I loved about this app is how it prompted other actors – like the various parking companies to share some of their data as well.

Also of interest is VanGuide (also available on the iPhone, yes, a Microsoft app coded for the iPhone…) – a platform any number of companies could use to create mashups of whatever they wanted around a map of Vancouver. Personally, I like the geo-tagged tweet indicator – let’s you see what people who geo-tag their tweets within Vancouver are talking about.

The linked news article above also talks about FreeFinders (another app that some local newspapers or arts groups should consider looking at) that can allow you to see what free events are taking place around the city; MoBuddy (for planning trips and then caching your trip plans so you don’t have to use data roaming when traveling) and Mapway.

The lesson: A large company like Microsoft can see open data as a catalyst for new applications and services, and for getting developers excited about Microsofts tools. They are willing to experiment and see open data as part of the future of a software/service ecosystem.

Open Data Drives Research and Development:

Over at the Centre for Digital Media at the Great Northern Way campus, a group of students has being experimenting with the city’s open data catalog and Bing Maps and have created a taxi simulator that allows you to drive through the streets of downtown Vancouver. This is exactly the type of early R&D that cities that do open data get to capitalize on. In the future I can imagine not only video games being developed that use open data, but also driving or even traffic simulators. I’m really pumped about the great work the Taxicity team at GNW has been doing (and, full disclosure, it has been a real pleasure advising them). Check out their website here – and yes, that it me in the Ryerson sweatshirt…

Open Data Allows for Better Policy-Making and Research:

For a policy wonk like me I’m really excited about this last example.Bing Thom Architects Foundation released a report analyzing the impact of rising sea levels on the City of Vancouver. In a recent Georgia Straight article on the report, the researchers explained how:

The firm was able to conduct this research thanks to the city’s open-data catalogue, which makes information about the shoreline available on the city’s Web site. Heeney, Keenan, and Yan recently visited the Georgia Straight office to talk about their work, which examined the impact of sea level rising in one-metre increments up to seven metres.

Now city councilors are better able to assess the risks and costs around rising sea levels thanks, in part, to open data. This is the type of analysis and knowledge I hoped open data would enable – so great to see it happening so quickly. (sorry for the lack of link – I’ve been unable to find a link to the report, will post it as soon as I find it)

21st Century Olympics

Just resting now after a few wild days closing off out the Olympics.

My sense is that, despite the grumblings of the UK press (which has some pretty good reasons to set the bar low), these Olympics will get good marks. Athletes got to venues on time, the infrastructure was able to handle the crowds and people had fun. For Canadians there were the added benefits of owning the podium working and, of course, a gold medal in hockey. Things did go wrong, but they were in largely beyond the control of the organizers (it would be great if we could make it snow or stop an El Nino but happily, we can’t) or – in the case of the Olympic Cauldron – they were dealt with.

I had a number of wonderful experiences. I was able to be at the Canada-Russia game. I met a few athletes, even saw a few medalists – and was (very generously) given 5th row tickets to the men’s hockey bronze medal games by Bryce Davidson. I held an Olympics torch, saw the Stanley Cup and got to see the fireworks display at LiveCity in Yaletown. Moreover, I get to ride the Canada Line – the subway to Richmond and the Airport that was built for the Olympics – almost everyday.

All this to say – I had a great time.

But having witnessed two weeks of Olympics I can help but feel there is an underlying challenge for the Olympics – one that emerges from the security concerns of a post-September 11th world and the Olympic Committees obsession with ensuring that only its sponsors are able to advertise, broadcast or even talk about the Olympics.

As technology improves the capacity of the Olympics to prevent people from broadcasting live from the Olympics is going to become increasingly challenging. The Olympics is maybe one of the best examples of an entire jurisdiction being controled so that – to paraphrase Lawrence Lessig – a legal structure, as opposed to technology, becomes the limit free speech and expression. Increasingly, truly free societies may begin to balk at the restrictions the IOC wishes to place not just on corporations but on citizens who are hosting the games. This is also true of the security required to host theses events. The Winter Olympics are relatively small and – security he was very present but not overwhelming. But only by post-September 11th standards. The fact is that, unlike in Calgary, today the venues are fenced off and secured – leaving the Olympics at times feeling a little more like a G20 event than a celebration. Or perhaps, to be more fair, there are really two Olympics – that going on behind the fence, and the rest taking place in the city.

In short, I begin to wonder how many communities – especially those within liberal democracies where individual rights are well established – are going to want to bid on the Olympics. Perhaps the biggest risk is that the IOC, in a bid to sustain its business model, will find itself increasingly having to partner with cities in countries with perhaps not the strongest human rights or democratic standards precisely because it is only those places that can enforce the rules (both in terms of safety and licensing) that that IOC will demand.

I think Vancouver avoided the security excesses people feared about but it isn’t hard to see – looking at Vancouver – the dangerous direction the Olympics could be headed in. And that would be tragedy. Whatever people may say, the Olympics remain a powerful symbol for peace and global brotherhood. Moreover, if done right they can leave host cities with important legacy infrastructure projects (again – the Canada Line stands out). But if the business model of the Olympics mean that it must lock down the cities that host it the costs may simply become too high for most communities.

My sense is that a re-imagining of the Olympics business model is probably in order – one that will allow it to respond to the realities of a networked 21st century world and that re-balance safety concerns with the need to create an environment that is fun and open. Moreover, such a re-imagining would be a fantastic project – something that might revitalize the Olympics in other powerful ways – making it more open, accessible and inspiring, in short, an Olympics that is relevant and ready for the 21st century.

Conservative Senator Talks Harm Reduction

First, for those who have not seen it Maxine Davis, Executive Director of the Dr. Peter Foundation has an important op-ed in the Vancouver Sun titled Attention Ottawa: Insite is a health care service.

More intriguing Safe Games 2010 and the Keeping the Door Open Society (which, for full disclosure, I sit on the board of) are hosting a panel discussion on harm reduction. One of the speakers will be Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, who sits as a Conservative and has been deeply supportive of harm reduction strategies generally and the four pillars strategy specifically here in Vancouver.

For those in Vancouver who are interested in the event – details below. Hope to see you there.

Keeping the Door Society and SafeGames 2010

invite you to attend

Global Insite – A panel discussion and public dialogue on Vancouver’s

innovative response to the international question of What to do About Drugs?

WHEN:

Friday 19th February 2010

7.00 pm – 9.00 pm; doors open 6.30 pm

WHERE:

Japanese Language Hall

487 Alexander Street @ Jackson Street / Vancouver

SPEAKERS

  • DR. ETHAN A. NADELMANN Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance; New York
  • SENATOR PIERRE CLAUDE NOLIN, Senate of Canada; Ottawa
  • LIZ EVANS Executive Director, Portland Hotel Society; Vancouver
  • DONALD MACPHERSON Co-founder, Canadian Drug Policy Consortium; Vancouver
  • SHARON MESSAGE Past President, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users; Vancouver
  • TARA LYONS Executive Director, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Canada
  • GILLIAN MAXWELL (mc) Project Director, Keeping the Door Open Society, Vancouver

Please join us to hear a panel of experts discuss the Canadian Government’s recent announcement that it will continue its efforts to close down Insite – North America’s only legal supervised injection site.  We invite you to participate in the dialogue that will follow.

How Vancouver's Open Data Community Helped Open Up the French CBC

For those uninterested in the story below and who just want the iCal feed of cultural events in Vancouver, click here.

Also, I had a piece on the Globe site yesterday, was in the air all day, but was told it hit #1 most viewed, which, if true, is nice. You can read it here.

A couple of weeks ago – at a party – I met someone working at the CBC who talked about how they were organizing a calendar of all the cultural events at the Olympics. Turns out the French CBC is placing a strong emphasis on the Cultural Olympiad that is taking place concurrently to the Olympics and they were gathering all the events they could find into a spread sheet.

I commented that CBC views and listeners – French and English – would probably find such a calendar useful and that it would quite interesting if the CBC shared it as an iCal feed so that anyone could download it into their computer’s calendar.

He agreed, but was unsure how to create such a feed. Admittedly, neither was I – but I did know some people who might…

So at Vancouver’s last Open Data Hackathon – kindly hosted by the City Archives and organized by Luke C – I asked around to see if anyone might be interested in converting the spreadsheet into an ical feed. Up stepped Jason M. who did a little trouble shooting, figured out how the spreadsheet needed to be reformatted and then figured out how to convert it.

So now, if you want, you can download a fairly comprehensive list of the cultural events taking place during the Olympics straight into the calendar on your iPhone, computer, google calendar, etc…

It’s got more events than a lot of the other calendars and includes concerts being played at Maison du Quebec, Saskachewan, Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada House.

This is a bit of a shift for the CBC, the kind of shift that I think we need to be supportive of… a little more open, a little more sharing and a lot more useful. Most importantly it is a great example of how the idea of open data spreads – by being useful.