International open data hackathon--It’s coming together | Opensource.com

International open data hackathon--It’s coming together

Posted 30 Nov 2011 by 

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International open data hackathon--It’s coming together
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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, 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).

This article was originally published on eaves.ca and is repos
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A public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert David is retained by several governments to advise on open government and open data, works with two spin-offs of the Harvard Negotiation Project and advises businesses on open source strategies and community management.

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