This week a small group of us from the Digital Publishing team (and one brave ‘fast-streamer’ from Methodology) ‘eased’ in to 2014 with an intensive introduction to the world of open data spread over three days and provided by various folk from the Open Data Institute.
Over the course of a full day on Monday and then afternoon sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday we covered everything from the history of the open data movement, the five stars, the tools people use to clean and use the data, the laws and licenses that underpin things to the challenges of building a business on top of open data (plus a great deal more!).
Most of this wasn’t entirely fresh information to me as I have been around the edges of the open data world (especially the academic end of things) since quite early on but I found I was constantly gaining new insights and more than once realised I had been operating under misconceptions about things (sometimes for years!).
Dave Tarrant gave a hugely useful introductory day long whistle-stop tour of the world of open data. I found the focus on the practicalities of providing data rather than aiming for a (mythical) technical perfection refreshing.
I particularly enjoyed the (intensely) interesting afternoon spent in the company of Francis Davey as he led us through the legal maze that is ‘open’, law and licensing.
I have been involved with the Creative Commons movement for years and am a supporter of the Open Rights Group as well so thought I had a pretty decent grasp on these issues. It didn’t take long though for me to realise my understanding of the issues around this topic wasn’t even superficial. The additional understanding that comes from being told why some of these things work is really valuable. It is all too easy to slap the OGL on our data and content but context is everything.
The final session was with the @madprof Jonathan Raper. Now anyone who leaves a Professorship at a leading University to found a start-up deserves respect. Even more so when it is a start-up in an area as early in development as ‘open data’ and without any clear idea of just what the market is for their services. That said Placr (via transportapi.com) is clearly finding a way to be successful and the anecdotes of life in this emerging field were stark in comparison to life in this corner of the civil service!
There was a lot in what Jonathan said that caused me to think about just how we work in the future with the people who may want to build businesses on top of the open data we are releasing. I think the day will come sooner than we realise where this will start happening and it is time to put the wheels in motion now to be able to cope.
I’d like to thank David, Francis and Jonathan for their time and providing such well thought out sessions and to the other folk at the ODI who helped us put it all together.