Azavea Atlas

Maps, geography and the web

Building the Future of Open Data: Part 2

The first part of the Building the Future of Open Data blog explored the survey results and synthesis for my Future of Open Geo Data talk at FOSS4GNA. This 2nd part explores the steps that data consumers can take to contribute to a bright future for open data.

Guidelines for Consumers

To begin with, it’s important to outline some general guidelines for data consumers utilizing open data.  These create a baseline of responsibilities that we can embrace to help support the open data ecosystem.

  • Utilizing and advocating for the use of metadata and open data standards in your work, such as GTFS or Open311.
  • Providing constructive and timely feedback to data producers for open data you download or utilize. (Many portals allow for commenting or rating of datasets, while others list contact information in metadata). Often times, the comments are used to improve the quality and accuracy of published data.
  • Inquire with your elected officials about their stance on open data. This starts an important dialog and often times exposes officials to the community of supporters for open data.
  • Build and showcase interesting projects utilizing open data. This is a fantastic way to showcase the value of open data and demonstrates the public demand for publishing and maintaining quality data

Keeping the above guidelines in mind will contribute greatly to the livelihood and perceived value of open data.

Actionable Steps for Consumers

More importantly, what actionable steps can we take as consumers of data to enrich the data ecosystem and demonstrate the high value that open data provides to the civic community?  The following easy 5-step program outlines a process that any data consumer can take to showcase the merit and value of open data.

Step 1: Visit your favorite open data portal such as: NYC OpenData, Chicago Data Portal, Data.gov, OpenDataPhilly or London DataStore, just to name a few.  Because I was in San Francisco for this event, I visited DataSF.DataSF

Step 2: Download a dataset that you’ve never worked with before. For this, I downloaded San Francisco’s Restaurant Scores from the data portal.

Step 3: Analyze the data using your favorite tools. I processed the data in QGIS and used CartoDB to create an interesting visualization of the data. The visualization displays the restaurant inspection scores as well as some additional information about each location.

Step 4: Provide feedback to the data creator on the quality or completeness of the data used in the project. This helps data providers produce better data as well as give other data consumers insight on the data.

Step 5: Share your project on twitter with hashtag #openfuture with your elected officials and tell them about the importance and value of open data. Below is my tweet to Philadelphia City Government expressing interest in the publication of similar open and standardized restaurant inspection data for the City.

Inspiring Projects

To help you get started, find some inspiration by exploring some fantastic civic projects that utilize open data sources to interpret and visualize data. It’s clear that these tools provide substantial value to their users:

David Walk’s PHL Crime Mapper Application

Image of PHL CrimeMapper Application

This application is valuable because it allows Philadelphians to explore crime data with filters that are meaningful to them (geographic area, time and crime type).  It’s fueled by City of Philadelphia’s crime data API.

James Tyack’s Unlock Philly Application

Screenshot of UnlockPhilly Application showing accessibility of transit stations

This application uses open and crowd-sourced data to let users explore accessibility of transportation stations and businesses as well as outages of accessibility features like elevators. This serves a vital need which no existing tool or service was able to serve.  Now cross-transit network accessibility is available in one easy to use site.

If you’d like to learn more about the future of open data, you can also find my slides online and can also watch a re-recording of my entire talk:

Building the Future of Open Data: Part 1

Foss4GNA Logo

At the 2015 Free and Open Source for Geo North America (FOSS4GNA) conference in San Francisco, I had the fantastic opportunity to present on the topic of the Future of Open Geo Data.

Background

words Open Data written in colorful candy. source: wiki commons.

Open government data plays a vital role in civic participation and government transparency.  Liberating data opens access to information that may have been previously unavailable, unobtainable or costly. The resulting open data can improve the transparency of government operations and encourage economic and community development. This process often starts a dialog between the government and its community which can result in important civic collaboration. There are now hundreds of cities, states and countries that operate thriving data portals and the benefits offered – economic development, transparency and citizen engagement – are proof of the value of open initiatives.

What might the future of open government data look like? How will cities evolve to meet the needs of both producers and consumers of data? How will data providers share ideas and learn from each other to create a more sustainable and harmonious open data community?

Research & Survey

I performed some background research on what others thought the future of open data might look like to answer these questions. I assembled and tested a hypothesis with a survey of ODI Nodes and other open data advocates. Twenty-seven individuals from nonprofit and commercial organizations with a strong interest in open data responded to the survey.  A few assumptions and notes about the survey:

  • I am primarily addressing open data that is released by local, state and national governments. Much other important open data exist (nonprofit, commercial, academic) but for the context of this talk, I am referring primarily to government data.
  • For the purpose of this survey and talk, I’ve defined the future as the next three years.

Below are the results of my hypothesis testing. The potential responses are organized by category , with the percentage of respondents who agreed with each item in parentheses. Respondents selected as many options per topic as they thought were applicable.

Future predictions relating to Data Standards & Quality:
  • Increased development and adoption of open data standards. (67%)
  • Integrated Portals supporting regional & national visualized open data feeds. (37%)
  • More Live data feeds (APIs, linked databases) as opposed to publishing static data sets. (56%)
Future predictions relating to Consumption & Access:
  • Published data consistently serving a variety of needs (publishing data as: viewer, download & API). (52%)
  • Open data serving as common topic of civic discourse (such as political platforms during elections). (33%)
  • More tools available (from both open and closed providers) for publishing of open data. (48%)
Future predictions relating to Adoption & Community:
  • Government policies that have power to enforce open data initiatives and goals. (48%)
  • Governments with dedicated budget & staff for open data initiatives. (59%)
  • 3rd parties with strong investment in & advocacy for open data (journalists, academics, etc). (44%)

I also solicited comments regarding aspirations for the future of open data. Here is a selection of the astute comments I received:

  • Literacy: The increase of data literacy and demystification of open data. Increased awareness from politicians of open data.
  • Operations: Transparency as part of strategic operations and requiring of open data strategy as part of bid proposals. Governments releasing not only positive datasets but also those that might make them look bad.
  • Data Publishing and Maintenance: Clean and up-to-date APIs, more crowd-sourced data integrated with public data. More open source options for publishing data.

Conclusions

What do these predictions for the future of open data mean for the creators and consumers of open geospatial data?

  1. Live data linked to downloads. When geospatial data is updated internally, the data download links are automatically updated to reflect the changes. This eliminates the manual and infrequent process of updating data download links.
  2. More data published as APIs to support application development from open data.
  3. Data designed with intent to release including thoughtful collection, metadata creation, storage, maintenance to support seamless publication.
  4. Data formats meeting needs of consumers, for example publishing data published in multiple formats to support casual user, analyst and developer needs.
  5. Geographic based discovery of spatial data with tools such as GeoBlacklight support the search of a geographic location or boundary to discover available data.
  6. Data providers embracing visualization and analysis by the public as this further demonstrates value and demand of open data.

To explore more, you can find my presentation slides and can also watch a re-recording of my entire talk:

Please also check out Part 2 of this blog post which explores actionable steps for data consumers to take to help contribute to the future success of open data.

What’s Mappening at 2015 Philly Tech Week?

Logo of Philly Tech Week 2015

Philly Tech Week, now in its fifth year, is a celebration of Philadelphia’s thriving and engaging tech scene.  This week-long festival features hundreds of events reaching a variety of topics related to technology in Philadelphia including: Creativity, Access, Civic, Media, Business and Development.  All of the past Philly Tech Weeks have had map or geography related events and this year is no different. Below is a round up on this year’s maptastic events at Philly Tech Week.

Build

On April 22nd, join GeoPhilly for a Balloon Mapping Launch at Penn’s Landing ($5)! Balloon mapping is a low-cost, easy, and safe way to capture aerial images and stitch them together to make high resolution maps. This grassroots technique has been used by journalists and community groups all over the world. One of the most interesting balloon mapping projects involved capturing images of the damage caused by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The event will kick off in the morning on the Delaware River Waterfront (in front of the Independence Seaport Museum facing the water) to launch the balloon and camera kits and collect our aerial imagery. This meetup has a second evening part on the day of the launch where you can help to stitch together the photos taken from the morning or build your own camera rig. You don’t need to attend both events, but if you’d like to, you will need RSVP for both. RSVP for the second event here. Browse stitched photos at the Public Labs archive.

Connect

The Innovation Mapped event on Sunday April 19th is a great opportunity to connect to other tech aficionados across the city.  Attendees of this event will be given a very cool poster of a map of tech innovators in Philadelphia, which includes Azavea’s location at the Wolf Building at 12th and Callowhill!

Learn

The 4th annual Women in Tech Summit with the theme Inspiring Women to take a Chance, features numerous opportunities to learn and connect. Azavea’s Sarah Cordivano with Stacey Mosely of City of Philadelphia will be teaching a workshop on Mapping the Future: A Primer in Visualizing and Analyzing Open Data. If you are attending the sold-out summit, do not miss their workshop!

Hack

The #OpenGov hackathon will be a fantastic opportunity to build new and innovative projects that support civic engagement and technology! This event will engage the tech community in building tools and resources to help citizens track the spending of tax dollars and better understand and engage in the operations of government agencies.  Open data, especially spatial data, will play a strong role in fueling the imaginations and resources built at this event!

Compete

Query Quizzo featuring Open Data is an opportunity to use your analysis expertise and the wealth of open data in Philadelphia to compete for cash prizes (while enjoying a few beers with your friends).  Attendees will work in teams to answer three rounds of questions, all which can be answered from open data provided by the School District of Philadelphia! Don’t miss this fun event!

 

Take a moment to explore the entire lineup of 2015 Philly Tech Week and find which events inspire you! We hope to see you there!

Free Cicero API credits for Apps for Philly 2015!

In honor of Apps for Philly Democracy 2015, Cicero is granting twice the free API credits to all who sign freeup this weekend. Apps for Philly is a weekend-long hackathon that brings Philadelphians together to discuss how technology can improve democracy in our city, an awesome event for which Azavea is a flagship sponsor. Cool, right?

As a proud supporter of this event, we want to encourage everyone to test out Cicero’s API with 2,000 free credits! The API matches addresses to legislative districts, both in the US and abroad. It also returns comprehensive elected official information, including district offices and social media identifiers: just the tools you need to engage in democracy your way. cicero

To sign up, simply visit our free trial page. You will instantly get 1,000 credits, which is good for 90 days. As a tribute to Apps for Philly, we’ll add 1,000 more. Happy geocoding!

GeoPhilly’s Balloon Mapping Launch: A Philly Tech Week Event

GeoPhilly, Philadelphia’s meetup group that unites developers, geographers, data geeks, open source enthusiasts, civic hackers, and map addicts in our shared love of maps and the facts they visualize and stories they tell has expanded to over 600 members in just one and a half years.  For the 2nd year in a row, we are pleased to host an event during Philly Tech Week 2015, Philadelphia’s annual festival celebrating technology and engagement organized by Technically Philly.

Flyer for balloon launch

Join us for a Balloon Mapping Launch Wednesday, April 22nd at Penns Landing ($5)! Balloon mapping is a low-cost, easy, and safe way to capture aerial images and stitch them together to make high resolution maps. This grassroots technique has been used by journalists and community groups all over the world. One of the most interesting balloon mapping projects involved capturing images of the damage caused by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

First, we will be meeting on the Delaware River Waterfront (in front of the Independence Seaport Museum facing the water) to launch our balloon and camera kits and collect our aerial imagery. This workshop will be outdoors in the city, so please dress accordingly with the weather.  (If severe rain or wind occur, we will have a rain date on Thursday April 23rd).

This meetup has a second evening part on the day of the launch where you can help to stitch together the photos taken from the morning or build your own camera rig. You don’t need to attend both events, but if you’d like to, you will need RSVP for both. RSVP for the second event here. Browse stitched photos at the Public Labs archive.

You might remember the last balloon mapping workshop organized by Hacks/Hackers meetup group during Philly Tech Week 2 years ago. Read more about balloon mapping and example uses on The Public Laboratory’s website. To get a feel for what comes out of a balloon launch, take a look at what Sean McGinnis (posts and events) and Dana Bauer (images/video) have done in past years.

Photos below by Dana Bauer from 2013 PTW Balloon Launch

Prep for Balloon Launch
Aerial Image of Delaware River
Waterfront Image