Building the Future of Open Data: Part 2

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,, OpenDataPhilly or London DataStore, just to name a few.  Because I was in San Francisco for this event, I visited 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

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

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: