It’s been a bit quiet here, but to give an update: We are currently working on some data science projects for non-disclosed clients. This week also our principle participated in the Moscow Urban Forum on the subject of open data.
The year has started nicely and we already have a nice line-up of events. Thursday a week ago saw the iBestuur Congress in the Netherlands the winners of the Apps voor Nederland competition were announced. I’m pleased we managed to shape the data and developer programme of this national event and how it turned out. See a write-up of the winners over at the Hack de Overheid site. Future plans along the same track are already being worked on.
There are two upcoming events at which I will be speaking that bear mentioning here.
There will be an evening in Pakhuis de Zwijger to celebrate the Nederland van Boven television series that the VPRO produced in the Netherlands ((Borrowing conceptually from Britain from Above among others.)). I will be joining the esteemed panel there as a board member of Hack de Overheid to talk about issues of democracy, participation and truth in cartography.
The week after that there’s “Social Cities of Tomorrow”. I will be speaking in a brief timeslot about Apps for Amsterdam about how you can create a data commons for your government of organization and where to take it from there.
I have written here before about the need for web developers to learn more about GIS technologies and how to either work with or work around the traditional geographical software packages and data formats. There is a lot of synergy to be achieved in working together.
In the summer lull over at Hack de Overheid we are organizing a day of programming at a fortress which in itself already is a unique event: Apps for Noord Holland. But during the day the people from ESRI will give a workshop about geo data which we think is very worthwhile for any programmer who wants to get started in this field.
So if you want to spend a day on a fortress learning about GIS and programming, go right ahead and register. It promises to be a terrific day.
Tonight the Apps for Amsterdam awards ceremony takes place and stage one of the Dutch open data trajectory will be completed.
Last year at the end of summer I helped Thijs Kleinpaste and Stefan de Bruijn co-author a proposal to sponsor open data within the municipality of Amsterdam. This proposal was accepted near unanimously by the commission in November (full write-up) and it started a roller coaster ride for open data in Amsterdam that is now starting to have far wider effects throughout the Netherlands.
Hack de Overheid (Hack the Government), the soon-to-be foundation I’m in the board of, partnered with the City of Amsterdam and Waag Society to realize the competition and a series of events. This series culminated for us in Hack de Overheid #3 an inspiring day and hackathon for over a hundred developers who built civic apps.
The completion of the contest tonight and the sometimes stunning applications —many of which display excellence in cartography and visualization— submitted to it mark another high point I am proud to be a part of.
But as I said this completes just the first stage of what is bound to be a long and tortuous road. As we speak there are local initiatives being formed to open up data in at least Enschede, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven and the Hague. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that and if some of the smaller cities may in fact outpace us here in the capital.
But we need to do more. Recent questions about privacy violations in data releases make it more than a little obvious that there is a massive issue in data literacy. I wholeheartedly agree with Adam Greenfield if he says that data and its affordances need to be a core subject starting from school onwards. We need to explore materials, interventions and processes that allow us to teach data literacy and that allow others to teach it for us if we ever want to spread this knowledge at scale.
Literacy is required not only in school children but also in decision makers in business and government right now if we want to keep the momentum we have right now. Future developments run the risk of being hamstrung by backlashes against the malignant consequences of data or open data being unused because the ecosystem is not in tune. There are still lots of issues to be resolved around ownership, privacy, responsibility, licensing and business models.
From a commercial point of view, the sustainability of many of the applications in the contest is doubtful. Creating proof of concept apps for the data is a more than a good start, but it is by no means enough. The real need is for open but comprehensive systems where open data is a given. That data needs to be technically excellent and fully engrained in the fabric of our information society so that everybody can use it to enrich their app/site/discourse. Data owners and producers need to participate and be accountable for their data to accept feedback from the public both in the specific and in the general case. Such a system cannot be built or be static, but needs to be grown and evolve continuously. The only thing we can do is plant, nurture and weed.
So tonight will be fun, but let that not distract us from the massive amount of work still ahead. We are ready for it. Will you join us?
The agenda is filling up again just before the summer break. Alper will speak at:
- May 24th – Technical review of city dashboard concepts at HvA
A brief bit of teaching with design and technical critique of city visualization dashboards developed by students.
- May 25th – Apps for Amsterdam Awards Night
Judging and attending the awards for the Amsterdam open data application contest.
- May 27th – What Design Can Do
Presenting an engaged data-centric approach for designers’ benefit (blurb).
- Update: May 27th – Participating in an expert meeting on the topic of Cities, Games and Data organized by Virtueel Platform (our entry).
- June 6th – Spring Break Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers
Going to demo Statlas live for the first time at the congres of the people who funded it.
- June 20th – Expertisedag Journalistiek
Giving an introduction to data journalism to a large amount of journalists.
And Kars & Alper will be attending the Alice Taylor lunch lecture this Thursday in Hilversum. Talk to us at any of these events if you are present.
Alper is speaking at /dev/haag this Friday giving a presentation with the title: “Fixing reality with data visualizations” tying together a bunch of strands.
It promises to be a fun event and you can still register at meetup.
Our Alper has joined the board of Hack de Overheid a Dutch think tank that creates software and events to advance thinking about transparent government and open data in the Netherlands. Actually more of a do tank in that respect.
Each year Hack de Overheid holds a developer day where civically inclined programmers gather to exchange knowledge and create new open data projects either with government’s consent or without.
This year the devcamp is part of a broader program along with an application contest for local data and local applications in the city of Amsterdam called Apps for Amsterdam. There is a lot of momentum and it looks like open data is finally being taken seriously.
Until the event, updates here may be a bit sparse, but do register for the March 12th event if you have any interest in data and let’s create something great together.
Some minor updates from the studio.
Statlas is going into full production.
The past weeks Alper has been giving lectures at the Willem de Kooning design academy on the subject of data visualization. The students should be busy creating their projects these coming weeks and we eagerly anticipate their results.
We will be represented at the Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin this weekend to talk about city data visualization. And next week we’ll be at the Infographics conference trying to talk some sense into those that think print is the end all of data.
This opinion (in Dutch) by Ernst-Jan Pfauth about how bloggers and other people online can help make the government more transparent is in line with most current thinking on open data. It is good that message is being spread wide and far by influential people in different spheres.
Some projects we have been involved on in the past (Vervuilingsalarm, Schoolvinder) are even name checked by Ernst-Jan which is very nice except for one thing: these are prototypes we slapped together some years ago, in less than a day with minimal support AND these are still the best examples we have in the Netherlands of proper open data projects? It’s a testament to Google App Engine that these are still running and it’s a testament to the climate towards these kind of projects in the Netherlands that they have found little to no backing.
We are running into this problem when we are promoting open data in the Netherlands. It’s difficult to find sustainable, complete, thriving examples of applications built on open data like there are ample of in the USA and in the UK. So they ask: “Do you have any good examples of apps that will convince us why we should open up the data?” “Well,” we reply, “obviously if you haven’t opened much up yet, there won’t be too many good Dutch examples yet. But look at these from abroad!”
It’s a rather annoying Catch-22 that is used to justify institutional inertia. So yes, the growing mindshare around the subject is good and it’s flattering that the stuff we built is being used as the leading examples, but we will have to do better still. Stay tuned. We’re setting a bunch of stuff in motion that will nudge the status quo forward by a fair amount.
If you’ve been following the blog, you must have noticed that we are back from hiatus. There is so much happening in the field of data right now, that we would be amiss not to organize the next (third!) data drinks sooner rather that later.
Luckily we can make it coincide nicely with the Open Data Day that takes place on December 4th. We understand that it probably is Pakjesavond that evening for some, but I have opened up @ouroffice in the Volkskrantgebouw for hacking during the daytime, see the City Events page on the Open Data Day wiki.
So that constitutes a two part event:
1. Hacking — @ouroffice (2nd floor, Wibautstraat 150, ring Alper +31-6-24553306 to get in) will be open from 12:30 to 16:00 for anybody interested to drink our coffee and sit down and hack or discuss technical issues. A heads up as a comment, tweet or text that you will be there would be nice and will help us plan. The office seats around 8 people and has WiFi but that can be expanded.
2. Drinks — We will then adjourn at 16:00 for Saturday afternoon drinks to the nearby Ysbreeker (follow @MonsterSwell for updates on that) which should give everybody enough time to drink a couple of beers and then either enjoy Sinterklaas or go somewhere for dinner.
Feel free to join either: Facebook event page.
Dutch Data Drinks is an informal social event meant to get everybody interested in data together and talking to exchange information and form collaborations. Topics include: open data, transparent government, data visualization, cartography, statistics, data mining, journalism and pretty much anything generating, processing, analyzing or displaying data.
Update: It looks that there’s a bunch of interest from higher up and that during the hacking part some announcements will be made and some datasets revealed etc. More news to follow.