Hackathons as gateways to more and better open data

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

There is a piece up on O’Reilly Radar by Andy Oram about the sustainability of applications built during hackathons. I am involved in Hack de Overheid and we have organized (Apps for Amsterdam) and still are organizing (Apps for Noord Holland) several hackathons and I thought it would be good to add our experiences to the fray.

First: I do not agree with the premise that most apps created in government challenges are quickly abandoned. I have not done a tally of our Apps for Amsterdam contest, but the completeness and polish of most apps submitted was impressive. I still use several of the apps from that contest regularly. Snelstepontje.nl for finding out which ferry to take is a godsend just to name one.

Maintenance is indeed an issue. It is my personal experience that if the app is deployed to a suitably robust platform (Google App Engine is a notable one), it may continue to run unsupervised for many years.

But yes, I do have my own doubts when it comes to the sustainability of apps from app contests as I have stated in my review of Apps for Amsterdam.

Data quality is the largest issue on all levels and it needs to be addressed. From gathering data, to publishing it, to responding adequately to issues. Most datasets that are released for contests are not of the highest quality due to time constraints. And after the contest is over they are seldom kept up to date by the publishing office. When it comes to sustainability, government should first turn to itself and start releasing their data in a way that is sustainable.

Besides releasing the data in a proper format, a very important consideration is the licensing. Re-using data should happen under conditions as liberal as possible (CC0 preferred) as not to deter companies from investing in using that data.

But even then creating apps that are successful and sustainable at scale may be too lofty a goal. Productizing apps in a professional way implies conceiving, building and expanding a startup company. If one or more such initiatives come out of a hackathon that may be called a resounding succes. But what of the rest?

Well, communities of practice are built on exactly that: practice. Data does not overnight become readily at hand and usable. It takes a lot of hard work from all of us.

Having organized several hackdays we are seeing an increase in number of people attending and their proficiencies as well as a wider awareness of the possibilities of data in journalism, government and politics. Those are exactly the things we need if we want to make open data (and not just applications) the foundational fabric of our information society.


Dutch Data Drinks #3 — Open Data Day

Posted: November 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

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.