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Getting hold of open knowledge and data
Facilitated by Sarah Hardy from the Guardian, Open Data: Moving the Immovable invited a panel of experts, who represented different sides of the ‘data debate’, to talk about their experience in this area.
Rather than take you through the session point by point, I thought I’d pull out some of the useful hints and tips that the panel shared in terms of getting hold of public information (‘open knowledge’ and ‘open data’) and the networks that you can get involved in.
Getting hold of public data
Will Perrin, a government web innovator and community activist who runs Talk About Local, described three different ways of getting hold of public data.
- Bulldozer approach - Involves using brute force to get hold of public information and data. A recent civic example is Birmingham City Council Do It Yourself. This unofficial local council website is made by a group of developers who strip data from the official Birmingham City Council website, to build an improved version. It makes information easier to find, makes it easy to report problems and view planning applications in your local area.
- Ferret method - Involves finding people on the inside of an organisation who are willing to work with you and get ‘specific data’ on your behalf. An example of this in practice is the UK’s road cycling black spots map which displays raw data pinpointing cycling deaths and injuries across the nation. Previously - these statistics were published, but the raw data was unavailable.
- Avalaunche - Involves making a barrage of Freedom of Information requests to local and national government departments. The trick to success is to ask for specific data in your application. On average, you’ll receive the raw data (csv/xls) within three months.
Ways to get involved
Here’s a list of existing networks that you can get involved in if you’re interested in working with public information and data:
I’ll sign off with a quote from James Darling of Rewired State, that sums up the approach many people who work in this area take, as they go about getting hold of public data and information - ‘Ask forgiveness later, not permission first folks’.