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At the Canadian Open Data Experience event, 14 January 2015

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 18th January 2015

Open Data logo

Open Data

On Wednesday, 14 January 2015 I registered for the Canadian Open Data Experience event called “Economic Potential of Open Data”. Speakers were to be Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board; James Moore, Minister of Industry; and Ray Sharma, creator of the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE).

Before the presentations started Tony Clement was off in a side office, unavailable for networking, and he left immediately after his presentation. James Moore was not present at all. For an Open Data event that promotes Open Government, it was a bit disappointing not to have access to the government ministers responsible for openness.

Here are some of the notes I took during the speakers’ presentations. My comments are indicated (like this).

Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board:
  • Tony Clement referred to January 2014’s CODE event as the “first Open Data hackathon” in Canada (yet Open Data Waterloo Region has been holding Open Data Hackathons and CodeFest events since 2011)
  • CODE hackathon had 900 participants, with the spotlight on the business value of Open Data
  • “Electric Sheep” was the winner of the hackathon
  • Tony Clement and James Moore are making this road trip to announce 20 — 22 February 2015 as the CODE2015 Hackathon
  • Dates intentionally chosen to coincide with the International Open Data Hackathon; hopes to have international coexistence
  • There will be cash prizes for the top three apps created during the CODE hackathon
  • Tony Clement gave some words of praise to the Canadian government, saying that Open Data allows Canada to “compete with the world”.
Ray Sharma, creator of Canadian Open Data Experience:
  • Weather and GPS are commercially successful applications of Open Data
  • National competition had 930 participants
  • Ray Sharma talked of the “power of the crowd”, mentioning Litebox, WordPress, Kickstarter and Goldcorp
  • The economic potential of Open Data is like an iceberg — most of it is below the surface
  • There will be three hubs participating in the CODE2015 hackathon: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal
  • The 2nd Generation of apps will use Open Data and Private Data, e.g. Zillo
Lan Nguyen, Deputy CIO for City of Toronto:
  • Toronto Open Data started in 2009 (although I remember Toronto setting up a blank Open Data web page after the Smart Cities conference in 2006)
  • Open Data is part of Toronto’s Open Government
  • There’s a long list of Open Datasets — Petabytes!
  • Unexpected benefits: silos of ownership; “See, Click, Fix” received 3,000 requests!
  • Commercialization of Toronto Open Data
  • Availability of budget and Council data
  • Transparent, engage citizens
  • Able to understand the outcome of Open Data
  • Liability, risk?
  • Open Data is available to everyone; it is Social Justice
  • Crowd sourcing: Encourage commercialization; partner with educational institutions
  • Next plan: Open Dashboard — reports from different stakeholders
  • Open Data is a powerful driver for Open Government
Devin Tu, founder of Map Your Property:
  • Idea for Map Your Property came from the fact that California has a single portal for geodata
  • MYP aggregates multiple datasets
  • Reports are made available in Microsoft .docx format and maps are exported as .pdf files (Oh great, Open Data in proprietary, non-consumable formats)
  • Benefits of Open Data: Entrepreneurs go to those places where there is Open Data
  • It is expensive to do business in places that don’t have Open Data!
Ryan Doherty, co-founder of IAmSick.ca:
  • Goal of IAmSick.ca: Reduce Emergency Room wait times
  • Integrated datasets? (speaking with Ryan Doherty after the presentation, I learned that much data was collected manually)
  • User tracking provides estimated wait times (are users aware their use of IAmSick.ca is being tracked? What information on users is retained? This could be a privacy leak nightmare waiting to happen. Speaking with Ryan Doherty afterwards, he assured me there was no medical information about users collected)
  • Improving business — efficiency in care delivery was apparent later

I found the focus on business interests and the competitive aspects of the CODE2015 hackathon a bit disconcerting. A cynic would say business is using $40,000 prize money in a competition as cheap bait to attract programmers to work for 24 hours straight. At 900 participants, that works out to paying only about $2.00/hour per programmer. And only four teams split the prize money, so most programmers go completely unpaid.

Still, CODE2015 only has three competitive hackathons on a weekend where the International Open Data Day holds hundreds of cooperative hackathons.

I hope OpenDataWR holds an event this year — the ones in 2013 and 2014 were fun, productive for some, and educational for all.

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Posted in Business, Open Data, Politics | 2 Comments »

@OpenDataWR hosts Open Data Day Event — Saturday, 22 Feb 2014 at @Kwartzlab #ODD2014

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 21st February 2014

Open Data Waterloo Region

 

Continuing with the theme of my personal social calendar — On Saturday, 22 February 2014 I’ll be at Open Data Waterloo Region‘s Open Data Day Event, held at Kwartzlab again this year. There’s a schedule, suggested projects, dataset lists and more on Waterloo Region‘s page on the International Open Data Day Hackathon wiki.

Last year William and I started a project to add OpenStreetMap links to Thunderbird’s Lightning calendar. We didn’t finish, so that’s one project to work on this year. Also, since last year I’ve been dabbling with the Food Premise Inspection Data to add the restaurant location data to OpenStreetMap. And I hope to be taking lots of pictures and video of the event.

Come join us! Here’s the bumf:

Event: Open Data Day Hackathon
Date: Saturday, 22 February 2014 10:00am to 4:30pm


Location: Kwartzlab Makerspace, 33 Kent Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario [Map1]
Organizer:
Open Data Waterloo Region
Online: WebRTC Video Chat on https://chatb.org/#OpenDataDay
Register: Ubuntu Canada Event Portal (optional)
ODD2014: Open Data Day Wiki – Waterloo Region

There’s an Open Data Hackathon in Guelph too, 24 hours long with a contest and prizes and everything!

Event: Open Guelph Hackathon
Start: Saturday, 22 February 2014 at 9:00am
Finish: Sunday, 23 February 2014 at 1:00pm
Location: Atrium, Science Complex, U of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East [Map2]
Website: Open Guelph Hackathon – City of Guelph
Register: Guelph Hackathon Registration, Guelph – Eventbrite
ODD2014: Open Data Day Wiki – Guelph

Be sure to register before Saturday to get in.

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Posted in Open Data | No Comments »

Wanted: Open Data Citizen’s Group in Woolwich Township

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 19th March 2013

Open Data Woolwich Township

 

Alan Marshall, known online as the Elmira Advocate, recently blogged about the lack of data transparency:

What I do know is this. Environmental data is not shared with the public. What I do know about Waterloo’s water scares me but perhaps not as much as what I don’t know.

The Region of Waterloo is gradually making its collected data available to the public in Open Data sets. This means that citizens can use and re-use the data for mapping, tracking trends, and correlating it with other data sources. The data is licensed specifically to encourage its re-use, not restrict it.

The Region of Waterloo data sets are available at http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalGovernment/OpenDataHome.asp

There is a citizens’ group called OpenDataWR that encourages governments to make their collected data available in standardized, re-usable formats. They meet occasionally to work on new applications utilizing Open Data resources.

OpenDataWR recently held a hackathon, where groups of people worked on new projects that makes uses of Open Data. It was mostly computer programmers at the hackathon, but we need advocates like Alan with deep knowledge of the data, science, and the meaning of the data so that the programmers can write better applications. We also need publicists to make the existence of Open Data more widely known, as well as the applications that make use of it. We need lobbyists to advocate for more Open Data from governments, and from commercial organizations such as Conestoga Rovers. For instance, the University of Waterloo has an Open Data project as well.

As far as I know, Woolwich Township doesn’t have an Open Data project, or even a policy about making its data available in open formats. For example, even something so fundamental as the Woolwich Council meeting calendar is not made available in a standard calendar format, so you can’t easily add Council meetings to your own iPad or Outlook calendar.

It would be nice to have an Open Data advocacy group in Woolwich Township. There’s certainly enough data, just no good way to get at it.

Call to arms!

If anyone is interested in setting up an Open Data Woolwich Township citizens’ group to encourage and guide the Township into opening its data, please leave a comment below or contact me at bjonkman@sobac.com.

–Bob.

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Posted in FLOSS, Open Data | 1 Comment »

OpenDataDay Hackathon at Kwartzlab

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 27th February 2013

Open Data Waterloo Region

 

On International OpenDataDay four teams of hackers from OpenDataWR gathered at Kwartzlab to work on Food Premise Inspection Data, modelling new transit routes and route changes with GTFS data, improving the server for the Catchr transit app, a proof-of-concept pushbutton app for Android, and creating a Get Map button for OpenStreetMap in the Thunderbird Lightning add-in.


Hackers at Kwartzlab OpenDataDay Hackathon at Kwartzlab. Clockwise: Koo (back to camera), Ralph, Michael, Mike, Brett, Jonathan. Missing: Darcy, William, Katherine, Bob.

 

William and I worked on the Get Map button. Although we had hoped to create some working code, we got only as far as making a mock-up of Lightning’s Edit Event screen:

Screenshot of Thunderbird Lightning Edit Event screen
Lightning “Edit Event” screen, showing the new “Get Map” button

 

The first hurdle we ran into is that Lightning source code is kept in a Mercurial repository. Although William was familiar with Perforce (another code revision system), I haven’t used Mercurial until now. And the repository contained all of Thunderbird, Firefox, SeaMonkey, and the Mozilla addins. We certainly didn’t want to clone the entire Mozilla code base! So William found the Lightning tarball, which I unpacked in a new folder. This let us poke around the source files to find where our new code should go.

Then we found that Lightning isn’t straight Javascript, it’s mostly XUL. XUL is close enough to XHTML, CSS and DTD files that we could figure out what needed to be done. But we had a limited amount of time, and I didn’t want to spend it waiting for source code to build. So I created a new profile in Thunderbird, installed a fresh copy of the Lightning add-in, and we hacked at the installed files directly. This gave us instant feedback on the changes we made, just by restarting Thunderbird and running Lightning. Some of the changes were in plain text files, but others needed to be made to files in JAR format. One of those was the localized language file. We weren’t sure which language file we were using, en-GB or en-US. Of course, we picked the wrong one to start with, and spend maybe two hours trying to debug a misleading error message about a missing entity definition while we were working on the wrong file.

But it all turned out OK in the end. Now we need to take the work we did on the installed files and replicate it on the source files from the Mercurial repository, properly build Lightning from source, and offer our changes to the Mozilla Calendar project. And, once we’ve got it working, we’ll make the changes available on this site too.

–Bob and William.

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Posted in code, FLOSS, Open Data, Software | No Comments »

 
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