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Week ahead: Jason Kitcat

Open Knowledge International - July 11, 2011 in Updates

Availability this week: all Monday, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, Friday late afternoon.

Last week:

  • Lot of email!
  • Finance processing, purchase orders etc
  • Chats with Jonathan, Rufus about longer term plans
This week:
  • Reviewing business processes, job descriptions
  • OKCon finances round up
  • OpenSpending budgets

Week Ahead: James Harriman-Smith

jamesharrimansmith - July 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last Week:

  • Launch of
  • Launch of Open Shakespeare on
  • Presentation of Open Shakespeare at NESTA
  • Presentation of Open Shakespeare and annotator to press office of Cambridge University
  • Andrew Murphy (Prof and Head of English at St Andrews) agrees to write a guest blog post for
  • Sixth form teacher agrees to trial next term
  • Sourced public domain translations of Shakespeare into German, Portuguese and Finnish

This Week:

  • Organise annotation sprint
  • Translate annotateit into French
  • Liaise with @culturehackday
  • Beautify

Worklog 2011-07-04 to 2011-07-08

Jonathan Gray - July 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Some things I did this week:

Preliminary work plan for OKF’s public domain activities

Jonathan Gray - July 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

I had a useful call with Mark and Primavera this morning on next steps for the OKF’s work on the public domain.

Here are some key points:

  • Strategically we have to realise that we’ll never do everything we want to do in this space by ourselves – hence we should work to build a strong vision for what this area could look like, and encourage others to rally behind it! (As per recent post on this topic on OKF Blog)
  • Work will be coordinated by Mark and Primavera.
  • Aim to have a library of 20 working public domain calculators in an open source Python library by March 2012.
  • Aim to strengthen network of legal researchers who could contribute to developing flowcharts.
  • Flowcharts may be undertaken in an intermediary language – before being implemented to Python.
  • Will develop a basic guide to metadata standards in different fields, with input from key people, organisations and projects. Not just books, but music, art, films, etc. Don’t want to reinvent the wheel – will include review of best practises in this field, e.g. Europeana Domain Model. Primavera to lead on this. Aim to have first version by end of 2011.
  • Will test calculators with example data – and provide documentation about how they can be integrated with existing systems.
  • Will create a nice front end for – focusing on design, user interface and user experience. In the first instance this needs to be more a proof of concept than 100% functional (a bit like, and we can then take this to others to encourage them to work on a collaborative project to federate collections of public domain works from around the world. For example, users should be able to:
    • browse public domain works by different criteria, display images related to public domain works (e.g. paintings, photographs, etc),
    • see multiple copies of public domain works in different formats, from different places (e.g. txt, PDF, scanned jpg for books),
    • make arbitrary lists of works (a la the original idea for Bibliographica)
  • For now will use for regular updates.
  • We will create a separate website with information on opening up cultural heritage metadata and digital copies of public domain works. In the first instance we can draft material on pads, docs, etc with key stakeholders like Creative Commons, the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Foundation, and others.
  • Jonathan to put together a role description for an Open Metadata Evangelist and to send to Mark, Primavera and others.
  • Organise a public domain sprint in Berlin this autumn, with key people from Creative Commons, Europeana, Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons, COMMUNIA, K4ALL and others. Need a good set of questions and a clear idea of what we to achieve before the event.

Panton Fellowships

Jonathan Gray - July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

For a while I’ve been thinking about how the Open Knowledge Foundation can do more to support open data in science. In particular how we can do more to encourage research funders and publicly funded research bodies to adopt open data policies and mandates.

With this in mind, I floated the idea of setting up Panton Fellowships for Open Data in Science to Cameron Neylon (STFC), Peter Murray-Rust (University of Cambridge), Tim Hubbard (Sanger Institute) and Karien Bezuidenhout (Shuttleworth Foundation) at OKCon 2011 in Berlin last week. Since then I’ve spoken to Melissa Hagemann at OSI, Peter has mentioned this to colleagues at JISC, and Tim has mentioned this to colleagues at the Wellcome Trust.

Here’s a brief sketch of what shape they might take:


The Panton Principles for Open Data in Science strongly encourage scientists and others to place scientific research data into the public domain using an appropriate license or legal tool.

There is currently a window of opportunity to encourage more research funders, publishers, institutions, and societies to adopt these principles in relation to scientific research data that they fund or publish. Policies and norms in this area are still being determined – and it is much easier to encourage best practises from the outset than to change them once they are fixed.

Leading advocates in this area often have ideas and contacts, but lack time to do as much as they’d like. Many graduates or early career stage researchers are interested in this area and may have more time, but may lack contacts, guidance and a sense of strategic priority.


The Fellowships would focus on:

  • communicating and encouraging more stakeholders to adopt the Panton Principles
  • understanding and overcoming obstacles to opening up scientific data in different fields
  • identifying opportunities for opening up scientific data in new fields and engaging new stakeholders

They would be targeted at graduate level and early career stage scientific researchers, co-funded by a loose coalition of funding bodies, and located at leading partner institutions.

There would be 2-4 Panton Fellowships per year. Panton Fellowships would last between 9-12 months. Panton Fellows would receive a stipend equivalent to the level of financial support received by PhD or post-doctoral students.

How can we support open data in Canada?

Jonathan Gray - July 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday Kat, Rufus and I caught up with Jonathan Brun, David Eaves, Tracey Lauriault, James McKinney about how the Open Knowledge Foundation might be able to help:

  • To promote open knowledge in Canada,
  • To strengthen/expand the open knowledge community in Canada – in particular the increasingly active open data community
  • To support the development of specific OKF open data projects and initiatives in Canada

We discussed the possibility of establishing a Canadian chapter of the OKF to help with some of these things.

We concluded:

  • There is lots of amazing stuff happening in Canada already, lots of this occurs without need for a more formal organisation – which could duplicate existing work or even have a negative effect on existing efforts. Hence if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  • There is some work to be done in helping to connect different initiatives. In the medium term it could be useful to have someone dedicated to bringing different people, organisations and projects onto the same page. Someone suggested having a basic site to help link to existing stuff (Kat said she’d help with this). We also agreed to put together a role description for someone who could help to connect the dots between existing projects/people/groups.
  • David Eaves and others will help to promote and encourage the development of the project in Canada.
  • We we will not set up an okfn-ca list for now – as there are already lists which are used to discuss open data stuff. For example, the civicaccess-discuss which OKF people should join, contribute to, and point people towards!
  • We asked about who we should invite from Canadian projects/organisations to Open Government Data Camp 2011 in Warsaw. We can catch up further then!

While we mainly discussed open data (open government data in particular) we’d also like to help build an open knowledge commons that includes cultural works (e.g. public domain works), scientific research, and so on.

We agreed to keep an eye on developments and catch up again in a few weeks.

Open data in itself is not enough

Jonathan Gray - July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Just posted a comment on an interesting article by Michael Gustein, following on from his talk at OKCon 2011:

For what its worth I (and many others at the OKF) fully agree that the legal/technical openness of information is not in itself sufficient for value to be derived from this information.

There are all kinds of other factors and ingredients involved here. For example, access and ability to use ICTs, basic data literacy (which often even the most technically literate computer users may not possess), prerequisite contextual knowledge to interpret official documents and datasets (e.g. when the UK government released fine grained spending information, several journalists published articles saying it was ‘secrecy via transparency’ as the data was so hard to make sense of), etc.

The process of deriving value from information is not straightforward – and I don’t think there are any easy answers. I also don’t think that responsibility for catalysing/supporting the process of deriving value from information lies solely with the ‘open data movement’. It probably lies with society (e.g. media, NGOs, you and me) and with the state (e.g. via the education system, state funded data literacy initiatives, etc).

But I do think that making sure we all have realistic expectations about what open data does and doesn’t do, and who is in a position to benefit from it, and what we have to do to enable more people to benefit from it, is probably a Good Thing. Hence my inviting Michael to OKCon 2011 to kick off discussions – which he seems to have succeeded in doing – both offline at the conference, and online here!

For several years I’ve wanted to write an article called something like “Open Data is not a Panacea”. I discussed this more recently with Rufus Pollock. Perhaps now we have a good excuse to do that!

OKF Community Dashboard Update

Tim McNamara - July 5, 2011 in Projects

An early mockup for the dashboard

An early mockup for the dashboard

I thought it would be useful to provide some notes about my progress with the OKF dashboard.

What to measure? How to measure it?

At one level, tickets are quite specific about what is to be measured:

  1. Members
    1. listing, map and by interest
    2. basic listing done by buddypress
    3. (Interest groups) (provided by buddypress groups)
  2. Project listing
  3. Activity by member and project
  4. Mailing list activity
  5. Web analytics
    1. Repo commits
    2. Blog posts and comments (wordpress should give us most of this)
    3. Tickets (closed, openned, currently outstanding …?)


Despite this specificity, there’s still quite a lot of deciding to do. Let’s take the example of changes to code. Perhaps it’s only worth mentioning the relative change over the last few weeks. If this were the case, we would be reporting that we’re producing 5 more commits per week than we did last week. This is fairly different than providing a simple count of commits. Some other questions pop into my head, like whether all project have equal weight. Should CKAN extension projects count as part of a global CKAN statistic?

From a design perspective, I’ve had quite a lot of difficulty reconciling several points. The sheer scope of the foundation makes it very difficult. We have dozens of mailing lists, code repositories, projects and blogs. It’s possible to get everything on a page, but then all we have is a long list that is very difficult to get a single view of what’s happening from. The other angle is that it would be great to include a map. We have some good geospatial infomation, such as the location of the OKF’s members. Plotting things on a map is a simple and attractive way of assembling that information.

The dashboard should be a project that enables people to gather information from it. By including everything. However, aggregation necessarily increases granularity. The problem is, the granules would be too large to be able to meet the needs to of the ticket. The requirements are to be able to quickly look at what a project or member is up to. However, placing that level of detail on the dashboard inhibits the ability to see what the foundation as a whole is up to.

Overall concept

My original concept would be to have a single value that represents “OKF hotness”. It would decrease overtime, would would increase whenever a goal was goals. Goals could include website hits, blog posts, emails to mailing lists and so on. I thought that the community could have quite a lot of fun creating goals. That way, the impact of the foundation would be able to be measured as a single value that would be very easy to compare over time.

Specific areas

Here are a few thoughts about the ways to represent the different fields of information that could appear.

A brainstorm of different images that could be captured and visualised

A brainstorm of different images that could be captured and visualised. Circles represent topic areas, triangles represent types of information.


  • New members joining
  • Membership count
  • Member locations

I think it would be interesting to present a delta, in addition to whole counts for membership lists. That way, it’s easier to see how membership changes according to specific events.

Membership locations are probably most natural to represent as a map. However, a frequency distribution might be less computationally intensive. It also allows clusters to be seen much more simply. For example, on the current map, it’s fairly difficult to see that there’s a high concentration of OKF’s membership in Europe. That is, the current visualisation doesn’t reflect the actual membership distribution as well as it could.

Mailing list activity

Some of my thinking relating to how to present mailing lists as a visualisation:


The OKF possess a large quantity of prosaic material. I thought a good way to represent this would be to have something very similar to a feed that looks like how Gmail presents email. That is, provide the author, subject header and whatever else from the first sentence on the remainder of the line in a lighter typeface.

The problem with this approach is that recently, the OKF blog has adopted a tradition of adding a preliminary paragraph about who the author of the content is. This means the start of every blog post is identical. This means that the introductory line would add no information as to whether it was relevant for the reader.

Web statistics

Statistics from websites and other logs are almost exclusively time series data. The problem that I faced when looking through OKF’s statistics are that there are so many dozens of websites. Should they all be given equal weight? Is it important to be able to drill down from an aggregate figure to information about individual lists?


One thing that I tried was a streamgraph of all the mailing list activity since OKF began. Streamgraphs tend to work very well when there are several datapoints over a long period. They were first used to visualise play counts in people’s music collections. However, the mailing list data basically looked ugly. Aspect ratios were mucked up and it was quite difficult to tell what was going on. Also, are messages from 2006 still relevant to a dashboard about today’s status?

Update from the Antipodes

Tim McNamara - July 4, 2011 in Open Data Manual, People, Updates

So, it’s been a few weeks! Here are some of the things I’ve been up to recently:

Open Government Data

Wellington Waterfront at Oriental Bay

Wellington Waterfront at Oriental Bay. Source: Donaldytong, Wikimedia Commons. Licenced under CC-BY-SA.

The most significant piece of work has been participating in the Open Government Data Day. I delivered a lightning talk on Linked Data, hosted a session on how to move from spreadsheet to app and made myself fairly visible during several of the barcamp sessions.

I really enjoyed the day. Some of the things that I hope to spring from the event:

  • More participation on the open government ninjas group, especially from officials
  • Assisting a few government departments participate with
  • Receiving feedback on the Open Data Manual

I have been discussing with New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs how I/OKF could support Mix & Mash 2011.

Open Data Manual

The process of building a volunteer community has been much slower than I had expected. I will need to work harder in this area to make sure that the route to participation is easy and clear.

From here, I’ll be sending out weekly status updates to the open-data-manual mailing list. I would also like to convene teleconferences, just so that people get to know each other in person.

OKF Dashboard

The bulk of my time has been on this sub-project. It’s been a difficult process. Extracting data from different sources has been relatively easy. Moving from data to visualisation has been very difficult. So, even though I’ve done lots of work, nothing really looks like it’s changed. However,s ome of the achievements have been:

  • Creating a (manual) process to convert the open data catalogues to JSON. If you happen to know anything about Google Apps Script, I would love to know your answer to this question about using it to export info.
  • Lots of data, like stats from every OKF mailing list

The project has involved me working with time series data for the first time with a programming language. It took me a while to get unstuck when I wanted to learn how to bucket events into weeks. Still, lots of progress made.

Other bits and pieces

  • Networking has been very high on my agenda recently. I’ve attended several events, spreading the OKF message. I think my Twitter following has increased by roughly 100 in the last month.
  • had a small contribution from me before launch. I went through all of the catalogues and turned their names into a human-readable form.

Wider work

Emergency Management

Kiwi PyCon

Pushing ahead with organising. Some highlights:

  • Bonus keynote! Audrey Roy has accepted an offer to speak.
  • Women’s Breakfast with Audrey Roy from PyLadies
  • We have had Github and the Python Software Foundation offer their tickets to applicants.
  • Registrations are on target for a sell out.

Week Ahead: Kat Braybrooke

Kat Braybrooke - July 4, 2011 in People, Updates


Working at the Centre for Creative Collaboration on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, from 11am-7pm

Last Week:

  • Berlin. Worked Tues – Sat. OKCon! participation, community coordinator meetings, helping out, meeting everyone possible!
  • designed CKAN logo and images for CKAN website
  • designed many new T-shirt designs for OKFN
  • did interviews of key OKFN colleagues/friends at conference.
  • OKF AGM, met advisory board, etc.

This Week:

  • Twitter/ networking/ photographic followup from OKCon – publish list of things necessary for next year.
  • meeting about Open Govt Data Camp re: Jonathan, Tues 12pm UK Time.
  • meeting with several folks about starting a Canadian chapter of OKF, Tuesday.
  • more short videos and helping create/catalog a ‘Media/Multimedia’ page on OKF site.
  • help Jordan Hatcher with logo, social media and website of Open Data Common project
  • helping with the dispersal of community fund (
  • speak to Jason re OpenLiterature, Wednesday, 10am UK Time.
  • speak to London folks and help coordinate London working group intro.
  • consolidate material for the OKF handbook w Jonathan and Lucy