You are browsing the archive for Oleg Lavrovsky.

Panoptikum: exploring new ways to categorize a collection of various unusual and unique objects

- May 9, 2019 in Open Data Day, open data day 2019, Open GLAM, OpenGLAM

This blog has been reposted from https://blog.datalets.ch/054. For the past two and a half years, the artist Jürg Straumann has been working on a digital retrospective of his life’s work, spanning over four decades of visual art. The latest stage of this project involved creating an interactive way to browse this unique and very personalized database. During our workshop on Open Data Day, March 3 – while Rufus Pollock’s book The Open Revolution was passed around the room, I introduced a gathering of collectors and art experts to Open Knowledge and OpenGLAM. We discussed the question of how new channels and terms like Creative Commons support both the artwork and the artist in a digital economy. And we got lots of great feedback for our project together, which you can read about in this post.

The image above is a style transfer from Der Raub der Deianira durch den Zentauren Nessus by Jürg Straumann (nach Damià Campeny, 2012) to La muse by Pablo Picasso (1935)

Wahnsinnig viel Züg, es isch e wahri Freud! (Swiss German, approx. translation: So much stuff, a true delight!)

Oleg’s story

Over my years as web developer I have worked on several collaborations with artists like Didier Mouron/Don Harper or Roland Zoss/Rene Rios, and on various ‘code+art’ projects like Portrait Domain with the #GLAMhack and demoscene community. I’m drawn to this kind of project both from a personal interest in art and it’s many incarnations, as well as from the fascinating opportunity to get to know the artist and their work. When Jürg approached me with his request, I quickly recognized that this was a person who was engaged at the intersection of traditional and digital media, who explores the possibilites of networked and remixed art, who is meticulous, scientific, excited by the possibilities andcommitted to the archiving and preservation of work in the digital commons. I was very impressed with the ongoing efforts to digitize his life works on a large scale, and jumped in to help bring it to an audience. During this same time, I’ve been working on implementing the Frictionless Data standards in various projects. Since he gave me complete freedom to propose the solution, the first thing I did was to use Data Package Pipelines to implement a converter for the catalogue, which was in Microsoft Excel format as shown in the screenshot below. In this process we identified various data issues, slightly improved the schema, and created a reliable conversion process which connected the dataset to the image collection. The automatic verifications in this process started helping to accelerate the digitization efforts. Screenshot-from-2019-03-03-21-27-50 Together with Rebekka Gerber, an art historian who works at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, we reviewed various systems used for advanced web galleries and museum websites, such as: While they all had their advantages and disadvantages, we remained unsure which one to commit to: budget and time constraints led us to take the “lowest hanging fruit”, and …not use any backend at all. Our solution, inspired by the csvapi project by Open Data Team, is an instant JSON API. Like their csvapi, ours works directly from the CSV files, which are first referenced from the Data Package generated by our pipeline using the Python Data Package library. Based on this API, I wrote a simple frontend using the Twitter Bootstrap framework I’m used to hacking on for short term projects. Screenshot-from-2019-03-03-21-27-07 Et voilà! A powerful search interface in the hands of one of our first beta-testers. When you see it – and I hope pretty soon at least a partial collection will be available online – you’ll notice a ton of options. Three screen-fulls of various filters and settings to delight the art collector, exploring the collection of nearly 7’000 images with carefully nuanced features. IMG_20190302_143410-01 If you’ve been reading this blog, you can imagine that it is a collection that could also delight a Data Scientist. If there is interest, I am happy to separately open source the API generator that was made in this project. And our goal is to get this API out there in the hands of fellow artists and remixers. For now, you can check out the code in app.py. The open source project is available at github.com/loleg/panoptikum, and we are going to continue working on future developments in this repository. The content is not yet available to the public, since we are still working out the copyright conditions and practical questions. Nevertheless, we wish to share some insight into this project with more people through workshops, exhibitions and this blog. More on all that in future posts. In the meantime, I’ll let Jürg share more background on the project in his own words. Subscribe to our GitHub repository to be notified of progress – and stay tuned! IMG_20190302_145954-01-1
Wenn Kunst vergrabe isch und vergässe gaht, isch es es Problem für alli Aghörige, e furchtbari Belastig für d Nachkomme. (When art is buried and is lost, it is a problem for all involved, a terrible weight for the next generation.)

Story

(This is the story of the project written by Jürg and translated with DeepL‘s help. You can read the German original at the bottom of this page.) In a good 40 years of work as a visual artist (in the conventional media of drawing, printmaking and painting), over 6,600 smaller and larger works have accumulated in my collection. In retrospect, these prove to be unusually diverse, but with sporadically recurring elements, somehow connected by a personal “sound”. Very early on I tried to systematize the spontaneous development of sculpture in different directions. This is the basic idea of the project PANOPTIKUM (since 2000), whereby the categorizations of the whole uncontrolled growth are only the basis for further artistic works – which should, ironically, dissolve the whole again. In the middle of 2016, with the help of numerous experts, I began to compile a catalogue of my works, i.e. to scan or photograph my works and then to index them in a differentiated way in an Excel spreadsheet. In 2018, Oleg Lavrovsky agreed to make the collected data accessible as desired, i.e. after entering the search terms, to display the respective images numerically and optically on the screen by means of a filter function. This is a prerequisite for the fact that in the coming years it will be possible to continue working with the image material in a variety of creative ways. Our project takes the form of an application, which can also be reviewed and further developed by other people (Open Source). The copyright and publication rights for all content remain with me, the created app can be freely used as a structure for other projects. In the longer term, general accessibility via the Internet is planned. At the moment, however, all content should only be available to individual interested parties. After the completion of this basic work, whereby the directory is to be supplemented about every six months, the task now is to concretize own artistic projects: digital graphics and an interactive work as well as possibly videos are pending. For this I am dependent on expert support, the search for interested persons continues. Commissioned works as well as forms of egalitarian cooperation are possible. In addition, the image material may also be made available for independent projects of third parties. The starting point and pivotal point of the PANOPTIKUM project is in any case the question of what can be done with a catalogued visual work. A wide variety of sub-projects can be created over an unlimited period of time (artistically, art historically, statistically, literarily, musically, didactically, psychologically, parodistically… depending on the point of view and interests of the participants). The central idea is to make a visual work accessible in an unusual and entertaining way. To capture additional public benefit through revision. Potential goals include:
  • Unusual: the very differentiated formal and content-related recording of one’s own work, which becomes the basis for further creations (self-reflexiveness and reference to the outside world).
  • Entertaining: exploring in a playful way (e.g. searching for the unknown author of this picture pool, memory, domino, competition, etc.) by means of interactive functions, games, VR applications.
  • Artistic work: my own works (approx. 6,600 drawings, paintings and prints), which are presented anonymously and with a good pinch of irony and questioned.
  • Making accessible: multimedia, on various channels: exhibition spaces (also improvised and private), internet, cinema. The target audience is as broad as possible, especially outside the usual art scene.
  • Stimulating: the desire to look, the pleasure of pleasurable immersion (flood of images!). On the other hand, thoughts about identity, freedom, openness.
  • Useful: sustainability material: ecological aspects in production and presentation. Social sustainability: smaller events, e.g. with the sale of the works at very favourable conditions in favour of “Public Eye” (instead of a rubble dump at the end of life!). Thus discussion about artist’s estates, archiving, economic aspects (art trade). Any visual material for teaching (art history, art mediation)?
Next steps: Work on the overall concept, on a “story” with scriptwriters, event managers, advertisers, etc. One idea we call the Kunstfund would ask: who is the author? Take the role of art historians, amateurs, gallery owners, art critics and collectors, and speculate; picture disputes, questions of taste; search for meaning; models for political systems – all slightly spunky and ironic. Parallel to this, experimenting with concrete formal implementations:
  • How can my very sensually influenced, conventionally designed images be staged and brought into a visually attractive contrast with the digitally generated elements. For example, by means of split screens, transparencies, animated lettering, infographics, combinations with photo and video material from the “outside world”, whereby my collage books could serve as a bridge.
  • Function which continuously (anonymously if desired) records all activities and creations of the users – for example, in the design of virtual exhibition spaces with my pictures.
Visit Jürg’s website for glimpses into his work and contact options.

Closing feedback loops for more & better open data in Switzerland

- July 10, 2018 in Events, OK Switzerland, Open Data, Switzerland

Last week, the annual open data conference in Switzerland took place in St. Gallen. In this post, Oleg Lavrovsky, activist for Open Knowledge and board member of the Swiss Chapter, shares a look back at the event showcasing the latest developments in the country, with results of the first Open Data Student Awards. For more coverage, photos and links visit Opendata.ch/2018. The #opendatach conference is, for the dedicated, a 24 hour event – starting this year around 6pm on Monday, when Rufus Pollock joined us in Zürich, lasting until 6pm on Tuesday July 3, as a light apéro and quick clean-up closed the doors on the eighth annual gathering of the Swiss Open Knowledge community. A group of organizers and core contributors spent a balmy afternoon perched in the loft at the Impact Hub, debating the state of the nation – which a recent ch.okfn.org blog post recounts – reviewing the recommendations of our Task Force, distributing and discussing the new book. A short night later we were on an early train with Hannes Gassert, checking waypoints over cups of green tea. Finally we arrive on site in St.Gallen, the economic and political center of eastern Switzerland, and host to a modern, internationally renowned University – whose main building was rapidly transformed into our favourite habitat: a burgeoning centre for activism, critical thought and debate.
After quickly saying hello we set to work on setting up the rooms, dodging streams of students rushing to class. In one hacky corner of the event, an unconference showcase sponsored by the local IT community featured 9 projects, submitted through an online platform (hack.opendata.ch), and whose team members were attending the conference. A colorful showcase wall, next to the entrance to the main room where keynotes took place, engendered imaginative discussion, giving participants a chance to find and meet the makers of innovative projects made with open data.

Photo credit: Ernie Deane, CC BY-SA 3.0

You’ll find excellent coverage of the morning’s plenary sessions in the Netzwoche article, highlighting the readiness which our host city St. Gallen demonstrated to support open government data (OGD), sharing a preview of their new open data platform. We learned insights from the cross-border collaboration that has taken place over the past years between the OGD administrations of the cities of St. Gallen and Vienna. Balancing out the mood in the room, we got to hear compelling remarks from a project leader who has so far been frustrated in his attempts to gain funding and political support for his open political data initiative:
“The biggest problem, however, is not the lack of access to data or lack of know-how among those involved. The parliamentary services now provide a good API, so that linking and interpreting various data is feasible. What is lacking above all is sustainability, and in particular sustainable financing.” –Daniel Black, smartmonitor

Keynotes

In the keynote by André Golliez, his upcoming departure from the role as president of Opendata.ch was announced, and he shared his vision for the recently founded Swiss Data Alliance. In this, he strives to make open data a key component of data policy and data infrastructure development in Swiss government and industry. Looking back on how open data has fared in politics since Barack Obama, he expressed worries about the pendulum turning in another direction, and encouraged us not to take things for granted. Hitting closer to home, André spoke about the right to data portability, specifically mentioning revisions to the Swiss Data Protection Act which follow the EU’s GDPR – encouraging our community to get involved in the debate and political process. In our final – much anticipated – morning keynote, Rufus Pollock came on stage to share his renewed vision for openness activism, introducing the main ideas from his new book, The Open Revolution, which he was selling and signing in the conference hall. In Switzerland, we have been keeping close track on developments in the open knowledge movement, influencing our own ongoing organizational transformation as a new generation of activists, policymakers, data wranglers push the project forward. The ideas within the book have been a cause of ceaseless debate for the weeks before the conference, and will surely continue through the summer. Some people complain about seeing the relevance, and we have been enjoying the ensuing debate. Even if Rufus did not manage to convince everyone in the room – if the language barrier, stories from foreign shores, or his radical-common-sense philosophy fail to attract immediate policy or media attention (NB: we eagerly await publication of an interview in the next issue of Das Magazin – follow @tagi_magi), they are certainly leaving a deep impression on our community. 105 copies of the new book distributed at name-your-price along with free digital downloads have put a progressive, challenging text into able hands, and the bold ideas within are helping to reignite and refresh our personal and collective commitment to activism for a fair and sustainable information society.

The workshops

After lunch, we hosted six afternoon workshop tracks (Open Data Startups, Open Smart Cities, Open Data in Science, Linked Open Data, Open Mobility Data, and Blockchain for Open Data), which you can read about, and download presentations from (as well as those of the keynotes), on the conference website. I made a short presentation on Frictionless Data (slides here) in the Science track, which showcased four projects working with, or fostering the development and use of, open data for scientific purposes – and will elaborate a little bit on this workshop here. Marcel Salathé, our workshop lead and a founder of the open foodrepo.org initiative, demonstrated the open data science challenge platform crowdAI developed at EPFL, which connects data science experts and enthusiasts with open data to solve specific problems, through challenges. My talk was about containerization formats for open data, introducing Frictionless Data – which addresses this issue through simple specifications and software – and my work on supporting these standards in the Julia language. Donat Agosti spoke about Plazi, addressing the need of transforming scientific data from publications, books, and other unstructured formats into a persistent and openly accessible digital taxonomic literature. Finally, Rok Roškar introduced the Swiss Data Science Center and its Renku platform, a highly scalable & secure open software platform designed to foster multidisciplinary data (science) collaborations. It was a privilege to take part, and I appreciated the learnings shared and eager discussions. The question came up of how many standardization initiatives it really takes, as well as whether and how improvements to the platform for data sharing really address the fundamental issues in science, and how the open data community can help improve access to high quality experimental data, reproducibility, and collaboration. We are following up on some of these questions already.

Open Data Student Award

And then it was, finally, time to hand over the Open Data Student Award, a project that took months of preparation, three days of 3D printing, hours of nail-bitingly intense jury duty, and only 15 minutes allowed to sum it all up. The jury team – consisting of Prof. Stefan Keller (CH Open), Andreas Amsler (OGD Canton of Zürich) and myself (Opendata.ch) – were impressed with the projects, each truly exemplary.
Every student and supervisor participating this year deserves recognition for making an effort to use, re-publish and to promote open data. In addition to being put on the big screen at the annual conference in St. Gallen and discussed by all the people gathered there, the projects are being given extra attention through community channels.

Congratulations to Jonas Oesch from FHNW Windisch, whose winning project The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Swiss Open Government Data educates readers in an exemplary way about open data, applying open source technical ingenuity and skillful design to a problem that is critical to the open data community.
The open data community is looking for answers to the question of how to better represent the diversity of datasets, putting them into new clothes, so to speak. The hitchhiker’s guide to Swiss Open Government Data is a project that points the way in such a direction.
Details about all the projects can be found on the official announcement. Additionally, we have shared some background and sources of the award open source for you to peruse. We are happy to get feedback and to hear your ideas for where to take the un/conference and award next year! Just drop us a line in the Open Knowledge Switzerland forum.

Wrapping up

As the football match got going that would eventually see our country rather unconvincingly exit the World Cup, we gave the floor to the people doing much of the day-to-day leg work to convince and support data providers to open up their troves to the Swiss public. Jean-Luc Cochard and Andreas Kellerhalls from the Swiss Federal Archives took turns to recap the situation in Switzerland. The OGD strategy for 2019-2023 is being prepared in the Federal Department of Home Affairs, to be ratified by stakeholder departments over the summer. Our association will make a position statement with and on behalf of the user community in the coming months. The presentations demonstrated both a continued commitment to public service, as well as an admission of where we are coming short, an analysis of some of the many roadblocks and challenges technical, political and cultural, that are part of the strategy review. The next 4 years promise renewal, responsibility, and many lessons to apply across the board.

Photo credit: Ernie Deane, CC BY-SA 3.0

We know that not all the actors on the OGD stage are doing a great job, yet – and that to improve the status quo, we need to continue improving awareness and knowledge of the issues. Our role in facilitating cooperation across the digital divide and improving data literacy in Switzerland will be an important stepping stone to future success. Pointing the way to such opportunities was the final keynote of the day, from Walter Palmetshofer (@vavoida), who joined us for the whole 24 hour marathon, and helped to end our conference with a bright acknowledgement of public interest: in good sportsmanship, international cooperation, and sustainable projects to build THINGS THAT MATTER. Walter shared with us the most interesting results, learnings and statistics from the first highly successful years of the Open Data Incubator Europe (ODINE), and let us take home tantalizing glimpses into 57 inspiring startups – each of which could well be at home in Switzerland, to each of which we should be keen to open data, open doors, and learn from.

Open Knowledge Switzerland Summer 2016 Update

- August 24, 2016 in Chapter updates, Chapters, network, OK Switzerland, Open Data

The first half of 2016 was a very busy one for the Open Knowledge Swiss chapter, Opendata.ch. Just between April to June the chapter had 3 Hackathons, 15 talks, 3 meetups and 10 workshops. In this blog post we highlight some of these activities to update the Open Knowledge Community about our chapter’s work.   Main projects Our directors worked on relaunching the federal Open Government Data portal and its new online handbook. We gathered and published datasets and ran workshops in support of various hackdays – and we migrated and improved our web infrastructure with better support of the open Transport API (handling up to 1.7 Mio requests per day!).   FOJ_1238Main events We held our annual conference in June, ran energy-themed hackdays in April and ran an OpenGLAM hackathon in July. Additionally, we supported two smaller regional hackathons in the spring, and a meetup on occasion of Open Data Day.   Challenges Like other organisations in this space, our main challenge is redefining our manifesto and restructuring our operations to become a smoother running chapter that is more responsive to the needs of our members and community. This restructuring continues to be a challenge that we are learning from – and need to learn more about.   2nd_Swiss_Open_Cultural_Data_Hackathon,_openingSuccesses Our media presence and public identity continues to be stronger than ever. We are involved in a wide range of political and inter-organizational activities in support of diverse areas of openness, and in general we are finding that our collective voice is stronger and our messages better received everywhere we go.   Governance We have had several retreats with the board to discuss changes in the governance and to welcome new directors: Catherine Pugin (ta-swiss.ch, datastory.ch), Martin Grandjean (martingrandjean.ch) and Alexandre Cotting (hevs.ch) We are primarily working on a better overall organizational structure to support our community and working groups: starting and igniting new initiatives will be the next step. Among them will be the launch of business-oriented advocacy group called “Swiss Data Alliance”.   DSC_0437 Looking ahead We will soon announce a national program on food data, which includes hackdays and a funded follow-up/incubation phase for prototypes produced. And we are busy setting up a hackathon at the end of September with international scope and support called Hack for Ageing Well. Follow #H4AW for more info. We are excited about upcoming cross-border events like #H4AW and Jugend Hackt, opening doors to development and research collaborations. Reach out through the Open Knowledge forums and we’ll do our best to connect you into the Swiss community!

Open Knowledge Switzerland’s 2014 in review, big plans ahead

- February 6, 2015 in OKF Switzerland, Switzerland, Year-in-review

This is a cross-post from the Open Knowledge Switzerland blog, see the original here. It has been a big year for us in Switzerland. An openness culture spreading among civil administration, NGOs, SMEs, backed by the efforts of makers, supporters and activists throughout the country, has seen the projects initiated over the past three years go from strength to strength – and establish open data in the public eye. Here are the highlights of what is keeping us busy – and information on how you can get involved in helping us drive Open Knowledge forward, no matter where you are based. Check out our Storify recap, or German- and French-language blogs for further coverage. To see the Events Calendar for 2015, scroll on down.

2014 in review

#sports

Our hackdays went global, with Milan joining Basel and Sierre for a weekend of team spirit and data wrangling. The projects which resulted ranged from the highly applicable to the ludicrously inventive, and led us to demand better from elite sport. The event was a starting point for the Open Knowledge Sports Working Group, aiming to “build bridges between sport experts and data scientists, coaches and communities”. We’re right behind you, Rowland Jack!

#international

The international highlight of the year was a chance for a sizeable group of our members to meet, interact and make stuff with the Open Knowledge community at OK Festival Berlin. Unforgettable! Later in the year, the Global Open Data Index got journalists knocking on our doorstep. However, the recently opened timetable data is not as open as some would like to think – leading us to continue making useful apps with our own open Transport API, and the issuing of a statement in Errata.

#community

The yearly Opendata.ch conference attracted yet again a big crowd of participants to hear talks, participate in hands-on workshops, and launch exciting projects (e.g. Lobbywatch). We got some fantastic press in the media, with the public encouraged to think of the mountains of data as a national treasure. At our annual association meeting we welcomed three new Directors, and tightened up with the Wikimedia community inviting us to develop open data together.

#science

CERN’s launch of an open data portal made headlines around the world. We were excited and more than a little dazzled by what we found when we dug in – and could hardly imagine a better boost for the upcoming initiative OpenResearchData.ch. Improving data access and research transparency is, indeed, the future of science. Swiss public institutions like the National Science Foundation are taking note, and together we are making a stand to make sure scientific knowledge stays open and accessible on the Internet we designed for it.

#politics

Swiss openness in politics was waymarked in 2014 with a motion regarding Open Procurement Data passing through parliament, legal provisions to opening weather data, the City of Zürich and Canton of St.Gallen voting in commitments to transparency, and fresh support for accountability and open principles throughout the country. This means more work and new responsibility for people in our movement to get out there and answer tough questions. The encouragement and leadership on an international level is helping us enormously to work towards national data transparency, step by step.

#government

The Swiss Open Government Data Portal launched at OKCon 2013 has 1’850 datasets published on it as of January 2015, now including data from cantons and communes as well as the federal government. New portals are opening up on a cantonal and city level, more people are working on related projects and using the data in their applications to interact with government. With Open Government Data Strategy confirmed by the Swiss Federal Council in April, and established as one of the six priorities of the federal E-Government action plan, the project is only bound to pick up more steam in the years ahead.

#finance

With Open Budget visualisations now deployed for the canton of Berne and six municipalities – including the City of Zurich, which has officially joined our association – the finance interest group is quickly proving that it’s not all talk. Spending data remains a big challenge, and we look forward to continuing the fight for financial transparency. This cause is being boosted by interest and support from the next generation, such as the 29 student teams participating in a recent Open Data Management and Visualization course at the University of Berne.

#apps/#apis

We may be fast, but our community is faster. Many new open data apps and APIs have been released and enhanced by our community: New open data projects were released by the community: such as WindUndWetter.ch and SwissMetNet API, based on just-opened national weather data resulting from a partial revision of the Federal Act on Meteorology and Climatology. Talk about “hold your horses”: a city waste removal schedule app led to intense debate with officials over open data policy, the results making waves in the press and open data developers leading by doing.

#culture

An OpenGLAM Working Group started over the summer, and quickly formed into a dedicated organising committee of our first hackathon in the new year. Towards this at least a dozen Swiss heritage institutions are providing content, data, and expertise. We look forward to international participants virtually and on-location, and your open culture data!

What’s coming up in 2015

Even if we do half the things we did in ‘14, a big year is in store for our association. Chances are that it will be even bigger: this is the year when the elections of the Federal Council are happening for the first time since our founding. It is an important opportunity to put open data in the spotlight of public service. And we are going to be busy running multiple flagship projects at the same time in all the areas mentioned. Here are the main events coming up – we will try to update this as new dates come in, but give us a shout if we are missing something:

Getting involved

So, happy new year! We hope you are resolved to make more of open data in 2015. The hardest part may be taking the first step, and we are here for sport and support. There is lots going on, and the easiest way to get started is to take part in one of the events. Start with your own neighbourhood: what kind of data would you like to have about your town? What decisions are you making that could benefit from having a first-hand, statistically significant, visually impressive, and above all, honest and critical look at the issue? Lots is happening online and offline, and if you express interest in a topic you’re passionate about, people are generally quick to respond with invitations and links. To stay on top of things we urge you to join our mailing list, follow us on social media, and check out the maker wiki and forum. Find something you are passionate about, and jump right in! Reach out if you have any questions or comments.

Open Legislation Working Group Relaunched at OKCon

- October 15, 2013 in Featured, OKCon, Sprint / Hackday, WG Open Legislation

Legal questions are at the heart of what openness is about, and there has always been interest at the Open Knowledge Foundation in open legislation – both in theory and in practice. Remarkable projects have been started around the world in open lobbying and open law data. This has proven ample inspiration to put open law, legal apps and legislation in the spotlight at the Open Knowledge Conference 2013 in Geneva, during a four day satellite event conducted by members of the local Open Knowledge Foundation Switzerland chapter.

Law Mining Hackdays

We convened at OKCon’s conference venue for three days, then wrapped up with a day on campus at the University of Geneva. The Monday morning workshop saw over 25 people pack into the room from diverse backgrounds: hackers, lawyers, businesspeople, academics. They took part in an introduction to mining legal data, to see our expert panel present 11 challenges, and to hear John Sheridan speak about legislation.gov.uk, the open legislation portal of the United Kingdom: a remarkable project and valuable lesson in the particularities of working with legal data and making it accessible to all.
John Sheridan presentation on Vimeo

Wide public interest

Over the following three days dozens of people dropped into the specially set up OKCon hackspace to put brains, pens and computers together to make the most of the opportunity to collaborate across geographic and professional boundaries, pitching in to advance the projects during the busy conference schedule. People took part who were already running successful legal software businesses, mingling with staunch advocates of open source and open data, data scientists applying Semantic Web ideas to meta-laws, students keenly visualizing the intricate networks of legal code, activists launching new awareness initiatives. On-the-ground experiences were being shared from around the world, and a “hacky”, let’s-do-it atmosphere prevailed. In the buzz of excitement around OKCon and the ideas going around the room, three groups formed around our participants core areas of interests for the hackday, which we referred to as:
  • Case Law – working with data about legal cases, such as the proceedings of courts
  • Legal Concepts – making the laws and their workings more open, and
  • Usability of Law – making legal data more usable to the general public.
Law Mining Hackathon at OKCon 2013

Projects and initiatives

On Thursday we wrapped up the event with interesting results. It is clear that the law has much to say about openness, and that at the same time the road ahead to opening up the legal world to more analysis, visualization, and usable applications is long. While the technical understanding of laws around the world today continues to be more grounded in stories than systems, an enormous amount of work is being done to transform justice from a social artefact to a methodical science. The hackday projects are seeds of change: § Case Law as a Service (CLaaS) will make legal decisions on national and international levels available online and more accessible than ever. The team aims to create an open framework and platform architecture that allows users and a multitude of applications easy access to case law data. Concepts and demos included: Human Rights Case Laws, Case Law Linked Data, and an open search engine for the Swiss Supreme Court.
§ Open Law Search makes everyday law work easier by exposing valuable resources on the Open Web. Users can search and filter across a variety of domains especially relevant to European law. It is live and available here: http://www.openlaws.eu/
§ Open This Data! is a simple idea with an aim to help lift legal or technical restrictions on data, and get rapid community response to changes of terms of use. The Open Data Button is a new, easy, social way to raise awareness of not-so-open data.
§ Open Privacy Legislation assesses a range of government websites and rates them according to criteria from the Declaration of Parliamentary Openness. The result is this map of world legislative standards.

These projects are all open source, they need your feedback, support and championing. Please try their demos, check out the wiki pages, let us know over the mailing list if you have ideas to share with the teams. Simultaneously to the conclusion of the Law Mining Hackdays, an exciting new project was unwrapped from across the Atlantic which we couldn’t help but admire: The Constitute Project, a beautifully designed search engine and explorer of the world’s constitutions. This and many more inspirations and open data sources will guide us in future endeavours.

What happens next?

The meetings at OKCon and Law Mining Hackathon results have led to a renewed interest and several new initiatives for the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Legislation Working Group, where Clemens Wass has stepped up to moderate the mailing list. Discussions are re-starting after a few months of hiatus, and we are looking forward to more shared thoughts and observations on the world of legal openness. Please sign up at legislation.okfn.org and use it to send in your announcements, suggestions and ideas for projects on these themes. Stay on the list to stay on top of all the above, including news of upcoming events in the months ahead. On behalf of my co-organizers, we extend our thanks to OKCon and the University of Geneva for hosting the event, to our experts and sponsors for their support, and most kindly to everyone who contributed sparks of knowledge and made the hackdays a blast of learning, collaboration and making. Let the #legalhack-ing continue!