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First #OpenDataEDB of 2013

- January 30, 2013 in Meetups, OKScotland, Open Data, Open GLAM, Open Government Data

The Edinburgh Open Data community started the year in fine style with a meet-up hosted by the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge. The turn-out was excellent, with a wide range of participants. As usual, we had a number of lightening talks. The meet-up started with a welcome from Darryl Mead, Deputy National Librarian, who pointed out that openness was at the core of the NLS mission, and that work was underway to make information about the holdings easily accessible. Amy Guy reported on her visit to the 1st International Open Data Dialog in Berlin, 5-6 December 2012. She was impressed by how successful the event was in demonstrating that Open Data is of practical value right now, rather than in some indeterminate future. Amy has a detailed blog post about the event. Freda O’Byrne emphasised that small voluntary organisations (such as Play-Base,  Duddingston Field Group, and Scatterbox Films) can be hugely helped by access to the right kind of data, particularly when they need to write a case for further funding or when they are trying to network with other relevant organisations. Recent developments in the approach to Open Data by the Scottish Government were described by Ben Plouviez (Head of Knowledge Information and Records Management). Some of the main challenges stem from cultural attitudes to data within the civil service; the cost of publishing open data on a sustainable basis; and the development of technical infrastructure such as URI sets. Areas where we can expect to see progress include increased sharing of data between different public institutions within Scotland; publishing dynamic datasets rather than isolated snapshots; and a better appreciation of the value of data analytics by managers within the Scottish public sector. Expanding on Darryl’s introduction, Gill Hamilton described recent initiatives in Openness at NLS, including plans to appoint a Wikipedian in Residence, and the release of metadata for digital resources as Linked Open Data. Another issue under debate is whether it would be possible for NLS to provide open access to the digital resources themselves with loss of revenue. Andy Wightman described current obstacles to answering the question “Who owns Scotland?“, highlighting the fact that members of the public are currently unable to view access information about land registration held by the Registers of Scotland without paying a fee. He had argued (unsuccessfully) during the course of the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, that access should be free (fee income accounts for only 5.3% of the Register’s revenue.) The wider debate about land taxation and land reform is hampered by the inadequate public availability of data on landownership. It seemed as though lots of new connections were being made during the networking parts of the event, and some new collaborations were being hatched, possibly including a pilot project involving Scotland’s iconic Forth Rail Bridge.
Elevation and Plan drawing of the Forth Bridge, published within the Westhofen article on the construction of the Forth Bridge in Engineering, 1890, ©RCAHMS

Elevation and Plan drawing of the Forth Bridge, 1890, ©RCAHMS

The level of activity around Open Data in Scotland is definitely on the rise. A lot of events and initiatives are being planned, including the following:

#OpenDataEDB 3

- September 14, 2012 in Bibliographic, Events, Join us, linked-open-data, Meetups, OKF, OKScotland, Open Data, Open GLAM, Open Government Data

Amidst the kerfuffle and cacophony of the Fringe Festival packing up for another year, the Edinburgh contingent came together again to meet, greet, present and argue all aspects of Open Data and Knowledge. OKFN Meet-ups are friendly and informal evenings for people to get together to share and debate all areas of openness. Depending on the number of people on a given evening, we have presentations and/or round-table discussions about Open Knowledge and Open Data – from politics and philosophy to the practicalities of theory and practice. We have had two previous events (see here for the ‘launch’ write-up and here for the invitation to the second instalment); this time we were kindly hosted by the Informatics Forum, and the weather stayed fine enough to explore the roof terrace (complete with vegetable garden, gizmos to record wind-speed and weather, a view across the city to Arthur’s Seat and even a blue moon). Around 20 of us gathered together and presentations were given by the following people:
  • James Baster – Open Tech Calendar: an introduction to this early-stage project to bring tech meet-ups together, talk about the different ways we are trying to be open and ask for feedback and help;
  • Ewan Klein – a short overview of business models for Open Data, including for government bodies;
  • Gordon Dunsire – library standards and linked data;
  • Gill Hamilton – National Library of Scotland’s perspective of library standards and open data;
  • Bob Kerr – State of the Map Scotland (see here for Bob’s featured OKFN blog post);
  • Naomi Lillie – OKFN as part of the Scottish Open effort.
What struck me overall was that everybody already knows each-other… As well as cross-over in the talks, I kept trying to introduce people who would exclaim, “Ah yes! How was the holiday / conference / wedding?” or similar. This was quite useful, though, as it emphasised the point I made in my talk: OKFN doesn’t need to start anything in Scotland, as efforts towards Open are already ongoing and to great effect, we just want to provide support and possibly a brand under which these activities can be coordinated and promoted. With this in mind, we are going to look into a Scotland OKFN group as soon as things settle down again after OKFest – keep your eyes open for updates to follow! To keep up-to-date with #OpenDataEDB and similar events, with the above and other interesting folks, and with the emerging Scotland OKFN group:

Openstreetmap Conference 2012 October 19th-20th Edinburgh

- September 10, 2012 in Events, External, Featured, OKScotland

This guest post was submitted by Bob Kerr of has just had its 8th Birthday. For those new to the name, Openstreetmap is the wikipedia of maps or rather a single map, the map of our world. Initially born because the cost of licensing Ordnance Survey data was £5000 for a single use, the people who wanted to make maps of their own neighbourhood decided to create their own data and share it. Open Street Map If you visit our website you will see the standard map – much like google maps, you can zoom in and explore. You can also view the data displayed as a transport map or cycle map. The cycle map is popular because it shows exactly what cyclists want: how steep are the hills, where are the official cycle routes, cycling shops, pubs (and toilets) etc. These maps are windows into our database. Our database is big, 250 Gigabytes of data created by over 700,000 people of whom 30,000 contribute on a weekly basis. 90% of the 850,000 named roads of the UK are shown; we hope to get them all by next year. The highest quality of mapping is in Europe but the rest of the world is hearing about us and following our lead. My passion for this data stems from my volunteer work in developing countries. Not many people realise that only about 20 percent of the world has up to date maps. If you were the head of a local community of 20,000 folk and you want to organise sanitation, medicine, water, education, land use management or tax collection you would find it a lot easier if you had a map. A map in your own language that you can share with everyone and that can be updated when it changes. At present for a huge number of people this is not possible. haiti.osm.20090114180900 A few years ago there was a tsunami in Thailand; not many people realised that there was no map of the area until 3 months after the disaster. After the Haiti earthquake Openstreetmap was given Satellite imagery of the island and within 2 weeks had mapped the entire country, including blocked roads and refugee camps. The map became the standard map for all aid agencies including the US Military. The map was recognised by the UN and the World Health Organisation. If you don’t have a map, how do you distribute aid, vaccinate large populations of children, know where your schools are? Amazingly enough there are lots of good Non-Government Organisations doing great work without maps, but this stops and is forgotten when they leave because there is no local government to take it over. A map can show not only what is there but who: community groups, doctors, lawyers, teachers, police, businesses, transport, hobbyists, farmers, historians or even people that believe in Open Knowledge. I have a second reason for liking this data: maps were the first visualisation of complex data. We can now add statistics on top of that data to create heat maps or to start bending the data in interesting ways. I believe that we are starting to see an evolution in a new language, a language of visualising complex data. We have not got to the point of defining the language yet but the first letter of that language is an undistorted map of the world. We now need to define other letters, and the structure and rules, so that everyone can learn and enjoy it. Openstreetmap is having a conference in Scotland. It is not often that there is a place to meet with crowd sourced groups. We are a diverse group of people and would like to invite you to meet us to find out what we do and how we make the map – it is a lot easier than you think. We are also reserving some time in the afternoon so that you can come and talk to us about your projects. We have open half-hour slots which can be used for presentations, discussions or open questions. Naomi Lillie will be giving a talk on an overview of the Open Knowledge Foundation. If you would like to speak at our conference please contact me: Openstreetmapcraigmillar [at] As I stand on my high hill and look down into the valley of my adopted virtual impoverished town, my mind spins with all the myriad of things that could help alleviate the worst suffering that ignorance can bring. Before the aid workers, doctors and teachers arrive, before people are questioned to see if they can read, before even the food arrives… I need to start with a drawing that everyone can share. A drawing that says “this is where we are, now we can start to organise ourselves”. Please come and join us, the event is free, and we want to meet you too. To find out more please search for “State of the Map Scotland 2012” and click on the wiki page. Booking is through Eventbrite.

OpenData Edinburgh meets again – August 30th at the Informatics Forum

- August 20, 2012 in Events, Meetups, OKScotland, Open Data, Talks

As the comedians, acrobats and miscellaneous thespians prepare to leave the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for another year, it’s time for the open data crew to reclaim the city! Following on from the two successful meet-ups which took place in March and May this year, #OpenDataEDB will be returning for its third event of 2012. For those of you who have not made it along to an OKFN meet-up, the events are friendly and informal evenings for people to get together to share and argue all areas of openness. Come and join discussion around open knowledge and open data – from politics and philosophy to practicalities of theory and practice.

The Details

  • When – Thursday 30th August, 7:00pm
  • Where – Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh, 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB
As ever, the evening will kick off with some lightning talks – informal 2-3 minute presentations on any topic related to open data. If you would like to give a lightning talk, please contact naomi.lillie [@] Following on from the last meet-up in May, a smaller group also met recently to identify opportunities and mechanisms for advancing Open Data initiatives at the city and national levels in Scotland. You can find out more about what they talked about here – or come along to the forthcoming meet-up to get more involved with the discussions!

Get Involved

  • Everyone is welcome, so do come along and circulate this invitation to friends and contacts
  • Sign up on the Meet-up page here
  • Tweet via the #OpenDataEDB hashtag
  • Sign up to the OKFN Scotland Discussion List here to hear about and discuss this and future events
  • If you have any questions, please contact naomi.lillie [@]
See you there! IMGP4387

Scotland focus

- August 8, 2012 in OKScotland, Open GLAM

Following Edinburgh-based Meet-ups earlier this year, a small group of people interested in promoting openness recently met together to link-up ideas and projects, and explore possible areas of collaboration. The attendees were:
  • Ewan Klein, University of Edinburgh
  • Sally Kerr, City of Edinburgh Council
  • Sam Leon, Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Naomi Lillie, Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Jilly Mathews, Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Bill Roberts, Swirrl
  • Peter Winstanley, The Scottish Government
Arranged by Ewan, the aim of the meeting was to identify opportunities and mechanisms for advancing Open Data initiatives at the city and national levels in Scotland. Key areas of discussion included:
  • Prioritising what data to open next (as cannot do all at once)
  • Greater benefit from existing processes rather than generating more work
  • Awareness-raising amongst data owners
  • Developing a wish-list for datasets in forming a URI
  • Digitising cultural heritage information, including Europeana initiatives
  • Edinburgh council’s NESTA project (a digital service for local parks)
Peter pointed us to a list of Scottish datasets, and the following are areas of existing work around opening up data and knowledge: We identified two mutually beneficial areas of focus – one on infrastructure, policy and standards, and another on community and network building – and agreed the following outcomes:
  • This group to meet again, along with others suggested
  • This group to support Sally in writing proposals to the City of Edinburgh council regarding open standards
  • OKFN to look into arranging a Local Group with Scotland focus
  • OKFN / Ewan to arrange an Open Data Edinburgh Meet-up (in progress)
This was an encouraging meeting, where examples of the use and promotion of Open Data / Knowledge were myriad; for example, Peter pointed us to (and the 3 icons linking to graphs) which has details of the principal Scottish Government building including daily and half-hourly utility consumption values! If you are interested in being part of the open drive in Scotland, or keeping an eye on our progress, please sign up to our Scotland discussion list.

#OpenDataEDB 2: 16th May

- May 11, 2012 in Bibliographic, Events, Meetups, OKScotland, Talks, WG Open Bibliographic Data

Following the fun we had at March’s Meet-up ‘launch’, we will be having another gathering of people interested in open data next Wednesday 16th May. Hosted by the Wash Bar, Edinburgh, from 19.00, come and join us to discuss ideas, projects and plans in relation to openness. Lightning Talks will include Federico Sangati on crowdsourcing and education, ahead of his presentation at Dev8ed later this month, and a sneak preview of the hackathon that Open Biblio will be running 12-14th June in collaboration with OKFN’s Open GLAM and Cultural Heritage Working Group and DevCSI. If you would like to give a lightning talk (informal 2-3 minute presentations) about anything related to open data or knowledge, contact naomi.lillie [@] Sign up here and we’ll see you there!

Sticker Design 1

For this and other events in Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, sign up here.

#OpenDataEDB: the results

- March 16, 2012 in Bibliographic, Events, Meetups, OKF, OKScotland, Open Data, Open GLAM, Open Knowledge, Open Science, Talks, WG Open Bibliographic Data

Last night was the first OKFN Meet-Up in Scotland* at the Ghillie Dhu, Edinburgh, run in collaboration with DevCSI. 19 people attended from around the city and nearby, including Glasgow, and those visiting for the Open Biblio Sprint represented Cambridge, London, Wolverhampton and the Netherlands. The Auditorium was a beautiful venue, and there was a good space for giving presentations complete with seamless audio and visual equipment (a rare treat!). IMG_0315 We kicked off with the first three Lightening Talks:
It was great to see people gravitating towards those whose presentations had struck a chord… Mahendra had invited discussion around potential events and many people had plans or ideas which they wanted to run past him, while Rod’s points on taxonomy were pertinent to Mark’s work on BibServer as well as others’ research. Other discussions grew between the bar snacks, as people began with the standard ‘what do you do?’ and swiftly developed into ‘oh that’s funny, I was talking to so-and-so about that just now…’ Our dedicated bartender was contributing too, as he specialised in nanotechnology! The next three talks followed: The hubbub of enthusiasm started up again, and it appeared there were good conversations and connections emerging around the room. From these, or perhaps just courage from having seen others do their presentations (and me fumbling along as make-shift compère), two additional people decided to give impromptu talks: Many thanks to all those who presented and to those who attended to discuss all things #OpenData. Hopefully everyone left with good ideas of topics and people to follow up with afterwards, and who knows where these will lead? IMG_0306 As this was our first Scotland-based Meet-up we’d be glad to get feedback so we can improve; the next one is planned for May, so if you have anything you’d particularly like to see, hear or say, let us know (one suggestion was that talks are recorded, so people unable to attend can keep up-to-date). This and other events will be promoted via the OKFN Scotland List, so do sign up here otherwise you might miss out!

* It turns out there was an event in Scotland in 2010, according to people who have been on the scene longer than I… see here for comments on the Open Biblio blog post which highlight previous activity, and many thanks to the people who kindly contributed this information. Here’s to the next one :-)