October 2012 Meetup: Data Strategy Special

Event details: Tuesday 30th Oct at 6:30 at MadLab.

This month we’ll be hearing from Bill Roberts.

Bill (from local company, Swirrl) is a member of two recently set up government groups related to open data: the Data Strategy Board and the UK Government Linked Data Working Group. He will explain what these organisations are meant to do and how they hope to improve the UK open data landscape – and how OpenDataManchester members and others can make their opinions and requests heard.

There will also be an announcement about the MCC Hackathon, and there will be the usual opportunity for general news and discussion, and the chance for people to show off what they’re working on.

We’ll start at 6:30 in MadLab, then we’ll probably head to Common-Bar across the street afterwards for a drink.

More details and sign-up …or just turn up! 🙂

The Manchester Hackathon – 17th November

Calling all hackers, coders and creative collaborators – Manchester needs you to shape the future of the digital city.

For the first time ever, the City of Manchester invites you to dig underneath its digital skin. FutureEverything, Open Data Manchester and Manchester City Council are looking for experts and innovators to hack, code, programme and experiment with the city’s sets of open data to build new applications and develop future services.

Utilising the open data sets from DataGM made available by Manchester City Council and public sector partners, participants are welcome to produce anything they wish – develop applications to help people find their way around, stay safe, discover new experiences and everything and anything in between. All data is released under the Open Government Licence.

Taking place at MadLab in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter on Saturday 17th November, the Manchester Hackathon is set to be an intense, productive and exciting collaboration between the brightest minds in software development and data processing. Entries from both teams and individuals are welcome, and there are cash prizes to be won for the best product at the end of the session, including;

    • Grand Prize – £4,600*
    • Best Under 21’s Creation – £600
    • Best Visualisation – £600
    • Best Locative Application – £600
    • Developer’s Prize – £600
    • Best Solution for an Identified Problem – £600

 

* £1000 prize & £3,600 development funding

The event is completely free to enter and open to all. Register HERE

The prizes will be selected by a panel of independent industry experts, including Dave Carter (MDDA) and Lou Cordwell (magneticNorth).

The Hackathon takes place on Saturday 17th November 9am – 7pm, with a warmup and networking session beforehand at MDDA (Lower Ground Floor, 117-119 Portland St, Manchester, M1 6ED) on Friday 16th November 6.30 – 8.30pm

 

The Manchester Hackathon is partially funded under the ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP) as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme by the European Community.

ODM – September 2012 Edition

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 25th September
Venue: MDDA, 117-119 Portland Street, Manchester M1 6ED

Sign up on Eventbrite

After a brief summer hiatus Open Data Manchester is back and temporarily at a different venue.
The last event saw James Cattell from Digital Birmingham, Andrew MacKenzie from the UK Governments Open Data User Group and Jag Goraya from GIST Foundation in Sheffield talking about how open data initiatives were developing in Birmingham and Sheffield and Birmingham City Council’s adoption of a corporate open data strategy.

Since the last meeting there has been quite a bit of activity mostly around some forthcoming hackdays and support for open data initiatives in Manchester. Last Tuesday we had the launch of Tech Hub Manchester in Carver’s Warehouse on Dale Street, Manchester. This is going to be a new co-working space networked into Tech Hub London and a wider international digital start-up community and we will be having the Tech Hub people coming to talk about the initiative and Start-up Weekend a two day hack event utilising open data.

The City of Manchester is also looking at developing open data as far as part of a new Technology Strategy Board – Future Cities Demonstrator project. This is a large £24 million fund that will help the creation of digital services within the city. Anne Dornan who is working on the project will explain how open data fits into this.

If you are interested in public transport, and a lot of people are, Move*Manchester is an Innovation Challenge that will be running in March 2013. The planning is being finalised, but it will entail a weekend event based around a hackathon that will lead to product development and support. The prize fund and support package to develop products and services will be approximately £35,000 and is part of the CitySDK programme run by FutureEverything and Manchester City Council with the support of Open Data Manchester. More details to follow.

Also we will be looking at the latest data releases on DataGM, TfGM, cool developments and anything else people want to show

Open Data and the Personalisation of Experience

Earlier in July at SMC_MCR, a monthly digital and social technology meet up in Manchester UK,  BBC R&D demonstrated a new approach to personalised entertainment called Perceptive Media. It is something that BBC producer Ian Forrester had been talking about for some time, being revealed at SMC_MCR in February. At that point it was hard to understand what the concept entailed. It was explained as a way of delivering media that was tailored to individual preference and environment but little else.

 

On their return in July the team showcased a short radio play demonstrating some of the concepts of Perceptive Media. The play can be found here http://futurebroadcasts.com/ At first listening the play seems to follow the traditional radio play form, but within the play there are certain personalisations that are based upon the location of the listener. After a couple of listenings it is quite obvious where the personalisations exist. As Ian Forrester stated in the Q&A, it was a fairly basic demonstration of the technology pointing to the challenges of narrative personalisation and the ability to create these personalisations ‘on the fly’, in the browser. Even with such a short and somewhat basic demonstration of Perceptive Media it is easy to see how it could develop into a more complex form cutting across platforms.

 

The personalisation aspect of Perceptive Media comes from the creation of a narrative framework that allows certain variables to be inserted, with these variables influenced from the data that the Perceptive Media storyteller has access to. In the case of ‘Breaking Out’ – the play in the demonstration – the data accessed was local weather, listings and local news. As more data is made available it is easy to see how it could be integrated into a Perceptive Media framework. The demonstration offers a glimpse into a new form of story telling based on an individuals location and environment and if coupled with personal data – preference and situation.

 

In 2009 at FutureEverything there was a presentation by Philip Trippenbach, then at the BBC, about the construction of narrative in games especially first person games. He highlighted a game called ‘Six days in Fallujah’ which he writes about here http://trippenbach.com/2009/06/09/six-days-in-fallujah-and-the-dirty-g-word/ What I find of interest is the possible use of the form to be educational, to disseminate news and information in a way that many would be uncomfortable with. What Trippenbach talks about is a personalisation of experience, a certain ‘being there’. The use of real situations to create realistic gaming experience is not new but a concerted attempt to create ultra-realistic gaming through streaming of real-time positional and telemetry data from Formula 1 Grand Prix was attempted in 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7440658.stm Although as the article states it would probably only be of interest to hardcore gamers, it offers fascinating possibilities about could be achieved at this intersection of gaming, personalisation and data.

 

Although not using open data, a great example of this was demonstrated at FutureEverything in 2011. Arcade Fire’s – We Used To Wait scores a personalised film called The Wilderness Downtown by Chris Milk developed in association with Google Labs. It invites the user to enter the address of where they grew up and then the HTML5 based experience literally flies. You can try it here: http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

 

Data both open and personal is at the centre of the personalised experience whether it be local weather, what food we like, position of racing cars, location of where we once lived or the environment in which real-life situations were played out. We are starting to see a new world where the way information is delivered to us is adaptive, often in real-time and just for us. It might not be to everyone’s liking but it is happening, just look what Google are doing: http://www.google.com/landing/now/

 

Disclosure: Julian Tait is a co-founder of SMC_MCR and content programmer for FutureEverything

Transport Special – ODM May

Transportation holds a lot of interest for many in the open data community. The availability of transport open data and realtime transport open data offers the potential to create diverse, innovative applications and services, as well as a greater understanding of how transportation systems work.

The meeting was an opportunity to get an update from Craig Berry and Dave Busby from TfGM as to the progress they were making in opening up the data within TfGM. Back in 2010 TfGM made a commitment to start making available open data. This began with the release of the ATCO-CIF Timetable data in July 2010.

In January, Dave and Craig outlined what data they were trying to release and some of the technical, organisational and contractual obstacles that needed to be overcome, they were encouraged to join the Open Data Manchester Google Group and use it as a means of finding out what data developers were interested in and in what form. This they did and the update they gave seemed to reflect this.

The presentation is attached. What was apparent from the presentation was that there was a real willingness to involve the ODM community in the process of release and it was hoped that through this engagement, a greater awareness of need and organisational intelligence would develop.

TfGM Presentation

Following on from the TfGM update Nathan Day, Business Development Manager of Rockshore gave a preview of the soon to be released Network Rail realtime data APIs at the moment it is in Beta and Network Rail are only allowing 100 people access. It is due to be launched at the end of June.

The specifications and structure of the data are contained within the developer pack Developer pack for Network Rail data feeds

Although the structure of the data is described there is little context to understand what the data is describing and it will be up to the developer community to create this.

It is hoped that there will be another transport update later in the year.

Co-operating on Open Data

The new co-op HQ
The view of the new Co-op HQ from the 24th floor…

This week, way up on the 24th floor of the CIS Building in Manchester, we facilitated an event to look at how and why the Co-operative movement could engage with open data.

Alongside Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative News, a group of open data and co-op people gathered to hear from Chris Taggart of OpenCorporates, and then begin the discussion of how this movement could evolve.

We learnt that the Co-operative movement is vast and diverse – ranging from banking to funeral care, from software to snake catchers!  Equally, there is not *one* type of co-op. Variations such as worker, consumer, retail and volunteer co-operatives are just some – although all share the same ethos and relation to the guiding principles of mutal benefit for members and wider society.

Chris took us through some of the philosophical and practical issues around open data, summized in the classic line:

“Open data is the new democracy”

.. which certainly got people thinking.

I’ve picked up on two main themes that stood out from the workshop.  The Co-operative News have ably started to document and publish materials from the workshop – well worth a look.

1 – Open Data on Co-operatives

This was our starting point.  If co-ops were to openly publish data about their activities, what would represent their “added value” and “point of difference”.  Would this be data on membership, community activities and other measures? How would this be achieved?  What could be the “quick-win” datasets that co-ops could push out to engage people?

We discussed how an data standard for co-operatives could be one way to facilitate this – but this event was only two hours…

2 – Open Data by Co-operatives

This theme was something that struck to the heart if many it seemed.  One of the key values of the co-operative movement was knowing how to run successful businesses and organsations in a collaborative manner.  How could this be applied to open data?  Could open data projects be governed in a co-operative way?   There was some discussion around the notion of “prosumer co-operatives” in terms of data producers and consumers working in joint.  Certainly, there was an appetite for exploring this further…

What Next?

Open Data Manchester were proud to be a part of kicking off this discussion, and many thanks to all those that attended, and our collaborators at Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative News.  This October/November, the co-op world will arrive in Manchester to celebrate the end of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.

Please add your thoughts on how we can further stimulate the conversation in the run-up and during this event…

Open Data Manchester March meeting

March’s meeting was an opportunity to help shape Manchester City Council’s forthcoming open data Hackathon. Stuart Baldwin – an ODM regular – spoke about Manchester’s plans for an event in October to coincide with the Manchester Science Festival.

The driver behind this is the recently announced Manchester Digital Strategy and a recent trip that Chief Executive of MCC, Sir Howard Bernstein made to New York. Whilst a guest of Mayor Bloomberg, Sir Howard was apparently impressed with what New York was doing with their open data initiatives such as 311 and App Challenges.

Open Data Manchester and MDDA advised MCC, that for a Hackathon to work it needed to work with the developer community to make the event relevant and developer friendly.

The conversation was mainly focussed on the types of data that developers wanted releasing and there is a list from Duncun Hull @dullhunk here

What was notable was the willingness to listen to what the community wanted and by suggestions from MCC itself, such as Contaminated Land data which has traditionally been contentious.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/36540620 w=400&h=300]
Visualisation by Jonathan Fisher more details here

After the Hackathon discussion attention focussed on Road Traffic Collision data and the work that Steven Flower, Jonathan Fisher and Jonathan S. – There has been discussion about forming a sub-group around RTC data and its use. So if people want to get involved in that contact Steven Flower on the Google Group. Jonathan Fisher’s visualisations where discussed and also the variation in data quality that exists. It was noted that although data was provided to TfGM who collated the data for the Department of Transport. Different flavours of the data existed in different places. TfGM upload monthly data to DataGM which lacked detail on casualties and vehicles involved. The complete RTC data gets forwarded it to the DfT who then make it available via the DfT website and and data.gov.uk with more detail but in two different versions. We are trying to find out why DataGM only holds a less detailed version.

T-Shirts

There was a discussion a while back around Open Data Manchester t-shirts. It was probably after an Open Data Manchester meeting in Common Bar, but in a moment of procrastination I have designed a t-shirt.

It will probably never see the light of day but it would be cool to see if other people can design one too. You never know one day we might get some printed. This is the template T Shirt Blank

It doesn’t matter how bizarre or strange – as long as it isn’t offensive, libellous or irrelevant. Send it to opendatamcr [at] littlestar.tv and I’ll post it up

Julian

January meeting with TfGM

January’s Open Data Manchester was a transport special, with Craig Berry and Dave Busby from TfGM giving an update as to the types of data that TfGM hold, and what they are trying to release. Open Data Manchester people may already know of Craig Berry as the Information Manager who has been tasked with identifying and releasing open data. Dave Busby’s brief is for integrated ticketing and real-time information.

TfGM reinforced its position with regard to open data at the meeting. There has been a number of rumours over the past twelve months as to what the organisation was trying to release to DataGM – Greater Manchester’s open data portal . TfGM are currently releasing data with regard to bus schedules, NaPTAN stop locations, fixed and mobile speed camera locations and monthly Road Traffic Collision updates. There had been mooted some realtime data would be released.

Greater Manchester has been crying out for an intelligent integrated ticketing system. To many a lack of such system has made travel by public transport around Greater Manchester more difficult than it should be. To this end TfGM are developing a specification that will go to tender in the 1st half of 2012. The system will initially cover Metrolink and then encompass Greater Manchester buses. The system will use contactless technologies in a similar vein to TfL’s Oyster Card but with the added functionality of being able to use contactless bankcards and NFC phones. It was interesting to note the certainty that NFC will be adopted, by most handset companies within the next year. Paying by Google Wallet was also mentioned as a possibility. The ticketing system will also have fare rules that will calculate the best price for journeys undertaken.

Although getting Integrated ticketing to work with Metrolink would be a relatively easy task and a useful test bed to prove the utility of the system, getting Greater Manchester’s 40+ independent commercial bus operators to adopt the system maybe more challenging and may need a certain amount of political will. Anonymised journey data from the system or personal access to journey history wasn’t discussed in detail, although the later seems to be fairly standard in smart ticketing systems, access to anonymised data could offer huge potential for applications and services that look at gate loading on routes, passenger density etc.

The advent of the oft mooted, realtime data from TfGM looks closer – although there was no specific timescale mentioned. There will be access to the Metrolink Passenger Information Displays data, although how this will manifest itself is uncertain. Developers present at the meeting suggested that JSON would be preferable. The main challenge with accessing real-time Metrolink location data is that the Tram Management System currently being implemented isn’t currently functioning throughout the network. The initial release of data will cover the South Manchester line and Eccles lines.

Although it doesn’t look like there will be any real-time bus data soon, TfGM would like to release the location information of the free Centreline buses that are being operated on TfGM’s behalf. This data will be location data that won’t identify the actual service the bus is running. It was suggested that as there are only three distinct Centreline routes it wouldn’t be that complicated to identify, even where the routes overlap. There is also an Informed Personal Traveller pilot that is being run in Bury by Logica, ACIS and First Bus. It uses a number of technologies including an AVL system that has been fitted to approximately 100 of their buses. The IPT application hasn’t been released yet and there are indications that the system is closed.

TfGM recently submitted a bid to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and written into it is the provision of open data and the development of an intelligent multi-modal Journey Planner pulling all relevant data that TfGM has at it’s disposal, how developers could access the Journey Planner was discussed and whether it would exclude the provision of other types of journey data.

There is a move to make other data available through the LSTF, these include Car Park updates, real-time disruption data, journey down roads data and feeds off TfGM’s SCOOT adaptive traffic control system. SCOOT controls half of the approximately 2000 traffic control signals in Greater Manchester.

The lack of transparency with regard to bus fare structures within Greater Manchester has been a subject that has come up many times, especially regarding anecdotal evidence that dependant communities are charged more per mile than others having viable transport alternatives. TfGM stated that Greater Manchester is one of the few places where bus travel is generally more expensive than rail. To this end TfGM are interested in developing a project similar to one that Open Data Manchester was developing over a year ago that encouraged travelers to submit the details of their journey and price.

At the close of the discussion TfGM were encouraged to use the Open Data Manchester Google Group as a resource to ask questions and to highlight initiatives and challenges.

Making Open Data Real consultation results published.

The results of the last year’s Making Open Data Real consultation have been published. Open Data Manchester submitted a response as did 246 others.

These responses will be used to define the governments approach to Open Data and will hopefully bring about a meaningful push from both central and local government.

The following Greater Manchester based organisations responded:

  • North West e Government Group
  • Open Data Manchester
  • Rochdale Council
  • Swirrl IT Ltd
  • Trafford Council
  • Transport for Greater Manchester
  • So far play to the above for the above for engaging.

    Summaries of the consultation can be read here:

    Full responses can be downloaded here: