Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

opendata2

There are many great examples of governments taking the initiative to share their public data openly.  It’s not a simple matter of just put it online – in order to be useful to people, the data must be (1) appropriate types of data; (2) available in usable formats; (3) owned and maintained by someone – as a reliable data source; and (4) used to create things that are useful and usable to people.  This involves a set of polices, guidelines, procedures, roles and responsibilities, and best practices to create an effective open data initiative.  Here are some examples of the current state of open data initiatives in a variety of governments – I’m sure there are many other great examples missing from my list, and I’d be delighted to learn about other examples – please share them!

Washington, DC

Washington DC is currently THE model for Open Data.  They started by aggregating data into a publicly available collection at: http://data.octo.dc.gov/

Key issues – data needs to have clear owner; maintenance schedule, policies, procedures; common accessible formats; added value is for community to have way to contribute back to the City with app development.

Evolved to Apps for Democracy competition: http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/

Involved a modest amount of prize money awarded to application developers creating new web-based applications that utilized the City’s open data.

A second Apps for Democracy competition (dubbed Community Edition) extended the competition to focus on City problems that could be solved with technology, and to develop 311 online applications to help solve those problems. The 2nd competition has taken the bar to a whole new level with the development of a DC 311 API: http://octolabs.pbworks.com/Open-311-API

DC 311 API – allows developers to create application interfaces to interact with the DC 311 call centre.  For example, the Facebook and iPhone applications (http://311.socialdc.org) were developed using the DC 311 API.

The initiative of Washington has sparked many other Governments to look at sharing their public data:

US Federal Government

The former CIO of Washington (Vivek Kundra) moved on to work with as the US Federal Government CIO, and quickly established the Open Data initiative http://www.data.gov/ to make public data generated by Fed Gov’t branches available at a central location.  One application developed to date is http://www.recdata.gov/ for Federal Parks & Recreation data – it allows you to search by state/activity/etc.  One issue/problem with this dataset is that it’s only Federal Level data, so searching for “New York State” and “camping” returns Federal Parks only, omitting any State park information… next step would be to include state & municipal level data into the mix.

San Francisco

A pretty amazing collection of datasets is available at http://datasf.org/ including a pretty impressive collection of apps (both web-based and mobile) at: http://datasf.org/showcase/ for example http://www.ecofinderapp.com/ for the iPhone to help people find locations to recycle or dispose of “just about anything”.

Vancouver

Recently announced an open data initiative, and already has a Beta website up with some data available in various formats: http://data.vancouver.ca/

Nanaimo, BC

Already has a pretty rich collection of datasets available on the web: http://www.nanaimo.ca/datafeeds/

Toronto

At the MESH Conference in Toronto, April 2009, Toronto Mayor Miller announced the City’s intentions for an open data plan.  Details and timeline (initial datasets released Fall of 09) is available at: http://www.toronto.ca/open/

New York

Gale Brewer, chair of the Committee on Technology in Government of the New York City Council, has introduced a draft law that would adopt open data sharing standards for the city’s government. (Source: EveryBlock.com Blog)

New York City is organizing an Open 311 Dev Camp to bring together community members to discuss development of a NYC 311 API (or possibly a more universal 311 API): http://open311.org/2009/09/announcing-open311-devcamp/

Calgary

Announced plans for an open data initiative in July 2009: http://djkelly.ca/2009/07/open-government-coming-to-calgary/

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Perhaps a great example of how NOT to do an open data initiative, the MNR has a page of “Data available to the general public”, with such useful datasets (sarcastic tone inferred) as Beaver Dam locations between 1976-1996.  Ok, their dataset selection is certainly useful to a select crowd, but to get the data you have to email someone – not good.  http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LIO/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_168198.html

Portland, OR

Excellent City Council resolution in support of Open Data & Open Source.

Yammer is a tool for helping companies and organizations to be more productive through the exchange of short frequent messages.  It functions similar to an instant messaging client, however messages are visible to an entire group of participants, rather than sent as bilateral exchanges between two participants only.  Access to a Yammer group is limited to participants with the same email extension (ex: @orgname.com).

yammer-logoThe tool is an invaluable way to collaborate as a team, share quick updates, relevant links and information nuggets, without relying on email.  Yammer can be used to quickly collect a list of useful reference materials; share notices of events; share relevant website links; share short industry-relevant news updates; and many other short pieces of information, opinion and knowledge that are relevant.

The desktop client allows a participant to post and read messages sent to Yammer, and more importantly to be notified of new messages through a taskbar icon.  The desktop client extends the use of Yammer to include more timely information sharing, more dynamic online conversations, and improved interaction, knowledge sharing and collaboration.

I’ve been using Yammer at work since Sept 08, and find it to be a great way to share things with the entire team, and have short quick conversations that would be of interest to the entire team.  Rather than sending email messages cc’d to everyone, yammer is a great way to ensure that everyone can view the message, and can also search through the archive of messages at a later time.  The desktop client certainly extends the value of Yammer, simply because of the notification icon in the toolbar, although the web version does auto-refresh and include a number in the tab-name when new messages appear, which is handy.

I stumbled across a very neat collaboration tool called VoiceThread, that allows you to co-create presentations with others using various media sources, and invite discussion about the presentation through multiple channels.

voicethreadVoiceThread allows you to create a web-based presentation or story, using images, videos, documents, or powerpoint presentations (or a mix of these) with voice-over options.  Right now they allow you to import from Flickr and Facebook – look for more import options to come.  You can also export or embed a VoiceThread creation – there is a WordPress plugin for embedding VoiceThread, but only for self-hosted versions of WP.

People can then add their comments to the stories using any of: a computer’s microphone, webcam, a standard telephone (pretty cool), text comments, on-screen drawings (layered over top of the original presentation), or uploading a comment.  All of the comments are embedded around the original story, so you can see a sequential thread of discussion happening.

I think it’s a very creative example of mixing different ways to interact and chat about a particular issue.  The sophisticated commenting system I hope will be replicated in other apps – would be great to see this kind of functionality in blogs and wikis – for example, being able to add a video comment to this post at the click of a button.

Check out this example of a teacher using VoiceThread to get ideas from colleagues for a presentation about networking.