Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Web 2.0 in action

The recent announcement of data.gov.uk under none other than Tim Berners-Lee is a great step towards freeing UK data to the public - I won't reiterate the arguments going back and forth between for-free (tax-paid) and for-fee (cost recovery) - and such availability has raised eyebrows even in the land of the free - namely, how useful is it to the end-user ranging from guv contractor, thru spatial business to end-users, perhaps in decreasing order of patience &/or savvy?


A recent posting on the UK Government Data Developers Google Group (free login required) says it very well. This is crowd-sourcing at its best, not just of data but on access:

A number of journalists and myself (representing the hackers!) had a
little bit of a moan about the datasets on data.gov.uk. Don't get me
wrong: we are very happy that the government have released all the
data, but decided it would be useful to see if we could prompt the
data.gov.uk people into somehow figuring out how to turn all those
PDFs and Excel files into real data files (XML, JSON, CSV, RDF et al.)

So they hacked together a data.gov.uk format verifier in order to:
  • better assess what's available, and
  • give the government feedback, to
  • eventually better access same
And how do they do it?
So I've built a little app to crowdsource the donkey work of statistics collection.

I launched it on Twitter about ten minutes ago, and we've already had
about a hundred entries checked.
This is a patent example of what I talked about the last couple of weeks, as reported at the end my last post. So here's another instance of Web 1-2-3:
  • build geospatial communities in the blogosphere and twitterverse (don't we love neologisms?)
  • create feedback mechanisms within them, and
  • then offer further feedback to other communities
    (such as gov.data.uk in this case)


The longer view however is that if standards had been in place in the first instance, then such crowd-sourcing may not have been needed. And there are examples of such initiatives, such as UN/CEFACT that
announces important improvements in the exchange of data across industries and applications
In petroleum standards and metadata has been a thread in my blog - search for those terms, or go here - and that was the question put to me at FindingPetroleum by the session chair Dave Bamford:
Q: what do you see as the most pressing need today?
A: build the metadata so that the web can be usefully searched, and build a community to help do that

And the following question by Energistics' Paul Maton was (all this from memory):
Q: do you know that Energistics has a metadata standards initiative?
A: yes, Jerry Hubbard and I tried to connect, and so do PPDM and OGC
(Open Geospatial Consortium, not UK Office of Government Contracts)

And that means building bridges - both toward communities and amongst them - such as this one across the Ural River in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, looking west across from Asia toward Europe: