Sunday, 20 November 2016

MozFest, part 1: open data

Last month I went to MozFest!!! (And yes, I am still very excited about it.) MozFest is the Mozilla Foundation's Festival for an open internet. Session themes include "fuel the movement", digital arts and culture, open science, demystify the web, ... There is also a youth zone where adults are welcome and where most of the "making" happens.
MozFest 2016 took place at Ravensbourne College in London from 28th to 30th October. I was there as part of a group of six lucky librarians from across England to have received a bursary from the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL); you can still check out our adventures via Twitter under the hashtag #MozLibs. I have already written up my MozFest highlights for the SCL blog (watch out for the snapshots from the rest of our group!) but here I wanted to go in more details into some of the sessions I attended.

I happen to have attended three sessions touching on open data - I'll put all the other sessions I went to in another blog post. But before I start with the notes from my "MozFest open data Sunday afternoon" I want to share with you two quotes from Mark Surman (Mozilla Foundation Chief Exec) in his opening speech; just to get you in the mood.

"All of us has a chance to be leaders in this movement."
"Coding is a way to be an activist, to build to change the future". There are other ways: to campaign for copyright reform, privacy, through art...

Spot: six excited librarians in the MozFest crowd
Original photo (cropped here) by Paul Clarke under CC BY-NC-SA (Source: Flickr)

Open curriculum for open data training, presented by Stephanie Wright
This open data training programme has been developed by the Mozilla Science Lab; it's available on GitHub under an open license (Creative Commons Attribution). It comprises primers - short guides for self-guided learning - and instructor guides for using the primers in a group setting, with participatory exercises.
So far the topics covered include the why of open data, how to make your data open and share it, how to find data made available by others. Future topics being considered: visualisation, data ethics, privacy... The course writers are looking for feedback on the training and help from new collaborators for future topics (e.g. visualisation).

It was one of those sessions that four of our #MozLibs group attended a bit by chance, after meeting the session facilitator. Steph is a former librarian and had spotted on Twitter that there were a few of us around, so we arranged to meet up on the Sunday morning, she said she was running a demo on open data training... et voilà.
As it turns out, it's also the one session that I have already been able to do something from within my job. There are other things I have learnt at MozFest that I will be using, but this one has already had a visible impact: I have enrolled my colleagues to try out the open data training next month. I have set aside three one-hour sessions for us to explore the topics currently available as part of the course and see how useful it is for them - we may then (who knows) run sessions for other colleagues in the Council. I am also hoping to be able to give feedback to the course writers on how it worked for us and possibly inform future development.

Let's construct open data initiatives that last, facilitated by Rory Gianni
Open data is a common infrastructure. To make it last, it needs to offer value to everybody using it.
There may be issues around sustainability: if an organisation folds, the data needs to still be available so published on a platform that continues to exist. There is also the need to expand the data, i.e. update it regularly - it can't be something set up by one person that will stop being updated when that person leaves the organisation.
Note: the European Data Portal has an e-learning programme which includes a module on sustainability.

Rory made us discuss in small groups different aspects of open data within our organisations and how to make it sustainable. I was sitting next to @biblioluke so of course we unpicked Newcastle Libraries' open data, helped in our thinking by the people around us. Rory's questions - what's the vision for open data in your organisation? Who's involved? How will they succeed? - and examples made Luke and I feel good that we seem to be on the right track!
A conclusion to the session or next step for us could be: "Go to where people involved in your open data vision are and tell them what you're doing"!

For examples of what was discussed within the groups check out the session's collaborative notes.

Rory giving examples of what could be part of an organisation's vision regarding open data

Creating data literacy, facilitated by Dirk Slater
In this session we discussed how to "make data accessible for people who don't understand spreadsheets" by connecting different actors doing similar things for their own communities e.g. journalists, government, universities. Below are some of the points mentioned.

  • In libraries we are both data publishers and intermediaries. As an intermediary it is important to have a neutral position when doing data literacy work. 
  • Intermediaries need to show the result or tale that can be told from understanding or knowing how to use data, rather than just telling people: "these are the tools you could want or need to use" otherwise people are not going to be interested in learning about data or will not use the tools nor remember about them.
  • A problem may be that the quality of the data is linked to where you got the data from - being data literate is definitely a part of being information literate and knowing to differentiate between sources of data and information based on whether they are an authority in the sector discussed, what is their interest in publishing the information, etc.
  • Data literacy: a way to be a better citizen, exercise your democratic rights and duties better. If you can make sense of the data that is being published you can better understand how your environment works and what the stakes are when making decisions and participating in public consultations.
  • There are groups that have experience of connecting with citizens i.e. advocacy groups, activists group - would there be scope to partner with those groups?
  • There is a role to be played by data regulators, people looking at how data is being used.

Note: Tabitha, another of the #MozLibs, has also blogged about the open data training programme - on her site there are write-ups of some of the sessions she attended.

No comments:

Post a Comment