How do you define data? When the city says it will release its data, what kinds of data is it referring to?
That was just one of the questions the city’s new Chief Data Officer Mark Headd fielded at last night’s Open Data in Action meetup, organized by Dana Bauer of PhillyPUG’s and Erika Owens of Hacks/Hackers. The meetup hosted several guests who spoke about open data projects and demoed web apps in front of a room of about 50 journalists and open data enthusiasts at Azavea in Callowhill.
It was freelance reporter Patrick Kerkstra who was curious about what kind of data the city would release. Will the city only liberate large databases? He asked. What about smaller, more specific records, like a public official’s schedule or emails?
Head said that the city would focus on releasing data sets that will be immediately useful to the public, rather than, say, a city official’s emails.
Headd spoke more broadly about the state of open data in Philly and the country, saying that Philly has “some of the best civic hackathons in the country,” and Headd would know, as he’s been a frequent contributor to these events and has engaged with cities around the country as Code for America’s Director of Government Relations.
He paid special attention to SEPTA during his talk, speaking highly of how the regional transportation authority has been collaborating with local developers (see: the now annual Apps4Septa hackathon) and releasing numerous APIs.
“They’re doing that because developers expect that,” he said about providing APIs to the community.
Below, check out Headd talking about the future of open data locally and nationally. He talks about efforts to unite open data efforts across the country and the potential hardships on that front.
Neil Budde, who heads up the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network (PPIIN), spoke about the state of OpenDataPhilly.org, of which his organization recently took ownership – er, we mean, behind which his organization is putting more resources behind. Budde graciously copy-edited an earlier piece of ours, saying that he didn’t want to use the word “ownership” when it came to OpenDataPhilly.org because, you know, as the kids say these days, “the community owns it.”
Here’s the latest on OpenDataPhilly.org:
- Budde hopes to increase user engagement on the site. He says there are about 2,700 people registered on it, but there’s not much user participation on it. He’d like more people to recommend data sets and comment on the sets available.
- On PPIIN’s role in the open data community, Budde says he’d like to support civic apps that might not have commercial appeal, pointing to developer Casey Thomas‘s lobbying data tool lobbying.ph (which Thomas demoed at last night’s meetup). Read: civic hackers, get in touch with Budde if you’ve got a tool that could use some financial backing. Budde is already talking to developer Mjumbe Poe about PPIIN hosting Poe’s local legislation tool, Councilmatic.
- When asked about any potential issues with the city using OpenDataPhilly.org as its own open data portal, Budde pointed to the fact that the site offers both government and non-government data. He says he’d like OpenDataPhilly.org to be comprehensive in that way but says he’s very interested in collaborating with the city in this capacity.
- Budde has also started posting a data driven “Map of the Week” on the PPIIN blog. Check it out here. Budde says he welcomes submissions, too.