tamberg's Blog

2011-10-02 by tamberg

MakeOpenData 2011

This weekend MakeOpenData 2011 – the first Swiss Open Data Camp, was held in Zurich and Lausanne where the organisators brought together thinkers and creators to collectively make change happen. More specifically, the aim was to

...help Switzerland move towards a more ‘direct data democracy’ for participation, transparency and accountability from the grassroots.

Most of the projects were novel visualizations of openly available data, such as this simple yet useful site that answers the question Where did my taxes go? for Zurich citizens. Using statistical data provided by the city and some basic knowledge about tax law distilled into a formula, the site shows you how many seconds your money lasted the city. This might sound dull, but it's strangely engaging and connects you to the city and the other citizens in a wonderful way.

Less about data and more about open my own contributions revolve around freeing published, human readable data by making it accessible in a machine readable, open format. The first project, named OpenLetten for the lack of a better name, scrapes my favorite PDF document an re-publishes the contained water temperature of the Limmat river at Letten on Pachube, an open data platform. Being an avid swimmer I care a lot about this little measurement, which is published in said PDF document, dutifully updated once a day. But instead of having to look at a complicated table, I and everybody else can now build a simple Web page that shows a single value or a nice gauge complete with comfort zones, in a few lines of code. The reason for this is not Pachube in particular, but rather the fact that the data is now available in the open formats CSV, XML and JSON. The second project is a short write-up of an effort to put Switzerland on the European version of Geigermaps, a site visualizing crowd-sourced radiation measurements on a map.

Arriving two hours late the first day, I missed the introduction and the team forming phase of the event, which led to me being the only one man team and unknowingly breaking some of the stated rules. Besides this, the atmosphere was quite great and as a deadline driven person the two day format really helped me to get things done.