- A “corridor chat” that began ad-hoc, about the preservation of railway history as represented by its data records (mostly paper based).That lead us to discuss Git persistence, the zeitgeist for shared ledger databases with explicit temporal support, and what all of that might mean for recording Open Data!
- Then, a session on the perhaps more immediate concern of: how to nudge the government into making open, more of the data which it holds. Proposed was the neat idea of aggregating, curating and making searchable all of the responses arising from FOI-requests to local and national government. This would help highlight data that that the government should be making open by default.
- And it was heartening to see representatives from the Scottish government’s Open Data team attending the conference and running an engaging session that brought together government and community perspectives. The government’s recent initiative to “make public sector data easy to find” was one of the topics discussed.
- The conference even gained an international dimension when two attendees joined us from Sweden to help run a live editing session on Wikidata, contributing to the project to add better data about Scottish government agencies into Wikidata.
- Our own project received some valuable feedback after I demo-ed our latest prototype website.This wasn’t just all affirmative!… I got some useful insights into what what people found difficult. For example, “I like the site’s tools and visualisations but, more needs to be done to help me navigate my path-of-interest through the prototype website“. This nicely ties in with one of our project’s (as yet unrealised) goals: to weave interest-based navigation maps through our data site.
With Glasgow City hosting the UN Climate Change conference (COP26) later this year, it was appropriate that this year’s The Data Lab data analysis hackathon (held last week) had the theme “pollution reduction”.
Three organisations provided challenge projects for the hackathon teams: we provided a “waste management” project based on our easier-to-use datasets; Code the City provided an “air quality” project; and Scottish Power an “electric vehicle charging” project.
The hackathon was lead by a young Scottish tech start-up company called Filament. They have an interesting product that is basically a sharable, cloud-hosted Jupyter Notebook.
Each day a new cohort of teams would tackle the project challenges. We helped by answering their questions about our datasets, and by suggesting ideas for investigation.
At the end of each day the teams presented their findings.
It was informative to see how the teams (each with a mix of skills that included programming, data analysis and business acumen) organised themselves for group working, handled the data, and applied learned analysis techniques.
The teams had a relatively short amount of time to work on their projects so having easy to use datasets was a deciding factor in how much they could achieve. Therefore one take-away is clear, and helps substantiate an aim of our DCS project… open data needs to be easy to use, not just be accessible. Making data easier to use for non-experts, opens it to a much wider audience and to much more creativity.
A core goal of the DCS project is the development of ways in which Open Data platforms can be designed to be both multi-level (in terms of expected expertise) and learnable. That is, we want to identify and start to develop features that encourage users to access and use the available data in increasingly sophisticated ways, learning both how to use the platform and how to engage with data at the same time.
Because of this, it is essential that the DCS team keep future users at the centre of the research and design process. We have therefore adopted a design approach based on the creation of personas and scenarios developed from what a range of potential users told us, in a series of in-depth, qualitative interviews.
While personas and scenarios (or user journeys) are fairly widely used in HCI design, we’ve taken a slightly different approach to building our personas. Building on an approach we developed in previous research (Wilson et al. 2018), we used the methods of phenomenography to analyse the interview data in a way that embraces the richness and diversity of skills, backgrounds, aims and values of potential users. We then used the results of this analysis to create personas and scenarios that are based on values and capacities rather than needs and solutions.
These scenarios also imagine what a Waste Commons Scotland platform might look like, including some of the features we imagine we will need in order to help people learn how tomake use of the data such a site will link them up with.
You can find the resulting personas and scenarios on the Resources section of this site.
We’re excited to be participating in SODU2020 this weekend (5th and 6th September 2020). SODU is the Scottish Open Data Unconference, organized by Aberdeen’s Code the City and this year’s purely online event looks as if it’s going to be as excliting as ever. The pitches being developed on SODU2020’s Slack channel suggest there are going to be lots of thought-provoking, critcal and productive conversations. We’ll be pitching ourselves, hoping that people will be interested in the Data Commons Scotland project and willing to share their own experiences and expertise in order to help us find some solutions to the challenges we’ve been identifying.
We’re hoping to run at least one session (more, if there’s enough interest) addressing the following questions:
- How we can help potential data providers feel more comfortable making ‘imperfect’ data open (there are no perfect datasets, right?)
- At the same time, how can we communicate to a variety of potential users the quality/reliability/completeness of the data that do get shared so that they can be sensibly used/applied?
- What has already been done well on other open data sites – we don’t want to reinvent the wheel, after all?
- What are the best linking approaches (semantic web/shared labels…)
- And what about community sourced linked open data – what are the reliability issues associated with that, and are their any good tools for uploading it?
To help us get some conversations going around these issues, we’ve produced a short video that highlights some of what we’ve learned so far from the perspective of both potential users and ourselves as researchers/designers.
The first part of the video is based on one of the scenarios we’ve created as part of our user-design process – we’ll post another blog about the six personas and their assocaited scenarios soon. The second part of the video is based on our own perspectives. We’d love to know if you have any suggestions to help us answer some of our questions.
This project needs more presence on-line. Thanks for prompting this Ian! (And be sure to read Ian’s posting on the state of open data.) So, this week…
- Anna & I have made a start on revamping this, the project’s public WordPress site, which Anna created late last year. This site is accessible at https://campuspress.stir.ac.uk/datacommonsscotland. The idea is that we’ll publish on it limited-lifespan information such as relevant happenings & blog postings and take feedback comments.
- Also, I’ve create a public GitHub site at https://github.com/data-commons-scotland for some of the project’s longer-lifespan outputs such as concepts/models, standards, research output and open source code. GitHub will continue to preserve these (hopefully useful) outputs beyond the lifespan of this project. I’ve made a start by adding some investigation reports (dcs-shorts) and example web application source code (dcs-wcs).