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Ideas for International Open Data Hackathon in Vancouver

This coming Saturday is International Open Data Hackathon day. In Vancouver, it’s happening at W2 Storyeum in Gastown (details via the ODHD wiki). There was a (very!) short session led by Aaron Gladders at BarCamp Vancouver on what we might focus our efforts on during the Open Data Hackathon, and we settled working on a tool for crowdsourced, distributed incident or defect reporting that may have some hooks or relationship with Open311.

My participation in hackathons is always a little curious because I mostly just give my ideas away and occasionally try to exercise what little I ever knew about UML diagrams. That said, here are two ideas I’m interested in getting some opinions on:

  1. Citizen DAN: This is exciting to me — it’s applying an Open Semantic Framework to datasets at the local government level and focused on metrics around community well-being. Right now it’s a demo with Iowan US census data, but it’d be interesting to use this to explore and ask questions about the relationships between the datasets in the Vancouver Data Catalogue and to put this alongside the data we know exists but isn’t open, such as data used by the Fraser Basin Council in their sustainability indicators report card, or the Vancouver Foundation’s Vital Signs report. I’m not up enough on the direction of semantic web to assess how this is technically, but if anyone’s interested in playing around with semantic web, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. From what I gather, the community is just starting to get some legs under it. I’m especially curious about what it does with stories and text analysis, as I know there is someone here at UBC, twitter user Vancouverdata, who does some work on text mining. This blog post announcing the project launch back in August sums it up fairly well. Additional points: it’s based on Drupal!
  2. Vancouver Business License Data: Tylor Sherman and I talked a bit at BarCamp Vancouver about analysing the City of Vancouver’s Business License Data. While I have some ideas for potential analysis, I also haven’t really delved into the data to see what’s in it. But for the uber-geeky reading, I’d suggest the Metro Core Jobs report.
  3. Official Community Plans in XML: This is the pie-in-the-sky idea that I’m going to throw out there just because I think it’d be cool if it existed: currently, planning documents tend to take really diverse forms. I’ve been trying my absolute darnedest to wrap my head around StratML, a standardized XML vocabulary and schema in development that’s intended to describe common elements of performance plans and reports. I think there could be really interesting applications for Official Community Plans, and to established relationships between stated objectives in plans, and the kinds of changes we see in our communities. The dream is to be able to programmatically gauge whether a planning authority (i.e. a municipality or regional district) has in fact walked the talk it set out in a plan, even if problems of definition run amok. The main obstacle I see is, for how cool StratML sounds in theory, it has the most irritating community outreach (more like community repellant) I have ever seen. The good news is that the standard is being baked into InfoPath, which is distributed with Microsoft Office 2010. I’d be interested to see what parts of StratML could be adapted to OCPs, perhaps to capture some of the geographic aspects.

So — two extremely urban planning geeky topics, one data geeky. I’m going to add them to the ODHD wiki and see what happens.

To also join up the other geeky parts of my life (namely being a volunteer with the Vancouver Public Space Network),  I’m glad to see a manager from the Vancouver Parks Board will be attending the Hackathon, as the Parks Board has just wrapped up a survey assessing what datasets the public wants to see them release. Kudos!

Unfortunately I will probably not be able to make the Hackathon being hosted by Vancouver Hackspace afterwards (at least so I heard — no sites online corroborating this). Here’s to some hacking good times.


  1. Hi Karen,

    The most recent incarnation of Citizen Dan has occurred in Winnipeg at http://mypeg.ca. It has more recent updates on some of the data visualization widgets.


    Posted November 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Luke

    Super Happy Hacker House is at VHS Dec 4th – 7pm till late. The password is ‘hack the planet’.

    Posted November 29, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

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