Attending the Open Cities Summit and the International Open Data Conference has challenged me to think more critically about open data and the issues that surround the free release of information. My perspective on open data is simple: laws describe what should happen and data describes what did happen. We have open laws so the expectations are broadly shared among those subject to the laws. We should have open data to broadly share the actual outcome of enforcing those laws. Additionally, as taxpayers, we finance the collection and storage of the data and thus have a right to what we have effectively purchased.
I’ve been working with and around open data since 2013, mostly in New York City, one of the first cities to have an open data law and open data portal. Since 2014, I’ve been teaching data analytics with open data to New York City employees and college students. In my classes (Pratt Institute and City of New York Learning and Development), I challenge my students to think critically about the data we work with as I challenge myself when I work with open data in personal passion projects (Corridorscope, Citibike Dock Status, NiceRide Dock Status, NYC Transit Sheds, to name a few).
I’ve also been privileged to be involved in some of the discussions around open data policy in New York City. Through my classes with NYC employees, I’ve gained insight into the operations of New York City and the nuances of data that have informed my work with open data. My education work has been something of user research looking at those who lack the intimate familiarity that I’ve gained over my time with the city data.
This is the context I come out of when participating in the discussions in person and online. I consider it a great privilege to be around so many smart, talented, experienced, and passionate people attuned to both the challenges and opportunities open data presents.
I want to take some time over the next few posts to offer my thoughts on the issues being raised. These are rough ruminations, hewn from the raw matter of talks, tweets, and discussions. I hope to refine these over the next few weeks and integrate them more into my classes and hopefully further blog posts.
But first, I want to thank the organizers of IODC for allowing me to attend this years conference and I look forward to continuing the relationships I’ve developed at this year’s conference. Thank you all and I look forward to the continuing conversation.