Media Mill Gazette 19

More GDS departures, water, noise and where do the people of Manchester sound poorest.

** DONE: More departures from GDS (

Computer world are calling it a mass exodus. You might think that’s strong but it certainly seems like its all change at the Government Digital Service. Design director Ben Terrett, user research head Leisa Reichelt and strategy director Russell Davies have all announced that they are set to leave the unit this year. Deputy director Tom Loosemore posted a goodbye on his site ( which it seems unfair to pick over for any discordant notes. He clearly thinks its come a long way in a short time but it still has a way to go:
“in the 21st century, the public deserves better than the 19th century institutions of Whitehall are capable of delivering”

** Don’t confuse open data with FOI (

An interesting effort at lobbying of the Commission on Freedom of Information ( to remember “the UK’s progress publishing and using open data should not be confused with, or viewed as a substitute for, robust Freedom of Information laws”. Nothing to argue with there, but the framing of the difference between open data and FOI that makes for interesting reading. ODI Policy Lead Ellen Broad does a deft job of walking the line between the commercial interests of open data, the ODI’s positive attitude to governments data strategy and the reality that despite the best efforts of open data advocates, FOI remains one of the most effective ways to get data opened up.

Related to that is the entertaining, and I hope long lived, Tumblr from data journalist Claire Miller.
Things Politicians Know Thanks to FOI ( .

** Air sensor initiative launches in London (

Not-for profit AirSensa ( has
installed a set of low cost air sensors in parts of west London as a first step in what it hopes will be a nationwide programme to provide data on air quality to public authorities, community groups and researchers. It’s good to see this happening and it’ll be interesting to see where this will go next. That said the cost, 2,500 a unit seems steep especially with its focus on PM2.5 where the open source market is pretty active already.

** Companies registrar reverts electronic documents to photocopies (

It seems that if you ask companies house for company records you could still get them in a dodgy photocopy format.Whats worse is that that photocopy seems to have come from perfectly good digital data. Cue the collective sound of heads on desks.

** What data journalists do with data (

A tweet from Trinity Mirror Data unit leader David Ottewell gives an little insight into the amount and range of data-driven content being created by journalists. The impact of FOI is clear but so is open data.

** Data Release:DEFRA release noise data (

DEFRA have released noise mapping data that includes road and rail noise as well as noise levels measured as part of their Strategic Noise Mapping ( . A quick use of Ctrl+F on the page for ‘noise’ gets you some interesting data sets to play with.

** Will open data inspire UK water companies to the next level of engagement? (

Speaking of Defra…Ian Small Associate Director, Water, at technical management company AECOM hopes so. He connects the recents Defra Lidar announcement and the Water data dive in Leeds to ponder how open data might help water companies meet Ofwat’s demand for better customer engagement in its 2014 price review. ( .

** Free access to data: a (non-boring) story about open data (

Continuing the water theme, kind of, is this article from data wrangling app I say water, because it mentions the AquaHacking ( summit in Ottawa, Ontario. But there’s more in there to enjoy.

** Jobs: Data Innovation Jobs at Nesta

NESTA has two job opening that might be of interest. First up is aData developer for their Wales Innovation Dashboard project. ( The other is Director of their innovation lab. ( Both interesting roles to watch in their own right as well as apply for.

** Innovating with open data: overcoming the challenges (

….and speaking of open data challenges and innovation.Briony Phillips at the ODI has a nice post rounding up the issues and approaches that can help unlock open data innovation.

** Manchester’s first “accent and dialect map” (

An interesting exercise in “perceptual dialectology” or asking “non-experts to identify accents and dialects” from Manchester university students. Would be great to see this as open data and mapped to, say census data.

** Open Data for Smart Cities (

It wouldn’t be a newsletter about open data if there wasn’t a mention of smart cities! The ODI are running a one day course that
“introduces the concept of smart cities in plain English. We will also examine the link between smart cities and open data and highlight future opportunities.”

** Open data ‘not enough to improve lives’ (

A warning that developing countries shouldn’t be
“blinded by the bright and shiny milestone of developing and launching an open data portal.” you need to be sure open data is doing good. A lot of what is said here echoes a post on why governments shun open data ( that I highlighted a few editions ago. It’s something that needs saying and not just in developing nations.

** Yeah, your visualisations are really pretty but they also suck (

An interesting take on why so much data journalism is, well, useless eye candy Sophie Warnes used to work for data journalism site ampp3d so knows a bit about nice visuals that do mean something. I agree with 99.95% of this post although I do think there’s an assumption that all of this stuff stands alone. But my stats are rubbish!

** Beauty behind the scenes (

An interesting behind the scenes look at the update of Sweden’s data portal Ö It’s a CKAN instance but the peg here is the way the developers have added better automation of data harvesting by adopting the DCAT (Data Catalog Vocabulary) format. Interesting to see how they managed to pull everyone together to agree on a standard output rather than a standard platform.

** Data Release: Leeds museums and galleries highlights (

Want to know what interesting items Leeds museums have in their collections? Now you can get that in open data form over at the Leeds Data Mill. I like data releases like this. Often open data demands creativity from the mundane this seems to demand the opposite.

** People tend to be happier in general during weekends (

That and other insights such as, “People are also happiest towards the start of their day and mood generally drops as the day goes by” might get filled in the ‘no sh*t’ pile. But this is actually an interesting use of the Jawbone Up fitness app to gather gather. Internet of things sentiment analysis.

This and numerous other links came from the excellent Data Lab Link Roundup on the World Bank Website. (