Getting down and dirty with data
Over the weekend a small tremour was felt across Birmingham. The distinct rumble was caused by a group of web developers, data hackers and HTML magicians who had gathered to do something wonderful – and the result was explosive.
“The one word that is bouncing about is ‘data’, and the project that is being attempted seems to be the impossible, as Hackitude creator and chief smart person Mark Steadman explains: “find any local place, event, or data” and the end result, as far as I can make out, is a website that allows you to access any available local information and search it in a coherent manner.”
Mark Steadman (@moxypark) decided people were beginning to get a bit all-talk-no-action about data mashing. So he quickly organised the event to bring together a number of people with the skills and motivation to make things happen – see my interview with him over on the BeVocal blog here. Hackitude aimed to capitalise on local digital creative talents in Birmingham to solve some of the city’s problems using data and the web. He said on his blog:
Hackitude is what I’d like to think of as a “problem solving weekend”: two nights of designing and building solutions to problems posted by the people of Birmingham. They could be anything from mapping public transport routes to adding data to building a community site to putting together an iPhone app to monitor the city’s pigeon populous. Really, anything.
Before the event took place, those interested in how the web can be used to present data sent in suggestions for what the group should work on. Dave Harte for example, suggested mashing Birmingham’s parking data with crime data to create a site which will show you where the safest places to park in the city are.
But the Hackitude miniature data army decided to use Birmingham allotment data to show vacant plots in the city, and to help tackle the bigger problem of making a coherent data model. The aim was to create a framework for the geographical data of the allotments, as well as ploting use and other data on the map, hoping that in turn a model would emerge suitable for mapping all sorts of Birmingham data. This may come together to make one over-arching site mapping all the things going on in Birmingham.
The website for allotment data is now available on the site http://metalocal.hackitude.org/ If you visit the site you can search allotment data by postcode – and it is clear more data of this kind will be added to the drop down box for searchable data. This is a great achievement and hopefully has got the ball rolling for making other Brum data accessible in new ways.