Raminetinati's Corner

A Blog recording the life a Web Scientist

OKFest 2012 – Day 3 Highlights and Twitter Recap

For me, the theme of day 3 was about sustainability, and how Open Data can help facilitate the process of creating a sustainable future for a growing world. James Cameron gave a brilliant presentation during the opening plenary session, looking at the current data, tools, technologies, enterprises and social processes that are helping the world become more sustainable – and he painted a very worrying picture. We currently don’t have the right things in place to support the planet in an effective way, but potentially Open Data may be able to offer a helping hand to such a major task.

As James argued, we need not only data, but ways to visualise, and manage the ecosystem of various systems that exist, he alluded to a system that resembles something of a master control centre, where people can monitor, analyse and take action on the complex streams of information that are available to them.

James also make some important points about the social processes of this task – most crucial, it is not the task for a single person, it down to the responsibility of groups, teams, organisations and societies to help produce this data, maintain it, and monitor and make decisions based on it. There seems to be a lack of clear processes to examine how climate change can occur and be worked on, there needs to be a measurable performance indicators to make this happen. As James explained, we need to create public goods enterprises, which focus on use and re-use of open knowledge and open data.

It does seem that the buzz word for this conference is ‘ecosystem’ which has so far has taken a broad meaning, from ecosystem of development, to a global ecosystem of communities and technologies working towards common goals.

Tiago Peixoto followed James presentation with the important topic of participatory budgeting and involvement of citizens. Demonstrating a case study of brazil, the benefits that taking such an approach improves not only economic stability, but also improved welfare, and standards of living (a reduction in poverty rates and child mortality).

However, the cost of the participatory is high, both socially and technically. Getting people to take part in it is not easy, and requires the careful integration of it into their social practices. A great example was given By Tiago; In brazil it is very difficult to get the citizens to come to an Internet Café, or some government building, however, putting the voting system in the local church, youth centre or community centre will make it much easier to get citizens to vote.

Another highlight of Day 3 was the “Challenges of Working with Crowd-Sourced Data” which was part of the Open Research and Education track. An diverse panel consisting of Philip Thiago, Anahi Ayala Lacucci, Linda Raftree, Victor Miclovich, Stephan Davenport, Soren Giler and Daniel Gonzalaz each contributed to a number of good, thought provoking questions, provided by both the session host and also questions by the panel. Key points raised from the discussions included identifying and nurturing the crowd for completing tasks, yet focuses on the importance that they are humans, and they have their own goals and objectives. Finding the right incentives is a must, and as examples were told, these are not necessarily financial incentives or rewards, it can be something as simple as a printable certificate or sticker, making the crowd know that they are part of something important and potentially beneficial to society. This also raised an important question of exploitation of the crowd, and how that the tasks that they are doing should not be something that brings them no benefit, this is potentially taking advantage of the helpful or uninformed.

It is important also to create an ecosystem (the Buzz word of the day) around crowd sourcing, the worst thing that can be done is create an application, get people to participate, and then do nothing with the data. Feedback is required for sustainability, and there needs to me some measurable impact in order to demonstrate the capabilities and benefits that the crowd’s time has provided.

Two further important points were raised during this session, the first regarding the design of crowd sourcing services, and second, the trust worthiness and scaling issues of this kind of data. It was nice to see a new definition from Victor about how crowd sourcing should be defined, it is important to consider the development of these technologies as “Crowd Crafting” and as part of the process, include the crowd rather than presume their actions. By doing so, it’s development avoids the risk of potentially insulting cultures or country specific issues.

Trust is also an issue with the development and eventual growth of these systems, and currently two methods are operational, assessing the data by hand, or using AI, and although the latter is not always accurate, when dealing with a large set of data, then analysis by hand becomes a difficult task indeed.

The afternoon highlight for me was the ability to host a session for academic research interested in open data research, which included 5 speakers from a diverse set of backgrounds and locations! For a full list of presentations visit: http://okfestival.org/topic-stream-open-research-and-education/. There was a really good level of engagement with the crowd for each presenter, with plenty of questions and feedback on their work. For me, one of the things I’m really looking forward to in future OKFN events and hopefully OKFest 2013 is an even bigger focus on the Open Data research that is coming out of academia, especially with Rufus’s talks earlier in the Week regarding the need to collaborate more the academic community!

Finally, a real highlight for the evening session was the great talk by Hans Rosling, who’s award-winning work has been not only influential in the global development, but also within the world of data visualisation and using graphics and interfaces to represent highly complex datasets and theories in simple and comprehendible ways. Rather than describe the brilliance of the talk, it is far better to spend a spare 45 mins to watch it (Starts at around 30 mins in): http://bambuser.com/v/2996396

Recapping Day 3, without a doubt, the theme today – which built upon the previous two days – was how to create and maintain an Open Data ecosystem, which is both a social and technical network of actors. I’ll stop there before I start to go off into ANT territory – I’ll save that for another day…

As before, here is Day 3 of the #OKFest Twitter conversations! I’ve also included a Wordle of the most used words within the stream, these are the top 100 words, with common words (and, this, etc) removed.


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