I would encourage anyone to attend the next camp. It doesn’t matter why, just do.
Before I delve further into the comings and goings of the 3rd Camp. I would like to echo that it was strange not having anyone from Cabinet Office there, a point made at the end of day one, which seem to grow into an issue on day two. It’s particularly odd as government seems to be currently near the centre of things and generating the debate around open data, and the Cabinet Office has been a key part of putting in place much of the underlying structure for this transformation.
Some of this leadership seems to be fading away, however, which is something that was debated at the end of day two. It would, for example, have been a perfect place to actively feed back into the user research on the future of our primary discovery route for government data in the future. If I’m honest, their absence seemed odd.
However, with the power of the internet and a senior management team that are both engaged and engaging, I was able to flag the issue to our Senior Responsible Owner, Emily.
And so, if you didn’t, or can’t (ever) make it, Paul is right: you can follow the discussion online. Besides, it’s not possible to attend all the concurrent sessions anyway.
That said (and to repeat my earlier point) if you never have been, then go! Now, I’ll get off one high-horse and get on a different one.
At the start of one of the sessions I attended, we held an inclusive roundtable to give everyone an idea of our shared areas of knowledge. This is what they spanned: data science; machine learning; gaming; marketing; economic benefit; local authorities; consuming tools; licensing; activism; academia; processing tools; policy; standards of evidence; journalism; transparency; government; procurement; data sharing; artificial intelligence; software coding; digital cities; positive stories; evaluation of statements; freelance; civic; community; voluntary sector; geography; open source formats; ideas. For me, this list is important in many ways: it shows how diverse the community is; how accepting of new approaches they are; and how complicated this makes the discovery process. A slight issue here is my use of the word community. It seems to imply a cohesive group of individuals, but I don’t think we are – or at least I don’t think we have a common code that we stand by. Maybe we shouldn’t, but as a random collection of individuals I get a sense that if we were all suddenly to pull in one direction at the same time then we really could kick ass.
I’ve been having conversations about Defra’s data on and off ever since I Defra in 2004. Back then, I was transporting farmers’ data on pen drives, so that they could use it in the system we were building and take it away afterwards. This was how we did user research then. I remember being excited when the new 128Mb pen drives arrived which were a big leap from the 32Mb ones, but still not a patch on the CDs which we were using to send the system out to our users on. In those days our help desk session tree started with ‘is the picture on the CD facing up?’. I reminisce too much. So my job, as it was, has since been overtaken by electrons; things move on, but strangely not at the pace you may expect. It turns out one of the things we were wrestling with when I was in a different post is still a continuing bugbear for my modern-day replacements, and something that came up time and again at ODCamp. Discovery. It was estimated that this where 30% of effort is going. Given the role I currently have in Defra’s Data Programme, I intend to do something about it. What, I’m not entirely sure; but lots of small changes is more likely to be my approach.
That said, and having had time to reflect, I think more than anything we as a random set of individuals could do with a code and/or a mission. Why? Because I get a sense that if we put our common weight and processing power behind some particularly important issues, say health (which is a hugely diverse topic, and related to a whole bunch of things such as the food we eat and the environment we live in) we really could change things for the better for everyone. But that’s just my opinion, and we need to debate what those particularly important issues are, of course.
If you would like to delve deeper use #ODCamp out there on the ‘internet’ there are session notes, drawings, pictures, and other blogs.
PS Thanks Stefan Janusz for drafting edits.