Talking open data at #ODCamp

TArrivalhree of OS’ regular bloggers, Christopher Wesson, Jon Field and Luke Hampson spent the weekend at Open Data Camp (#ODCamp) held at Manchester Metropolitan University’s digital innovation space known as ‘The Shed’. Catch up on their views from the event.

Paul Maltby kicked off proceedings with a discussion presentation uncovering a project that he is leading that will look to capitalise on the great work that’s already been done by public sector through the release of data through data.gov.uk over the last five years. We should be as excited as he by the next five, as UK Government concentrates on making data more accessible, more interoperable (by defining data standards, structures etc.) and more useable; all of which should unlock more value.

Our team conversed with many delegates on our stand, sharing the very latest information about our open data portfolio and our APIs as well as promoting how we are encouraging the use of these datasets through our well-established open innovation initiative Geovation.

The open data community push us hard to improve our offerings and raised many valuable and interesting points. The main take home is around better explaining what our features mean (e.g. what do we mean by a hospital) and doing so at point of use or download. It was also suggested that we could help the geographic industry as a whole by explaining each of the different file formats that mean very little to ‘non-geo’ developers.


‘Open DEFRA’, a feedback session explaining how our counterparts have been tasked with releasing 8,000 more open datasets by June 2016 and asking what data should they focus on releasing and why, did highlight some of the issues between data providers and the open community but ultimately provided some useful insight and shared understanding.

John Murray showcased his useful script for using OS OpenData to find ‘addresses’ based on postcode-based walking distances. It is useful for applications such as neighbourhood statistical analysis, for example population or number of households within x metres of a postcode centroid. He used snapped centroids from Code-Point but geometrical ones from OS OpenNames would be an alternative. It highlighted both the needs of the open data community as well as the value held by our licensed Address-Base products.

Some of the sessions led to some rather frank and important discussions for example Chris Gutteridge ran a session entitled, ‘Making open data suck a bit less’, a session that invited the community to highlight problem areas in open data such as licensing, unsuitable formats, poor supporting documentation and so on.


Throughout the sessions debate and discussion was healthy and perhaps surprisingly well-aligned. The open community present definitely have desires very similar to our own, that is to say that we all want to have data made available to consumers in an easy-to-use format suitable to their level of use with any necessary explanations attached.

We enjoyed participating in sessions on some more unfamiliar topics such as Food Data and Health as well as more familiar topics such as the Government Data Programme.

Even in the evenings, discussions on the fringes of our work uncovered many shared interests, for example data and geography in language and text.

We also had some productive catch-ups with other corporate and Government colleagues from ESRI UK, DEFRA, Environment Agency, Isle of Man and UK Government Data.

Proceedings were brought to a conclusion with an impromptu keynote on addressing, delivered by Robert Barr. Look up the work of Robert (Bob) or even better seeks him out in person at another event. In a way it summed up the wishes of the open data community while highlighting the healthy respect they have for OS.

Final mention goes to Matthew Buck from Drawnalism who documented many of the discussions in spectacular drawing form. The events of the day were also tweeted, read them here.

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