Monthly Archives: November 2010

What does Wikileaks mean for open data initiatives?

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The most recent Wikileaks of approx. 260,000 documents has the focus of governments across the globe.  There is much gnashing of teeth – along the lines of ‘see what happens when you share data’.  And there are many calls for less sharing of information.

This is a matter of national (and international) security when sensitive, confidential information, never intended for public consumption, is leaked.  While some of the tit bits will be of interest to the general public the more serious issues arise where national security or the security of individuals is put at risk.

Has this anything to do with the move towards encouraging governments and/or corporates to publish more data in formats in which people can use the data?  In principle, no.  In practice it may have some impact.

Obviously there is always a risk that someone may leak confidential or secure information.  Security clearance for those handling the information, monitoring of individual behaviour, restrictions on removal of data from secure platforms, etc – are all key measures in safeguarding such information.

This is quite different from a government department sharing data with the public where the data is of public interest e.g. analysis of spend on education by region or by age group, analysis of crime statistics by city or town.  But there are those who will look to confuse the two – where greater accountability is feared.

One final thought re open data – I am not sure that in all situations people have thought through the potential implications of publishing lots of data ie the ability of those receiving the data to cross reference and correlate that data.  In doing so these data analysts may point out trends that have gone unnoticed to date – while the data has resided in separate silos.

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Change of UK government not slowing down data.gov initiative

Interesting to read Shadbolt’s take on the change of government in the UK, in the context of Linked Open Data:

This is another area in which Berners-Lee and Shadbolt are highly influential, having overseen the design and implementation of the UK’s open data portal, data.gov.uk. “The continuity of thinking on open data as we’ve transitioned between governments has been remarkable,” says Shadbolt. “In a parliamentary democracy, it’s very difficult to argue that the public doesn’t have a right to government data,” he adds.
Perhaps the next Irish Government may be able to apply some pressure to increase publication of DATA which belongs to you and me in a format in which we can actually do something useful with it.

Mind you I am reminded of previous discussion about the need for a government CIO and/or CTO in Ireland.


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Please don’t remove the off switch

There was a time when email was dealt with Monday to Friday in the office.  Hard to believe there was a time when people were not easily contacted re work outside of office hours.  There was a time when you had to be on time for social gatherings – because there was no way to catch up if people had moved on to the next venue.

There was a time when you visited the public library (or a book shop), found the book you were looking for and made a mental note about a few other books you noticed while there.  Also you may have decided to read a book or go to a movie because someone you knew recommended it to you.  Or because you read a good review in the newspaper.

Seems the recommendations machine has taken over.  We are now networked to hundreds/thousands of ‘friends’ making recommendations.  We have sites like google which claim to know what we would like to read or what we would like to view.  Ticketmaster supposedly knows which concerts I want to attend.

Much of this is self inflicted – providing information on your preferences in order to receive relevant (or likely to be relevant) proposals.

But there is a risk in all of this – being bombarded with suggestions/ recommendations – that we may lose the spark of creativity, the possibility of thinking outside the box.

Nice piece by Joel Delmon on this very subject.  We need to keep the space and the time to think for ourselves.

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Peace time/ war time – need to tackle lots of data

Interesting piece in the Economist, under Artificial Intelligence, dealing with different ways of processing increasing amounts of data in war time or disaster situations such as earth quakes.  Author reminds us of the sheer volume and depth of information being gathered through sensors – and the requirement to process this using technology (because of the volumes).  This data may be through the use drones etc in a military situation or through crowd sourcing in a disaster situation.

Depending on one’s perspective this may be seen as a positive or yet another examples of the surveillance society.

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Are we becoming more or less sociable because of social networks and the web?

Mobile phone use as a percentage of population...
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I grew up in an era when the television was one of the key focuses. We gathered to watch matches, major events, news programs, various popular TV shows (e.g. Italy losing 4-1 to Brazil in 1970, The First Man Landing on the Moon, Hawaii-5-0 (“Book ‘im Dano”), Dallas: who shot JR?, Stephen Roche winning the Tour de France 1987, etc). I also started my work career without mobile phones – when you met someone there far less distractions. And when you met someone socially they did not have a mobile phone.

This has all changed. In the home people are watching program reruns on their laptops. When they watch television they may also be on facebook, twitter, whatever. When we meet people more and more of them they take phone calls and monitor email/ social networks. When we meet at work people are carrying a mobile and are generally online – again monitoring inbound communications or streams of information e.g twitter, yammer, etc.

Is this anti social or pro social?

Are people being more sociable because they are open to more inbound communications for more time e.g. watching the news on television but responding to facebook posting at the same time? Are they more sociable because they are not limiting themselves to the people in their physical presence? Or are people being less sociable – because they are not focusing exclusively on the people in their immediate physical presence?

People are still limited by their ability to process information e.g. Participating in the actual conversation taking place, analysing and responding to other electronic communications, picking up and responding to the emotional reactions, managing their own emotions, committing some content to memory, etc. So, given these constraints, if there are five ongoing interactions in parallel they cannot all be getting full attention.

I do not see much point in saying that what’s happening is wrong. I do not see the technology slowing down. It becomes more pervasive by the day and more accessible. Full broadband coverage and smart phones as the norm – puts everyone online all the time. Web TV is happening – watch what you want, when you want, interact with whomsoever you like in parallel.

The traditional social skills – interacting with people in a room, by the side of a football pitch, coming out of church – are important. They are part of being human, being a member of a particular society, being able to interact, being able to build real relationships. But increasingly virtual meetings and interactions are taking place in parallel with these physical social interactions – and they may be work or personal or both.

I think the challenge is to promote an awareness and understanding of what is taking place. Younger people who have only known the always online existence may miss out on a quality of interaction which was taken for granted in previous generations. Being positive about developments must also say to older generations that there is an opportunity for far wider, less physically constrained, social relations through adopting the new technologies and social norms.

Without doubt there are and there will be many victims of what is now taking place – an environment racing ahead, less time to focus on the individual, more difficult than ever to catch up. In terms of providing support we need to relook at how we identify victims and how we can bring them back into this changing social world.

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Sustainability – commercial buildings in London

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Great podcast from twodegrees on the subject of Tackling Sustainability in Commercial Real Estate: The Better Buildings Partnership.

Podcast is an interview with two members of the Better Buildings Partnership, whose aim is ‘to develop solutions to improve the sustainability of London’s existing commercial building stock and achieve substantial CO2 savings in support of the Mayor’s target of 60 per cent by 2025′.

The BBP has developed a number of toolkits – available on their site publications.

The interviewees also make a number of very good points re the commercial reality surrounding building retrofit projects in the London area – in terms of the relatively small % of savings to be made, in the context of other current costs.

The toolkits themselves are well worth reading for those interested in the sector and seeking to develop structured approaches.

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Tapscott on future of newspapers

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Been working my way through Tapscott and Williams’ excellent ‘Macrowikinomics‘.  Good Chapter (11) re ‘The Demise of the Newspaper’.  Favourite topic of mine – as an avid consumer of news (both on and off line).  And in may respects this chapter speaks to any business – you cannot stand still, you cannot just put up walls – you must change with the times, adapt, provide what the market wants (or thinks it wants).

Good, simple advice for news executives:

  1. Familiarise yourselves with the technology being used by young people
  2. Forget about making money from commodity news
  3. Develop unique value proposition e.g. The Economist
  4. Provide rich multimedia experiences
  5. Support/ enable/ lead collaborative innovation e.g. The Guardian

In the chapter he reviews a number of interesting developments including the success of the Huffington Post, the survival of investigative journalism e.g. Propublica, possible roles for journalists as curators.

I believe the game is only now really moving on for newspapers – as smart phones, tablets and internet TVtake a real grip.

And the current initiative out of Ireland, Storyful, is another excellent example for news media execs looking for innovative thinking and use of current and emerging technologies including cloud computing and semantic web.

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Using anonymous credentials to assist in managing privacy

Interesting post from Dave Raggett on the subject of anonymous credentials.  We need these types of solutions if people are going to continue to post on the web.   Speaks directly to some of the issues raised by Eric Schmidt when he spoke of people wanting to change their identities.  Mind you will not do anything for those who have already overstepped the mark.

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Cleaning up dirty data

Just came across this – Google Refine – nice example of a product for cleaning up inconsistencies in data.  Unfortunately part of the linked open data movement is dealing with the realities of inconsistencies in data.

There are lots of products out there to assist in data cleansing efforts.  Thought this video gives a nice, practical example of the types of issues and how they can be addressed.  (Brought to my attention by @BarbaraStarr on twitter).

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rethinking corporate education

Have been reading Macrowikinomics, Rebooting Business and the World – by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  They include an excellent chapter: Rethinking the University: collaborative learning.  I also recently watched Ken Robinson’s excellent animation: RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms.

Both the chapter and the book have left me thinking about how we deliver education/ training in the corporate or enterprise environment.  Tapscott & Williams and Robinson are arguing for new approaches in education.  These changes are being seen, to different degrees, in different educational institutes.

Web 2.0 and social networking platforms have presented wonderful opportunities for business’s to engage in collaborative processes – within their own organisations and, perhaps more importantly, with people and entities outside the enterprise.  However is would seem to me that enterprises should now be looking to change their own approaches to education – to increase the collaborative content of corporate education.  This would apply both in the case of internally delivered education/ training and training delivered by professional institutes of education.

Do you know of good examples of collaborative education being employed in industry?

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