Reflecting on 2010 – in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin by night
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It’s been a pretty frightening year on the economic front, here in Dublin, Ireland.  Finally, despite all the protestations of the Government the EU and IMF rode into town.  A deal has been done – premised on significant growth it might be doable…if the growth does not materialise – then eventually some debt will have to be written off.

On the technology front – for me personally the smartphone wins out (currently favouring the Android platform): greater access and availability wherever you are (wherever I am).  Seems to me the Cloud has matured into something that is not going away – in fact that looks like it will win out.  I think the objections will be addressed and moved aside. On the semantic web front – lots of activity from various providers of tools/ solutions using semantic technology. Disappointing, given the presence of DERI in Ireland, that we do not see more publicity/ traction within our own smart economy.  And we trail other countries dismally on initiatives to push publication of data (using linked open data standards)  by government departments.

Snow in the suburbs
A whole new world

The last few weeks have been challenging on the weather front – in particular on the East Coast.  It would have to be said that our local government/admin/ transport has failed miserably and consistently in addressing the weather challenges.  To see major roads not being cleared each night is pretty depressing – be it shortage of money to pay the overtime, trucks to clear the snow/slush,salt to treat the roads or poor planning/management and execution.  But there is a real cost – most likely including loss of life – because of this repeated failure.

Katie Taylor, Graeme McDowell, Tipperary hurlers, U23 cross country runners and many more – great memories and inspiration in a difficult year and looking forward to challenging years.

There was my short break with my wife in Budapest – what a marvellous city and such hospitable people.  But then we had the fun courtesy of Volcanic Ash – our four day trip home was quite luxurious by comparison with the hardship experienced by others.

Best book I read was the 10th anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto.  Also often found myself returning to ideas from The Power of Pull.

And Wikileaks has caught the imagination as the year closes out.  I was not very positively disposed to Mr Assange when this began – but the overreaction from certain quarters is not doing much to reinforce my doubts.  I think we all need to reflect a little on this. Some of the ideas referenced by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and by Don Tapscott in Macrwikinomics are playing out in front of us.

All in all looking forward to the break – a chance to enjoy some of the best things in Ireland – company, craic, ceol, food, literature, scenery, catching up with the visiting diaspora…and time to do some dreaming.  Because we all need to use our imaginations and our creativity in order to ensure that we do beat our targets next year – be that winning a major, winning a football championship, keeping a job, hiring a new employee, starting a new business, teaching a student, helping someone.

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How we, the public, can help with linked open data

Tom Steinberg
Image by pdcawley via Flickr

Excellent piece by Tom Steinberg pointing out what we the potential consumers of data can do to encourage government to provide the data.  One of his key messages actually covers off the wikileaks type risks – that when we do see any government body about to release anything which may undermine privacy we should draw it to their attention.

Have some concerns that some of what I have seen in Ireland on this subject is effectively encouraging government departments to release data so that we can ‘bash’ them.  This is completely pointless.

I think the real point is that there are masses of potentially useful data – which cannot be exploited while buried in archives or in pdf files.  We have not even begun to imagine the value of some of this data – when cross linked, correlated with all sorts of other data.

Thanks for taking the time to put the piece together, Tom.

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What does Wikileaks mean for open data initiatives?

Logo used by Wikileaks
Image via Wikipedia

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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