30 07 2010

We have been working hard to get some exciting data from Manchester’s local authorities, and it seems the results are starting to come in.

For the first time in the UK, the open data community now has access to bus timetable data. In this case, for the whole of Greater Manchester. This isn’t just the stops and routes – this is the full timetable broken down across every stop, in a machine-readable format, used by the industry.

If you want to access it, or just learn more about it, please read the Access to ATCO CIF Data page on the wiki.

And whilst you’re there, perhaps you want to help add some information to the wiki’s other pages.


Meeting – 29th July at MadLab

21 07 2010

I wanted to hold off posting details here until the schedule had been finalised, but we can now confirm 4 great talks next Thursday at MadLab, Edge Street, M4 1NH.

Our schedule looks like this:

  • 6.30pm: Turn-up/introductions/etc.
  • 7pm: Introduction from Paul Robinson, ATCO CIF data parsing and other toys you can use today
  • 7.15pm: Steven Flower from will be sharing stories from the front-line of open data
  • 7.40pm: Julian Tait talks through real-time data (and funding!) possibilities
  • 8.05pm: Derek Harvie and Tom Robinson will discuss Metrostink – a use of Twitter for reporting Metrolink wait times and problems
  • 8.30pm Wrap-up and adjourn to a bar nearby (possibly Common?)

We’re bursting at the seams on this one, and we’re hoping there is something for everybody. I can’t say too much about my intro talk right now, except we’re hoping to be able to show you something never seen before… I’ll leave it at that, you’ll have to turn up to see for yourself if you’re curious.

Any changes in details will be announced over at the wiki, and we’d appreciate it if you could drop your name on the page to let us know about numbers.

Meeting this ThursdayWednesday 16th June – Common Bar, Northern Quarter

14 06 2010

Well, the people have spoken, and it has been decided:

We’re meeting from 6.30pm onwards at Common Bar in the Northern Quarter.

If the place is packed, we might move on to somewhere a little quieter but will leave word at the bar if anybody asks for the “Open Data Manchester crowd”. If you don’t know how to spot us, feel free to email me and I’ll send on my mobile number.

Hopefully see a few of you there.
UPDATE: We originally said this was Thursday. We meant Wednesday, sorry!

Options for the next meet-up

3 06 2010

The request for speakers for the next meet-up on the mailing list fell on deaf ears, so we’re switching to a social-style pub meetup instead.

We’re planning on meeting at 6.30pm-9pm on the 16th June 2010. The only question is, “which pub?”

There is a football match on that night, so I was going to suggest a TV-less pub, perhaps with a beer garden in case the weather is as magnificent as it is tonight: either the Briton’s Protection on Great Bridgewater Street (near Deansgate tram and train, 5 mins walk from Piccadilly Gardens, but doesn’t serve food after 6pm), Rain Bar nearby or Kro2 on Oxford Road. I’ve also suggested Common Bar in the Northern Quarter which might suit some of you better although there is no beer garden, but plenty of space inside.

If this idea appeals, state your preference over at the Doodle poll and I’ll announce in the next couple of days via the list and here at the blog the choice made.

Dispatches from Vancouver

14 05 2010

As some of you will know, I’ve spent the last week in Vancouver – the World’s first “open 3” city – learning about open data, open standards and open systems.

I’m trying to synthesise everything I’ve learned whilst here, and it’s difficult to condense it down into something I can easily share, however there is one theme that has been dominant in all our conversations:

Open data has nothing to do with technology.

Whilst most data is in silos of technology, and there is a need for technical expertise to find, release and digest it, Vancouver went through the process it did in order to address social issues.

The social issues in Vancouver are a little unusual. It has some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods and some of the poorest as well. Where I was staying (about two blocks from the notorious Hastings and Main junction), it was impossible not to see homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution everywhere you looked. 30 minutes walk toward Stanley Park, and it’s like entering another World: one dominated by apartment blocks owned by Chinese billionaires and pristine sidewalks with a Starbucks never more than 2 blocks away.

To make an analogy, imagine you took all the homeless people, mental health patients, drug addicts and prostitutes in Manchester and multiplied their number by fivefold. Now put them all in one small area of the city: say, an area about the size of the Northern Quarter. Remove nearly all private enterprise and investment from the area. Now imagine the apartments across the rest of the city were twice as expensive, and to be a home-owner you would need to be on around £100,000 per year. That’s about as close as Manchester could ever be.

Open data and open standards here are about trying to understand why the city is the way it is: what information are councillors and those in authority using when making decisions? How accurate is that data? Could other alternatives be considered? If so, shouldn’t the information being used to help inform decisions be made available to other stakeholders – including those affected – by default?

What really struck me about the lack of technical focus here though was the definition of “open standards”. When I use that phrase, I typically mean something these days based on XML. Here in Vancouver, they mean something much more inclusive, that it should be culturally irrelevant. They don’t want information to be in XML on a website: they want it in the conversations on the street, to be in newsletters or meetings where it can inform and illuminate. Putting it up on the web is just the first step.

I will not forget my trip to Vancouver for a long time. It’s been a privilege to visit, and I have already decided that on my return I want to be more engaged politically with the social issues of the city I call home. Open data is part of that, but the enthusiasm and breadth of what the people in Vancouver are attempting has inspired me to think beyond some of the boundaries I’ve had mentally until now.

Hosted Wiki options?

11 05 2010

One of the outcomes of our meeting a couple of weeks ago is that it would be incredibly useful for us to get a Wiki going for everybody to be able to contribute to.

A couple of voices screeched that PBwiki would be a terrible choice, but I’m struggling to find quality, hosted, free wiki sites out there. If anybody knows anywhere worth looking into, I’ll take a look. Otherwise, PBwiki it is.

P.S. – I’m in Vancouver at the moment, the open data city. I’m about to meet Andrea Reimer who pushed through the legislation forcing Vancouver to open up its systems, data and software. I shall be reporting back via Future Everything, and will do a write-up here as and when.

Reminder: Meet up tonight

27 04 2010

I’m really happy that even though we only left a week for signups to our inaugural event, it looks like a couple of dozen people are ready to get stuck into open data this evening at MDDA, Portland Street. I know some people are only planning to come for the drinks afterwards as the event clashes with a couple of other things going on in town that night, but I’m looking forward to hearing from Julian and Alan about things going on in the city and meeting lots of new faces – it’s the first event in Manchester I’ve been to in a while where I don’t recognise most of the names.

There are still spaces available and a few hours left to signup, so if you want to come along please get your name down ASAP.