Our first hosting organisation, the hackerspace in Prague, called brmlab, could welcome us last thursday to its regularly organised Talknight. Talknight is just the idea to meet each first thursday evening of the month around daily scheduled presentations. Each one is free to offer a so called talk about its topic of interest, brmlab streams and records the meeting on video and publishes afterwards the presentation slides on its website. In some few words, brmlab is a classic hackerspace situated in the basement of a repurposed building in Prague 7, a dark 20m2 room full of motherboards, circuits, displays & electronic microscopes. Brmlab organises other types of events like regular member meetups and project nights.
We had to give a short version of our workshop and skip the practical part since each talk shouldn’t exceed 20 min. Firstly, we have to say we were quite surprised to find out that the open data topic was not well know between the attendees. Although an open data platform in beta version has been set up and the OKFN is already present in the czech republic, the principle of open data and the OKFN Czech were not known. Nevertheless, the audience showed a large interest in the topic and we were happy to be the subject of a large panel of questions.
The debate focused first on the need of a common standardisation, so to say the need to set up common rules on data format and how should the platforms store and make the data available. This emphasis on standards matters was in part explained by the fact that the audience understood that we ourselves were planning to create our own open data platform from scratch. We had to make clear that we are not willing to set up a platform but simply want to promote the idea of open data & open knowledge, introducing the principles and current stage world wide.
Then, further comments of interest arised like the integrity of data on the first hand and the integrity of the data source on the second hand. How have been data collected, under which criteria? How can we be aware of the methodology? If needed, how can we react to a lack or a non-honest method of generating data? If this issue is not a new one but also occurs in the statistic field, it is sure that the origin and methodology have to be properly communicated on a open data platform, as a legend always illustrates a map. As well, how transparent is a government or an administration while releasing its data to the public domain? Which data will be published, which not? For which purposes is an organisation willing to make available some data and not other? That brings us to a further relevant critic underlined during the talknight which is the doubt that an administration would be anyways interested in publishing its data. What would be its interest to create an open data platform? We could particularly argue that such a way makes a better communication between citizens and public administrations, optimising bureaucratic procedures thus working towards a better society.
After our presentation, we attended the second talk of the night made by one of the members of brmlab. In its talk, he teached how you can make your daily online activities (browsing the web, sending email, using cloud storage services, mobile phone…) a bit more secure by using different encryption mechanisms. We found this presentation very informative and useful. Also, very interesting by the fact that in opposition to the topic we presented (opening public data to everyone), encryption enables to protect, and therefore close to others, your private information. This fact has to be considered as complimentary and not conflicting since the definition of open data excludes the private information of the user.
In general, we are really happy with the results and feedback of our first encounter and feel, although our presentation and contents can be still improved, that the topic wakes big interest on the attendees and we are looking forward for the next stop.