Cultivating Open Geo-Data in the Real-World: A Guided Tour of Three Portland-based Projects

Open Data
Location: F150
Presentation: external link
Average rating: ****.
(4.33, 3 ratings)

The challenge: How do you get the community to be excited about and participate in open datasets?

I’ll explore how I’ve approached this question in three Portland-based projects. Each project has two goals:

  1. Free iOS apps for public education and participation
  2. The creation of real-time geo-queryable, well-maintained open datasets that can be used for other projects, and preserved for the future, well beyond the current round of apps

The Three Projects:

  • Poetry Posts – How do you build an app or a map when there’s no list of locations, and no one can even agree on what these things are called? I’ll talk about co-creating a dataset with a diffuse, elusive and often technology-averse community.
  • Heritage Trees – How do you make statistical data exciting and encourage participation and engagement? I’ll explain how I designed and built a system to gather a community-wide collection of photos of Portland’s Heritage Trees.
  • Portland Public Art – How do you blend together data in multiple formats from multiple agencies and make sure it all points to the right place? I’ll cover using CouchDB as a canonical datastore, crowd-correcting locations and managing community contributions.

Conclusion – In the context of these projects, I’ll explore these common themes:

  • The importance of sustainable, re-usable datasets (i.e. an iOS app is just this year’s packaging)
  • Mobile devices as data collectors
  • Mobile app users as data submitters, correctors and curators
  • Making use and participation easy for non-technical people
  • The role of CouchDB in building community projects that have dynamic data and dynamic metadata
  • The complexities of intellectual property and local government data
  • The use of government data as scaffolding, a framework which the public can improve and adorn

I’ll preserve time at the end for questions and answers.

Photo of Matt Blair

Matt Blair

Elsewise LLC

Matt Blair has been a freelance programmer and consultant for fourteen
years, with an increasing emphasis on Open Source Software over the
last ten years. He has recommended and implemented systems using
Firebird, PostGreSQL, Plone, Drupal, Wordpress, Django and CouchDB.

As technology director of HumaniNet, a non-profit that assists
disaster relief and economic development projects all over the world,
Matt analyzed and adapted technology for low- and no-bandwidth
environments, and designed and managed distributed mapping processes
during several disaster response exercises.

In 2010, Matt’s “PDX Trees” iOS app, based on Heritage Tree data
released by the City of Portland, won the “Most Appealing App Award”
in Portland’s Civic Apps challenge.

His new Public Art PDX app, built in collaboration with the Office of
Mayor Sam Adams and the Regional Arts & Culture Council, features over
400 works of public art throughout the Portland metro area.

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Jason Phillips
08/16/2011 10:21am PDT

One of the sessions I wish I had attended.

Picture of Matt Blair
Matt Blair
07/25/2011 3:05am PDT

The slides for this talk are now available on Slideshare

Of course it will be much better in-person, with live narration. I hope to see you on Friday morning at 11!

PS: I just realized the Public Art PDX Website wasn’t linked above. There’s a video and an App Store link there.