I have become a big fan of open data. There is power in information, and when it’s just released wonderful things can happen. I cannot express my admiration enough for Chris Taggart, the guy behind OpenlyLocal, for example. I know it’s something that Wandsworth isn’t good at, but to be fair not that many councils are good at it and in Wandsworth the web team have higher priorities thanks to a server that’s becoming increasingly unreliable!
It’s a little hobby-horse of mine, and I continue to hassle and raise it from time to time when the opportunity is there.
I was probably unreasonably excited when I was asked if it was possible to get data covering public and community toilets in Wandsworth. The data is there, on the council’s website, but not in a way you can easily manipulate. I was excited because it was proof that when you put data out there, people will use it, and generally use it for the wide benefit of the community. In this example, they were exploring the possibility of making a location aware app for people so they know where their nearest toilet is (while most can take it for granted, for many it’s an important factor that can limit their day-to-day lives).
But having got this data, what could I do with it? Well, obviously send it on to the person who requested it. But then it occurred to me that I could publish it. And, while I’m at it, I could probably become the country’s first open councillor – there are only 24 open councils after all.
So, with toilets (and data from my earlier post on Wandsworth’s most popular services) I’m opening up jamescousins.com/data for business. I’ve no idea how useful it will be, how much data will be in there or whether or not it will be interesting, but at least I’m trying to hold myself to the standard I’d like to see in others.