Ok go! What are you doing at OKfest14?

Ok go! This week 1000 people converge in Berlin for Okfestival with many more participating and observing online. We are here to instigate open action and open minds.

The Open Knowledge Festival 2014 will be our biggest open data and open knowledge event to date. It will be global, inclusive and participatory. We expect it to create a significant local and international surge of innovation.

Throughout the festival, I will be leading the Community storytelling team. I’ll mostly be using twitter and storify to curate stories. Also, expect pictures and maybe some videos with attendees. During this event, I am also running or assisting on a large number of sessions and side events, plus attending some key sessions.

okfest logo

Here’s my schedule for the following week. See some of you soon! And, for friends who aren’t here, see you online (all items are at the OKFEST venue unless stated otherwise):

Sunday, July 13th (completed)

Watch Germany win world cup, walk to celebration at Brandenburg Gate (checkmark)

Monday, July 14th (completed)

Hold informal #geobeers with mapper and activist friends in Berlin at Strandbar (so amazing, done-so)

OKfest Opening Day: Tuesday, July 15th
Open Knowledge Community Summit (13:00 – 16:00 CET)

stickies are love

This is a community-driven event to talk about the Open Knowledge community. See all the details. I’ll be hosting a sub-group to talk about the last 5 months of community programming and get input into the next steps.

Storytelling team meeting (17:00 CET)

Sharing stories, ideas and moments is such a big part of community events. I’ve had much practice curating and encouraging stories at large events. Join our Storytelling team and meet other digital curators. Look for folks with blue ribbons or tweet us at #okstory with blog links, videos, photos, headlines and key themes.

How to join: Review our Storytelling wiki page, add your name to our etherpad, tweet @heatherleson or with #okstory to meet team members. Our first meeting is at 5pm in the Media Hub room at the Okfest venue. We will have other informal meetings to be announced throughout the event. Stay tuned.

School of Data Table at the open night (18:00 – 21:00 CET)

Come meet the School of Data existing and new fellows, local partners and team. Ask questions, get involved.

Community Drinks (21:30 – on)

The Community team is hosting an informal drinks night. Join us for chats and connecting.
Location: Prater Garten

Bike by

OkFest First day: Wednesday, July 16th

Storytelling Team meeting like at 8:30am at venue. TBD, see #okstory.

I’ll be attending all the morning sessions. Truly, super excited for Ory to talk plus graffiti activists!!

Open Coalition (12:00 – 13:00)

Help us build an Open Coalition across various open organizations and individuals. We have common missions and are stronger together.

Power, Politics, Inclusion and voice

“Data, information, knowledge is created in a political environment where power dynamics dictate who is/is not included in the creation process. Unless we consider who is involved in knowledge construction we run the risk of simply entrenching existing power structures. If open data is dominated by data produced in the Global North what chance do we have in redressing the balance of power for an equitable world? “

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Workshop (16:30 -17:30 CET)

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team will share stories and do a demo with hands on support. Super excited to support Katie and other Hotties on this.

Open Mapping Party

Join the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, CartoDB, Development Seed, Zeit Online and Mapbox to talk open mapping strategies and tools over drinks. Heather Leson, Ian Schuler, Javier de la Torre, Alex Barth and Paul Blickle are in town and ready to connect over humanitarian response, data visualizations, OpenStreetMap and satellite imagery. We are inviting map nerds, enthusiasts and friends to join us for a mapper night. Sign up here.

survey tape for teams

Okfest Second day: Thursday, July 17th
Storytelling team – meeting tbd

Day 3 of Community Storytelling. Stay tuned for more highlights and a meeting

Crisis.net (12:00 – 13:00)

Crisis.net is a new open tool from the amazing Ushahidi folks. The team will share a demo and answer questions. I’m expecting many civil society and journalists to join in the conversations. Session details.

Low Tech Data : Storytelling and Storyfinding (14:00 – 15:00)

Rahul and Gabi will be a fantastic hosts for this session at the heart of every impact for civil society and activists. See more details:

Looking for creative ways to find and present data stories in low-tech settings? We will share our hands-on, participatory techniques for bringing people together around data to find and tell powerful stories without computers. You’ll walk away with skills and ideas to help the communities you work with!

Working with data can empower or disempower. Algorithms, technical language, unfamiliar processes – these all leave many communities incapable of working with data, or understanding data-driven discussions. Most folks don’t “speak data”.

How to Teach Open Data (15:30 – 16:30)

Join the School of Data and friends to learn best practices in teaching open data. (full details) We’ll have a world cafe to share

  • How to organise tech and data workshops
  • Building effective curriculum and accreditation
  • Type of education activities: a blended offline, online
  • Designing passion driven communities (I’ll be with Bekka from P2PU)
If I had more time or a time machine, I would attend these amazing sessions too!

School of Data

School of Data Summer Camp (Potsdam) (invite only): Friday, July 18, 2014 – Monday July 21, 2014

School of Data is the division that I work in at Open Knowledge. This summer camp includes fellows, partners and local instances of School of Data. We will talk about strategies, share skills and develop plans for the upcoming year. I am specifically sharing community programming and community engagement best practices:

July 22nd, 2014

FALL OVER, Report back, sleep!!!


Bring Kurios to your Community

Kurios is Cirque du Soleil’s latest creation called the Carnival of Curiosities. Recently I had the chance to attend this delightful event in Montreal. From the storylines to costumes to sheer talent to showmanship, I watched the show with marvel and true inspiration. Every day since experiencing it I’ve been thinking about how we can share sustainable positive energy and beauty in our communities. As my sister calls it: joyful noise.

What if we reimagine how we build Digital and open communities with this key sentiment?

I’m at the airport on my way to Okfestival. This event includes all the amazing elements of global, cross-topic and multidisciplinary mayhem you can muster. Having attended OSCON for the past few years, I am really keen to meet many diverse open communities that are not all baked in open source software. (Miss you guys at OSCON already. (First love))

Join the circus

We are all in this big tent and want to expand the circle. While we focus on the actions, tasks, missions, outcomes, we should also practise like a trapeze artist, shine like the instigator clown, invite like the host, tantalize like the contortionists, but more of all: tie it together by inviting all the crazy items to flow and exist.

Often lately I am confounded by how to muster community spirt and connect all the diverse contact points into a thematic joyful space. While everyone has their niche thing that they love, we, as community leaders, want to have a light touch that brings everyone together. The undying passion of building that something important, special, needed often can be so strong that it might push people away or worse, burn out the very leaders that we want to nurture. Communities need an on ramp and need to be a welcoming place. Have you ever done the starfish as part of Pilates? It is beautiful but lopsided. This is the state of most communities I’ve seen lately. To grow, our jobs are cut out as we need to build spaces that are flexible, inspiring and healthy. This week has been full of huge teaching and sharing moments. Step by step.

My favourite visual artist just completed a show in Toronto called
Systematic complexity. Etienne Gelinas combines maps, mathematical principles and dynamic colours. I’m completely infatuated with his crazy compelling lines. Every community is different. The canvas we share is remixable. The heart needs to grow and find its inner circus while being focused on having a traveling show of curiosities with systematic complexity.


Batman, Foodies, Fashion + CrisisMaps at Next Day Better

Building a common good unites us. This Thursday I’m participating in Next Day Better in Toronto. This is such a special event combining fun, food, art and technology to inspire people to make the Next Day Better. I’ll share the story of Crisismappers highlighting the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team response in the Philippines.

How will I make the Next Day Better?

I help people get more involved in their world. One example is supporting an open community-driven digital humanitarian response.

“We are a culture platform that builds and activates diaspora communities to create a better future. We believe that diasporas like the Philippines global community are hubs and inspirations for social innovation, incredible design, and world changing ideas. We bring these doers and change makers together to share their stories and make the next day better.”


Tickets are only $20.00 with amazing talks and food! Please join us.

Help Share about Next Day Better

Facebook updates:

We’re partnering with social innovation group @NextDayBetter to celebrate their launch in Toronto on June 19. It will be a night of inspired talks from changemakers – the #Philippines is ready for open-source mapping! If you’re in Toronto, RSVP here.

Amazing things are happening June 19 – board member/idea hacker Heather Leson will be @NextDayBetter’s launch in Toronto as they bring big-idea thinkers, amazing work doers and changemakers together. Get your tickets here.


We’re partnering w/ @NextDayBetter for their launch in #Toronto 6/19! Learn more: http://www.bit.ly/NextDayBetterTOR

The #Philippines is ready. Join us @NextDayBetter Toronto launch | 6/19 7pm | RSVP http://www.bit.ly/NextDayBetterTOR

About NextDayBetter

NextDayBetter is a platform that spreads ideas and actions that make the next day better. Ideas and actions are Philippines-flavored and rooted in design, entrepreneurship and innovation.

We invite innovators entrepreneurs, designers, do gooders — both Filipino and Non-Filipino—to share their stories about creating a better future.

Visit www.nextdaybetter.com for more information.

I found out about the Next Day Better group after engaging with folks around Hacking PH: focused on rebuilding a resilient Philippines. They really inspired me with their approach to building community locally and globally.

How will you make the Next Day Better?


DISPATCH: HOT @ IEEE Humanitarian Technology Conference

[Cross-post from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team blog]

A few weeks ago the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team was a guest of the 2014 IEEE Canada International Humanitarian Technology Conference (IHTC). In the session, Samual Paul Alce, Pierre Beland and I each presented about to share all about the community, activations and how to use OpenStreetmap. It was an honour to participate and share the HOT story with such an important organization. It is our goal to build relationships with groups like IEEE to improve processes and technical implementation. We would like to thank Alfredo Herrara, Glenn McKnight and the whole IEEE IHTC team for inviting us. It was a pleasure to host this session with my guests: Pierre and Samuel. Here is the abstract and our slides with speaker’s notes:


Since the Haiti earthquake in 2010, new partners support the UN Agencies and International organizations through the Web 2.0 or Collaborative Web. OpenStreetMap is one of these community of volunteers. It has shown on several occasions its ability to mobilize hundreds of contributors and support remotely, providing maps and services necessary for such actions. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) makes the bridge with the humanitarian organizations.

In this session, we will discuss open source methods for humanitarian technology. The workshop will include an overview of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s (HOT) activities, some of the tools and best practices. We will include stories of activations around the world from Indonesia to Haiti to Philippines and the DRC. Our session also includes hands on training from HOT community leaders. Join us and learn about new methods in digital and in-person responders using OpenStreetMap.


Mesh in the Open

Mesh is Canada’s premier digital conference about what is next in business, media, marketing and society. The diverse participants always inspire. This year was no exception from Neil Harbisson’s cyborg activist to Mark Little on telling stories better with Storyful my brain is still spinning from the eclectic conversations.

This year I had the honour of running a workshop with Gabe Sawhney about Open Data, Civic Tech and Hacking for Good. We made our session fairly interactive with some slides to frame questions and then 5 breakout groups to talk about everything from technology in the upcoming Toronto elections or building a civic hack lab in the city. Each group had 30 minutes to talk amongst themselves and then provide report-backs. Thanks to the MESH team for inviting us to hack the conference process and bring our civic engagement spin to the event.


Get Involved Dreaming

We want to do something, share and participate in our world. And, we want inspire others to join in our various parades. What is the on ramp for Get Involved in our neighbourhood, our city, our country and our world? Organizers and citizens could circle the globe and back citing examples of websites that ask you to Join, Participate, or Get Involved.

Getting Involved Dreaming means considering how can we stitch together all the amazing opportunities in a collaborative and citizen-focused way. From offline to online engagement, there is a buffet of awesome for communities and companies. Each has a Get Involved strategy focused on their ROI goals or theory of change. When Linked In created their Volunteer site, I cheered. This combined with the rise of Corporate Social Responsibility programs is just touching the surface. From NationBuilder or Crowdrise, you see that there are a million ways to help organizations or individuals build “get involved” and create “fundraising’ opportunities. This is the same for open source, crisismappers and digital volunteers. Every day at Ushahidi I wondered about how to help all these citizen mappers force multiply their mission. Each of their ideas and projects truly matter in the world. Mozilla and Ubuntu have some best practices for Getting Involved Strategies in open source communities. The Digital Humanitarian Network was created to help people and organizations connect during times of crisis. My colleague, Patrick Meier, created AIDR: Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response with the Qatar Computing Research Institute. This is micro-mapping and volunteer tasking at is small bit best. Social Coding 4 Good focuses on developers and technical folks whereas Do Something is for teens. In Canada, there is Getinvolved.ca. I could spend all day giving examples of excellence in building community.

What if we dream a bit bigger and turn the model around to help our common mission?

book staircase, berlin

Master Search: Get involved, Community of Practice

What if we pulled back and had a Master Search for all these amazing things we could do to help our neighbours? The software exists, we just need to collaborate a bit more and aim for easy access for citizens to find their doing or giving passion. The key audience would be participants, doers, citizens and you. We would have a JOIN showcase. It is a simple navigator that Asks people what they want to do or what they want to give. The aggregator would then help match them to tasks and communities. Think of it as a global MATCH.com for giving. We would give love to open source organizations, corporations, non-profits, community-based organizations and citizens. Truly, this is all hands on deck to make it possible for anyone and any organization to connect. Using my Bit, Bye and Meal Deal community building framework, we could tailor it with the code to help people Choose their own adventure based on topic, time, location and their learning/doing/giving path.

The Community of Practice for Organizers would be the second audience. This would include anyone who wants to share and help make it easier for people to get involved in their world. It is not limited to non-profits alone, but for companies who have CSR programmes or Open Source groups. While I don’t want to simplify any of the amazing efforts, I’d like to see a common place for organizers to unite and share best practices and maybe build some common toolsets. Right now this is scattered. We have to hunt down articles on Chronicle for Philanthropy, join the Community Roundtable, seek counsel at NTEN , find each other in the halls at OSCON (create a Birds of a Feather) or attend the Community Leadership Summit. I created this fledgling mailing list to try to connect organizers some.

What’s in the Code? Pybossa or Crowdcrafting was built to help matchmake people to tasks. Mozilla has even adopted this great tool: What can I do for Mozilla? (See the code.) There is a new Canadian company called AskforTask that matches people to tasks for pay. What if this type of code was for volunteering? We are closer to this master search or JOIN dashboard everyday.

What examples can you share? Are you working on this? Do you want to help me try and sort out this tangled dream of helping people get more involved in their world? You can join the mailing list or drop a note on this post.

(Photo: Story of Berlin (March 2013))


Matter @ Go Open Data

Matter. Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind “matter“. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (portals, datasets). While these are very important, I think that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we can possibly get to “matter more”.

The full Go Open Data:

A Build a Data Community Model

In the community management field, we create community playbooks. These are strategies and common methodologies to support our agendas. Here are 24 things that you can do to build community by various levels of engagement from just a little bit to more of a byte to a full meal deal experience. Your community members really lead programming to guide you in your tailored choices. I’ve hacked together a data community playbook model with Doug Belshaw & Mozilla’s Web Literacy matrix to share some ideas on how we can build global communities. Let’s keep remixing. Every community is unique, but these are some thoughts on how to build openly.

Note: This is an interactive chart. Simply role your cursor over the columns to see more data.

(on Infogram)


My full speaker notes

Here is a rough edit of my speaker notes and all the associated resources:

Slide 1: Matter

Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind matter. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values. This is a big responsibility. Not every citizen has this privilege.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (Portals, datasets) that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we could potentially “matter more”.

(Event: Go Open Data)

Slide 2: Leaders, Teachers, Methods, Capacity Building, Core Processes.

As a crisis mapper, we tend to seek data and information like a high speed train of contributors and information. Some of the things we’ve learned are directly applicable to what the good folks in Ontario and Canada are trying to do.

Two stories:
Navigators: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and wider OSM community responded to the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Pierre Beland of QC (Canada) with Andrew Buck (US) worked very closely with Maning Sambale (Philippines) to remap the affected areas. These maps were then used by the American Red Cross, UN OCHA and MSF for logistics and response. How? Map Capacity, global outreach, Consumers (people who need the data) and tools like Task Manager to make it easy to share. It was an amazing effort. I had the opportunity to participate and host events in London, UK and Nairobi, Kenya. This was partially successful due to matchmaking by navigators who acted as map mentors with new mappers. We also asked some tough questions about satellite imagery, licenses and should we use drone imagery. Drones for data collection is a hard topic. The privacy issues and data integrity were also hot discussions. We don’t have the answers but we all need to ask questions about privacy and possibilities. We should be asking these hard data questions now for our province and country.

Teaching Data Skills/Data Literacy: A data portal is not an end in itself, we need to unlock it. The Govt of the Philippines and the World Bank are working with the School of Data. My colleague is in the Philippines right now working with them on these data issues. School of Data has free courses online. Take them, remix them. They belong to everyone who needs data and data skills.


  • schoolofdata.org
  • hotopenstreetmap.org
  • http://tasks.hotosm.org/
  • http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Typhoon_Haiyan
  • http://data.gov.ph/
  • http://americanredcross.github.io/OSM-Assessment/
  • American Red Cross and HOT member Dale Kunce presents on the Impact of HOT – http://vimeo.com/91926804

Slide 3: Feelings and We are all data providers/collectors

At the OpenGovernment Partnership meetings in London UK last year, I had an “Ahh moment”. Chuks from Reclaim Naija ( a Nigerian community based organization) questioned the IATI speaker about “success” for budget data. He said “We won’t trust the budget data unless we are involved in the process.” While participatory budgeting is on its way in Canada, what really struck me about this statement was “Feelings.”

While we mosey down the Open Data is great parade, we need to talk about and deal with feelings about open data.

This brings up key questions – Do Ontarians trust their governments? Are we comfortable with the process?

Data collection and sharing is not about just the government. It is about citizens too. As we participate, we should collect datasets to compare and hold our governments and ourselves accountable. We should not wait for our government or big businesses to do this for us. This is our neighbourhood, our country too.


  • http://reclaimnaija.net/
  • http://communitylifeproject.org/
  • http://africacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ARP5-Africas-Information-Revolution1.pdf
  • http://textontechs.com/2013/11/data-soup-ingredients-feelings-methods-and-next-steps/

4. Navigation: Are we reaching people? Businesses? How will we incorporate new technology?
I worry often that as we focus on Open Data for municipalities and what we ‘those in the know’ want from Open Data. How can we focus on what matters to people? I think we need to change this conversation.

How will sensor data be used in the next 10 years?
A friend of mine is interested in water quality and sensors. He would like to implement this in northern towns because what really matters is Water. What can we do with open data, sensors, programming and community engagement in Northern Ontario? How can we apply the elements I mentioned from Typhoon Haiyan or Reclaim Naija, but for Ontario?

All of this goes back to: Who are we involving in this conversation and why? Are we asking the right questions? And, do our NGOs, Civil society and neighbours have the skills they need to use open data for their work. The answer is – not yet.

Paul Baines is leading a project across Southern Ontario about water tracking and sustainability programming. The purpose of this participatory map is to give people a shared space to mark, explore, and dialogue about a Great Lakes Commons.
Paul needs data skills and some datasets – in terms of open data for the Commons Map – He needs:

- bottled water permits for all political jurisdictions surrounding the great lakes
- city, provincial, and federal parks
- crown, shared, and private land ownership
- watershed boundaries for all jurisdictions
- native reserves in the USA parts of the great lakes
- public hiking/biking trails for the Great Lakes
- solar and wind energy locations
- organic farms locations

We’ll hold a workshop to support his project in the coming months. But who else out needs these skills? Who is navigating all these organizations and businesses from ‘yeah, open data’ to ‘how you make it work for you’. While I am not talking about hand-holding the talent, I am saying that this gap is not going away. I’m excited about the Ontario government’s and the various city governments for their commitment to open data. Maybe we need a Service Ontario approach to Open Data. In the meantime, I have hope for people like CODI – Canadian Open Data Institute and MARsDD, Center for Social Innovation and others to make it possible. We need a civil society and neighbourhood action plan. Well, beyond what the government can do.

Recently I was speaking with a Toronto businessman about Open Data. He said: “What I really want is infrastructure data to make decisions about my business.” (Specifically he wants access to public data, like conduit and pole data.) He said that the cost to get that was very very high. I have true hope that this programme and our conversations today will help Open Data matter for him and the 100 or so people that he employs.


  • http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/kashechewan-residents-evacuated-over-flood-fears-1.1818986
  • http://myeinsteinjob.blogspot.ca/
  • http://myeinsteinjob.blogspot.ca/2014/04/open-government-tour-2014.html
  • http://tctrail.ca/explore-the-trail/
  • http://nationalmap.gov/index.html
  • http://greatlakescommonsmap.org/

Slide 5: Are we asking the right questions?

The new Government of Ontario site is great start. You are asking for input. But – Point blank – are we asking the right questions to make open data and open government matter to most Ontarian…not just those in the “know” or “those online” or those in “niche circles”. Open Data is also really about citizen engagement and citizen data collection. This will help it be more sustainable and with a richer impact.

We need to go outside and get uncomfortable. In a few months, why not have an Open Government Kashachewan session? How can we use open data to help our neighbours who live in rural Ontario? How can we use open data to help emergency managers? These are highly complex questions that deserve our attention. Otherwise, our work is in vain and tailored for a niche audience. I think the best programmes using technology and intellect are those based on the practice of being a good neighbour. I am not saying that Open Data can solve wicked problems, but it should be part of the toolkits.

“Report author James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said there appears to be a high level of distrust among aboriginals in Canada toward the federal and provincial governments.”


  • http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/kashechewan-residents-evacuated-over-flood-fears-1.1818986#ixzz31caBbOlh“
  • http://www.ontario.ca/government/government-ontario-open-data

Slide 6: Community Playbook: Here are 24 things that could help build your community.
Go outside, remix community play books by audiences, and ask the right questions. We need consider Tim Horton’s, Community Centers and Churches as access points to Open Government and Open Data. This is why I am excited about Richard Pietro’s OpenGov Tour across Canada or the work of Marsdd or CODI. We need more creative ways to listen and create value. Maybe we should partner with bands and artists more. How would they tell this story that is currently policy laden. We don’t know another latest, greatest ‘in python not php’ transportation app. We need to dream a bit bigger and listen, really listen to what else might matter to our neighbours.

During Open Data Day, the community in Buenos Aires went outside and made a mural. What are other creative ways that we can reach people?

Coffee chats should be around community engagement and playbooks. What are the steps by audience tip and each of the associated programs behind this?

Next steps: Here are 24 tactics and programmes that could help. By all means, remix these. Please share back your community building tactics.


To sum – There is a global community using citizen created data and building participatory data programmes. Just ask and you might find others who are using open data for a widerange of topics that matter.


  • http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2013/04/02/web-literacy-standard-a-modest-proposal-weblitstd/
  • https://wiki.mozilla.org/Learning/WebLiteracyStandard
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/community-maturity-model/
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/the-state-of-community-management/the-state-of-community-management-2013/
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/state-of-community-management-2014/
  • 12May

    May Days are here!

    School of Data

    May is big month for events on all things open and technology. I’m participating in a number of events wearing a number of hats: School of Data, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and the Crisismappers Network. Most of these are in Toronto and some are free. Hope to see you there!

    GO Open Data (May 15, 2014)
    What an honour it is to participate again in the 2nd annual Go Open Data event. This year I will be keynoting about Challenges and Next Steps for Open Data. Rest assured I’ll give some global and local examples from python scraping to feelings. There are some spots still open for the event. Hope you can join it! (There is a $25.00 cost.)

    ICT4D Toronto Drinks (May 20, 2014)
    Having attended ICT4D drinks in London (UK) and Washington (DC), I know in advance the mix of great folks. I’d like to see this as a regular event in Toronto. This is a free night to talk with like minds using Tech for Good around the world. Register here!

    1st Toronto Tech Salon: How Can Technology Improve International Development? (May 21, 2014)
    Tech Salons are a way to have a deeper discussion about topics. The model is much more interactive. One of the questions that is sure to stir up some great debates:
    “And are we actually imposing Western values and suppressing local businesses with extractive electronic tools no better than colonial powers of the past?”

    This is an invite-only event, but I think there are spots still open. I love that some of the participants are focused on mobile and development. To register, click here.

    Subtle Technologies (May 24, 2014)
    I’ll be joining Stephen Kovats’ Subtle Technology session: Critical State Making: Applying Open Culture in Post-Conflict Development. Crisismappers and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team are using open technology to support humanitarian efforts. Using some of the recent examples from Sudan, Mali, and Guinea, we will talk about the complexities of building capacity with local leaders, local context and local language. It is always a delicate balance. (This

    MESH – Open Data Brainstorming Workshop (May 27, 2014)
    At MESH, I will be co-hosting an interactive session about Civic Tech and Open Data at MESH. We will be stirring up conversations and creating a snapshot of what MESHies think about Open Data and Civic Tech.
    (There is a cost to register for this event.)

    IEEE: International Humanitarian Technology Conference (June 1, 2014)
    With fellow Hotties (community members of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team), we will be hosting a HOT workshop all about how technology and HOT’s processes have had an impact. We will give a walk-through about recent HOT activities including the Philippines response as well as do some hands-on mapping to show some of the technology we use. Our goal is to better connect with the IEEE community of expertise. (This is a paid event in Montreal.)

    Truly it is a pleasure to have a full month of sharing and making by hosting, keynoting or participating in all these activities. Now, off to prepare. See some of you soon.

    (Photo: School of Data expedition in Geneva (September 2013))


    Murmur: SMS, Badges and Location

    Butterfly Bridges, created by Natalie Jeremijenko’s X-Clinic, have spun me into idea flurry. Last night I attended her Strategic Lab (Slab) presentation on Measuring the Common Good in Smart Cities. She is teaching and shaping biodiversity in new urban frameworks. Civic action activities like this and placemaking really show the potential of how we can build community in new and creative ways.

    Murmur, SMS + Badges + Location

    It is no secret that I’m location-obsessed. While maps are storytelling devices and are not an end in themselves, there is a connectivity to how location and storytelling provide us with common space. The Emergency Hack Labs project attempts to connect SMS, Open Badges and Placemaking to help people during times of emergency. The goals include providing volunteer engagement and peer-to-peer thanks. I wrote about this previously in Open Badges in a Crisis.

    Map/Location projects with a true plan to connect the online to the offline are the most sustainable. It is more amazing some of the creative SMS campaigns that give voice. These projects during times of crisis are busy and important windows into what is possible and where some of the opportunities exist. But, we should be building them outside of emergencies and morphing them to local language and context.

    Murmur is a Toronto project that uses SMS to connect people to location for stories. You can simply call a number listed on a sign in a particular place. The recording places a story or poem. The thing that has always struck me about this project is that people share and they learn the power of location. What if Murmur was installed in post-conflict zones or risk-prone regions? Local communities could curate the stories and teach in community centres. And, what if Murmur existed when a disaster or emergency happened? Would there be a difference in the community if people already felt comfortable with that style of non-threatening, trusted network program? It could start as a creative and art project, but then change gears to be a recovery and healing project to help with storytelling, remembrance and support. This is all theoretical. Technical, privacy and security issues would need to be addressed. But, expecting people to trust location and report stories with no historical community process for this is always a hurdle. Another scenario is: What if Murmur or its SMS kin was turned into a Volunteer peer-to-peer thanks model like Emergency Hack Lab?

    Surely, this has all been done before? What examples can you share? I want to dig in more to understand how we can make location and online storytelling tools realistically connect online and offline during times of crisis.

    So, thanks to Butterfly Bridges. With all this thinking, I am going to the park.


    When Birds of a Feather Map Together

    [Cross-post from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team blog.]

    All spring we’ve been thinking about how to grow and support the HOT community. We know that we need to improve support to keep up the momentum of the last year while balancing quality great work around the world. At the State of the Map US event, we held a HOT BoF (Birds of Feather) session with over 45 participants. It is a small section of the wider global community, but it gave us a chance to see old friends, meet with partners and potentially engage new mappers.

    Our conversations touched on recent activations, how to get involved, types of community members, teaching tools/methods, partnership engagement, working with imagery providers and, of course, UAVs.

    How to Get Involved:

    1. Join OSM, visit LearnOSM.org, watch MapGive videos
    2. Join HOT mailing list, IRC
    3. Pick a Task from Task Manager.

    HOT’s community is gearing up. We have been doing some deep tissue analysis on how to improve in our HOT community Sprint.  We recognize that there several distinct groups within our community who have particular needs that are unique to that group. These core types include connectors/teachers/organizers, mappers (many types), partners/mission supporters, techies, and, lastly, those involved in the business of mapping/data consumers/supporters.

    map head


    HOT has been activated many times in the past year with the largest activation Typhoon Haiyan (Philippines). The wider community works with official and unofficial partners to respond such as the American Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, USAID, HIU, CartONG, and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery. Some session feedback included that HOT needs to get better with a structured owners and workflows for contact while capturing the partners needs. 

    To improve the quality of data, we need better activation specific training to help compare before and after imagery sets, plus local context guidance.  One participant advised that they would like iD (the main editing tool at OpenStreetMap.org) with a swipe function to see the before and after imagery. For remote mapping, there needs to be more training tools to help improve the first edit. But, there needs to be a validation process. While it might be time-consuming, it might be beneficial to have a Tier 1 – 4 process to improve quality checks and provide mentorship. Mentorship is actually already happening, but this would allow us to formally recognize leaders more. Map Roulette might provide a way forward on this to be able to pull out the data that needs a second or third review.


    From imagery to drones, trying to solve the equation of how to get quality and as close to real-time data was very much on our minds. HOT has received some UAV imagery but has much caution in getting involved in UAV data collection as… there are problems with getting clearance for airspace, and technical work to patch together a mosaic for tracing. Add to this the complexities of liability issues and the risk to volunteers on the ground who could be accused of espionage (as has happened to other humanitarian volunteers). The level of resolution is an issue. We are currently looking at buildings and infrastructure – but there’s a lot more to look at that have : what if UVA derived detailed imagery was made available? What scenes would be made public to all parties? Who would be making vulnerable? What about all the privacy and security issues? What about the safety of the vulnerable should a drone be tampered with or crash.

    The Sexy, Unsexy stuff

    In terms of documentation, just like the wider Humanitarian field, HOT needs to build a research environment to create case studies from end to end. These need to include items like how to make something repeatable. HOT also needs a research arm to help tell the stories and analyze the progress to help guide any changes.  

    HOT needs are project managers for the tools and products that we produce within the community. All of our products needs to be translated and up to date. These folks are most welcome to join the Technical Working Group. 

    The Sexy, Unsexy stuff

    In terms of documentation, just like the wider Humanitarian field, HOT needs to build a research environment to create case studies from end to end. These need to include items like how to make something repeatable. HOT also needs a research arm to help tell the stories and analyze the progress to help guide any changes.  

    HOT needs are project managers for the tools and products that we produce within the community. All of our products needs to be translated and up to date. These folks are most welcome to join the Technical Working Group.  

    Some of the unsexy things (thanks Robert Banick for coining it) that are needed are: documentation, policy, health and safety and more. Our friends and members from the Red Cross advised that we publish internships and volunteer roles on our website to a wider outreach. We have many mappers in our network, now it is time to grow the support areas.

    Building Map Literacy, One Edit at a Time

    One the other end, Map literacy is hard to do in an emergency. Proactive map projects like HOT Indonesia show that this type of knowledge sharing and capacity building is much more effective done in advance. The same methods apply for our Humanitarian organization partners.  As we working more pre-disaster, we’ll have better data about the risks – the balance of working on basemapping vs. damage assessment will shift and this will change the game.  

    One day we’d like to have all the active community participants and Board members in the same room. Until then, we are very lucky to HOTties meet and share. HOT’s community is just a small corner of the wider OpenStreetMap community. We are fortunate to have opportunities to meet. Thanks to the HOT BoF participants and State of the Map US for giving us a place to connect.

    Some Resources

    Authors: Heather Leson and Mita Williams

    Images are in the Public Domain via the Noun Project

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