Dear O’Reilly Media: Please produce more of these lovely bite-sized, thought-provoking short report/monographs!
Data for the Public Good by Alex Howard is a concise and hard-hitting 22 pages long. I saw it as 100% long as I read it on met eReader between home and my morning coffee and porridge. 22 pages really works! It is just the right amount of superbly editing and curated data to engage with an absorb in a session in a fast-paced world. Reflect here on how we package and deliver information today.
The iterative open data process is at the heart of revolution in any of the sectors touched: data drives demand -> public demand drives better data –> version control (and fluidity of release) adds dimension to this data.
The book itself is a succinct survey of examples and principles supporting more open sharing of data (both public and private) for the service of citizens and citizenry. Although much of of this book focuses on open government data, it is the public good served by both public and private data that is in discussion and doesn’t shrink from broaching the sensitive areas of privacy and economic value. Alex Howard admits readily that ‘accountability and transparency are important civil goods, but adopting open data requires grounded arguments for a CFO to support these.’ Data for the Public Good explores the political, financial, transportation and health systems rapidly identifying the key points of friction, challenge and benefit that can be derived by open-minded consideration of how both the availability of data and our perceptions of our data-informed lives are changing how we see and govern ourselves. Continue Reading
There are some telling lessons for today’s larger organisations by looking into the history of the organisation. Big data is not a new phenomenon — it is entirely relative and all too strikingly familiar. Over time individuals and organisations have been constantly challenged by what seemed to be mountains of data containing a prospective valuable nugget of knowledge. In a recent McKinsey Quarterly article, Big Data in the age of the telegraph, Rebecca Rosenthal looks at the example of Daniel McCallum and the New York and Erie Railroad. Identifying the pain that ‘although the telegraph’s speed made more information available, organizing and acting on it became increasingly difficult,’ Rosenthal explores how McCallum sought to deal with both the deluge of information and also the inherent need to have it available where it could acted upon the most timely fashion. Continue Reading
Interactive Data Visualisation for the Web by Scott Murray puts you in the seat beside a data vis master as he takes you from zero to a solid comprehension of the thinking behid d3.js — a popular framework for visual data presentation. D3.js is all the rage and the underlying framework behind many compelling interactive data presentations making the rounds in the net media today. The thinking behind d3.js (yes, d3 stands for data driven documents) is a logical layering that binds data to screen display and allows you as author to give your consumers/readers the ability to explore your data to derive their own findings. Continue Reading
Well, time to come to grips with what has been a wonderful journey, a great read and a thought provoking diversion. Vintage Tomorrows by Brian David Johnson and James Carrott stems, according to the authors, from a passing discussion in a pub between a historian and a futurist. The outcome is an unexpected delight. A critical, deep and probing questioning of what makes steampunk tick. For the unfamiliar, steampunk is a counter-culture bubbling underneath our days-to-day lives and often simply characterised as neo-victorian science fiction. But, the premise of this book is that that is far too simple a definition and the authors chronicle their attempt to try to expose the deeper motivations behind the surface effect of fancy dress costumes, glistening brass gears and a fascination with clockwork ornamentation. The result is a deliciously readable, superbly crafted and constructed expose that demands that the reader engages and is open to self-reflection, but is rewarded with some far reaching realisations about how we perceive today’s world and humanity’s engagement with our own history. This is a book about how humanity engages with technology and the nature of the relationship is deep, fluid and individual. Continue Reading
I’m working on a review of Vintage Tomorrows for O’Reilly. The book is not all what I was expecting (in a serendipitously wonderful way) and am absolutely hooked. A deep and pithy look at the rationale and motivation behind a counterculture movement. I am savouring the experience more than most books of late. The review is coming but as I said, I am savouring and there’s no rushing that ;-)
One of the more fascinating aspects — not of the book itself — but of the reading process is the rather extensive use I seem to be making of the highlighting facility on the Kindle. For some reason or other it just seemed to kick in with me on this book. Click and drag and it’s synced with my account. The result is a lovely summarised view of my view of the writing, much like a word document with the Show Final without revisions in track changes. I am not sure why this is so novel but it is to me. I know that others have commented on the facility in the past musing on how it changes the e-reading process, but suddenly (and intuitively) I find myself using it — walking along the street, reading and making annotations — the journey to work takes on a new dimension.
Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher introduces the casual end-user or first time content manager to structured web content and provides a quick course in the connection for how things are stored and how they can be deployed. It is very familiar in tone and the author presents a potentially deep and intricate topic (one that simply dares distraction) in a logical manner.The various sections build from a case underlying the need for structuring and simplifying web content to methods to structure and encode to the various processes that aid in its deployment to the web. Simple and logical. Continue Reading
I love my Kindle. I know that Richard Stallman calls it a swindle and abhors the DRM that makes it what it is. For me what it is a lightweight, reading platform with a battery that I never worry about charging, text that adjusts to my failing eyesight and a library in my suit pocket. I love that I can sample materials from the amazon store before I buy and that my library can be deployed across a series of linked devices. The cloud tracks my progress and keeps me synced and the whims of my personal reading preferences are catered for. All that said I love browsing at Hodges and Figgis and Dubray. I find many of the books I want to read in piles and on shelves in the stores. I want the showroom to get their brokerage cut. This doesn’t happen today and I want to figure out how it can. Continue Reading
I was attracted to a short Guardian post this morning that asked the simple question - Who uses Twitter in Africa - and where are they based? Simple enough and a great little research question. The article references Mark Graham and the Oxford Internet Institute. The selection of eight quick maps gives a small glimpse at the power of being able to tap into the Twitter API and do some quick geospatial visualisation to answer some useful research questions. The static images are merely tantalising (and the Guardian’s coverage is superficial) however and I clicked through to see if there was more meat in the underlying research. Continue Reading
The Royal irish Academy hosted William Dalrymple to a sell-out crowd anxious to hear tales of the 1839 retreat from Kabul. Seriously, standing room only and rapt attention! The author is a superb story teller and this is more the subject of this quick post, but tangentially, I have to remark on the tremendous interest. I gather that Dalrymple was on Pat Kenny earlier in the day (and probably attracted some interest), but the fact is, this discourse was over subscribed weeks ago. Do the Irish appreciate a good story? Do they feel a real kindred interest in Afghani spirit as Dr Eunan O’Halpin asserted in his response to the address? Nonetheless, great to see the public interest. Continue Reading
I am participating in a workshop at University College Cork as part of the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD programme on Friday and Saturday this week. The agenda, covering aspects of data management, data encoding, space and time, data modeling, and network analysis, looks very exciting. It is all predicated on giving a quick overview in support of a hands-on hackfest working with the Frank O’Connor collections from the UCC special collections on Saturday.
As I was surveying the latest materials to update, extend and refine information I have presented in the past, I have collected a few tangential pieces that seemed worth noting.
Information Visualisation by Dr Katie Börner
I have been casually following (i.e. I never find the time to spend participating actively) in a MOOC on Information Visualisation being delivered through the Indiana University at Bloomington. It is very broadly based with a scientificeye towards exploring, where, when, why and the associated tools and methodologies that can be employed to gain a great understanding of the data. In trawling, I found a very thoughtful paper published by Dr Börner ‘The Cartographies of Science’ which uses social network analysis to explore information transfer and illustrate the results by exposing the methodology and the visualisation techniques used to deduce how scientists are working together and what they are working on. I like this paper as it offers some wonderful examples of how these same methods and techniques might be applied to historical or other humanities data to ask similar questions.