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Open data reduces friction in sharing and use of data

This week I’m attending a conference titled Collaborations Workshop 2019, run by the Software Sustainability Institute of the UK. The conference focuses on interoperability, documentation, training, and sustainability. I’m planning to post a blog or two about the talks I attend. All credit goes to the presenter, and all mistakes are my own.

I’m very much looking forward to the conference. The audience is slightly different from the developer-focused and tech-writer-focused gatherings that I see more often. At this conference, attendees are a lively mix of researchers, engineers, educators, and others. The goal of the Software Sustainability Institute is to cultivate and improve research software.

Better software, better research [reference]

Opening keynote by Catherine Stihler

Catherine Stihler is the Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge International. She presented the opening keynote of the conference.

Catherine’s talk was titled “Transporting data more easily with Frictionless Data“.

Frictionless Data

Frictionless Data is one of the primary initiatives of Open Knowledge International. The website offers this description:

Frictionless Data is about removing the friction in working with data through the creation of tools, standards, and best practices for publishing data using the Data Package standard, a containerization format for any kind of data.

These are the challenges the Frictionless Data initiative addresses:

  • Legal barriers
  • Data quality
  • Interoperability
  • Hard to find
  • Tool integration

A goal of Frictionless Data is to provide a common packaging format that can hold many different types of data. So people can understand and use your data as easily as possible. Catherine used the metaphor of shipping containers to talk about data packages.

  • Publishers can create the data packages, and
  • consumers can plug the data packages into their systems.

There’s more information at the frictionlessdata.io website, including the Frictionless Data specifications and software (apps, integrations, libraries, and platforms).

As well as revolutionising how data is shared and used, the Frictionless Data initiative aims to massively improve data quality.

Open data

Open Knowledge International is a strong supporter of open data. They’re currently advocating against the EU copyright law, specifically Article 13, which many fear will result in the implementation of upload filters to ensure that the big content aggregation companies don’t fall foul of the law.

Catherine spoke passionately about the issues around political advertising on social media, the Responsible Data initiative, and the Open Definition which sets out principles defining openness in relation to data and content.

Catherine says the key challenge right now is that we could go down a closed, proprietary route where only those who have money will have access to knowledge. We need to win the debate about the importance of an open society and open and free knowledge.

Thank you Catherine for a spirited introduction to Open Knowledge International and its work.

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