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Why do we need OpenStreetMap? It’s the community stupid.

February 10, 2015 in datadays2014, Events, Featured

There are exciting times. Opendata is everywhere! In the past couple of year we have seen a lot of very interesting data open up and as a result things have changed. Startups have popped up everywhere related to opendata and some very successfully.

OpenStreetMap celebrated it’s 10th birthday in 2014, it’s been around for ages when talking about opendata. A very relevant fact related to the topic of opendata is the fact that the project got started because of a lack of open geo data to experiment with. The question that then comes to mind is: Why would we need OpenStreetMap in a world where all (geo)data is open?

From an OpenStreetMap-community-member perspective the answer to this question is obvious; it’s the community, stupid!

In our session at the OpenBelgium conference in Namur we try to give you an inside view of our community and all of it’s different aspects and activities. We hope that those who attend our session will also consider our community as thé answer to the question of why the world needs OpenStreetMap in an open world.

OpenStreetMap is so much more than just an open geo database. If you are looking for new ideas related to geo, want to know more about OpenStreetMap or if you want to become part of our community make sure you don’t miss out and attend OpenBelgium!

Want to know more about the OpenStreetMap community? Come to the Open Belgium Conference OpenStreet Map session and find out what this community looks like and how members contribute.
Or follow the Belgian OSM Community on Twitter or their website.

Cover-image CC-BY-SA

From raw data to finely crafted mosaics: the importance of standards

February 3, 2015 in Events, Featured, Openbelgium15, OpenBelgium2015

Now that large amounts of open data are becoming available, along with efficient visualization tools for their respective types, one of the next challenges is to make sense of these data in the scope of particular domains and use cases. Be it enriching a breaking news video with relevant graphs, contextualizing a budget report with related public policy excerpts, or bringing city statistics to life with localized pictures, it’s all about finding the right datasets that bring sense to each others. A fair part of making that sense lies in the ability to discover the right data, deconstruct it and tie the fragments together in mosaics that carry more information than the sum of these elements.

On the path to data valorization, the first step is discoverability of data. While cataloguing tools and open formats are now becoming mainstream (cf. CKAN and its numerous public deployments), usage of open metadata standards is still lagging behind. Sometimes because of proprietary metadata structures that prevent cross-domain discoverability, more often because datasets lack proper metadata altogether. If the former is being solved by the emerging use of standardized vocabularies (DCAT, INSPIRE, to name a few), the latter is mostly a matter of raising awareness, in all data publishing bodies, that metadata is just as important as data.

The next step in data reuse is the ability to transform data to match the tools and frameworks where data is to be used. Having data in a open format is good, but there often exists multiple potential open formats for the same dataset, and each context of use comes with a set of tools that may support only some of them. CSV’s may need to be turned into KML, or XML into JSON. This is where on-the-fly data transformation tools such as The Data Tank come into play, and ease up data processing by removing format friction.

Lastly, real added value can be created by going below the surface of the datasets, i.e. by no longer consuming datasets as unsplittable entities, but rather chunking them, taking the relevant parts for the subject at stake, and stitching the fragments into meaningful data mosaics. Some standards exist or are emerging to tackle that problem, like URI Fragments, Open Annotations, and the whole Linked Data toolbox, but a complete stack for the authoring and publication of such mosaics is still to be produced. Once achieved, such an environment would allow anyone to easily deconstruct datasets, build contextualized data mashups and exchange them as documents on their own, while relying directly on the original, remote data sources.

Curious to find out more? Come to the Open Data Tools and Standards session at 13.30 in the Auditorium Félicien Rops, where we will discuss this further.

Overcoming the hurdles of Open culture in Belgium

January 25, 2015 in Featured, Openbelgium15, OpenBelgium2015

In January 2015, Paul Otlet’s heritage has fallen into the public domain. Some 80 years ago Otlet designed plans for a global network of computers that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described a networked world where “anyone in his armchair would be able to contemplate the whole of creation.

One of the online spaces where the whole of cultural creation can currently be discovered, is Europeana. A portal website guiding you to millions of old historical maps, pretty painted ladies, broadcasted art documentaries and much more. Should Otlet have lived to see this … but wouldn’t he then also want to go and do things with all the beauty he could discover there? Well probably, but then we would require all these pictures, these AV snippets and texts to be Open instead of (many) Rights Reserved.

He could then go on and do marvellous things with it, twisting the uses we’ve known so far, hell – perhaps even squeezing some money out of it. Open does not only pave the way for creative re-use, it also helps us know what really is the (digital) original. Not ringing a bell? Dive into the issue of the Yellow Milkmaid then.


Wikimedia would also benefit greatly of a bit more cultural content that’s CC-BY-SA licensed. And awareness on how to do it is increasing with the creation of GLAM-networks – Galleries, Archives, Libraries & Museums such as OKF’s offspring OpenGlam. Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands each ran an Open Culture Data programme so you might think that we’ve more or less arrived. Alas; there are still some hurdles to overcome. I will have to invest so much time and fees into rights clearing! Maybe someone else has a brilliant money-making idea with the content I freed up and I will see no revenue! How am I going to keep (any) control?

Should Paul Otlet still be here, he might go WHAT ?! – and not see any problems in why culture still has difficulties to be(come) open. During the Open Belgium conference, the Mons’ Mundaneum will talk about opening up Otlets’ own legacy through his museum archive. We’ll talk copyright, other hurdles and barriers, business opportunities and new possibilities on the horizon. Join us during the Open Belgium session!

Entrance bursary requests opened for Open Belgium 15

January 22, 2015 in Events, Featured, Openbelgium15

Organising a community conference such as Open Belgium takes up a lot of time, effort and money. And to cover for those costs we need to put a price on our tickets. But to ensure everyone has a chance to come to this event and discuss open knowledge in Belgium, we happily announce that we are providing 5 bursary tickets to students and people with no steady income. All you have to do obtain one of these tickets is to fill in the form below. After the deadline, we will assess who deserves these tickets and notify everyone who has applied.

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