Some time around the middle of last week I found out about City Camp Raleigh it really looked interesting, we had nothing planned and it was free. I signed up pretty quickly. I wasn’t able to get away from work for the Friday sessions, but that still left 2 days. There’s a plenty written about the event, the ideas etc, but what I haven’t seen yet is the first hand perspective, so here it is.
Saturday started with a session on Open Data principles, it caught my attention right away, as the day went on I went to a few other sessions, but kept coming back to the Open Data ones. I was not the only one, teams formed around the ideas by the end of Saturday and submissions for Sunday were put in. The team that I gravitated to was a great one, a great diversity of backgrounds and skills. We had a mix of very technical and some less so, but of course the extra skills in writing, speaking and business made for a really well rounded effort. As it turned out, we had a secret weapon, well weapon isn’t really the right description, we had a semi official team member who is one of those state workers who handles the data, and is doing what the system and policies require. This gave us a solid example to work with.
The core idea of the team, now called “Team Open It Up”, was that there is a lot of data out there that city and state government has, and will give you if you know to ask for it, and the format you get may not be all that “accessible”, it could and should be better. By the end of Saturday we proposed that we would take a subset of some of that public data from the state, extract it from MS Access format, upload it to a public web site that would allow for on the fly reports and user download.
By presentation time on Sunday we had a web site up and running, a custom domain registered to host it, a download link that anyone can use to get the whole set of data, the entire year snapshot of data extracted to CSV (being the lowest common denominator) files a couple of tables uploaded to Socrata with some views / charts defined.
What a small team can do in less than 2 days is quite amazing, focus, passion, luck, and the spark that was the event, City Camp Raleigh made it all happen. Then the big news, we WON! Now we have to finish turning this prototype into a full pilot that city and state folks can look at as proof that there’s interest, it’s easy and doesn’t cost a fortune. I think that we’ll have that done in less than the 90 days that we were projecting it would take.
My great thanks go out to the organizers of City Camp Raleigh for putting on this event in and for the city I have now lived in for 10 years.