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Introduction to the power of open data

Where Does My Money Go?As some of you may know I’ve been working with the Where Does My Money Go? team over the last month or so, helping with the communications side of things.

Where Does My Money Go? (WDMMG) is run by the Open Knowledge Foundation, a “not-for-profit organization promoting open knowledge: that’s any kind of information – sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata – that can be freely used, reused, and redistributed.”

WDMMG gathers, analyses and visualises UK government spending data with the aim of making that information more usable and useful – for tax payers, journalists, businesses, researchers, policy makers, politicians and more. The aim is to make government spending as transparent as possible to hold the government to account but also to enable more informed decision making in the long run.

It’s a fascinating project and is part of a wider open data trend and movement that has been gathering pace over the last few years.

One of the main protagonists in this area is father of the web Tim Berners-Lee, who is famed for getting the 2009 TED conference audience to shout “Raw Data Now!”.

So as a way of introducing the concept of open data and it’s potential power, this five minute video by Tim at this year’s TED conference is worth viewing:

UPDATE 5/08/2010: Apparently TBL’s shout of “Raw Data Now!” was based on a meme that started with this Open Knowledge Foundation blog post, and which Tim cites here.

Beta testing: Flavors.me

This afternoon I’ve been playing with and testing Flavors.me, which was pointed out to me by designer Simon Ianson.

The service is currently in private beta but once launched aims to help you create “an elegant website using personal content from around the internet”, ie. help you bring a selection of your social media presences under one roof and for it to look nice. The latter I think is the point as much as the former. The company are citing possible uses as:

  • personal home pages
  • life streaming
  • splash and microsites
  • celebrity fan pages
  • commercial promotion
  • brand marketing

From what I understand the service is being built by Jack Zerby, designer director at Vimeo and his partner in crime Jonathan Marcus, but I should emphasise that the project is not affiliated with Vimeo.

Pages on the site aren’t yet public and unfortunately the demo video (also see it here) isn’t shareable, not sure if that’s purposeful, but I can share this video made by someone else who has tested things out:

And here’s a pic of my test, which took me about 30 minutes to put together – but only because I decided to play with the font colours and background design, and was enjoying things a bit too much. In reality you could get something functional up in about 2 minutes and something more to your tastes up in about 5-10 minutes.

My Flavor.me page

During my experimentation I came across a few minor bugs and the team were impressively quick to respond. From Simon’s experience as well, they seem very keen to get the service right, which is fantastic.

What I like is that it’s simple, brings things together, and does what-it-says-on-the-tin as the results generally look good (although some of the pre-selected colour schemes don’t work for all content). I can see how it could be popular as a personal webpage or the starting point for a celebrity fan site, gathering all the pieces of social media presence together.

However, at the moment there are only six social media services that can be added to your Flavor.me site – Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, Tumblr, Facebook and Last.fm. Whilst these do cover a wide variety of possible intents and users, it will be interesting to see how the team balance the design of Flavor.me with the desire of users to have more services included.

Simon also pointed out, and I agree, that being able to add your own domain to the service would add great value to the proposition (although, noted, this does add technical complexity). So instead of the URL http://flavor.me/user/kcorrick it could resolve to kathryncorrick.co.uk (or whatever).

I’m not also not sure that as the service currently stands would be something that could withstand the rigours of brand management and marketing: the fonts – whilst funky – are still fairly limited, and only one image can be uploaded, which for a brand would introduce interesting questions regarding logos (it still always comes down to logos, unfortunately).

But I’m sure there is much to come, given that the service I tried is in beta and de-bug mode put together with the obvious keenness by the team to get things right.

UPDATE 19/10/2009: Jack from Flavors.me has been in touch and responded to some of my queries above. Watch this space.

Did you know, shift happens?

This afternoon I’ve been preparing for next week’s Emarketeers Social Media & Marketing training course, updating my presentation from July (a lot happens in two months in these parts). I’ve been pondering how to kick things off and been looking at a few videos, including reviewing the Socialnomics vid I mentioned a few weeks ago. I was reminded of the Shift Happens, also know as the Did You Know? videos, the original of which came out in 2007 and were made by XPlane. They aimed to explain some of the changes that were occurring through globalisation. Here’s the original:

The video quickly went viral and has now had a number of iterations.

In a happy accident I discovered that today Xplane launched their latest video that they describe as an update to Shift Happens, in partnership with the Economist. It focuses on what they describe as the ‘changing media landscape’ and they’ve entitled it “Did You Know 4.0″ and it will been shown at the Media Convergence Forum in October. But you get to see it way before then here:

However, both videos, like the Socialnomics one, are US centric, which I think in a UK/European context (or any other really) diminishes some of their power.

I would like to know if anyone is aware of any videos or material that do a similar job but are more globally or UK/European minded? There is after all a lot of data out there that in all likelihood someone may have used.

Failing that, offers for how we might put something like this together would be fabulous!