January 24, 2013
by Ash Smith
Over the last few weeks, Patrick has been exploring the university’s central data store looking for information on rooms and the features they contain. We’ve always had room features on data.southampton.ac.uk, but they were all generated from a single XML file given to Chris some years ago, and things change over time. So thanks to Pat’s fearless efforts investigating the central Oracle database, we now have a couple of scripts to pull not only room features, but booking information as well. A quick RDF generation script from me later, and we now have a method of ensuring the open data is as up to date as the university’s central database.
This is quite a big deal in my opinion – anyone planning a lecture or event can now view room information from the web and work out which rooms are suitable and available at the required time without having to phone Estates or walk across campus in the rain. Also, updating our data after such a long time is interesting for noting how things change over time; if nothing else, audio/visual technology is improving while chalk blackboards are definitely getting rarer!
January 18, 2013
by Christopher Gutteridge
Last week we had a visit from Paul Gibbons aka “FOI Man”. He works at SOAS and came down to Southampton to see what we’ve been up to with open data.
At Southampton the FOI-handling stuff and open data have only a nod-in-the-corridor relationship, but there’s some obvious wins in working together.
In other news, we’ve got more data in the pipes, and are writing importers for it in the next few days, we’ve had a meeting about moving some core critial parts of the open data service into “BAU” – business as usual, so that there’s people who know how to maintain it outside our team, and the core is (change) managed more formally. This is essential if we want open data to be part of the long term IT strategy and not a glued-on-bit on the edge.
I’m also thinking about the fact we have very spotty data on research group building occupation, and so forth. By rights this data probably belongs to the “Faculty Operatiing Office”, but they are busy and don’t answer my questions very often. A cunning plan has entered my mind… Make a ‘report’ URL for each faculty which provides a spreadsheet with what we know about their faculty and let them download it and send it back to us. I think they could ‘colour in’ the missing information in a few minutes, and it will better express the problem to the management/administrator mindset if I show them a spreadsheet with blank cells in. To me, it’s a just data, but then I’m a data nerd, and we’re learning you have to have the data owner work with data in a way that makes sense to them.