Quotes from Users
June 27, 2013
by Patrick McSweeney
As you know from Ash’s previous post ran an Open Data Open Day for people in the University to come and learn about open data. As part of the event we invited the University top hackers to come and do some open data hacking. The template is one familiar to many of you who have attended our events or JISC hack days before. Simply get hackers to sit down together, form into teams of 2-5 people, give them a blank slate, float some ideas, keep coffee on tap and periodically wheel food in and out. At the end of the day go to the bar so that each team can present what they have been working on over a hard earned beer.
One of the key aims for the day was to link up people who had data with people who could do something cool with it. The hack day is a good way to do this because you have a room full of people who can do something cool. Then over the course of the day people with data drop by and talk to the hackers, tell them about there data and get ideas to do cool stuff. It is a friendly and informal environment to work in and people come out with some really good ideas. What always surprises me is, even though I have participated in at least 30 and run at least 5, the outputs from the day are always so amazing good. This hack day was no exception and our teams came out with a combination of the awesomely cool and mind-bogglingly useful stuff.
The outputs were:
Collin Williams (CISCO Systems) , Rikki Prince, Biscuits Newton and Andreas Galazis Decided the usability of data.southampton.ac.uk was not good enough for non-technical people. They performed a usability study of the site and identified key areas of weakness to feed back to us. The biggest problem they found was that the search on data.southampton was nearly unusable. To combat the problem they created LOD Search, a SPARQL smart search indexing tool which can generate a usual search engine on any SPARQL end point. The demo they presented was very very impressive and prompted a lot of questions from the audience. Attempts to trip up the system by asking for difficult things gave it no trouble at all and the interface was surprisingly good given the short time available to work on it.
Adam Field (iSolutions), Matt Smith (iSolutions) and Lisha Chen-Wilson (iSolutions) met Adam Tewksbury from the University transport office. He was looking for a cool map and video of cycle routes which he can embed in the transport website and attach to the open data pages and maps. The team took helmet cam videos and GPS data about the route and combined them to make cool video which moves the pointer on an open street map as the the video plays. The technique is very powerful and reproducible for any combination of video and GPS data in KML or CSV format. Hopefully this will result in more students and staff getting on to their bikes to cycles the safe routes of Southampton.
Exchange Calendar to iCal
Martin Chivers (iSolutions) spent a chunk of the morning in talks learning about the nuts and bolts of open data. In the afternoon he grabbed a laptop and cracked really big data.southampton.ac.uk walnut. He created a commandline tool which exports a exchange calendar as iCal. One of our big bug bears in open data has been getting data out of exchange and this tool hit the problem squarely on the head. In the past we have had to ask users with temporal data to set up an account on Google calendar since we can get data out of it but not from our own exchange server. Now users will be able to work in their normal workflow without having to use a tool outside of the University to do a fair ordinary task. As a demo he was kind enough to give us the iSolution change management calendar as open data.
Southampton Blackout the real story
Tyler Ward (ECS) was more of a victim of circumstance than a hacking volunteer at our Hack Day. He was collocated with us to work on ECS’s media sensation Erica the Rhino but since he is keen got caught up in the open data hackery. The University of Southampton ran a media campaign called the Southampton Blackout to promote efficient power use at the University. The write up from our Comms team had some interesting mathematical inaccuracies which made the integrity of the finds questionable. Tylers aim was to use open energy usage data to tell the real story of the Southampton blackout. What he found is that some buildings during the blackout were using more energy not less to a level which almost eclipses the savings made in other buildings. He found some interesting trends in the data particularly in the figure below for ECS Mountbatten Silcon Fab lab. His close analysis of data was able to deduce where future campaigns should be targeting next an where savings can be made most easily.
All in all the day was a great success and lots of fun for the hackers involved. To quote Adam Field:
I had fun. It’s not often that I can take a problem and spend a day solving it.
June 10, 2013
by Christopher Gutteridge
Reena had some very nice things to say about Ash’s Room Finder tool, so I’ve asked her for a quote to publish on the blog:
“My job is to engage young people in technology and I spend a lot of time organising events and have to do a lot of room bookings for them. Using the Open Data website helps with knowing what the room is like, what equipment is in the room, where the room is and knowing if the room is best for my needs. Without it would make the process a lot longer and tedious. It means I can get on with my job and not worry about things I don’t need to worry about.”
– Reena Pau, outreach and diversity consultant
We’re aware that the room finder could use some improvements to the user interface, and it’s on our (very long) todo list. But we’re gluttens for punishment, so always feel free to let us know what features would be useful to you.
June 6, 2013
by Christopher Gutteridge
Last year we built a system which aggregates event RSS feeds and makes a nice events calendar for the university. I was recently quite surprised to discover a way which the information was being used.
“Change Management within iSolutions uses the Events Calendar open data in conjunction with other confidential data sources to build a rich understanding of critical University activities throughout the year. This enables iSolutions to schedule maintenance work to minimises service disruption to our users, and it also assists in understanding impacts to users when unplanned service outage occurs. ” – D.J. Hampton, IT Service Management & QA Team Manager
July 17, 2011
by Christopher Gutteridge
First of all, I’ve also just added a new post over at the web team blog which might be interesting to our readers on the data blog, if you’ve ever been confused about the relationship between Open Data, Linked Data and RDF Data.
Secondly, I’ve just added in the sameAs links between our bus-stop data and data.gov.uk. I should have done this months ago, but kept forgetting. It’s up now and I imagine Hugh Glaser will import them into the sameAs.org service which will allow you to discover our data on Southampton bus-stops by resolving the government ID for a bus-stop in sameas.org (maybe we’ll link to a demo, as I don’t think I explained that very well!)
** UPDATE **: Turns out my sameAs links were wrong, but Colin has created a full set which also links our codes for train stations and I’ve added in the airport. I’ve published it as a separate linkset.
Lastly, I asked a few keys staff for comments about the value of Open Data, and here’s a great one:
The Open Day map, based on open data, amazed so many of our visitors, is was great example of how our leading edge research has translated into a very real an practical application, second only to Soton Bus!
— University of Southampton Pro Vice-Chancellor Education, Professor Debra Humphris
The open days pages aren’t actually linked from the data.southampton homepage; but they aren’t secret, just only valuable for the period of the now-passed event.
July 12, 2011
by Christopher Gutteridge
I’m excited that we’re about to launch the new university catering website, with added linked data features! These features show what the opening hours for points-of-service run by catering, including the halls, and also a product search which lets you search all products from the university (including those from other retailers).
“As a Caterer I am often quoting that ‘I bake bread, I don’t do IT!’ we like to keep it simple and this is exactly what Open data does for us. We can use formats and software we are used to and manage up to date real time information. This will ensure we are keeping customers up to date with information that they want. There is more to come as well and in Catering we have designed our whole web site and marketing strategy around the Open Data technology, watch this space Catering is catching up.”
– James Leeming
University of Southampton Retail Catering Manager
Visit our new catering site at: http://catering.southampton.ac.uk/