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A Bit Quiet

The blog has been a bit quiet for a few weeks as we’ve been busy with our birthdays (Dave C. and I have them about 6 days apart), Dev8D and getting ready for the public launch of the University of Southampton Linked Open Data site.

Internal people can check it out now at — feedback, ideas and questions are good, producing demo apps is better!

Oh, spotting any errors is really helpful too!

Things still to do include, more HTML visualisations for people who prefer to get their data a little more cooked than as nerds, a clever browser for our spending data, and work out how to extract the data from our energy metering system (which is awsesome, but the main job is filtering out the weird unhelpful data as it was not planned to be public so there’s harmless but confusing cruft).

The biggy is to get to grips with the linked data API which I hope to have ready for the launch date. Basically this means that if you can get useful bits of bitesize data about something, rather than loading the enitre dataset to find out the location of a bus-stop. I think it’s a great idea for data, but I want to try and provide custom HTML views for things rather than just a data dump in HTML form.

I’ve got a very hacky hookup to the council bus-stop live data (ie. how long until the next bus), it’s a big of a scary route involving screen scraping and 3rd year project code but it demonstrates the massive value of getting this data properly.

I want to try and get some data out of a few other sources — I figure that the locations and opening hours of services would be really helpful. I don’t actually know much about student services, so I’m learning as I go, but they have a surprising amount in common with coffee shops, just providing advice rather than coffee.

I’m looking into linking up our list of expertise for the media with wikipedia, perhaps having 3 columns each can either be free text or a wikipedia (so secretly dbpedia!) link. The columns are narrow subject, subject, broad subject. The goal with this dataset is not perfection, but to hook up journalists and academics who would benefit from talking to each other. Also to provide cool tools to journalists so they think well of us, which can’t hurt! I reckon in a few years time it will become standard to provide a feed of all your experts so media organistations can maintain their own databases (or compile central ones).

I made a bold statement last year on Twitter, and it looks like I’m going to be able to make good on that.

OK, bit of a ramble but you get the idea of how busy I am…

This project is going great (although I’m working so very hard) but the real reason is that it’s got amazing backing from an unholy alliance of the central IT (iSolutions), Computer Science (ECS), the Communications department and Finance.

And not to forget the head of catering, who got hold of a list of all our vending machines, moving me closer to one of my key use-cases: Where is the nearest place (that’s open) to obtain ANYTHING in with caffiene in? I’m also tagging all points-of-service which sell alchol so choose your poison.

Also I should thank ECS people as they’ve been loads of help, especially the ones with the difficult questions. And especially Colin, François-Xavier, Chris and the photography club who’ve been contributing useful one-time data. Locations, outlines, and depictions of our buildings and sites etc.

Sometime later I’ll comment on the technologies we’re using. They are, of course, all free & open source, including the ones I have built for the project. I think the approach I’ve come up for publishing datasets is pretty simple and re-usable.

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