OUseful.info is a blog in part about… things that I think may be useful in an higher education context, one day…

For more info on how I manage my online presence, see How OUseful.info operates.

OUseful.inof started pointing here in July 2008. Posts from the OUseful.info blog prior to that (that used to be hosted at http://blogs.open.ac.uk/Maths/ajh59) are all archived at http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/blogarchive; all links to the old blog should redirect there…


Tony Hirst is:

  • Lecturer in the Department of Communication and Systems at The Open University (0.8FTE),
  • data storyteller with the Open Knowledge Foundation School of Data (0.2FTE)
  • Visiting Senior Fellow in Networked Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln,
  • regular blogger at OUseful.info

With a background in electronics and artificial intelligence, he has authored on OU courses ranging from robotics to information skills, and most recently a course on computer game design and appreciation. He is passionate about open and lifelong education, and is actively involved in developing course models to support informal as well as formal education. As an open data advocate and self-proclaimed mashup artist, he gives regular workshop and conference presentations on how to create novel information services and find stories in data using freely available web tools and applications. (Workshop sessions available on: basic data wrangling skills; network visualisation with Gephi; simple data scraping; data cleaning with OpenRefine; writing charts with ggplot and RCharts.)

An Arcadia Fellow at the University Library, Cambridge in 2009, he spent many years berating academic libraries about the changing world of information around them.

Since posting a widely circulated map based visualisation of MPs’ travel expenses in Spring 2009, he has become increasingly interested in the practice of data journalism and the use of visualisation techniques as a way of making sense of complex data sets. His current focus of interest is on the development of robust, reliable and effective data related workflows for non-expert journalists and NGOs.

He co-founded getTheData.org, an open public data question and answer site and the public document consultation platform WriteToReply, which helped government departments and policy makers think differently about the nature of commentable documents as operational contributions to discussion and policy development in both those areas.

Tony HIrst, by John Naughton


  1. Kirrily Robert

    Hi Tony,

    I noticed you mentioning Freebase and the BBC’s topics page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/topics/) on twitter a while ago, via twitter’s search. Are you still interested in Freebase? I’ll be visiting London shortly (Aug 16-24) and I’m interested in meeting up with people who are working with Freebase or interested in working with it. Drop me a line at kirrily@metaweb.com if you’d like to catch up.


  2. thea

    Hey, I like your blog, but I have to say – for those of us who didn’t regularly read your blog at it’s old home, this is a pretty unsatisfying “About” section!!

    I wanted to know more about you & the blog, not your previous address!

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