Two New Cabinet Office Open Data Consultations: Data Policy and Making Open Data Real

Via the Guardian Datablog, I see that the Cabinet Office has just opened up a couple of consultations around open data:

Consultation on Data Policy for a Public Data Corporation [homepage] [Consultation]

Here are the consultation questions (also available via SurveyMonkey: PDC consultation):

Chapter 4 – Charging for PDC information

  1. How do you think Government should best balance its objectives around increasing access to data and providing more freely available data for re-use year on year within the constraints of affordability? Please provide evidence to support your answer where possible.
  2. Are there particular datasets or information that you believe would create particular economic or social benefits if they were available free for use and re-use? Who would these benefit and how? Please provide evidence to support your answer where possible.
  3. What do you think the impacts of the three options would be for you and/or other groups outlined above? Please provide evidence to support your answer where possible.
  4. A further variation of any of the options could be to encourage PDC and its constituent parts to make better use of the flexibility to develop commercial data products and services outside of their public task. What do you think the impacts of this might be?
  5. Are there any alternative options that might balance Government’s objectives which are not covered here? Please provide details and evidence to support your response where possible.

Chapter 5 – Licensing

  1. To what extent do you agree that there should be greater consistency, clarity and simplicity in the licensing regime adopted by a PDC?
  2. To what extent do you think each of the options set out would address those issues (or any others)? Please provide evidence to support your comments where possible.
  3. What do you think the advantages and disadvantages of each of the options would be? Please provide evidence to support your comments
  4. Will the benefits of changing the models from those in use across Government outweigh the impacts of taking out new or replacement licences?

Chapter 6 – Regulatory oversight

  1. To what extent is the current regulatory environment appropriate to deliver the vision for a PDC?
  2. Are there any additional oversight activities needed to deliver the vision for a PDC and if so what are they?
  3. What would be an appropriate timescale for reviewing a PDC or its constituent parts public task(s)?

And the second consultation (which is probably worth reading in the context of the [white paper PDF, feedback website]?)

Making Open Data Real: A Public Consultation [homepage] [Consultation]

  1. Glossary of key terms [link]
  2. An enhanced right to data: how do we establish stronger rights for individuals, businesses and other actors to obtain, use and re-use data from public service providers? [link]
  3. Setting transparency standards: what would standards that enforce this right to data among public authorities look like? [link]
  4. Corporate and personal responsibility: how would public service providers be held to account for delivering open data through a clear governance and leadership framework at political, organisational and individual level? [link]
  5. Meaningful Open Data: how should we ensure collection and publication of the most useful data, through an approach enabling public service providers to understand the value of the data they hold and helps the public at large know what data is collected? [link]
  6. Government sets the example: in what ways could we make the internal workings of government and the public sector as open as possible? [link]
  7. Innovation with Open Data: to what extent is there a role for government to stimulate enterprise and market making in the use of open data? [link]

I haven’t had chance to read through the consultation docs yet, but I’ll try and comment somewhere, as well as responding…

The way the consultations are presented

As to the way the consultations are presented themselves, two approaches have been taken:

– the PDC consultation embeds documenents at chapter level hosted on Scribd in a preview widget, with questions made available via a Word document or via SurveyMonkey. There doesn’t appear to be an opportunity to comment on the BIS site that is hosting the PDC consultation, even though it’s a WordPress platform running the Commentariat2 theme. To my mind, the way this consultation has be published, it’s not really of the web, and, to use a technical term, feels a little bit horrible to me… Maybe they don’t want flame wars on the domain about “Charging for PDC information”?!;-)

– the Making it Real consultation is hosted on the site, with HTML text split at “chapter” (section) level, and commenting at that level via a single bottom of the page comment box. Where documents take close reading, I think this makes commenting difficult: if you want to refer to specific, detailed points in the consultation document, I’d say it makes sense to be able to see comment at the point of reference. That is, the comment box needs to be where you can see the actual bit of text you are commenting on (which is one reason why we often annotate documents with marginalia, rather than on a separate piece of paper). Where the comment box is fixed at the bottom of the page, you need two windows open to have side by side commenting and viewing of the actual text you are commenting on.

If we hadn’t decided that things had moved on enough in the way consultations were being handled to close WriteToReply (WriteToReply is closing. Come get your data if you want it), I think there’s a good chance we would have hosted both these consultations… Maybe our thinking that WriteToReply had nudged things far enough was a bit hasty? (The theme is out there, but as yet hasn’t been trialled on a departmental basis, I don’t think, even though we did try to respond to the commissioned accessibility audit. (Are Scribd docs accessible?) is running on the JISCPress site though.

(I’m suddenly fired up again by the thought that consultation docs could be so much more “of the web” as well as easier to engage with… Hmmm, when’s the closing date for these consultations? Maybe there is time for one last WriteToReply outing…?)

PS How did I miss out on subscribing to the Government Digital Service? e.g. Neil Williams on A vision for online consultation and policy engagement

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “Two New Cabinet Office Open Data Consultations: Data Policy and Making Open Data Real”

  1. Hi Tony – I didn’t build this one, but am responsible for Commentariat2 as used by BIS. I think they have enabled comments (the floating box on the right), and I think the intention is absolutely to support online comment. There’s the dreaded SurveyMonkey too (*spits*).

    I agree with your of-the-web point. That’s why I laboriously cut and pasted two drafts each of 3 documents for LGID on open data at Consultation docs should be snappy enough to work as HTML docs. Time is an issue though – as I say, I don’t know much about this one, but it’s entirely possible the team had only 24 hours or so to turn it around.

    There are some longer docs, and some use cases involving users more comfortable with print, where the embedded Scribd doc + Commentariat works well – say – especially coupled with the epic digital engagement effort FCO have made to support it. Just check out the China page to see some lively debate. As Scribd evolves and moves from Flash to HTML5, some more interesting opportunities may become possible too…

    As a semi-outsider these days, I’m lamenting too the fact that online consultation hasn’t evolved more despite the examples and tools that are out there. Hopefully Alpha/Betagov can start to provide both some platforms and some vision to help shift that mindset in a positive, of-the-web and increasingly *social* direction.

    1. Hi Steph – thanks for the comments… I was pushed for time today and think I should have stepped back and mulled over the sites a little more before hitting the publish button… ho hum… I’ve since looked around sites that offer a comment panel that sits alongside an embedded Scribd document, and can see how it might work in positive UX terms. As you suggest, the Scribd move to HTML5 might introduce some interesting possibilities (though at times I’ve also been a bit twitchy about their business model/attitude). Something I did start to wonder about the role a mechanic along the lines used by annotators such as might have to play, eg where a user could invoke a consultation specific bookmarklet that might be keyed with user details and would allow different users to post comments with their ID into a common/shared annotation space associated with the document. This sort of thing would not be totally inclusive, (installing and using the bookmarklet would be a barrier to entry( but would provide a way for people keen to engage in commentary a means of doing so. (Of course, the annotation support could also be provided natively within a doc.)
      To take a step back from that, I guess what I was actually pondering was: to what extent is there a rationale for supporting comments-as-annotations, compared to comments-as-comments, in certain cases, eg as in the case of draft documents, rather than consultations? In turn, this raises questions about the sorts of engagement you might expect/receive form consultation-via-consultations, as opposed to consultation-via-annotation on a draft proposal or straw man document.
      One of the things we half experimented with back in the Digital Britain Interim Report exercise was the use of a Fake Digital Britain Report wiki. Though this never really took offer, putting up draft documents as wiki documents open to change affords three sorts of ways at least of tracking engagement: 1) discussion/commentary in comment pages; 2) through the current state of the wiki document; 3) through the history.

      Finally, insofar as consultation via social platforms goes, I don’t think we really have much idea about that yet, do we? Aggregation of “discussion” (or at least sentiment), eg through things like ThinkUpApp, maybe have a role to play, but I’m still not sure how????

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: