Doing it Local… Maybe Next Year…

New Year coming up, so time to start mulling over a resolution or two that might actually make a difference*. One of the things I meant to do this year – but didn’t get round to – was working on, which I’d planned to start populating as a demonstrator site for local data led news stories generated from national datasets. My thought was if I could get into some sort of habit around that, I might actually get round to starting to build up a data driven wire service for hyperlocals and local monitoring groups (,, and were all purchased and parked for this…they’re still unpopulated…).

One plan I had for trying to sneak this project up on myself was to pick a data release every day (or at least, one a week on my 0.2FTE not-OU day, which keeps getting leeched away, somehow…) from the UK Gov daily “published statistics” feed and write a Jupyter notebook to start to explore it. Over the course of a year, I should have been able to get through a fair few datasets and start to return to them, and further work up ones I’ve visited before, as well as starting to build up some sort of longitudinal collection. (Here’s one false start on that around NHS datasets. Here’s another placeholder for some notebooks I was going to work up for OnTheWight before we fell out over openness!) Never really happened though..:-( On the other hand, I did start to play with company data again, courtesy of an invite from Global Witness to their “person’s of significant control” datadive, as well as a wondering about Trump, and I’m fired up to start playing with that data again. As the to local data stories and toolkits – maybe next year…

To that end, the presence of several other projects that look set to be ramping up next year may prompt me into action as a form of mild competition and “could I do that?” inspiration. One example is Will Perrin’s Local News Engine, another the Bureau of Investigative Journalism Local Data Lab, to be headed by Times data journalist Megan Lucero. (At the time of writing, it’s not too late to apply for a data journalist or data lab developer role. I’m not sure if they’re also open to speculative applications…? Hmmm….) Both of those projects are funded from the Google Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund, but I’m not sure what, if anything, that means…

My year should also be kickstarted (hopefully) energy level wise with a few days at the reproducible research using Jupyter Notebooks curriculum development hackathon. One of the things I’ll be interested in is the extent to which any curriculum – and resources produced for it – can also be used to support training initiatives around the use of reproducible scripts for national-to-local data wrangling notebooks for use by local journalists, watchdogs, researchers etc. (I suspect the user skill levels the workshop/hackathon will be focussing on are a skill level one or two up from a more amateur (and I use the word advisedly…) audience, but it’ll be interesting to see how accessible we can make things…)

This might also provide an opportunity for me to think about more about using “databoxes”, Raspberry Pi SD card images blown with all you need to get up and running immediately with a particular dataset. Think RPi runnable Infinite Intern SD cards

Also lined up (nearly… fingers crossed) is taking a more detailed look at Parliamentary open data, and how that can be used to support wider research and “holding to account”, as well as policy development. Whilst that will probably involve some amount of poking around in the data, seeing what’s there, and what can be done with it, it might also set the scene for rethinking how consultations and Parliamentary research briefings might work as informal learning resources requiring a critical read…

Hmmm… thinks again… there’s not a lot of 0.8 interest in there, is there…?

A change for me this year was starting to follow a band again, after 20 years off – though that wasn’t one of the resolutions last time round… Maybe finding some ways to start getting involved with promoting again should be on the list for next year…

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