Open Data Day 2014 Post-Events Round-Up

February 25, 2014 1:10 pm PST | Data as a Service

Open Data Day 2014 has come and gone. So how did it go? Socrata team members who scattered far and wide across the world to attend various events and hackathons report back unanimously: Open Data Day 2014 was a gigantic success. Read on for recaps from London, New York City, Canada, and more. 

Seattle, Washington

The view from Chris Metcalf's Google Glass at Code Across Seattle.
The view from Chris Metcalf’s Google Glass at Code Across Seattle.

Chris Metcalf attended the Seattle Open Data Day event. “Code Across Seattle brought together civic data activists, city officials, and developers to brainstorm and prototype ways that technology could help our city,” says Metcalf. “The passion and creativity of the participants was awesome. It was a great addition to the large number of Code Across events held nationwide, and I was proud I could be a part of it.”

Young open data activists , Charlotte and Emily, practice their Socrata and Twilio "devangelism"
Young open data activists , Charlotte and Emily, practice their Socrata and Twilio “devangelism”

See the full writeup of Code Across Seattle here


Socrata team member Ben Unsworth joined the Open Data Day 2014 event hosted by OKFN. The issues that were worked on during the day included:

  • Crowdsourcing data to complete a census of open data availability in UK cities and towns 
  • Development of a sustainability super portal for open data
  • Railsponsibility. This project is aimed at building a system to monitor all train service cancellations or delays that match the criteria for compensation, communicate that information to passengers, and to support them in filing the claim, automating the process as much as possible. Code here.
  • Open spending applications


Jesse Romine and Colin Spikes attended Open Data Day in Toronto. According to Spikes, the highlight occurred with a break-out group of developers and citizens. “They were trying to build an app to display where affordable housing is located and communicate the backlog of repairs needed,” says Spikes. “The City of Toronto provides a very basic catalog of downloadable datasets, including a shapefile of housing locations. The group was stuck about how to create a map with the shapefile. We pulled up Socrata and, in a matter of moments, the entire room huddled around the screen, amazed at how quickly Socrata was able to produce a series of powerful maps with that information,” he reports.

See the video here. 

New York City, New York

Chris Whong attended Code Across NYC 2014, hosted by BetaNYC, New York City’s Code for America Brigade. The theme was building tools that will turn New York City open data into tools for community boards and City Council members. Honorary guests included Gale Brewer — the Manhattan Borough President and the “Godmother of NYC Open Data,” who sponsored and pushed for New York City’s open data law — and Councilman Ben Kallos, a former software developer and New York City’s most tech-savvy elected official, known for holding  press conferences via Google Hangouts. About 50 people were in attendance, working on 20 projects, 12 of which were submitted.

Whong talks about the highlights on what was developed and the award winners:

“My team scraped 24,000 property tax bills from the city website and create a Property Tax Explorer Map, tying for Best Overall Civic App with Tammany, an app designed to match the internal workflow of the city council and bring their processes into the 21st Century,” says Whong.

Best Citizen Engagement App: NYC Emrals – a digital currency that citizens earn via various civic-minded efforts. (Volunteering, reporting incidents, etc)

Best City Council/Community Board App – Uses the Socrata Open Data API to auto-generate a community-focused email report from NYC 311 data. Brings open data to the people instead of them having to go find it.

Event Summary on the BetaNYC Blog

Washington, D.C.

DC Open Data Day 2014 was held in the World Bank auditorium and was the most well attended Open Data Day event to date with more than 250 attendees. Participants ranged from hackers to educators, international development partitioners to UX designers, and they were all there to learn from one another and collaborate on awesome open data projects with one focus: to make the world a better place.

Marcus Louis, Jessica Carsten, Clare Zimmerman and Louis Fettet from Socrata led a project on access to open data called The Open Data Directory.

The goal of this project was simple:

Problem: If you want to find data about a specific topic across multiple cities, states, countries, organizations, you have to know where to find that data- and they are often hosted on multiple platforms and have different owners. If you know where to go, you’ll probably start by going to multiple data catalogs looking for what you want. Worse yet, there isn’t a standardized taxonomy — or set of key words — that could be used to organize APIs or datasets or assist with navigation.

Solution: As an average citizen you shouldn’t need to know where to go to find the data you want. We want to create an open data directory and a search tool that allows people to browse data by topic, and find relevant data wherever it resides.

To implement, we pre-fetched data catalogs that support standards like DCAT and data.json- finding along the way that only a handful of Federal agencies supported these standards. The goal then was to build and load data into searchable database with an amazing search interface that would like the data you’re looking for to CSV, JSON, and API documentation.

8 Hackers Hacking
8 Hackers Hacking

There were also great projects happening concurrently on education, transportation, and international development. According to Carsten, “The best thing about Open Data Day 2014 was learning new skills from others and finding new use cases that validate just how powerful open data can be.”

In the words of Joshua Tauberer, “Open Data Day is the new Earth Day!” and we look forward to celebrating every year. 


Drew Rifkin and Stuart Gano were able to attend the 2014 Canadian Open Data Summit.

They met with David Eaves, Open Data Activist, who helped to organize the event. They also heard from Jeni Tennison, the Technical Director from the ODI, who speak about the benefits of open data. Tennison talked about how to get the maximum value from open data by being able to:

1. Reuse open data. Publishers need to know how valuable the data that they are publishing is and every dataset should have some way of knowing who is reusing that information (for example, usage statistics as a data standard). 

2. Create a brand around your open data. Open data could easily be applied to businesses. Invite the comparison on your terms. People value openness and should have the option of finding information.

3. Innovate on top of open data.  Netflix opened their viewer data and announced a contest for civic developers to create a better prediction algorithm.

4. Connect with communities and enable sharing. Open data can be a great way to advertise and lower barriers to entry. It can make it easier for to procure services.

Minneapolis, Mineesota

Jesse Romine also attended Capital Code: An Open Data Jam. It was the first event of its kind, hosted by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Romine says, “It was a great event! Several teams presented innovative ideas and apps to State of Minnesota leadership.”  

Hampton Roads, Virginia

Andreas Addison talks open data and citystat
Andreas Addison talks open data and citystat

Ewan Simpson reports on his experiences during Open Data Day 2014. “While I am extremely familiar with hackathons, I had never witnessed the energy, passion, creativity, and community engagement that embodies the events of Open Data Day. I’m sure most people don’t envision traveling up and down the mid-Atlantic to multiple tech events to be the best way to spend a weekend, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it, save the traffic in Northern Virginia,” he says.

Kevin Curry and Bret Fisher, the Hampton Roads Code for America Brigade, kicked off Friday evening with a great presentation on open data, the Hampton Roads Brigade, and what the event represented. This opening was followed by informative and motivational presentations that touched on different aspects of open data and inclusiveness. Presenters included Waldo Jaquith, founder of the U.S. Open Data Institute, Sheila Dugan, former Code for America fellow and founder of EveryoneOn, and Andreas Addison, Civic Innovator for the City of Richmond who talked about how Virginia’s Capital City is applying open data and best practices to improve the City’s internal operations and service delivery.

On Saturday, the Hampton Roads event kicked off with the organization of teams around a number of challenges including open budget, school bus tracking, transit, and other applications. Public officials from Virginia Beach and Norfolk connected directly with teams in some cases, while others attended as observers. The beautiful facilities at Dominion Enterprises and ample sustenance contributed by other donors provided a great workspace and creature comforts that helped keep the teams going throughout the day.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mayor Peduto hands out awards at Steel City Codefest
Mayor Peduto hands out awards at Steel City Codefest

On Sunday, Simpson was able to catch the finalists presentations at Pittsburgh Steel City Codefest. Dedicated hackers worked for 24 hours on a series of challenges focused on addressing area non-profit and civic needs. Pittsburgh’s Mayor, Bill Peduto, handed awards to the different finalists and the big winner, PGH.ST, a refuse and recycling schedule tracking app.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Triangle Open Data Day
Triangle Open Data Day

Triangle Open Data Day 2014 was a gathering of citizens in the Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham) to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations, and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments.

Reid Serozi from Socrata and the Raleigh Code for America Brigade led a Hacking for Civic Good session on how to use Socrata API. 

Code Across Charlotte

Code Across Charlotte
Code Across Charlotte

Reid Serozi and the Raleigh CfA Bridgade also attended the Code for Charlotte Code Across public launch event. Everyone had a chance to meet the CfA Fellows assigned to the city and learn more about the local brigade efforts. “I spent the evening discussing in a brainstorm exercise how to improve neighborhoods using open data,” says Serozi.

Gainesville, Florida

Steve Ellsworth attended the Open Data Day event in Gainesville. He tells us, “These events are great to see the innovation and passion that’s present within each city; it’s a blast to participate.” We’ll be publishing a guest blog from Gainesville shortly, detailing the entire event.

What Open Data Day 2014 events did you attend? Let us know in the comments! 

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