A look across Education and COINS embedded cases reveals diverse technical approaches for working with OGD, both in terms of preferred data formats and technology platform preferences. Users frequently convert OGD into the formats they are most comfortable with, often sharing this derived data, or the source code to generate it (though much derived data is provided through APIs rather than as bulk data). Whilst a number of interviewees expressed an interest in data provision via linked-data/RDF, they noted they did not yet have skills to use it. The only embedded case using RDF (E3) data was developed partially as an opportunity for the developer to learn to work with SPARQL, and made no use of the ‘linked’ features of the linked-data it accessed.
50% of survey respondents indicated providing a platform for others to build upon was amongst their motivations for OGD use, but also noted their OGD use was experimental and without long terms sustainability plans. No conventions were evident in any of the cases explored for indicating to end-users when the bulk-data in an application was last updated, nor for indicating transparently how the data had been processed before it was presented.
Social networks and support from peers were important in inspiring or enabling many OGD uses. Whether it was the training provided by a Local Information Service (LIS) manager to non-technical users seeking facts for their work, or the supportive events and mailing-lists around data.gov.uk, many OGD re-users noted the importance of communities of practice for enabling their OGD use.
“When I saw the EduBase dataset was out there I didnt know anything about RDF or linked data at the time, but luckily…theres a good community of people around data.gov.uk…”
Local authority web-manager
Attentiveness to those excluded from, or peripheral to core socio-technical networks around OGD is important in future analysis of the democratic potentials of OGD. The close connections between technically-oriented OGD re-users, and data.gov.uk OGD providers is notable, and potentially reinforces the ‘data for developers’ focus of the platform. One interviewee, responsible for a LIS noted that training and capacity building were as important as tool building in getting data used effectively:
Its a long process it has taken several years really to build peoples confidence [in using data in their work].”