APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists


9:02 am - March 2nd 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Tory cuts won’t just affect the economy and people’s lives, they represent a mountain of information. What sectors are being cut and how? How does it affect your area? What are the figures involved?

More specifically, what can be done with this information? There is a tidal wave of information and data that everyone is struggling to process and make use of.

But we need more collaboration between technically minded people and those collecting this information. So Netroots is organising a mini-event called ‘APIs Against the Cuts’.

The recently launched False Economy website is trying to build a comprehensive picture of the cuts taking place across the country: by sector, amount and job cuts. It is collecting a mine of information.

Similarly, other sites such as the Guardian have a Data blog which has variously attempted to mine Cuts related data. Other single-issue websites have also sprung up.

The problem
But the information that is being collected by False Economy cannot be accessed except by visiting the website. Similarly, others are replicating information or building databases of cuts to libraries, police numbers, local council budgets and the NHS.

This information is neither freely accessible and available in standardised formats, nor can external parties use it and manipulate it. This is a problem and we need to work towards resolving it.

The tools
Imagine if you could easily embed on your website a widget that updates with information on cuts to local NHS jobs. What if you want to automatically import upcoming events from UKuncut, False Economy and Coalition of Resistance into your Google Calendar?

Or how about if you want to find out how many libraries have been cut in a ten mile radius? Or how much money has been cut from public services in your region?

All this information is out there somewhere. But it is not easily available, and so coders cannot easily produce widgets or tools that can display that information in a more accessible way.

This is the task ahead of us: to collate that data, to store it in open formats and to make it accessible for others.

Our plans
APIs Against the Cuts will be a half-day event in mid-April. The aim is to bring together activists, bloggers, and technologists who are interested in collating, using and mining cuts related information.

The event won’t be long enough for people to create tools right there (maybe) but at least use it as a starting point for future collaboration.

It would need to discuss:
• What data is currently out there and in what format
• What standardisation might be necessary to ensure others can also feed into and use this information?
• Current efforts to make this data useful and accessible and what tools could be developed going forward.

Some of these could perhaps be done online before the event takes place, making it easier to move forward quickly.

I’m interested in your thoughts on how the event might work. Also, who would be good to include as part of the discussions? Also, what tools are already out there which would be useful for anyone planning tools for cuts data?

This is just a draft idea at the moment, we would like your feedback on what could work and what probably wouldn’t…

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts

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Reader comments


1. Luis Enrique

Sunny have you seen this?

http://code.google.com/p/google-refine/

from here

http://www.propublica.org/nerds/item/doc-dollars-guides-collecting-the-data

not sure if it’s what your after, but might be worth looking at

I’m down. But is April a little bit late, shouldn’t we go for the end of March? Quicker the better really.

Just what I was looking for to get involved – please let me know how to get involved!

“Imagine if you could easily embed on your website a widget that updates with information on cuts to local NHS jobs.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Sunny Hundal, dispelling the myth that lefty blogs are dull…

Now this is an excellent idea! Regrettably I am not a techie person, but if there is ever a need for general duties I am your man

6. Dick the Prick

Just Tory cuts, not even a nod to Tory led cuts? Ho hum.

A few thoughts:

1. Distributed. Having one single portal for data means it has to be bullet proof. In most cases the end result has the same impact with slightly out-of-date data. (The @FalseEcon MyDavidCameron live feed poster is nice, but it depends on the website working 24/7 otherwise you’ll get an empty iframe. The poster will have the same impact with day old data cached elsewhere.)

2. Standards. Make it easy to use the data by using a common format. (Much as I think XML is more than often misused, this is a good use for it.) There is a lot of data out there in a lot of different formats.

3. Provide everything. Don’t assume what data we want.

4. KISS. Let the developers do the work, you’re just providing the data.

5. Share. Provide a way for developers to share scripts, gadgets, etc

Hi Alex,
I did think that too, but a lot of people involved with Netroots are union people, and they’re utterly drowning under March 26th work.

Richard – yes I agree with all that. Our ultimate aim should be to share all data so people can manipulate it.

The way to get involved is to post your thoughts and suggestions on how this day should be structured, what you would like to see happen, and where things could go!

I’ll keep posting updates as we move on this…
cheers

Looks great – we’re going to be exploring a bit of this as one of the streams in Open Data Campaigning Camp on the 24th March – still places for anyone who wants to get involved: http://opendatacampaigningcamp.eventbrite.com/


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  2. False Economy

    RT @libcon APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  3. Jonathan Davis

    RT @libcon: APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  4. glittrgirl

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  5. sunny hundal

    'APIs Against the Cuts' – upcoming event to collate and manipulate data on the cuts we're organising. Techies invited! http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  6. Tim Hardy

    Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon

  7. Alex

    RT @bc_tmh: Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon

  8. Wonko Grime

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  9. threadme

    RT @bc_tmh: Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon

  10. Tony Hardwick

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  11. Noxi

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  12. Double.Karma

    RT @bc_tmh: Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon

  13. If Not Then What?

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  14. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @libcon: APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  15. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://bit.ly/hVfFFd

  16. The Dragon Fairy

    “@bc_tmh: Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon”

  17. APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists | Netroots UK

    […] (cross post from Liberal Conspiracy) Tags: APIs against the cuts, cuts, data, False Economy, Guardian […]

  18. okuncut

    RT @bc_tmh: Geek call out! APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists to help share vital data http://t.co/b5wUsTn via @libcon

  19. Pucci Dellanno

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  20. Enrique Valera

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  21. Staffordshire UNISON

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  22. DisabledPeople

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  23. Pete Birkinshaw

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  24. Paul Evans

    Just run into @sunny_hundal who is organising a 'APIs against the cuts' event http://tinyurl.com/645ecrg – what data should he be mining?

  25. sunny hundal

    RT @Paul0Evans1: Just run into @sunny_hundal who is organising a 'APIs against the cuts' event http://tinyurl.com/645ecrg – what data sh …

  26. Dominic Campbell

    APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://t.co/Yf5oeZ0 via @paul0evans1 @sunny_hundal

  27. Rachel

    APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/HtiGm1v via @libcon

  28. Rachel

    RT @Paul0Evans1: Just run into @sunny_hundal who is organising a 'APIs against the cuts' event http://tinyurl.com/645ecrg – what data sh …

  29. Rachel Evans

    RT @dominiccampbell: APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://t.co/Yf5oeZ0 via @paul0evans1 @sunny_hundal

  30. Dennis North

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  31. Owen Blacker

    RT @dominiccampbell: APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists http://t.co/Yf5oeZ0 via @paul0evans1 @sunny_hundal

  32. Edward Crompton

    APIs Against the Cuts: calling techies and activists | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/GDG8lif via @libcon

  33. Felicity Alwell

    APIs Against the #Cuts: bring together activists, bloggers, and technologists to collate & mine cuts related info http://t.co/YfDCcIG





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