Why did I change my mind about open data?

Knowledge against fear and suspicion – open data is beneficial

Generally disagreeing about any kind of data sharing, I realized my behavior was mostly based on fear. Fear is a major impediment to anything innovative and to any kind of change. Why did I change my mind about open data? It is about differentiating between public and private data, and about the fact that data made public are first of all edited.

New work – new ideas

In November 2015, I started working at Liip and I had a lot of new projects and inputs. The core of my work is the same, I completely changed field though. I stand now in the middle of a flow of innovative ideas and energy, which is very motivating and helps me be constantly open-minded.
One of my projects, last spring, was the coordination of Liip’s involvement at the annual opendata.ch conference. No, I cannot communicate about anything if I don’t understand it! Otherwise I would write complete bulls**t, people would notice it and Liip would lose all credibility on the subject. In other words, I had to know what I was talking about in order to be able to talk about it.

Fear & suspicion, people will be stalking me and CFF tickets will get more expensive

I used to completely disagree on any kind of open data. I mean, why, on Earth, would I be okay to share my personal data with the rest of the world?
Seriously, I was sure that, if I collaborate with the CFF surveys, tickets will get more expensive between Geneva and Lausanne, because they will know my commuting habits. I was convinced that Swisscom will soon be selling my personal data to private polls. If I use a MBudget Card, some people will be stalking me as they know that I always go grocery shopping at the same Migros.

Fear brings fear. It is a major impediment to anything innovative and to any kind of change. The first step to any change of perspective was me realizing that my reaction was based on some purely irrational feeling instead of rational information.

Let’s get started with some reading!

Knowledge the best enemy of fear: What is actually ‘open data’ ?

My education to open data started with learning about the projects that Liip developed (like the open data catalogue of the city of Zurich or the project with the Swiss Federal Archive). I discussed with my colleagues, but the concept of open data remained difficult to grasp.
What is concretely open data?

Step 1: A definition:

The definition of open data as given by the opendefinition.org

“Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose”

As it is very general, the full open definition gives a detailed list of attributes. It is a bit of an unfriendly reading, the open data handbook provides a summary of the most important aspects:

“Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute – there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavor or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.”

The important thing to remember is that it is a type of content completely available to anyone – public or private sector or even an anonymous quidam – and for any kind of purpose.

Step 2: Private data is not public data

I find important to differentiate between private and public data. When I heard about open data, I felt my privacy instantly threatened. However, opening public data poses no threat to my privacy.
Take the example of cadastral plans, they are available on request. A formal petition to the right administrative service would provide you the info. Opening cadastral plans merely mean saving people working with it the time necessary for the administrative hurdle.

In other words public data is often already available through an administrative process and in an inconvenient format. Opening public data mostly signifies processing and editing them in a convenient format and leaving them in a digital library. Opening public data is about creating a digital library, allowing people to find them without the administrative process.

Private data is one’s individual data, for example, the data-gathered by your period application, your MBudget card, your mobile phone’s GPS tracking. This data is usually under confidentiality.

Opening private data, is not only about making it accessible, but also about editing it, to make sure that it cannot be linked to anyone.

What if open data was beneficial to the community?

Commuting to Geneva, I used to be angry with the CFF, because my Intercity Train was poorly connected to my inter-regio train which lead to me losing 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. Spending 2 hours, 2 hours 30 minutes or 3 hours to commute makes a huge difference. What if the CFF knew that a significant amount of commuters take these same trains as I did? They could delay the train 5 minutes and I would be happier everyday because my travel would be shorter! What if a mobile company shared its data about the mobility of people and made these data available to the CFF? What if I answered the poll? Or better, what if, instead of spending money on a poll, the CFF could access data of commuters? The data quality might be higher and more relevant!

Urbanism: Pully as a case study

The city of Pully is pioneering in the domain with its urban project in collaboration with Swisscom. The project team is analysing the traffic – car, public transportation, bike or pedestrian – based on data provided by Swisscom’s mobile network. (More info in French about this project).
The city of Pully saved the investment necessary for a poll and had reliable data available. Processed to be anonymized, this kind of data is not a threat to my privacy. In this case, opening the data is beneficial to the whole community.
The objective of this project is to develop the urbanisation of the city according to people’s real needs and not to any lobby. It could result in the creation of bike lanes or an improvement of traffic flows.

Pully – Photo Credit l’Avenue Digital Media

Conclusion : open data supports innovation

Sometimes I hear people disagreeing strongly against the concept of open data. I hear fear and threat. The discussion very often goes towards an emotional level rather than staying pragmatic. I find it difficult to rationally fight against emotional argument. First of all, I wish people against open data could make the difference between public and private data. Opening public data means the digitalisation of an already existing public data, ultimately saving public institution’s time.
Secondly, I wish they could realise that sharing information is beneficial to the community. The potential benefit of open data is greater than its threat. Opening data means, processing data, editing and anonymising it to make it available. Open data is the necessary basis of innovation and of a general increase of our quality of life.

At the moment, data can be made available, mostly by investing money (for a poll or negotiating with a company belonging data). In other words, universities, start-ups or associations are restricted to the data they can find or buy. Do we want to live in a world where innovation is driven by companies having the budget to pay for data?

Further Information:

Listen to this podcast, welcoming Pia Waugh, an open data expert and advocate who explains all to Genevieve Jacobs on ABC Radio Canberra.

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The DrupalDay 2017 in Rome

This year was the 6th edition of the DrupalDay Italy, the main event to attend for Italian-speaking drupalists.

Previous editions took place in other main Italian cities like Milan, Bologna and Naples.
This time Rome had the privilege to host such a challenging event, ideally located in the Sapienza University Campus.

The non-profit event, was free of charge.

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No nginx basic auth with either network or cookie set

For an internal tool, we’d like to allow access if you either coming from one of our office networks or you have a certain cookie set. If both are not satisfied, just show the usual basic auth dialog. And set that cookie, once you were allowed to access the page.

We wanted to do that in nginx and not the tool itself, as it looked like easier to do, especially since the tool didn’t have any authentication at all yet. Unfortunately it wasn’t that straight forward, but we found a working solution and wanted to share that.

Hope it helps anyone and saves them some time.

Web developer is a dream job? One week to discover

We welcomed Baptiste, 14 years, in our Lausanne Office. One week of “trial internship” to understand what it is to be a dev. What could I teach him in such a short time? Read this post to discover what I organised for him and how it went.

Dev step by step

Baptiste was visiting us to discover the different facets of our job, in view to better know what he wants to do later. This week was a professional orientation internship. Taking this issue very seriously, I have given much thoughts on how to prepare a broad, dense and accessible program.

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Accessibility: make your website barrier-free with a11ym!

Accessibility is not only about people with disabilities but also about making your website accessible to search engines robots. This blog post shares our experience with making the website of a famous luxury watchmaker more accessible, an important e-commerce application. We have built a custom tool, called The A11y Machine to help us crawl and test each URL against accessibility and HTML conformances. Less than 100 hours were required to fix a thousand of strict errors.

Issues with unaccessible application

Accessibility is not just a matter of helping people with disabilities. Of course, it is very important that an application can be used by everyone. But, have you ever considered that robots are visitors with numerous disabilities? What kind of robots you may ask, well: Search engine robots for instance, like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Baidu… They are totally blind, they don’t have a mouse, they don’t have a keyboard, they must understand your content only with the source code.

Whilst it is easy to consider a man or a woman with a pushchair having a bad time in public transport, someone color-blind, a widespread disability, could also have issues browsing the web.

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Self-Organization – Nothing But Talk?

qdifxri4doo-barn-images

It’s incredible how the topic of self-organization emerged over the past few years. In 2016 we reached an amount of attention we had never seen before. We were invited so many times to talk at conferences, in schools, for communities and many big corporations on all levels up to the top management. And the media covered the topic widely. Some in the industry even thought this was a marketing campaign above all. But far from it.

Time to reflect how we got here, why we gained this attention and where we are heading to.

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Swissquote: How to become a leader in banking in 26 years?

Swissmarketing Vaud invited Jan De Schepper, Head of Marketing at Swissquote. I expected a guide to be a leader in a few simple steps. Highly interesting, this conference actually felt like one of my masterclass.
Report of the conference

SWISSQUOTE, EN 26 ANS, DEVENIR LEADER PAR L’INNOVATION ET LE MARKETING DE CONTENU
Jan de Schepper

At this conference, what I wanted to know was how to become a leader. I expected De Schepper to hand me over the strategic marketing keys to success. The secret recipe for me to make Liip, my entreprise, an absolute leader in web development.
What kind of advice did I get?

Swissquote, a content brand

According to De Schepper, the foundation of a company leaves a significant mark. The founders, Marc Bürki et Paolo Buzzi owned Marvel Communication SA, a company specialized in financial information softwares. Once they figured out that they could provide the services they were talking about, Swissquote became a bank and IPO’d as such on the 29th of May 2000. The focus of Swissquote was on content creation right from the beginning.

A basic brand structure

At Swissquote, they believe that the brand defines who they are and how they act. Their brand structure is actually not original, as it involves a vision and six values.
In De Schepper’s words, a vision is like an Evening Star (Etoile du Berger in French). It is what leads your way.

To be the world’s most pioneering and intuitive online bank.

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How to reduce your development and maintenance costs with APIs?

An API-based solution has many advantages. The biggest one is the significant spare on development and maintenance costs, thanks to a modular infrastructure. With the example of a recent work for a watch manufacturer, this blog post explains you in 4 points what added value an API can bring to your IT environment.

Context: a manufacturer’s production line without a central server

We were recently involved in the digital transformation of a manufacturer’s production line. The main issue of this manufacturer was control-desktops that were not centrally managed. In consequence, for each code change, an update was required on each control-desktop. It was an expensive and time-consuming process.

Production line - A

This image represents a production line with standalone control-desktops, and their costly maintenance routines.

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TEDxCERN: Don’t be afraid of technology

Technology is just a tool! In one of the most prestigious place for researches, brilliant scientists shared their inspiration during a whole afternoon. Ripples of curiosity was the theme. This is my report of the conference.

Some people travel to visit the CERN, whereas I had never been there. It is not an impressive building lost in the middle of a green field in the countryside of Geneva like I pictured it. It is lost in a suburban area and the building is not high. Rather, it has long, never-ending corridors filled with doors leading to little offices. It’s very quiet, people whispers there. It looks nothing like the big open space that I am used to. However the people I listened too, have the same conviction about their projects.

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Counting people on stairs – or IoT with a particle photon and node.js

In this article I will show you in 3 easy steps how to actually get started with an IoT a project build with a particle photon and a node.js server in order to have your own dashboard. I admit, IoT is a bit of a trend these days, and yes I jumped on the bandwaggon too. But since visiting the maker faire Zürich I have seen so many enthousiastic people building things, it has also motived me to also try out something. Thats why I decided to count the people that are running up and down our stairs at Liip. Follow along if you are – like me – a total noob when it comes to connecting wires but still want to experience the fun of building IoT devices.

1120

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