The Government of Canada hasn't seen many experiments with beta websites, but Statistics Canada is currently running one.
If you've ever wished the government made better websites, this is your opportunity to contribute.
The Government of Canada hasn't seen many experiments with beta websites, but Statistics Canada is currently running one.
If you've ever wished the government made better websites, this is your opportunity to contribute.
Bilder uses ORCid as an example of some success in this area.
Ideas developed with Cameron Neylon & Jennifer Lin from PLoS
wikipedia - cyberinfrastructure
need to transcend individual institutions
can't actually do simple things, let alone grand transformation
there is a reluctance to address infrastructure
1) infrastructure is boring
2) associated with huge bureaucracy
anti-pattern: when we talk about infrastructure
funder invites - future of scholarly communication
but researchers don't want to think about infrastructure
funder -> money into A (infrastructure)
researcher -> studying B (research)
researcher tries to overlap A and B
but research projects don't actually produce sustainable infrastructure
when the grant runs out, the server goes down, and the "infrastructure" they built disappears
cloud makes this even worse (not even a hard drive in an office somewhere you can recover)
"open", "distributed", "lightweight", "framework" makes things sound reasonable
Distributed begets centralized, because otherwise it doesn't work.
People trying to punt difficult decisions about infrastructure.
If you don't acknowledge from the start that distributed will be centralized...
you don't realize that you can be co-opted
minimal distributed - need many shims and adapters
(there were) big problems with trust and ORCid (that had to be addressed)
ORCid initially CrossRef author DOIs
approach to address trust: principles
10 ORCid principles
what would a scholarly infrastructure organisation be like?
transcending disciplines, geography, institutions, stakeholders
have to get beyond discipline silos
geography is an issue because funders are national
should be stakeholder-governed
transparent operations (within constraints of privacy)
organisation cannot lobby
- because people fear organisations that just try to keep themselves alive
infrastructure organisation should have a living will
formal incentives to fulfil mission & wind-down
time-limited funds are used only for time-limited activities
goal to generate surplus
- breakeven is an incredibly fragile position
goal to create contingency fund to support operations for 12 months
revenue based on services, not data
- need to ensure data remains open
revenue generation should be consistent with the mission
- open source: forkability
open data (within constraints of privacy)
available data (within constraints of privacy)
(with open data and open source) if you can bring the community with you (to a new location/organisation), you can win (control of your information and system)
Geoff says: if I were a funder, I would look for these principles
need to build foundation
stop asking researchers how to fund infrastructure
get people who are good at infrastructure to do infrastructure
get over the fear of directly funding infrastructure
On August 11, 2014 the White House announced the formation of a US Digital Service, as reported in the Washington Post
The White House on Monday announced that is was formally launching a new U.S. Digital Service and that they've hired to lead it Mikey Dickerson ...
U.S. CIO Steve VanRoekel called it a "centralized, world-class capability...made up of our country’s brightest digital talent," forming a team that will be "charged with removing barriers to exceptional Government service delivery and remaking the digital experiences that citizens and businesses have with their Government."
The organisation will apparently be referred to as the USDS - I couldn't find a website yet. The Washington Post article points to a document on the CIO.gov site - U.S. Digital Services Playbook http://playbook.cio.gov/ that may give some ideas of the goals of the organisation. The article indicates the model will be for the service to be a centre of expertise on design and transformation of services for the digital environment.
UPDATE: WhiteHouse.gov blog post - Delivering a Customer-Focused Government Through Smarter IT.
February 24, 2012 San Francisco Innovation - A startup called government
Open Knowledge Festival 2014 - July 16, 2014
Video of presentation at http://youtu.be/0UNRZEsLxKc?t=29m45s
Interview video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGTLIfk-1BQ
The Canadian Open Data Experience – CODE – is a 48 hour nationwide app development competition
The other thing that I announced today, by the way, is our first appathon, where we're going to invite entrepreneurs of all ages next February  to go onto the data.gc.ca website/portal and in a 48-hour period come up with the next app that uses Canada's open government data and develop something that will be of use to citizens
Possibly this will be timed to coincide with International Open Data Day 2014 on February 22, I don't know.
UPDATE 2014-01-09: CODE event will be February 28th to March 2nd ENDUPDATE
There is a basic signup site at http://www.canadianopendataexperience.com/ and social media
The government is supporting it, but not running it. It will be run by XMG, who do the similarly-named but separate Great Canadian Appathon (it's not clear if the events will be one and the same in 2014).
On April 22, 2013 TBS released the Expenditure Database. It allows one to browse and search expenditures organised in ways that are easier to understand than the "votes" system under which they are actually allocated. It is great progress within the overall open government initiative.
However, from a technology, design and process perspective, I think there are some opportunities that are being missed.
Minister Clement is fond of saying that the government's data is like grandmother's silver, hidden away. In fact, our current model of delivering applications is more like hiding the entire kitchen from view. In Ottawa's Victorian homes, the kitchen is usually at the back of the house, closed off from the dining room. The servants were supposed to work there in obscurity, with only the final result appearing with a dramatic flourish in the formal dining room.
In most of those homes that wall has now been smashed down, because we found that in the post-servant age, the kitchen is the hub of activity in the house, where we socialise and cook together openly, a very human and social activity.
But in government software development, that wall still stands. Applications are developed behind closed doors by public servants, and then suddenly appear, fully formed, on release day. This model of closed software development has some very real consequences:
We need not just open data, we need the entire philosophy of open source web development: we need to develop in the open.
The UK Government has released a fantastic Government Service Design Manual. It has some explicit statements and some built-in assumptions. The underlying concepts are to develop government services using modern software engineering processes. This means being open about the code as it is in development (e.g. through blogs explaining the work and github repositories making the code available) and iterating through the design, from Discovery, through Alpha, Beta, Live and (all important in the government) Retirement.
The UK Government Digital Service does its work in the open, through blogs, twitter, and github.
Software development is a process: the application you release at a moment in time is not an end, what's important is that the application should tell a story about itself, so that it can be improved and so that it can be an inspiration for further work.
The Expenditure Database is a great step in providing easy citizen access to the underlying data. But it doesn't tell any of the story of how it works, how the data is processed, and who did the work. The meal has been delivered and it looks very nice, but the kitchen and the process of making it are still closed off from view, hidden in mystery.
Instead one has to dig through the code and make guesses. For example, it looks upon examination that it is drawing the data from a local file: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/edb-bdd/data.js
If instead the code were in a shared repository and documented, it would be much easier to understand how it works and the rights to reuse and modify would be a lot clearer. As well one would expect there would be both examples of using the data file as well as an explanation of how it was generated.
What Expenditure Database development would look like if it followed this model:
Just a few examples of what we're missing as a consequence of the current implementation:
I welcome your feedback on this post, with any clarifications, corrections, suggestions or pointers.
Above from March 30, 2013. I previously did a map in 2011.
Basically the Government of Canada network (blue, on the right) gets larger and even more densely connected. That network also includes people from the City of Ottawa and people working in Ottawa. (Ottawa is basically a small and tightly connected town, in and out of government.)
The other two big clusters are still NRC (the National Research Council of Canada, where I work) and library/scholarly publishing/science.
It's interesting that NRC is still very distinct from Government of Canada. There are however more connections bridging the gaps between the three groups. Here's what it looked like in 2011:
January 31, 2011 LinkedIn maps my connections - I analyse the meaning
It is challenging to innovate from within a bureaucracy. So when I saw a report about the work that the US CFPB is doing to bring better design, technology and culture to government service delivery, I was intrigued.
For designers like [Audrey] Chen, the CFPB’s approach isn’t just about making the government’s work more tech-savvy or aesthetically pleasing: Horrible design leads to a bad user experience...
Washington Post - Who leaves Comedy Central to work for the government? - September 7, 2012
I contacted the US Embassy and they very graciously worked to arrange a presentation by Audrey Chen.
There have been more recent articles as well.
the change was tiny, a typo fix. Iceeey suggested the agency change the line “Daily rountrip cost” to “Daily roundtrip cost.” But this small request was a very big deal.
For the first time, the Consumer Protection Bureau was accepting a direct change to one of its internal documents not from someone inside the agency but from an average citizen somewhere across the country. The document had been published on the software code collaboration website GitHub, with the express idea that it could be hacked, commented on, and improved in public just like open source software.
Wired - How GitHub Helps You Hack the Government - January 9, 2013
This is an additional point of connection between the Canadian gov and the US CFPB, as Canada has put its Web Experience Toolkit on GitHub.
I later found this article from O'Reilly Radar as well
As the first federal “start-up agency” in a generation, some of those needs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are even more pressing. On the other hand, the opportunity for the agency to be smarter, leaner and “open from the beginning” is also immense.
Progress establishing the agency’s infrastructure and culture over the first 16 months has been promising, save for larger context of getting a director at the helm. Enabling open government by design isn’t just a catchphrase at the CFPB. There has been a bold vision behind the CFPB from the outset, where a 21st century regulator would leverage new technologies to find problems in the economy before the next great financial crisis escalates.
O'Reilly Radar - Open source is interoperable with smarter government at the CFPB - April 10, 2012 - by Alex Howard (@digiphile)
Audrey Chen is the Creative Director, Technology & Innovation, at the CFPB.
There was a short slide presentation followed by discussion. In the introduction, Audrey Chen emphasized the nature of the CFPB as a 21st century organisation, using design and technology to empower consumers.
She made the connection between design's user-centred nature and modern technology's agile development approach - with the two together you can work quickly to deliver designs that meet user needs.
She talked about the rapid growth of the CFPB, from 300 to over 1000 employees, describing it as the explosive growth characteristic of a startup, and bringing concepts that have been useful for startups:
She noted that even with a large budget in the context of the startup space, the CFPB has a small budget relative to the banks that it regulates. Thus the importance of maximising its resources, and adjusting to changes quickly.
She talked about innovative approaches for recruiting the necessary creative and design-oriented staff for the organisation, including embedding a recruitment ad in the page source for the website ("If you're viewing this, you should probably come work on our Technology & Innovation team.")
In order to connect all the new employees together, particularly in an environment where 1/3 of them are working remotely, there is a cfpb.local intranet site, enabling self-organisation and discovery of expertise, using e.g. tagging of employee profiles (anyone can add a tag to a profile). The idea being that this was a flexible, crowdsourced way of building up knowledge about who is in the organisation and the skills that they bring.
Design was part of the core message that she presented, a natural fit with her core role as Creative Director at the CFPB. She showed their design principles:
Fundamentally, she said, "design expresses your value system".
She discussed the approach they took to create the Know Before You Owe service. A key: you can see everything about how they did it online - every design they tried, every consultation they did. This is not just about sharing, it's about building the public trust in the organisation through transparency. "Radically transparent at every step" is how she described it.
She also talked about CFPB finding its strengths - data sets that are unique to CFPB, or the ability of CFPB to create a compelling online experience - and partnering with other agencies when it makes sense for them to take the lead (e.g. the Department of Education for student loan information in general, the CFPB for a well-designed Paying for College site)
* I asked a question about how they have arranged their physical space to support collaboration and information sharing between all the new and diverse employees.
She said that they use an open space "bullpen" design, with small groups that are working on the same thing ("functional teams") all in one open shared space. A difficult adjustment for many of the employees, but it was tested on a small scale and they could demonstrate that those teams were more productive.
She said that 1/3 of the agency is remote, in particular many of the creative people they hired were based in major US cities and didn't want to move to DC. They deal with this by using video conferencing and screen sharing.
* I asked about the online tools
She said that the intranet is primarily wiki based, allowing easy changes, and that the staff directory with open tagging helps people connect.
* Kent Aitken asked about the challenge of placing such a high level of trust in employees (allowing them to make changes and add tags)
She said they always err on the side of trust, but that the wiki requires login, so all changes are tracked, providing accountability.
* Mary Beth Baker asked about recruiting, hackfests and change-making in an organisation
Audrey Chen's reply was that you have to be brave - you have to make a case for what you believe in, at high levels in your organisation, using business language.
She said that CFPB had found success with a code-a-thon that was very specific, centred around a specific data set unique to CFPB.
* I asked about approaches to internal information sharing
She said they have both lunch & learns and "hootenanies", where design teams can share more generally what they're working on and what interests them.
She said they would like to do Google Time (20% time) but they have been too busy with the core of their work to make it possible.
She concluded by saying that as a small agency, in a space dominated by players that have huge financial resources, CFPB is using design to compete and technology to lower its costs.
The Government of Canada has its Web Experience Toolkit on GitHub
By making the WxT open source, it has been possible for organisations outside of the government to use it for their websites and to improve it. Both the University of Ottawa and the City of Ottawa are now using WxT.
There was a writeup in Wired about the WxT: Canadian [Coders] Solve Mystery of Open Source Government.
the Treasury Board of Canada hosted a CodeFest to invite hackers — mostly government staffers — to hack its Web Experience Toolkit, or WET — a set of open-source tools that the Treasury Board uses for building websites. One hundred and fifty people came. Many of them were young developers, excitedly swapping code and sharing ideas across tables.
There are some minor issues: It's Treasury Board Secretariat, not Treasury Board, and TBS is the government's central policy agency not an "obscure Canadian tax-collecting agency". (Admittedly it is difficult to decode that from the TBS website, but if you read far down enough you get to "policies, directives, regulations, and program expenditure proposals with respect to the management of the government's resources".)
Author of the article is Robert McMillan @bobmcmillan
Featured or indirectly mentioned are:
UPDATE: There is a Drupal working group, the next meeting is January 25, 2013 at Ottawa City Hall.
NRC Knowledge Management
This is a 2 year term position from the date of reporting.
To ensure the delivery of NRC search and discovery services of the highest quality, that are optimally configured, operationalized, and integrated in user workspaces and workflows, so that users can autonomously search for, discover, and access the content and services that they require to achieve their business objectives.
Significant experience with web-based library technologies such as integrated library systems, proxy servers, browser plugins, federated searching, link resolvers, federated or meta- search tools;
Significant experience in applying web accessibility standards and user-centered design principles, preferrably in a federal government context;
Education: An MLIS degree from an ALA accredited institution.
Bilingual imperative: CCC/CCC
Closing date: January 21, 2013
An eligibility list for this position may be established for external candidates only.
Bilingual imperative: CBC/CBC
Security certification: Level II (Secret)
Closing date: November 28, 2012
The Manager, Outreach is the authority for NRC’s internal and external Web presence as well as media relations and internal communications, ensuring that all Council communications including electronic, maximize the strategic use of evolving technology and social media whether the goal is to generate income, reach the media, or build staff morale.
Bilingual imperative: CBC/CBC
Closing date: November 28, 2012
The Head, Web Operations is responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the National Research Council internal and external Web presence and corporate Intranet sites by providing strategic input to and managing the delivery of planned communications services.
I've written previously about different ways of visualising transit on a map, including commute time, in my post visualising city transit layers.
Some Twitter buzz today and recently about Mapumental mashing up public transit open data with properties available to buy and rent - effectively letting you search for homes within a commute time range that you set.
It's actually been around for a while with just travel times.
The property part is new.
Here's the map with just commute time (20 minutes to arrive by 9am at SW1A 0AA which is Westminster, the UK Parliament)
and here's the map with available homes to rent overlaid
You can check it out at property.mapumental.com
or the specific one I showed is http://property.mapumental.com/map/SW1A0AA-a-0900/44d71ed3
@OntInnovation announced a new Ontario.ca site on Twitter
Hey everyone, take a look! The new Ontario.ca is live! ow.ly/f85Q8— OntarioInnovation (@OntInnovation) November 8, 2012
It is search-centric, reminiscent of gov.uk
And when I searched open data I found to my surprise that the long-promised Province of Ontario open data portal has appeared.
They say they want to get advice but it's not clear how to provide feedback, other than through the general site contact form.
June 29, 2012 Province of Ontario - no sign of open data portal
The ORCID project has launched their service. I had thought it would only be for participating organisations but you can register as an individual.
I registered and was able to pull in citations from Scopus and then from CrossRef.
To link to a personal page it's just http://orcid.org/[ORCID] e.g. mine is
You can also submit support tickets to http://support.orcid.org/ (which has a separate account from the main ORCID site).
It's v1.0 so there are lots of bugs.
There's an API, see e.g. the documentation at http://support.orcid.org/knowledgebase/topics/19247-rest-api
It's important to understand what this is and what it is not.
It is a way to assign a globally-unique ID to every author, and to link that ID to other service-specific IDs (such as Scopus ID). It is not a social network for scientists.
It is also a way to link that unique ID to research objects. ORCID says it enables authors to
uniquely attach your identity to research objects such as datasets, equipment, articles, media stories, citations, experiments, patents, and notebooks
So ORCID is essentially a key piece of scholarly infrastructure. Infrastructure like this can be hard to build because usually people are interested in the services they can build on top of infrastructure, not in the underlying support pieces themselves.
The Citation and Author services that Google and Microsoft provide shouldn't be considered in the same space as ORCID. They're more experiments in what can be done with the available data. They don't have the same design requirements.
Google Scholar has a system that is mainly about citations and author connections, my profile is
Microsoft Academic also has an authors system, although it auto-creates pages (Google gives you more control over creating and populating your profile). My MS profile has an assortment of errors.
As you might expect you need to use a Google account to manage your Scholar profile and a Microsoft Live ID to manage your Academic profile.
The MS site also lives at http://journalogy.com/
With all of them the "claim" process is going to be a bit of a challenge. How much infrastructure do we have to verify that the person who says they have the credentials to modify an author account actually is that specific author? What happens when you use e.g. an institutional email and you're no longer at that institution? It will be interesting to see how this issue is managed.
July 21, 2011 Google Scholar adds personal profiles displaying citations
VIA Rail has been upgrading many parts of its infrastructure. On April 19, 2012 it posted about its upcoming TSI+ system
What do you get when you combine trains with GPS technology? One of the most accurate up-to-the-minute Train Status Information Plus (TSI+) systems, that’s what!
Thanks to the existing WiFi system, which is the platform needed to support the GPS tracking, trains running within the Quebec City – Windsor corridor can now be followed through an online near real-time mapping system developed by VIA Rail.
The expected date for roll-out to the public is this fall: travellers will be able to check their train’s departure time, estimated time of arrival to destination and consult an en route live map.
There is no statement about whether this information will be available as raw, machine-readable data (open data), in addition to being shown on the TSI+ website.
VIA Rail is a Crown Corporation (or if you speak the obscure language of the bureaucracy, a Financial Administration Act - FAA - Schedule III Part 1 organisation; it is not part of the public service and Treasury Board is not the employer). Nevertheless, one would hope the principles of open government apply generally to all national government entities. In Canada's Open Government Action Plan it states that there will be an Open Government Directive and an Open Government License
The clear goal of this Directive is to make Open Government and open information the 'default' approach.
The purpose of the new Open Government License will be to promote the re-use of federal information as widely as possible.
Therefore it seems reasonable to ask VIA to make the TSI+ real-time data as well as the static schedule data available in standard open formats with an open license.
This is an opportunity to align with or exceed the current international best practices.
The French national train service is in the midst of its open data consultations at http://data.sncf.com/
In the UK, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) provides schedule data at http://data.atoc.org/
UPDATE 2012-04-27: The UK government announced in Autumn 2011 that national real-time rail and bus information would be made available as open data in 2012. ENDUPDATE
There is a discussion group for open transportation data at http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-transport
VIA Rail has a sophisticated and responsive social media presence; this posting was inspired by a recent tweet from @VIA_Rail:
If you're interested in VIA Rail open data I suggest you contact them. If you want a hashtag I suggest #viaopendata
Industry Minister Christian Paradis (@christianparad) has provided an update
we are committed to delivering a Canadian digital economy strategy:
- One that is based on my conversations with you;
- One that challenges our innovators;
- One that drives new technology; and
- One that, through technology, benefits our entire economy.
Addressing the challenges we face with regard to access to capital and a literate workforce as well as adoption and productivity is also part of this strategy's framework.
This is the foundation upon which we will build a clear strategy for the sector and the economy as a whole.
But, later this year, when we put that strategy forward, it will only succeed if industry as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments work together.
Canada 3.0 Digital Media Forum - Speaking Points - April 24, 2012
The government consultations on the Digital Economy Strategy were launched two years ago, May 10, 2010 - Government of Canada Launches National Consultations on a Digital Economy Strategy - and closed in July 2010.
The former consultation site now is "The Digital Economy in Canada" http://digitaleconomy.gc.ca/ with the consultation relocated as a subitem.
Digital Economy Strategy 2010 Public Consultation
France's open data site, launched on 5 December 2011, has now released a second version four months later. It adds an essential element, public community features (this is in addition to the private developer community DataConnexions that they already launched).
The new community features of data.gouv.fr include a discussion forum, an ideas market, and highlights of open data reports from elsewhere on the web. Top contributors to the discussions are highlighted.
Find the new features at
SIDEBAR: Canada's open data site data.gc.ca was launched in pilot mode on March 17, 2011 and envisions a second version in three years (2014).
During Year 1 of our Action Plan, we will continue to expand on the number of datasets made available through the existing portal, and we will complete our requirements for the next generation platform. In Years 2 and 3, we will design and initiate implementation of the new data.gc.ca portal, as well as further improve the level of standardization of data published by departments. The Government will make use of crowdsourcing, particularly among Canada's open data community, to make sure that this new open data portal meets the needs and expectations of those who will use it most, and provides the best possible opportunity to support entrepreneurs eager to make use of Government of Canada data.
from Canada's Action Plan on Open Government, Activity Stream 2 - Open Data.
February 20, 2012 France launches open data community Dataconnexions
July 6, 2011 update on open data in France
Like drugs of abuse, exposure to novel stimuli releases a rush of dopamine in reward areas of the brain. And, high-sensation seekers often develop a sort of tolerance to high-risk activities—boredom sets in, and they are compelled to add new twists that recreate the initial charge.
I'm sure that the mechanisms of dopamine are a lot more complex than novelty-click-dopamine but nevertheless it's interesting to speculate. We have developed wonderful engines for novel stimulation: email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SMS - there's always a new message, a new tweet, a new status, a new photo, a new text that might be coming, that might be wonderful. Does this possibility lead to the pattern of endlessly checking for updates? Are we engaged in a multi-million person experiment that is creating neophiles, endless craving the new?
I don't know if it's actually the case, but it certainly seems to me that if we had set out to do it intentionally, we couldn't have done better than the unpredictable bursts of the new that we got we with the systems we built. I guess it's ultimately a question of whether the novelty-seeking, whether it's waiting for the Blackberry to buzz, refreshing Twitter, clicking through the TV channels or following web links (prurient or otherwise) interferes with the ability to read and think in longer-form, less jittery ways.
I do find that interacting with Twitter through TweetDeck or EchoFon has much more of a tendency for me to be about discovering interesting content than actually consuming it; my pinboard is full of bookmarked but not read links. I also found the rapid feedback and perception-of-activity that come with Twitter drained a lot of the energy away that I used to devote to blogging.
That being said I'm not convinced about any "Internet is making us stupid" or "Internet is making us addicts" arguments. I think one thing it does point to is the sheer lack of complex filtering tools - at least I'm not aware of good ones. Right now I consume EchoFon and TweetDeck as raw streams of tweets from people I follow - without any ranking, recommendations or analysis.
As I read Too Big To Know (and having read similar books) I'm struck by how much of the discussion is about how the way to deal with lots of information is good filters, yet how few of our tools provide sophisticated filters (anything more than keyword filters) by default.
Pouring an activity stream directly into the brain is not a particularly useful allocation of time; I'd be interested hear about any tools that people are using to filter Twitter and other information streams.