Open Knowledge Miniconf

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Open Knowledge Miniconf

10:40 Miniconf open

11:05 OpenTechSchool - open learning in practice by Lillian Ryan

11:30 Open Data + Video Games = Win by Paris Buttfield-Addison

12:20 Lunch

13:20 Open information: Documenting data and methods by Rhydwyn beta

13:45 Prying Open Government - An Introduction to Freedom of Information by Dan Hawke

14:10 Internet Archive: Universal Access. Open APIs by VM Brasseur

15:00 Afternoon tea

15:40 Prospects and pitfalls in open demography by Fred Michna

16:30 TBA

OpenTechSchool - open learning in practice by Lillian Ryan

There's a lot to love about open knowledge and open technology, and the OpenTechSchool aims to exist at the nexus of these. We provide entry-level tech workshops that are free and open in every way we can imagine, down to the typeface in our logo. In this talk I'll give you a rundown of the way we work, what we've achieved globally over the last four years, and where we want to go with this in the future.

Finally, I will provide a template for you to open your own chapter in your city, and add to our repository of open workshops with your own ideas.

Open Data + Video Games = Win by Paris Buttfield-Addison


Open data is cool, especially when it comes from government. What’s even cooler than open data? Games. Games are cool. So why not combine them? This talk explores the potential for spreading the word about open data, as well as providing for deeper engagement with data, through game development.


Open data, such as that provided by many governments around the world[1] is cool. It’s fantastic to see countries around the world opening as much as they can, allowing citizens and interested parties to build upon and enhance the myriad of interesting information collected by countries. There’s a lot of people doing great work with this sort of data, but have to be pretty passionate, engaged, and motivated in order to get involved.

We found another way. For the last three years we’ve been participating in hackathons and jams, and taking open (government) data and turning it into games.

This session explores why this is a good idea, and how you might want to do it to. We cover:

  • conceiving of game ideas based on – otherwise dry – open data sets (we once made a Pokemon-style battle game based on the energy efficiency data provided by the government energy regulator, it helped you figure out if your fridge was efficient by letting you battle it against other people’s fridges);
  • preserving the spirit and meaning of the data in games you make with it;
  • tools for parsing and interpreting the data, and making it usable for your games (we’re very good at Perl, Awk, Sed, and R now);
  • getting out and engaging people with your data-based games, and making sure people don’t draw the wrong conclusions from what your game shows them (while still having fun – it is a game after all!)

We’ve built games –– often at GovHack[2] in Australia that do everything from turn your local politician’s parliamentary voting history into a party game, to parsing and interpreting a giant database incorporating all the functional roles in a government, and turning it into a SpaceTeam style party game. We’ll tell you how you can do the same thing in your community, how to make it engaging and meaningful, why you might want to do this, and how to get started.

[1] e.g.,,, and so many more!


Open information: Documenting data and methods by Rhydwyn Beta

Open data is great, Open data is amazing, but unless your users understand your data they can't use it.

Do you share or would like to share open data? Is your data adjusted in anyway? Have you cleaned it or removed outliers? Have you added a random spatial offset to anonymise it? Have you used age adjustment, or seasonal adjustment to reveal underlying patterns? Do your users know that you have done this? Do your users need an advanced degree to understand your documentation? Would a journalist picking up you data be reasonably expected to understand what it is telling them without talking to you?

Are there biases in your data? Are you catching every case or do you think that they are some cases that are not captured? Do your users understand how those missing cases and biases effect their use of your data? Based on my work in medical statistics, I will talk about how to share data with methods and documentation to make data relevant and results reproducible and accessible. In open source we know a lot about documentation, UX design, technical debt and onboarding time. I want to ask how we can apply these ideas to developing open data

Prying Open Government - An Introduction to Freedom of Information by Dan Hawke

The Freedom of Information Act (Australia) and Official Information Act (New Zealand) are tools that allow members of the public and organisations extract documents and information - unless there is a good reason for it to stay secret. You'll learn what sorts of information you can and cannot request, how to do this, and the process requests go through. I'll also cover Alaveteli, an open-source software for making and managing FOI requests, and public implementations available in Australia and New Zealand.

Internet Archive: Universal Access. Open APIs by VM Brasseur

With tens of millions of items in its collections, Internet Archive is one of the largest libraries in the world. It provides free and open access to all of its materials to anyone with an internet connection, making it a treasure trove for researchers, historians, and curious individuals.

Of course, having a collection that large doesn’t help anyone if it’s difficult to access. To help with this, Internet Archive has released a number of open APIs and tools to allow people to upload and download items, as well as data mine the metadata for the entire collection.

In this session we will:

  • Give you a tour of Internet Archive and its collections
  • Introduce you to the APIs and tools you can use to access and contribute to the Archive
  • Show examples of how other people and institutions are using the Archive

Prospects and pitfalls in open demography by Fred Michna

Demography is used by democratic governments to exercise control. Whatever results the administration and courts deem necessary to release to the public may be handy for civil society analysts and activists. However critical thinkers may disagree with many ways that governments classify and colonise the human experience. I will talk about the connection between open demography and governance. I will discuss the source of demographic methodologies. I will consider the prospects and pitfalls of open demography.