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Hacking the Shires


A couple of days ago we featured an interview with Bristol City Council on their B-Open Competition. From the South West we move to the Midlands where we ask one of the pioneers in local government of hack competitions, Warwickshire County Council.

Check out our interview with Jim Morton, an Applications Architect there who blogs at "A Big Bang".

What motivated you to organise an open data competition?

I wanted to demonstrate the value of providing open data to the organisation and also start to engage the nascent open data developer community that is emerging due to successful examples like MySociety.

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How do you think the competitive element helps stimulate the use of open data?

I think it challenged people to come up with something unique, or that hadn't been seen before in order to differentiate their entry from the others. Everyone realised that once we had got one Yahoo! Pipes mashup, there probably wasn't much point submitting something similar. Developers tend to be innovative thinkers, so we ended up with a fairly broad set of entries in terms of data used, form and function.


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What surprised you the most about the ideas put forward?

The quality of most of the entries was far above what we expected, several of them were extremely polished.

How did you pick the winners?

We got a group of senior managers together - those representing Customer Services, Resources and ICT - and ran through each of the entries with them - each one was scored on a number of criteria - such as innovation, ease of use and demonstrating potential for further development. After some entertaining scoring and discussion the winners were chosen.

What would you say to anyone taking part in these competitions?

The best entries aren't necessarily the technically brilliant applications. It is more about making something that is provides a fresh, useful way of presenting existing data, or that makes it easier for people to make use of an existing service. These are the things that caught our judges' collective eye.

Over to you!

If you've developed similar competitions or if you've taken part in a competition and would like to blog your thoughts, get in touch and we'll feature the best on this blog.

And if you've just got a good idea on how to help people help each in their neighbourhoods or to make it easier to report issues to your council, check our own competition out with up to £3000 in prizes!

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