Open Data in Action: Industry Perspectives

What does a farming data app have to do with towing data? What does towing data have to do with data-driven marketing? And what does data-driven marketing have to do with the 2012 Olympics? Easy – they were all mentioned during valuable industry panels at the recent GovLoop open data training event.

At the Tuesday event, called “How to Optimize Your Open Data,” GovLoop and public sector leaders met for a half a day to discuss best practices and tips in sharing data. And several industry partners brought helpful insights to the table as well.

“What’s powerful is people outside of your organization providing new insights.”

Denise Flanagan, Director, Federal Systems Group at Information Builders, talked about open data had helped her make a personal life decision.

Flanagan, you see, was trying to decide where in Texas she’d eventually like to retire, and was hoping to buy some land. “I knew I wanted to go back to Brenham, Texas,” she explained. “It’s close to family, I wanted a good investment, and to have some cattle.” But Flanagan pointed out that a drought is rocking Texas, impacting areas she might might possibly want to buy in. How could she decide what land might be a good investment — now and in the future?

That’s when Flanagan discovered FarmLogs, an app using open data provided by the government (including NOAA and USDA). FarmLogs is run by a 25-year-old founder, and its data eventually helped Flanagan decide on a piece of land to buy.

“We had a young person take data that was available from the government and take it and make something that was benefit to me as a consumer,” Flanagan said. “What makes open data powerful is what other people can do with it and how it improves your mission in government. You can certainly improve what you can do for your constituents – but what’s powerful is people outside of your organization providing new insights into the information that you may not be thinking of yourselves.”

See Flanagan’s presentation here.

“2014 will be the year of data-driven marketing and sales.”

Next, Glenn Hess, Sr. Sales Engineer at Actuate, presented on the best ways to optimize your open data — specifically, 5 best practices for designing open data apps.

“2014 will be the year of data-driven marketing and sales,” Hess stressed. “The industry trends are moving towards self servicing, data-driven customer -acing apps that deliver personalized analytics and insights that will drive the next wave of customer experience.”

Hess’s top five tips for open data apps were as follows:

1. Recognize how data impacts the customer journey: “What do great apps do?” Hess asked. “Your app should inform me, connect me, motivate me.”

2. Focus on the “last mile” of open data: “Think about how you can add value to data,” Hess said. “That last mile of the data is where the decisions are made and action are taken.”

3. Build to scale: “The challenges of building data-driven customer facing applications are ever increasing volume and velocity of data,” Hess said. “Start small, but grow.”

4. Follow the crowd (and open is better): “Actuate BIRT started in the Open Source community,” Hess explained. “We listened to the community, incorporated their feedback, and gave the crowd our core open-source BIRT reporting engine in 2004.”

5. Start small — then think BIG: “Great apps should bes straightforward and easy to use,” Hess advised. “Make it simple and smart. Be responsive. Be social. Securely connect users and data to the larger world.”

See Hess’s presentation here.

“It’s mass customization on a global scale.”

Kevin Shelly, Vice President, Public Sector, at MarkLogic, spoke about MarkLogic’s work they performed with the BBC news network during the summer 2012 Olympics. MarkLogic believes that the creation of more and more open data and big data drives the need for a new generation database.

“During the Olympics,” Shelly explained, “We [and the BBC] were having 25,000 transactions per second, 106 million video requests, from 55 million global browsers – and we didn’t lose any data.”

In fact, Shelly said, the BBC actually had to ask MarkLogic to slow down because they were posting event results to the web site faster than TV was revealing them.

“Additionally, we enabled the users to go to the BBC and receive info that was useful to them,” Shelly said. “We provided mass customization on a global scale.”

You can view Shelly’s presentation here.

“Open data improves transparency, drives down costs, and improves economic ability”

Finally, Territory Manager at Socrata Ewan Simpson discussed several models of success in open data that have taken place across the Mid-Atlantic. Socrata has helped counties and cities across Maryland in particular create open data portals.

An example Simpson cited was Prince George’s county, who will launch an open data portal this week – the newest Maryland county to do so. The site will open 311 data, public safety data, and more. To encourage use of the data, the county will be hosting an October 4th hackathon to engage the community.

Other portals Simpson highlighted were those of Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore City (which has 110 data sets); Data.Maryland.Gov; and even the DC public charter school board, who is the first school district to approach and use open data in this way.

“We’re working to drive conversations around open data and standards and help groups unlock their data,” Simpson explained. “Open data improves transparency, drives down costs, and improves economic ability.”

You can view Simpson’s slides here.

See all the recaps of GovLoop’s recent Open Data training event:

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