I thought I was done with Open Data in the late Spring of 2015. I had experienced severe brain trauma from an accident and penned my retirement letter on my blog the same day Mike Bracken left the UK’s Government Digital Service. So why did I come back? Mostly because I have recovered. But I also came back because I believe that there is a superior product to deliver data storytelling. That product is OpenDataSoft.
About Jason Hare
I have spent the last half-decade as an open data pundit. I worked hard to keep my comments agnostic to the technology. But OpenDataSoft’s platform, work culture and ethics won me over. I am a believer, and I believe the best Open Data Platform solution is OpenDataSoft.
If you live in the US and have something to do with Open Data then you probably know my name. Among the American Open Data portals I have built are the City of Raleigh, City and County of Durham, Gainesville, Roseville, Newark, Rutgers and now the Town of Chapel Hill.
We may have met at the World Bank; I work there occasionally as a recognized expert. Maybe you are with the Open Data Institute? I was a charter node member and frequent visitor of the London campus.
We may have crossed paths at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Dublin, Ireland or in London. I co-authored (with the OKF’s Denis Parfenov and others) the Irish submission to the OGP in 2013. The Open Knowledge Foundation gave a presentation and staged a Civil Society Organization meetup. This was in support of Reform Minister Brendan Howlin’s OGP Submission.
Later that week there was a CKAN hackathon with Ciaran Gilsenan, the Founder of BuildingEye. Ciarnan went on to found “Code for Ireland” that same day.
How I got to Know OpenDataSoft
During the 2014 Open Government Partnership meeting in Dublin, I also met David Thoumas, CTO of OpenDataSoft. I had started a company and was looking for alternatives to Socrata. One of my challenges was to create a sort of ‘git’ for data. I had some sketches of what that would look like. This is not the same thing as the USODI’s Dat. My idea was to make it user friendly. I was also challenged to have the front end easily customized. I met David at the Dublin Airport with my OKF Colleague Denis Parfenov. David impressed me with his candor. I immediately realized OpenDataSoft was something new and better than what we had in the US. I could process data on the fly and join data sets together on the platform. Previously, I had to do all of the data curation offline. Here at last was a tool that let me focus on the story inside the data rather than data wrangling.
The team at OpenDataSoft treated my company fairly and treated us as true partners. OpenDataSoft sponsored events in the US including our local Triangle Open Data Day. I again was impressed when OpenDataSoft made accounts available to Code for America brigades. The idea of engaging people through the Code for America Brigades is brilliant. During the 2015 Triangle Open Data both Socrata and OpenDataSoft offered attendees platform access. Almost every attendee chose OpenDataSoft. I knew I was watching a revolution in the expectations of my open data colleagues.
In December of 2014 I started working with the City and County of Durham to build the first OpenDataSoft portal in the US. I staked my reputation by giving my strong recommendation for Durham to use OpenDataSoft rather than using Socrata like every other city. This was easy for me to do. I conducted an analysis of each platform and had a rubric. I had worked on Socrata platforms for the past two years. I knew the limitations and I knew there would be dependencies that I could not mitigate because the front end for Socrata products was not open.
Within 1 week I had designed the portal the way I had wireframed and presented to the City and County officials.
My colleague and friend, Ian Henshaw and I worked on some Socrata projects together, and I knew Ian when I worked on the City of Raleigh’s Open Data Portal. Ian published this on the Technology Tank website:
“Many of these features helped Durham, NC to launch Open Durham in 4 months with 500 datasets loaded, 162 public facing datasets, and 20 performance dashboards. A remarkable feat given that the more mature open data program of Raleigh, NC has 130 datasets and no performance dashboards after 3 years in operation.”
This is true. I left Raleigh in frustration and went to work for Durham’s Open Data Portal project, mostly so I could demonstrate all of the features we should expect from an Open Data Platform.
My project ended on time in June of 2015. Shortly thereafter I went to work for MetLife to recover from my devastating head injury.
I had a comfortable life in the corporate world. I worked as the Principal of Solutions Analytics for MetLife. My own company had dissolved after my accident and I worked at MetLife through my recovery. My interest in Open Data was rekindled as my brain started to heal. I had the chance to talk with David Thoumas when he was in North Carolina in March 2016. By that time, Ian had joined OpenDataSoft and was doing business development. I indicated my interest in joining OpenDataSoft. Just last week I was made the offer and I accepted. This week has been exciting. The product has so many data processors.
I am happy.
I am back.
Thank you to the OpenDataSoft family for the warm welcome.
Let’s go open some data.