What I Learned at OggCamp 2019

This was my third OggCamp, and I was able to make a full weekend visit to Manchester. Most of my best learning at OggCamps tends to be around what happens outside the scheduled stuff, so it was good to have the time to mingle in the evenings and discuss things over beer.

Although I already know about, use and contribute to Open Streetmap, I hadn’t heard of the missing maps project. I definitely hadn’t heard of the MapSwipe mobile app which allows you to do good for humanity while passing idle time playing a game on your phone. Do it!

Jamie Tanna gave a good insight into the IndieWeb movement and why it matters. The key theme was ownership of your identity and data. Popular open-access platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) aren’t open. They often own the data. Look at their terms and conditions. They are all about making money and maximising attention. Conversely, your own platform revolves around you, does what you want and need and can even be a kind of political statement. Jamie’s approach is modularity. Publish things on your own site, and then use syndication elsewhere. That way, you have the original copy but users of Facebook, Twitter and such can still see your thoughts and interact with you.

There isn’t enough social housing. Governments should build more. Geodesic domes are cheap, strong, storm resistant with good wind loading and are also very quick to build. Maybe it’s time to ditch traditional bricks and mortar?

MQTT is definitely the best way to get IoT devices talking. Sensors can feed into something like Watson IoT and then with some NodeRed logic the outputs can be passed back to physical displays. An example was using thermal sensors at a coffee bar, and adjusting the colour of a neopixel LED strip so that customers could see whether to get up and go for another coffee or wait until the queue had died down! GlowOrbs make a nice form of ambient display and are easy enough to build.

Beer featured a lot, and the Lass O’Gowrie pub had a good selection and some nice food. While enjoying that I was shown some e-ink badges which were pretty good, and based on the Pimoroni displays, with a 3D-printed case.

Open Data Camp

I went along to the Open Data Camp in Douglas. Here’s some of the things I learned about:

  • The IATI (International Aid Transparency Initiative) has guidance about what data governments and organisations should make available, and what format it should be in.
  • The UK government has moved to publishing data using open standards, but it failed to educate people about why it was important.
  • Digital Scotland have a really innovative procurement model, which the Isle of Man Government could learn a thing or two from! Instead of throwing money at things by drawing up a list of specifications and seeing who bids, it seems much more cost effective to solve problems by asking questions instead, and the solutions are often of a higher quality.
  • The Things Network has continued to grow in the UK
  • Russia publishes details of all its government contracts over about £1200. Yes, open data from Russia!

Oh, and beer tastes better when someone else pays!