Do not fear blanks!

Sometimes information is missing. Maybe it was never collected, maybe it was wrong. Whatever the case, let blanks be blank.

Are you missing something?
Are you missing something?

Don’t use placeholders when you mean “I don’t know”. Using abbreviations like “N/K” or even words like “Unknown” can seem helpful but are only really useful for humans who speak your language (and understand what the abbreviation really means!)

Don't use placeholders
Don’t use placeholders

Placeholders make it harder to work out that there is actually something missing. Think about all the ways you can write “Not Known”! It’s far better to leave a blank. Blanks are familiar and can be picked up by lots of tools.

Tip: Blanks are fine for numbers too.

See all the tips in one place: Good Quality Open Data

Have an open license

Open data without a license isn’t open.

Licensed to thrill?
Licensed to thrill?

Why?

The license, a text that describes how data can and can’t be used, is a must for open data. Without that clear statement of use, it’s impossible to tell if the information isn’t subject to copyright or other restrictions, so you’re using it at risk of litigation and legal challenges.

A good open data license has few restrictions – it allows as many people as possible to use the data with as few conditions as possible. The more conditions on your data, the harder it is to use it with other data.

 

 

open government license
Open government license

Let’s see some examples of excellent open data licenses:

 

Make it visible
Make it visible

Your license should be clear and clearly visible. Where possible, put your license on a page that links to your open data.

Tip: If you use a tool to manage access to your open data like CKAN, make sure you set the license.

See all the tips in one place: Good Quality Open Data

Be consistent

The golden rule for open data that’s useful is consistency.

Consistent filenames
Consistent filenames

Consistency means picking a naming strategy for your files then sticking to it. This makes it easy to spot that files are missing or out of place.

Consistent headers
Consistent headers

You’ll also want to keep your table headers the same for each new file so that anyone using your data, for example combining files, can do that easily. Changes to your headers break code and make your files harder to use.

Consistent content
Consistent content

Finally, keep your contents the same. ’12’ and ‘twelve’ aren’t the same thing. This makes it harder to use the information for analysis [see Tidy Data by Hadley Wickham].

Tip: If you can’t do maths on it, it’s text not a number.

See all the tips in one place: Good Quality Open Data

Make data not reports

Good quality open data comes in the form of data not a report. What’s the difference?

For data, put one thing in each column so that the values are friendly for machines and easier to re-use. In the first row, you can see a payment of £18,000 was made on the 3rd of November 2016 in the Yorkshire region. It’s not as friendly for a human but it’s a great starting point for analysis and machines.

This is data
This is data

A report is friendly for humans and easy to read. The way the information is laid out makes it look nicer but is a headache for machines. To use this data, you’d have to do more work to make it tidy [see Tidy Data by Hadley Wickham].

This is a report
This is a report

 

Tip: Make your open data more usable by making it easy to use.

See all the tips in one place: Good Quality Open Data

What do people need from open data in the health sector

Open data in the health sector: Users, stories, products and recommendations is a new report from Giuseppe Sollazzo and David Miller. It asks “What do people need from open data in the health sector?” and sets out some clear recommendations for NHS England.

In it, I reveal the confusion finding how many hospitals there are in the UK. So many public bodies publish their own, slightly different lists. As someone who supports people sharing who they’ve given money to, I’d like to see one single list with a hospital’s identifying number. I’d like that list  to be complete, accurate and kept up-to-date so I can recommend it to people preparing open data

Read the two key recommendations and thoughts from other people who use Open data in the health sector.

The landscape of open contracting tools

You asked: What tools, visualizations, dashboards already exist? Can I use them? Where do I find them?

My latest blog post on The landscape of open contracting tools reviews the landscape to answer these questions and more about open contracting tools. There’s now a great space to share this knowledge. The open contracting collection on the OGP Toobox is growing with tools from around the world to help you engage with open contracting.

With the Open Contracting Tools ‘Show & Tell’ workshop call coming up next week, this is a great time to tell us what tools you use and what tools you need.  Have we missed any tools?

Please suggest the tools you find useful and add your experiences with them in the toolbox or through the open contracting groups. There’s a wealth of tools and resources that help anyone involved in OGP, so do take a look around while you’re there.

Knowledge for everyone? How the ODI Awards 2016 did on gender balance

I  was honoured to present the award for the Publisher category to Data Mill North and delighted that our friends at 360Giving won the in the Women in Open Data category. Here I explore gender balance at the ODI Awards 2016 on the Open Heroines blog.