In 2006, operating quietly behind the scenes, Dan Thomas and Suzanne Peck alerted me to what would become the municipal open data movement we know today. As the ball got rolling, though, I felt that something was missing. It’s great that citizens are now learning to expect access to municipal data, and to expect useful online services to flow from such access. But citizens are providers of data too. We need to expect one another to provide the data for which we are individually and collectively authoritative.
One of my favorite taglines for the municipal open data movement is Mark Surman‘s evocative phrase: cities that think like the web. The elmcity project aims to help cities do that. Next week I’ll be in Toronto for a series of meetings and also a public talk. I want to suggest that in cities that think like the web, citizens understand and apply “fourth R” principles. They know something about how data can be structured for humans to read versus for computers to process. They recognize that pub/sub syndication is a good way to merge their own data into the public ecosystem. They take responsibility for publishing their own data in useful ways, and they expect their fellow citizens to do the same.
If you’re a Torontonian who’s interested in these ideas, we’ll be discussing them on Tuesday afternoon at the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre (John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, 230 College Street, Room 103). And if you know Torontonians who aren’t technical but who care about these ideas, please do alert them. They’re the ones I particularly need to reach.