Data, our world runs on data

It’s Open Education Week #OpenEducationWk and there are lots of great events taking place, online and offline. I’ve been interested in Open Educational Resources (OER) for some time but am getting increasingly excited about open data and possible applications in education. One particularly excellent resource I’ve been using a lot recently is the Open Knowledge Foundation’s School of Data. They have some fantastic courses that will help you find out about many aspects of data from the basics (what is data, finding data, sorting data), analysis of data, story telling with data and to fairly technical areas such as data cleaning. All really interactive with some great images and useful pointers to further resources.

Another really exciting resource/tool is – a simple way to get data out of spreadsheets and make it available for people to use. EasyOpenData has developed by Craig Russell, a Web Developer based at the University of Leicester. Craig has kindly written a brief blog post for us on what he’s hoping to achieve with the tool.

Data, our world runs on data. And most of this data lives in spreadsheets

Craig RussellThe recent admission by JP Morgan, that it’s financial model was run in a series of Excel Spreadsheets was a shock to the those in the tech industry, but unsurprising to those in ‘real business’. Spreadsheets are what normal people use to get the job done. Spreadsheets are what normal people use to store their knowledge.

We keep spreadsheets about our DVD collections, our wedding invitation list, our allotment yields. We use them to plan community events and billion dollar investments alike. Countless millions of man-hours are spent every day putting human knowledge in to spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are ubiquitous, comfortable, familiar.

But if spreadsheets are so common, where are they all? Where is all this knowledge?

It is hidden, buried away behind the scenes. Vast submerged stores of publicly useful knowledge buried away on hard drives and shared folders. So much incredibly useful data curated by knowledgeable individuals, but without the skills to make this knowledge public and share it as Open Data.

Those in possession of publicly useful knowledge and those with the skills to make knowledge publicly accessible need to find one another and make open data love.

It is for this reason that I built, which enables you to publish custom-formatted XML feeds using data from your Google spreadsheets. Open Data feeds are publicly listed on your profile and automatically updated with the spreadsheet.

This means that data owners can continue to use spreadsheets to store their knowledge, while opening up this valuable information to the world.

They say that data is the new oil, if this is true, then spreadsheets are the reservoirs and we are all prospectors.