What is it?
Open Data Book Club is a monthly event where civic-minded individuals get together to talk about and present on open data.
Similar to a book club, the group picks a theme every month - in this case the theme is a specific dataset or group of related datasets.
Unlike a hackathon, an Open Data Book Club does not create expectations around producing results in a short amount of time. Instead, the objective is to create a community around local open data, open government, and civic tech.
The Open Data Book Club has a few important objectives:
- Create ongoing conversations and sustainable communities around open data.
- Direct the community’s abilities and energy around one topic at a time, focusing discussion around a topical subset of local open data.
- Allow members enough time to have discussions, form groups, and create cool things. The ‘hacking’ can happen in-between or during book club meetings.
- Give stakeholders inside government an easy way to discover the value being created from the open data they are releasing, and a place to connect with the local community.
Below are some guidelines you may want to adopt. We have found them to work for us, but feel free to play around with the format. Open data is a global movement and different communities may respond to different approaches. If you have comments or improvements you’d like to suggest, send us an email or open a pull request on this page’s GitHub repository.
First, create a group/mailing list. Meetup.com works well, and so does social media. Get the word out about what is happening, when, and where.
Pick a dataset to work on If your book club is a local event, you will probably want to pick a dataset from your local city/region for the first meeting.
Announce a time and place Give everyone enough time to create neat things out of your chosen dataset. Having a book club once a month works well and allows people to get into a routine.
Host the book club! Each book club is an evening event, usually lasting around 3 hours. It’s usually best held at a communal space. If you can find a local pub/restaurant with a group event space, that is perfect. The actual event usually goes like this:
Give everyone some time to chat. 30 minutes to an hour is good. A big reason for holding the book club is to strengthen your local data community.
Round up the presenters. Figure out who has created something for that month, and ask them to get their presentations ready.
Give each presenter 5-10 minutes to showcase what they have done. Allow time for questions after each presentation.
At the end, pick the next month’s dataset. This is usually done via a popular vote. A poll could also be set up on your meetup.com page to allow input from the broader community.
Other important bits
- Not everybody is expected to present. 2-4 presentations are usually the norm for a 20-30 person event. It is important to stress early to the community that, unlike a hackathon, there is no expectation that everybody will create something for every book club.
- Having fun and creating conversations and a sense of community around open data is the most important goal.
- Try to inform local government representatives with an interest in open data about the event, and forward them links to any presentations / apps / visualizations that were created. They will want to see it, trust us.
List of active Open Data Book Clubs
You can submit your own by emailing us or opening a pull request on this repository.
The first Open Data Book Club was held in October 2014 in Ottawa. The idea originated from some frustration with hackathons and app contests. Often, hack events take a lot of time and energy to plan and publicize, are competitive, and are one-off events that may not create a sustained conversation and community around the topics they address.
In early 2015, the idea started spreading to other cities, prompting the creation of this page. We’d love to hear how you’ve implemented this kind of event in your own city!