Open Data: A Learning Summit and More

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, September 27, 2012 12:35 PM

On September 21st, BC Libraries Co-op, along with the BC Ministry of Education and the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner, hosted an Open Data Learning Summit here in Vancouver.

British Columbia’s Information & Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham (herself an Archivist!) kicked off the day, followed by keynote speaker David Eaves. Some folks are born to public speaking and have an amazing gift to entertain and inform in front of an audience, without notes, barely referring to a PowerPoint. David is one of them; it was a treat to hear him speak.

The key idea of open data is that information collected by governments and other publicly-funded organizations ought to be freely available to all, without the need to ask for it, or for permission to use it.

David articulated three principles of open data:

  1. If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist.
  2. If it isn’t available in open and machine readable format, it can’t engage.
  3. If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower.

AKA "Find, Use and Share." This reminds me of my first year in library school. The same principles were taught then. Clearly there is a natural fit between open data advocates and users and librarians. Data made freely available is just one more information source to use and manage.

How can you make use of the growing open data sets?

  • Locate data sets of particular interest to your users. Many are indexed in Google, as well as listed on sites such as datalibre.ca, datacatalogs.org, thedatahub.org and freebase.com.
  • Use the information in particular data sets yourself, to fulfill research requests from your users.
  • Combine data from related data yourself. A common starter approach is simply to plot data in chart form or overlaid on a map. Visual displays of data often yield insights not obvious in the raw, textual or numeric data itself.

A few tools you can use to make use of open data include:

  • Desktop database management applications such as DB/TextWorks, Filemaker PRO and MS Access, or even simply a spreadsheet app.
  • Google Refine – a "tool for working with messy data, cleaning it up, transforming it from one format into another, extending it with web services, and linking it to databases" – as well as many other tools from Google.
  • Andornot (yes, we’re a tool). We’re experts in database design and data conversion, and can assemble data sets into a manageable form for you.

The open data movement has grown by leaps and bounds over just the past few years as users push for it and governments embrace it (and in fact make use of the data themselves). Just as the open source software movement has grown over the past decade or two, expect open data to see similar growth in the coming years. As information professionals, it’s our job to at least understand the key concepts and know when this is the right resource for a particular situation.

Tags: open data

Canadian Medical Association Develops New PTMA PolicyBase

by Denise Bonin Monday, September 17, 2012 11:49 AM

PTMAQuickSearchPageProvincial and territorial medical associations (PTMA) in Canada set policies on various issues such as emergency room overcrowding, nurse practitioners, electronic medical record keeping, prescription drug usage, etc. for their particular jurisdiction. The Health Policy and Research (HP&R) department of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) was asked to create a repository of these policy documents and make them available to all PTMAs. The library was already managing a database of CMA policies and was asked by HP&R to set up a similar database for the PTMAs.

Andornot worked with the CMA library team, led by Reference Librarian Elizabeth Czanyo, and the association’s IT department, to set up a password protected database using the Andornot Starter Kit (ASK), DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO, with the following features:

    • Full text document searching and display
    • Link to PDF document
    • Referring URL security
    • Email, Save and Print cart
    • Permalinks to each policy
    • Search, display and cart all in same template
    • Bilingual: English and French
    • Search result sorting by Title, Date and PTMA Author

Now researchers at each PTMA can access and compare policies from various jurisdictions, assisting them in the creation of their own policies.

Elizabeth Czanyo says, “I think the database will be a useful tool for our provincial partners, and help them collaborate in policy creation across the country. Working with Denise Bonin and her team at Andornot was great – they were fast, professional and really knew their stuff!”

Installing Inmagic DB/Textworks v13 on Windows 8 x64 RTM

by Peter Tyrrell Tuesday, September 11, 2012 3:00 PM

At time of writing (Sep 11 2012) Inmagic has not yet released info about DB/Textworks on Windows 8. Fortunately, I am willing to throw myself onto the grenade of a brand new operating system in the name of fun and adventure. So the short story is: you can do it, though I personally am still picking shrapnel out of my tender bits. Here’s what you need to know.

DB/TextWorks (can I just refer to it as “dbext” from here on in? thanks) has a dependency on the Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package x86, specifically Microsoft.VC90.MFC version 9.0.21022.8. You will not find that DLL on a new install of Windows 8. Although the install process may go okay, when you attempt to launch dbtext32.exe, you’ll see an error like the following:

 

dbtext-sidebyside

 

A look at the application event log garners an Event ID 33 SideBySide error:

 

dbtext-eventid33

 

And there you have it: a missing assembly. It so happens that the Webpublisher installer ensures this assembly is present, and goes and gets it if necessary. But not the dbtext installer. So one way to fix the problem, as it turns out, is to run the Webpublisher installer on the machine, if you happen to have it available. Or, you can download the redistributable and install it manually. Either way, you can get dbtext up and running on Windows 8. Now follows the short and snappy version.

 

Quick Fix

  1. Manually install the C++ 2008 x86 package at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29, before or after the dbtext install.

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