A site about how community groups and charities can make the most of data and open data to do something useful. Focused on Birmingham, relevant everywhere.

How online sharing and collaboration turn ideas into reality


A few weeks ago West by West Midlands 2 (WxWM) was held at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth. An event inspired by the success of the first ‘impromptu’ WxWM event back in April. It’s an event designed to get people together, to discuss and share ideas about the things they love about the internet.

Because ideas in isolation cannot spread, they might never be developed into what they were intended. A great example from the last WxWM, is the development of the BrumEmoMap. It came to exist after Gavin Wray put the idea forward in a talk he did at the event. He was looking for a way to put his own life experiences onto a map, that in addition would give an indication of how he was feeling at time. He questioned:
“How can we geographically tag life experiences yet also give each small record of experience some kind of emotional measure?”

At the event were about 40 people who discussed the issue, but because the event was live blogged on Twitter, many others were able to take part. Pindec from Barg.org.uk was following on Twitter, and started playing around with the ideas Gavin was presenting. In a matter of days the BrumEmoMap was born, enabling people to tag their feelings using Twitter or Flickr. By mashing up the data collected from the two services, pindec was able to visualise it by pinning it on a digital map, – updated in real-time.

Pindec shared the source code for the map and expressed a technical problem with the initial prototype. Contributors, some of which had attended Gavin’s talk, quickly took a stab at it. One user came back with a suggestion that fixed the initial problem. Another took the source code and overlay it onto a Google map, rather than the original which was put on Yahoo’s mapping service.

This is a great example of how you can achieve something by simply sharing ideas. Gavin’s ideas were not only made into something useful, but because it was all shared, people where able to improve and contribute to the project.

Taking ‘live data’ created on the fly and use it in a visual way is called data mashing. Gavin wasn’t able to do this on his own,pindec developed the original idea into a working prototype. It was then released to the community to further develop and improve upon.


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