As anyone who has followed my writing over the years on various blogs knows, I have a particular bee in my bonnet about Government APIs and freeing all public sector data. Unless there is some absolute secrecy requirement on that data, it should be made available to the Irish people, to do with what they will.
But I have lost lots of hair and gained lots of pounds waiting for it to happen here. I watch in despair as the UK and US race ahead and we sit here without even a bloody working postcode system. Just look at data.gov.uk in the UK or CodeForAmerica in the US.
So do we just sit and wait or do private sector companies and tech communities take the lead and show the Public Sector how it’s done? Do we lead by example rather than just brow-beating?
We’ve already seen it happen, most notably with KildareStreet but also with Loc8 postcodes. People and businesses sick of waiting, solve the problems themselves by taking whatever poor public data there is already and doing something useful with it and on top of it.
There has also been a recent community initiative with opendata.ie to collect together available datasets but it doesn’t seem to have gained much momentum.
So where else can we leverage exisiting datasets and groupings to benefit the country and those elsewhere who care deeply about Ireland?
I think we should look again at the idea I mentioned way back around the diaspora and genealogy. At the moment we have:
Irish/UK/US historical census data
National Library records
Ellis Island data
Family Tree DNA Testing
The living Irish Diaspora and their knowledge of their families
Ordnance Survey Map data
Irish emigrant groups around the world
Irish-Americans working in thousands of tech companies
Would it be possible to build an API around this data, starting simply and iterating out? Enabling people to search and mashup by names, dates, locations and Y chromosome? Think of the platforms that such a thing would enable? Now wire that into the social graph!
If there was one co-ordinating organisation concerned with building the relationships needed to get this data and providing the APIs but letting people build any app they want, wouldn’t that be incredibly powerful?
Such an org could co-ordinate with churches to have parishioners transcribe all of records that are still in paper form. They would have the clout to get access to currently-non-public government data. They could then help Government departments and state/semi-state bodies build good APIs on their data.
They could also co-ordinate with all the emigrant groupings in UK, USA and elsewhere to fill in missing holes in records. Colleges could get involved. What about all the Alumni data?
One or two simple but powerful example apps could be built to show what’s possible.
Delighted to hear that the KK crew are finally having an OpenCoffee at 11.30 this morning inÂ the Kilkenny Cafe located downstairs in Market Cross Shopping Centre.
They join Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Waterford, Belfast and Galway as an OCC location.Â
If you are based anywhere in the South-East, it’ll be worth checking out. We have people driving 30+ miles to Cork OCC on a regular basis, so hopefully they’ll have attendees from Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Tipperary, Offaly etc.
Funding is hard in Europe
Lots of VCs in attendance [none from Ireland] – and the VC panel was interesting – see video. Key themes – build products that VCs will use [Fred Wilson, Martin Varsasky, Jeff Clavier] – and they don’t really believe Govt intervention @ funding is key [more on that later] – and NO doesnt mean NO.
Go Big or Go Home
Lots of usual talk @ valley versus Europe and can we build a big European web company.
Last week was the last Open Coffee for Cork for the year. It was assumed that people wouldn’t be free to attend a last Open Coffee on the 19th. This is a poll to see if anyone would be interested in attending. It could be a demo slot for someone if they would like to show off a new or existing app or it could be a social one in Luigi malones.
Ruth Spencer from The European Journalism Centre (EJC) contacted me to let us know about The European Blogging Competition they are launching in Brussels from 25th to 27th of January coming.
The theme is TH!NK ABOUT IT and the focus of the competition is the European Parliament Elections 2009. EJC wants to offer a platform for journalism students, aspiring journalists and bloggers to express their views on European topics as well as to report and cover the elections.
They want to have three bloggers from each country attending the launch event and will cover the travel costs. The timeline is:
If you are wondering what this has to do with Web2Ireland, I’d simply say that the direction the EU takes over the next few years, particularly in how it deals with a global recession, will have direct impact on start-ups here.
Short.ie is a free URL shortening service allowing you to truncate long unfriendly web addresses into a short and easy to use URLs, perfect for email, IM, Twitter and Texts.
This isnâ€™t the first URL shortening service but itâ€™s definitely my favourite for one main reason, the data it provides about the URLs I have shortened. When I shorten a URL, I can see how many people have clicked on the links.
Of the many URL shortening services that exist, the majority provide super short URLs but I haven’t seen any that provide numbers on how many people clicked on my links. This can be very handy. You could send out a text or a mail shot and see how many people are clicking on your links.
Or how about shortening your email address? Your email address is probably short enough already but it could be a great way to fool those email harvesting bots trawling your site for your email address.
Short.ie is an open collaboration between Iarfhlaith Kelly, David Coallier and myself. We have been adding new services to it, building out on the original idea. So far, hereâ€™s what weâ€™ve got:
Regular URL Shortening
Custom URL Shortening
View All Shortened Links (per user)
A Firefox Plugin
A bookmarklet for IE and FF.
Weâ€™re also working on:
Connecting people who link to the same things
RSS feeds per registered user
Displaying popular links on the homepage
Displaying most influential users on the homepage (once we get avatars setup)
Improving the content recommendation engine
Promoting short.ie any way we can
So far there are over 50 registered users ( Shorties? ) with over 700 URLs shortened and over 5,000 clicks of those URLs! See the chart below for this weeks usage.
A never-ending conversation I have with other start-ups is how get their name visible, build profile and eventually get covered by one of the main Tech News sites.
One way of kicking that off is to make sure your company is profiled on CrunchBase. We’ve recently started using the plug-in here on Web2Ireland to give extra context to stories. And ye know what? The TechCrunch guys love that we are.
It really is gratifying to know that the efforts made by the start-up community in Ireland are recognised by the guys in Silicon Valley.Â So what you waiting for, sign up now!