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Data, charity, eggs and geekery: Social Media Cafe returns

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The first proper Social Media Cafe of 2010 was back to form and the usual mix of good natured meet-up, debate, preview – and this time with the addition of egg!

Back at the BBC Club it was a good turnout with a wealth of interesting sessions. The biggest debate of the evening – which subsequently spilled out to the pub and tweets, and is sure to continue into the blog posts – was prompted by Julian Tait’s presentation about work to make Manchester an Open Data city.

Social media co-founder Julian gave us all a trot through some of the initiatives happening in this area including the Govenment’s OpenData initiative, mashups of data such as Mapumental and Urban Eco Map.

In his FutureEverything capacity, Julian makes the case for Manchester to be at the fore of the campaign for opening up data in everything from the town hall to the transport system.

Forward-thinking certainly, but could it be a step too far for some? Reasonable concerns about individual privacy aside, questions about the ability for individuals or groups to make meaningful conclusions about the data, or whether it could be used in a way that’s harmful to the local population, soon appear on the horizon when this topic is discussed.

House prices, health services, tax issues – all areas of life where interpretation of data by bodies looking to charge more, or reduce services, could easily lead to cases being made by manipulative interpretation of such data.

It’s too simplistic to see the debate in two separate camps – all the points made are valid ones – but in weighing it up, for me this issue comes down to who holds that data. If councils did want to re-shape their charging for say, waste collections, at the moment they would be the only people with the data. Surely the free data lobby isn’t asking for anything more than equal access to stuff that’s already there?

As David Bird so succinctly tweeted: “The data is innocent, it’s the mining that makes it guilty.”

Anyone looking for more information on this topic can also follow the national campaign to ‘free data’ on The Guardian’s blog.

* The other session I took part in was Chi-Chi’s update on her ambitious fundraiser 7 Wonders in 7 Days.

The scale and scope of this venture makes it exhausting to even hear about. In brief, it will involve raising £770,000 in charity cash over 10 months in a trip of a lifetime.

It’s always interesting to see Chi-Chi present her ideas – not least because of the way the audience is consulted and encouraged to input into her schemes. I hadn’t realised before that one of the inspirations for her trip had come from the TwitchHiker which took place across Twitter last year and has obviously provided some valuable lessons.

Chi-Chi has posted more about her session here.

* Because it isn’t possible to attend all the sessions at Social Media Cafe with full attention, I missed out on Adrian Slatcher’s look at the annoyingly over-hyped iPad and another fundraiser for Manchester which looks worth further investigation – Shine 2010 as well as a talk about the Digital Economy Bill by Yuwei Lin and news of this year’s Twestival.

And finally, as they say……… yes, that egg. A subject destined to appear on my other blog, perhaps.

The Mancheser Egg – pickled, wrapped in sausage meat and black pudding before being deep-fried in a Warburton’s crust. In the best traditions of journalism, I made my excuses and left it…..

2 Responses to 'Data, charity, eggs and geekery: Social Media Cafe returns'

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  1. Hi Sarah. I missed your summary post it seems, but I have blogged on the open data thing at http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/adrianstevenson/2010/02/08/the-case-for-manchester-open-data-city

  2. great, thanks for the link.

    sarahhartley

    9 Feb 10 at 8:24 pm

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