OpenTech 2011

21st May 2011

from UKUUG and friends

 UKUUG home






Mailing List


Facebook event

on Technorati,
#opentech tweets on Dopplr

    Past: '10, '09, '08, '05


    OpenTech 2011 Draft Schedule

    Please note that the order of speakers within any session will be decided on the day, and no implication of ordering should be implied here.

    There are still some available slots, get in touch if you think your project might fit in well. Plus, in the bar: The internet is dead. Long live the internet? in visionOntv's revolutionary pop-up TV studio.

    Hashtags: #opentech #1A - for Session 1 in Stream A. Drop #opentech for space if needed

    Main Room Upper Hall Seminar Room Workshop Stream (room 3E)
    10:00am Doors Open
    10:45am Session 1
    • So long and thanks for all the truth... Fear and loathing in the modern media.
    • 0 - 35,000 in six weeks: Science is Vital Campaign
      (Science is vital audio).
    • How can we win the Information Wars?
    • Open Data Cities: Manchester
    • Open Data Cities: Brighton
    • Open Data Sheffield
    • a chat with
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    11:40am Session 2
    • Social Innovation Camp
    • "interactive island" at the Guardian
    • Ada Lovelace Day
    • Visually exposing fat cats
    • Visualising Big Data
      (Audio: carbon, itoWorld).
    • Adopt a paragraph
    • "Where Does My Money Go?" Goes Global
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    12:30pm Lunch
    1:30pm Session 3
    • Who Works Where Doing What?
    • Codifying sustainability
    • Amnesty's digital activism in the global South
    • Makerhood - Brixton
    • OpenStreetMap - internationally
    • LBS is all about you
    • Ready, Link, Gov! - Linkedgov
    • Crowdscraping - real stories of using ScraperWiki to gather worldwide datasets
    • Google Refine
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    2:30pm Session 4
    • Building Digital Culture for Free: Can the Hacker Ethic and Comons-Based Peer Production make a better world?
    • Fluffy and poisonous - Why UKuncut has worked and how you can help.
    • Open Source Hardware (Part I)
    • An introduction to Open Source Hardware
    • Hard curves, soft electronics
    • London Hackspace
    • Cloud computing & data protection legal issues
    • Experiences with Personal Genetics: A Family Journey
    • One Click Orgs: where we are going next
    • The quest for open rail data
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    3:30pm Break
    4:00pm Session 5
    • Watching the Press (audio)
    • SEO Kung Fu Spotlight (audio)
    • OpenCorporates :: Building an open global database the distributed way (audio)
    • Open Hardware (Part II)
    • dorkbot
    • Digital Archaeology - When open source is not enough.
    • dinisnoise: morse code profanit
      (audio: part 1, profanity/Q&A).
    • Empowering the next generation of FLOSS developers
    • Talking non-techie
    • Mozilla - more than just Firefox
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    5:00pm Session 6
    • what does the government spend money on? (audio)
    • Police State UK: open source citizen journalism (audio)
    • The Law (audio)
    • Introduction to Self-hacking - The Quantified Self
    • Moodscope
    • Live Better Through Technology?
    • The LocalGovernment Knowledge Hub
    • QR Codes - easy access to data
    • Teaching old dogs new tricks
    • Distributed Backups for friends and communities
    click on a talk to see its abstract here
    6:00pm Close

    The bar will remain open until 10pm or people stop drinking; whichever happens first.

    Session 1

    Main Room

    So long and thanks for all the truth... Fear and loathing in the modern media.

    Chris Atkins

    For 2 years chris atkins has waged a losing battle against the media establishment. He sold fake celebrity stories to all the tabloids, secretly filmed red top hacks trying to buy medical records and caught Max Clifford on undercover camera boasting about his clients. The media machine trundles on as before, but at least Chris has got some great anecdotes as well as obscene legal bills.

    0 - 35,000 in six weeks: Science is Vital Campaign

    Jenny, Shane and Richard

    The story of how one blog post led to the mass mobilisation of scientists before the Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010. by Dr Jenny Rohn, Chair - ScienceIsVital; Dr Richard P. Grant, Secretary; Shane McCracken, Treasurer.

    How can we win the Information Wars?

    Open Rights Group and Friends

    We will discuss how citizens can win the wars on privacy, copyright, and open data. Including an update on the battles that ORG is currently fighting on these fronts.

    Open Data Cities: Manchester

    Julian Tait

    The Open Data Cities project in Manchester was sparked from a conversation at Futuresonic 2009, asking if cities would evolve differently if all data were freely available, and would the asymmetries that we see in todays cities be maintained, shifted or diminished. The project developed and looked at how Greater Manchester could adopt open data at a sub-regional level. Through working with the ten local authorities, data started to be released and now in partnership with Trafford Council DataGM - The Greater Manchester Datastore is up and running.

    Open Data Cities: Brighton

    Greg Hadfield

    By 2050, 70 per cent of the world's population will live in cities - networked cities in a networked world. Open-data cities can get a headstart on the journey into the future. But can Brighton and Hove, Manchester, and Lichfield rival San Francisco, New York, and Washington? Should UK cities have CIOs, as US cities have? And what is an open-data city anyway?

    Open Data Sheffield

    Jag Gill

    Seizing the open data city initiative. Addressing public sector stakeholder and geek community expectations.

    Session 2

    Main Room

    Social Innovation Camp

    Glen Mehn

    Broadly, we want to talk about turning hackdays and demos into something more permanent by sharing our experiences of helping others do that and what else needs to exist in this space to help make more of it happen. We might rally a bit of a panel.

    "interactive island" at the Guardian

    Mariana Santos

    Ada Lovelace Day

    Suw Charman-Anderson

    A look at the international day celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

    Upper Hall

    Exposing lobbying activities of "carbon fat cat" companies through data visualisation

    Patrick Craston

    In Europe, big polluters need a permit for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit. Unfortunately the huge multinational corporations owning these polluting factories and power plants have been aggressively lobbying politicians. This has resulted in too many permits being given out. With too many permits in the system factories often have no need to reduce their emissions, which is good for the corporations - as it saves them a lot of money - but bad for the environment! Although the EU releases the emissions data publicly, the complexity of the data creates a lack of transparency, which benefits the big corporations and their polluters. At Sandbag we have been using a range of techniques to visualise this data (e.g. Our new map exposes the 10 "carbon fat cat" companies that benefit most from having been given too many pollution permits (after all, the system was created for the benefit of the environment!). Future work aims to tie in data on company lobbying activities and see how this directly relates to those companies being allocated too many permits. As this is still work in progress, we would love to get feedback (ideas or data) from OpenTech.

    Visualising Big Data - itoWorld

    Christopher Osborne

    Talking about the challenges and potential of visualising big data - mobile, realtime, crowdsourced or just plain old big. How with intelligent visualisation, data can be used to engage communities in planning the future of their cities. Showreel of our visualisation work, as featured on BBC Joy of Stats, Tim Berners-Lee's TED talk and Wired Magazine:

    Seminar Room

    Adopt a paragraph, a project for collaborative translation

    juliano spyer

    A few years ago i started a project called Adopt a Paragraph to product collective translations of texts from English to Portuguese. It worked really well and it only used Google Docs and Twitter. here:

    Introducing Open Spending: "Where Does My Money Go?" Goes Global

    Rufus Pollock

    The "Where Does My Money Go?" project helps UK taxpayers to better understand the public purse. It uses a range of interactive tools to enable users to explore and visually represent complex datasets. Internationally it is widely cited as a shining example of the reuse of open government data. Building on this, Open Spending aims to take the project global, developing both a platform and a a flexible range of open source tools to represent spending data from around the world. We're exploring, structuring and mapping out different kinds of public finance from all around the world - state budgets, spending reports, grants and subsidy data. Our goal is to create an interactive platform similar to OpenStreetMap: while on OSM you map your block, on OpenSpending it's your local government spend.

    Session 3

    Main Room

    Who Works Where Doing What? Capturing and publishing government organogram data

    John Sheridan

    The process and tools used for capturing and publishing data and diagrams of the organisational structure of government and salary details of senior officials.

    Codifying sustainability

    Gavin Starks

    Can instrumenting the world catalyse conditions conducive to change...? How are we going to industrialise sustainability into everything we do? As government policies, multi-nationals, utilities and tech innovation collide, wouldn't it be a good idea if we got some of the foundations right? Come along if you're interested in open data, sensors, provenance and sustainability.

    Amnesty International digital activism in the global South: challenges and opportunities

    Naomi McAuliffe

    Amnesty International is growing its presence and campaigning in the global south and is looking to deploy innovative digital techniques to connect to activists in developing countries. This presents many opportunities and challenges and this talk will be asking the audience to help with the solutions. How do we verify crowd-sourced information on human rights abuses? How can we ensure information collected digitally can be viewed and used by people on the ground? What tools do activists on the ground need to utilise the digital tools available? This talk will also include examples of digital activism from our corporate accountability campaign.

    Upper Hall

    Makerhood - Brixton

    Kristina Glushkova

    Makerhood is a project to promote local makers and create a website enabling people to buy things made in their neighbourhoods. We are currently working on a Drupal-based pilot in Brixton, funded by a grant from Unltd. We are taking an open approach to building the platform and working with the local community throughout, from the idea to implementation. The talk will go through the idea, the approach we have taken and the role of community engagement. It will reflect on the opportunities and trade-offs in balancing the community and trading aspects on an online marketplace that is grounded in physical local interactions.

    OpenStreetMap - internationally

    Harry Wood is the wikipedia of maps, a project to create free and open maps of the world. This is is not a corporate endeavour. It's a somewhat disorganised rabble of thousands of volunteers collaborating to build something great and give it away to the world for free. The project started here in London and is still largely being served from cupboard in UCL. With a shoestring budget OpenStreetMap is turning the traditional geodata industry on its head, but open data is mainly about empowering a new wave of web developers and hackers. It's time to get behind OpenStreetMap and be proud of it. This talk will run through some of the open data motivations but with a map licensing slant. It will cover the comparative offerings of google maps and ordnance survey. You'll see how the editing software works, and how people like you can easily edit the map. We'll take a quick look at some technical details of map tile rendering stacks, the main OpenStreetMap API, and other services which developers can make use of in and around OpenStreetMap.

    LBS is all about you (or where you are)

    Steve Kennedy

    Location based services are becoming more and more important and services such as Twitter and Facebook allow geo-tagging posts. What does that mean? How can it help you?

    Seminar Room

    Ready, Link, Gov! - LinkedGov

    Hadley Beeman, Glyn Wintle

    Updates and engagement in this highly entertaining talk by the linkedgov project.

    Crowdscraping - real stories of using ScraperWiki to gather worldwide datasets

    Francis Irving

    Track every company in the world? Every farmers market? All the planning applications as they come in? Increasing computing power, cheaper data storage, neater screen-scraping libraries, and new collaborative software, together combine to let us gather data sets we never would have dreamed of before.

    Google Refine

    Paul Makepeace

    Refine is a powerful, fun, fast tool for exploring, visualising, and 'cleaning' datasets. Data rarely comes in the form we want it in: inconsistencies, formatting errors, corrupted accents, schema mismatches, ... Refine can help interactively discover patterns and sift out and transform your dataset, without scripting or programming. I'll cover core concepts: faceted browsing and clustering, as well as touch on the GR Expression Language, and reconciliation.

    Session 4

    Main Room

    Building Digital Culture for Free: Can the Hacker Ethic and Comons-Based Peer Production make a better world? - Bill Thompson

    Bill Thompson

    Pekka Himanen published the Hacker Ethic in 2001 and gave free software developers a manifesto and a creed to live by. Bill Thompson will consider how effective free and open source have been in building digital culture, and ask whether we're more like Gutenberg or Genghis Khan in our effect on the world.

    Fluffy and poisonous - Why UKuncut has worked and how you can help.

    Since its inception in October of last year, UKuncut has repeatedly staged effective protests against tax avoidance, public service cuts and the financial sector's role in both. The actions, though comparatively small, captured the attention of the public and the media and have been the target of a police crackdown as the government and the right attempt to fight back. UKuncut has led inclusive, creative and fun protests that show the friendly, open side of activism whilst simultaneously sabotaging the brand of tax cheats and charlatan bankers. The combination of a clear ideology with a utilisation of new technologies and the media have seen the group's profile grow and grow and other uncut franchises spring up internationally. But as the police and government try to discredit the protests and the cuts keep getting deeper, UKuncut has to develop and adapt its use of the technological tools available in order to continue to effective get its message across. Every new 'uncutter' strengthens the ranks but those with real know how can help make the arguments in the ways that reach people and that have the most impact on those UKuncut is fighting against.

    Upper Hall

    Open Source Hardware (Part I)

    An introduction to Open Source Hardware

    Paul Downey

    An introduction to Open Source Hardware illustrated using a series of existing Open Source Hardware projects, from small physical projects, alarm clocks, 3D-printers, Arduinos through to cars and laptops. What are the motivations for starting a project? What is the best way to collaborate, accept contributions? How can you license your works for others to use?

    Hard curves, soft electronics - code, tech & textiles.

    Rain Ashford

    In 2008 I was given an Arduino and made some LEDs blink - two years on what have I made and how?

    London Hackspace

    Russ Garrett

    London Hackspace is one of a growing number of physical spaces for geeks across the UK and the world. We'll talk about the history of hackerspaces, how a group of cash-strapped geeks managed to rent a place in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and what happens when the Internet spills out into real life.

    Seminar Room

    Cloud computing & data protection legal issues

    Kuan Hon

    EU data protection law issues raised by cloud computing. What information in the cloud is regulated as "personal data", and what isn't? Problems with anonymisation, encryption, sharding/chunking. Who's responsible for "personal data" in the cloud; who should be? Where's data stored, and should it matter? What about disclosure of cloud data to third parties eg law enforcement authorities? Which country's laws apply if there's a dispute?

    Experiences with Personal Genetics: A Family Journey

    Manuel Corpas

    Direct-to-consumer genetics testing is a new field of commercial activity that makes genome screening available to the general public. Test results are delivered on line via a password-protected account contextualized with state of the art inferences about the individual's clinical features, disease risks and ancestry. Interpretation of results is limited to the information supplied by the provider and usually not accompanied with genetic counseling. Custodians of genetic information may not have the necessary skills to interpret results, let alone interpret results for others. This talk presents a personal journey of a genome bioinformatician acting as genetic counselor for his whole family, yet with no formal training to do so. Becoming custodian of genetic information for a whole family resulted in unanticipated situations and reactions that are hereby presented. As the utilization of these tests become ever more widespread, it is hoped that these experiences provide useful insights to new customers of genomic technology who try to understand their own genes.

    One Click Orgs: where we are going next

    Francis Davey

    The One Click Orgs is a project to automate the creation and support the decision making of organisations. In particular it aims to provide a platform where formal meetings can be avoided and decisions can be made via electronic consensus. Setting up a formal structure for an organisation can be a mental block for many small groups or businesses. Once created, the need to hold traditional 'meetings' can slow down organisational progress and get in the way of transparency. We hope One Click Orgs will make those problems a thing of the past. Version 1.0 for simple unincorporated associations was launched in March. I will discuss where we hope to go and what design and legal challenges we will need to overcome.

    Session 5

    Main Room

    Watching the Press

    Dave Cross

    The growth of blogging and social networking has given readers a way to challenge some of the disinformation that is published by the press every day. We'll look at some of the projects which are shining lights where newspapers would rather they weren't shone and highlight some examples of press inaccuracies. Some of them will make you laugh. Some of them will make you angry.

    SEO Kung Fu Spotlight

    Tim Ireland

    Previously, to shine a light in dark corners, you needed to cooperation of a publisher or broadcaster or someone working for them. Now you can do it onyour own, but it is foolish to expect that you can reach the same number(s) of people as these outdated behemoths, or even that you need to. Besides, they lie about their numbers, just as those who copy them do. Keeping an MP honest, for example, starts with an audience of one. This will be an entertaining talk on political impacts. The Commercial version is one you can pay Tim for:

    OpenCorporates :: Building an open global database the distributed way

    Chris Taggart

    OpenCorporates has one simple (but big) goal, to have a URL for every company in the world, to allow campaigners, journalists and governments match their existing messy data with the actual real-world corporate entities, and connect the data together. But we could never do this alone, and fortunately with the help of some cool tools, a few small bounties, and a fantastic community, we're not having to, and already we've got over 8 million companies in over a dozen jurisdictions. Here's how we did it.

    Upper Hall

    Open Hardware (Part II)


    Saul Albert & Peter Brownell

    Dorkbot is a global network of "People doing strange things with electricity". Some of Dorkbotlondon's janitors present a tell-all expose of the group's inner secrets: Overlords, passive-aggressive management, pun based decision making, burning effigies and a desire not to do work.

    Digital Archaeology - When open source is not enough.

    Steve Goodwin

    While language is the invention that makes all others possible, it's also one that changes, grows, and dies. When Shakespeare uses the word 'utterance', he may mean an arm or a leg, for example. It's about context. And context is often lost in source code. Many old projects, such as emulators, are near-impossible to rebuild because of areliance on context; in the compiler, language, libraries, operating system, and even bugs or timing issues of a specific CPU. This talk describes a practical solution that transcends source code by attempting to build a complete ZX81 emulator from description alone. It will also cover the ten-point plan necessary for digital archaeology to succeed, and possible directions for the future. (A work-in-progress site is now running at )

    dinisnoise: morse code profanit


    an attempt to acquit extremely offensive & censured words using morse code, din & music

    Seminar Room

    Empowering the next generation of FLOSS developers

    Garry Bulmer

    Based on University intake, the numbers of school children coming into software development is dwindling. I propose the Free/Libre/Open Source community should reach out to schools, and work with school children to develop their skills so that they are enthusiastic and technically capable of becoming involved in Free/Libre/Open Source Software and Hardware (FLOSS/H) development. Let's aim at creating a significant extra-curricula FLOSS/H development 'clubs' across UK schools. I talk about some of my experiences. I would like part of the community to become actively involved in leading and mentoring school FLOSS/H clubs. I propose we start with existing FLOSS technology and develop an action plan which will have tangible results this year. The session will aim to begin the process of developing an Action Plan
    Garry Bulmer

    Talking non-techie

    Paula Graham

    I think all of us with a commitment to open technology want to empower users but it's not always as easy as it sounds - many Desktop users positively don't seem to want to be empowered! Or at least not necessarily in the way we think they should. It can be all too easy to project a sense of what feels empowering to us - and also to expect people to run before they can walk. Borrowing from methodologies such as participative design and action research, We work with refugee and migrant networks, women's groups and non-profit networks to identify what's needed in each specific context and where FOSS can fill a real need as perceived by the end users - the 'killer app', service or feature will be different each time when addressing different challenges and goals. Many of the answers seem counter-intuitive to open source and social enterprise cultures. For most of the networks and groups we work with, poverty alleviation and digital inclusion are urgent, pressing needs. People have few resources - so creative over-enthusiasm needs to be avoided. The answer in this context is very rarely to build something new. It's a matter of putting together and customising what's out there and, crucially, finding ways to ensure that non-technical people can take care of the technology themselves sustainably. At the other end of the equation we work to open channels between non-technical end-users, techies and developers.

    Mozilla - more than just Firefox

    Gervase Markham

    The mission of the Mozilla Foundation is not "build a kick-ass browser", it is to "promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet". Building Firefox is an important part of that, and it's how we saw off the first big threat to the open web, but it's only a part. Come and hear about what else we are doing to make sure the web is still open, participatory and generative in 50 years time, and how you can support us in doing it.

    Session 6

    Main Room

    what does the government spend money on?

    Lisa Evans

    It's an innocent enough question: What does the government spend money on? Now, I'm not an accountant and I'm not a statistician and personally I don't have a political axe to grind, I just want some answers to this question that make sense. This attitude gives me a lot of freedom: I don't have to get bogged down in any system of understanding spending unless it really helps. But this attitude also gives me a lot of opportunity, because I'm effectively feeling my way around this unfamiliar financial and political world, pushing for information that may or may not be useful in the end, asking questions that must seem really stupid to experts. But what does the Government spend money on?

    Police State UK: open source citizen journalism

    Helen Lambert & Denny

    Police State UK is a news and opinion website covering UK civil liberties (politics, policing, and the sometimes worrying relationship between them). The website runs on an open source content management system called YAWNS, written in Perl and running on Linux and Apache. We have an open content policy, encouraging readers to contribute articles. Although most of the content is written by us, we have had some excellent contributions from others ? including articles from serving politicians and practising lawyers. We also run a successful Twitter account - probably more successful than the website itself in fact, with over 4,000 followers and counting; it's been growing faster ever since the Tories got in power. Recent events have seen us publishing a lot of articles on the right to protest, but we've also covered subjects such as ID cards, DNA retention, RIPA, CCTV and more ? our areas of interest are broad, and we're particularly interested in how many of these issues seem to come back to similar attitudes on the part of the state. We report what's happening in Parliament, on the streets, and in posh Westminster policy seminars. We're still not sure how we got on that invite list.

    The Law


    "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". Yet, despite advances in opening up statute law, case law - which interprets frequently vague legislation and sets binding precedents - remains strangely limited in its availability. This project works to make case law genuinely accessible and usable. It also creates a platform for investigating case law as data: what can we uncover about the quality of legislation, or the likelihood of judicial error? In this way we hope to shine a light into some of the dark and dusty corners of the British justice system.

    Upper Hall

    The LocalGovernment Knowledge Hub

    Stephen Dale

    QR Codes - easy access to data

    Terence Eden

    QR codes offer a free and easy way for you to offer direct people direct access to your data. Find out how & why to use them in campaigns, piublicity, official communications, fundraising, and more. Will also include "subversive" uses of the the technology.

    Teaching old dogs new tricks: innovating in a tech-scared world

    Ann Griffiths and Matthew Booth

    We?d like to show people how the public sector is turning to technology to help it solve some of the big problems it faces, and how it's beginning to see the opportunities technology provides to do things better. Our presentation would explore: The public sector attitude to technology, and how that's changing; how it currently uses technology and where innovation is happening around efficiency, empowerment, and service delivery; where there are opportunities that haven't been taken up yet, and opportunities to do things bigger and better, e.g. around "collaborative consumption"; What the challenges and blockers are to further development and positive change (such as the skills and capacity, and issues around data security), where the public sector needs help to progress, how technology experts and other sectors can play a part, and how that benefits us all. This wouldn't be the kind of dry government-speak people might be used to hearing.

    Seminar Room

    Introduction to Self-hacking - The Quantified Self

    Adriana Lukas

    We will talk about different aspects of personal tracking and how this information can be used.

    Nick Smith

    An application for rating emotions complete with a vision of a markup language/schema for emotions.... :)


    Jon Cousins

    In early 2007 I was diagnosed with suspected bipolar affective disorder, and asked by a psychiatrist to keep a record of my mood for three months in order to help her confirm this. No tool or system was suggested to me for this so I ended up inventing my own, in the form of a card game based on a well-validated (but complex) psychological test. Measuring my mood and tracking it each day helped, but a real leap forward occurred when I started sharing my scores with a few close friends who could 'buddy' me. I put my card game online, and built a system that automatically emailed the scores as soon as I'd recorded them. Almost overnight, my mood pattern changed for the better - simply, it seems, because I'd stumbled upon a way to (a) quantify my mood, something that's generally difficult to be objective about, and (b) to benefit from knowing that others were watching over me. Moodscope, which is what I called the system, was initially built for my own purposes, but other people asked to try it and now nearly 20,000 people have signed up to use it. King's College's Institute of Psychiatry are conducting independent research into Moodscope.

    Live Better Through Technology?

    Krishna Kotecha

    Can we really Live Better Through Technology? A user-driven application for designing goals and habits.

    UKUUG Secretariat
    PO BOX 37
    SG9 9UQ
    About UKUUG

    Page last modified 26 Jan 2013
    Copyright © 1995-2009 UKUUG Ltd.