Walking and biking to work is most popular in Nunavut. Canada’s federal Conservative Party raises more funds through personal donations than the rival Liberal Party does overall. And in Ottawa, you’re most likely to get a parking ticket on Lynda Lane, not far from the Ottawa Hospital.
Each of these tidbits, a story in their own right, and many more tales buried, sometimes deeply, in publicly available data were revealed the inaugural Hacks/Hackers Ottawa event on May 12.
In an overcrowded pub basement, the beer was pouring as freely as ideas about the future of storytelling in a data-driven world. The house draught list had two speakers: Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen and Alice Funke of punditsguide.ca.
While he was humble about his own work in the field, Glen set the crowd — half hacks, half hackers — at level footing. He provided an introduction to tech-assisted journalism, explained how journalists shouldn’t depend on governments to provide important data, and spoke about how every column in a spreadsheet could lead to a story.
Alice, a hero on Parliament Hill in all political corners thanks to her electoral data crunching, happily managed to out-geek Glen. She showcased how she reverse-engineered inaccessible public elections data into gigabytes of relational databases. The hackers were wowed by her smug SQL, while visions of headlines danced in hacks’ heads. If every column is a story, her work could be a multi-volume epic.
Between presentations, one of Ottawa’s leading hackers offered beer to any hack/hacker pair who came forward with one collaborative idea. That beer, perhaps unsurprisingly, was soon claimed. Journalists from across the country joined local developer groups, data visualizers, political parties, public servants — and one accordion guy — to launch Ottawa’s chapter.
The event couldn’t have happened without the support of the Ottawa Citizen, OpenFile Ottawa and Open Data Ottawa. The next meet-up will be sometime in July, and we hope to see you there. Join the Hacks/Hackers Ottawa meetup group to be notified.
Nick Taylor-Vaisey and Alex Lougheed are a Hack and Hacker, respectively, who helped get Hacks and Hackers Ottawa off the ground. They can be reached through the group’s meetup page at hackshackers.com/chapter/ottawa.Tags: data visualization, dataviz, meetup, ottawa, politics