Guest Blog: Make Things Open, It Makes Things Better- David Rowe, Libraries Hacked
8th November 2022 | PTFS-Europe
In advance of our 2022 Customer Day next week, (which you can still register for here) we’ve got an excellent post on open working from our keynote speaker, David Rowe of Libraries Hacked.
‘Make things open, it makes things better’ is one of the Government Design Principles (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-design-principles), adopted across government digital services. It has served as an inspiration to local and central government, but also many other sectors and disciplines.
The principle of open working is based on sharing, and building upon knowledge to make what already exists even better. It promotes the idea that unless there is a good reason for not sharing (such as protecting personal and sensitive data), then it is likely that our work and experiences will be useful to other people.
Adopting open data, open source, and open standards (with lots more ‘open …’ examples) are all instances where taking the plunge to share work publicly has proven benefits to wider society, and benefits those sharing as well. Although it’s an often daunting concept, the more eyes on our work the better.
There are barriers to open working, and a lot of sharing within digital services involves technical language and tools that don’t make the principles accessible to all. The language often seems to be used as jargon, with interchangeable terms (if there is ‘open data’, and ‘open source’, is ‘open source data’ a thing? And what’s ‘big’ data?)
However, we regularly see the benefits of being open in our day-to-day lives. Because of recent ‘open banking’ standards I can add multiple bank accounts from different banks into the single banking app I use. Because of good open transport information in the UK there are ‘split ticketing’ sites that analyse routes to save money when buying rail tickets. Open data has been used in apps and tools that people use every day:
- to make it easier to find public toilets
- to see whether cafe’s and restaurants have wheelchair accessible entrances
- to find out how a local MP has voted on certain issues
- to chart energy usage in schools to engage children with how their schools can become more energy efficient and fight climate change.
What do people do if they don’t directly work on open source code, or with data that can be made open? Few sectors have historically done more for the spread of open knowledge than library services, where we know the benefits of providing information to users and seeing them use it. However, it’s always possible to become more open to sharing working practices, without needing technical skills or expertise.
Sharing our successes and failures will benefit other people, and documenting publicly what we’re working on will encourage other people to engage where they may be able to help, or have a word of caution to add.