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Happy Birthday, Data Expeditions! Some reflections.

- November 10, 2015 in Data Expeditions

10th November marks the 3 year anniversary of the very first data expedition. What have we learned in the last 3 years?

Anyone who followed School of Data closely in the early years knows that originally the focus of the project was online. This is the story of how and why the project moved away from prioritising its online offering to rely heavily on a network of humans to do the work. There are a diversity of views about the subject within the School of Data network, this is my take.

Musings about materials

Let’s talk for a second about why writing materials for data skills training is particularly tricky.

1. Tool volatility

You may be merrily using a tool one week and the next, it has been killed off. People were still grumbling about the loss of Needlebase several years later. Companies also change their offerings substantially
(e.g. ScraperWiki) and materials quickly went out of date. We couldn’t keep up.

I felt strongly that one of School of Data’s tasks was to make the world of data tools less overwhelming: to show that you could do a lot with only a few key tools. We picked some staples — easy tools you could do a lot with.

New tools and services are appearing every day. Many are old wine in new bottles — but some are very impressive. Evaluating when it makes sense to move from an old favourite to something new is time intensive in and of itself, let alone writing training materials for them.

2. Software discrepancies

Through early user tests we discovered the diversity of software used for even basic tasks such as spreadsheets was very large. Even if we wrote a tutorial for one piece of software, e.g. LibreOffice, the differences between other versions of similar programmes e.g. Excel / GoogleDocs were just great enough to leave learners entirely stuck if they were using anything but the type we had written it for.

3. No two organisations ever want to do exactly the same thing

The direction of teaching materials falls somewhere on a spectrum between closely tailored to an individual use case and open ended general principles.

At one end: the handholding, instructive walkthrough.
Pros: Very easy to follow. Excellent for beginners.
Cons: Interesting for a very narrow audience. Doesn’t encourage the learner to think creatively about what they could do with those skills. Breaks very easily as soon as anything about the service you are using changes.

At the other end: general principles e.g. “mapping” (vs “using X tool to create maps” and open ended challenges.)
Pros: Don’t need updating as often. Encourage learners to think more broadly about how the skills they use could be applied.
Cons: There needs to be some way for the user to make the leap from general principle to concrete implementation.

When you are supporting organisations to find stories in data or use data to support their advocacy, no two organisations will ever have exactly the same questions. This makes it very hard to find a common set of materials for them.

4. The resource question $$$

Creating teaching materials for any topic is a lot of work. In the early days of School of Data, we were 2-3 people.

Don’t get me started on how much work it is to produce a MOOC. We dabbled in these for a while. I’ve personally taken part in some good ones and partners have had some success with them, but the problem for School of Data was that with our resourcing level, it would have been putting all of our eggs in one basket very early on in the project.

We needed more time and flexibility to experiment with different formats, to see what would work for our specific target audience.

5. The feedback problem

There was a feedback problem with online materials, we had no idea whether the people we were reaching with the online materials were the ones we were targeting. In the early days, we really only did workshops to get feedback for a more online approach. We got the best feedback from participants at test workshops we did in person. Feedback which we got through the website was sparse.

Then something happened…

Enter the dragon: the beginning of Data Expeditions

Dragon TTC

It’s 10th November 2012 and I’m surrounded by nerds in sparkly capes. This is Mozilla Festival (MozFest) — a playground for new ideas that have something to do with making use of the web in creative and fun ways.

MozFest 1

A few months earlier (on the day of the MozFest submission deadline) my colleague, Friedrich (in the green hoodie and silver cape above) had lamented that it was really hard to teach investigative skills in an interesting way. Michael Bauer (star cape, far left), from the School of Data team, happened to be in town visiting.

We agree that we should try and find a way of including investigations in the session. A far cry from the carefully planned tutorials with perfectly aligned practice data, participants would get a taste of reality… In the wild, there is no-one to clean your datasets for you. What we needed now was a way to get other people to help each other through the mires and holes that the participants will inevitably find themselves in.

Friedrich and Michael start nerding-out about how cool it would be to model a session on Dungeons and Dragons. Confession: I to this day have never played D&D. Nevertheless, I catch enough of their gist to gather that it is some kind of role-playing game, and there are dragons — how wrong can it go?

Mother of Data

We decide that if this idea is going to work anywhere, it’s going to be at MozFest, whose open minded guinea pigs — sorry, participants — are usually up for a laugh. We have a name, “Data Expeditions”, now we just have to work out how to facilitate a session with an unknown number of people, with unknown skillsets, and a mostly-hypothetical internet connection.

Bring it on! Worst case scenario: I’ll dress them all in something ridiculous and we’ll clown around to camouflage the parts of the session that don’t work.

Crunch time…

Head count: approx 60 - much more than expected

Skillset balance: good to excellent

Internet connection status: quaint

I won’t elaborate too much on the process of how a data expedition works as that is covered by the (now ancient) Guide for Guides.

But the principle simple: all teams start with a question e.g.

  • “The life expectancy in Botswana all of a sudden dropped sharply at a particular point in time. What was the reason?” or
  • “Who really owns these mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo?”

The facilitators then guide them as far as possible along the data pipeline as they can get in the allotted time.

Data Pipeline
Source: Spending Data Handbook

At the end, people present whatever they can. Any output is valid; a clean dataset, a full data visualisation, a paper sketch of what they would have done had they had the time/resources/skills, or even a list of problems they experienced.

Back in the room

I’m astounded by the number of people who have come to the session, the room is packed and … it somehow appears to be working…?!

…People are asking each other if they don’t know how to do something and actually producing results. It’s absolute bedlam and incredibly noisy but it’s working!


Learnings from data expeditions

our inkling was that the only way to really teach data skills was to confront people with a mountain. By forging [their] own path […] data explorers can pinpoint the extra skills they need to develop in order to scale new obstacles, map their own journey and ultimately to tell their own story. The answer may be at the top, but there are multiple routes to the summit – and each will offer a fresh view over the landscape.

Followup blogpost to the first data expeditions

After MozFest, we went on to lead many data expeditions around the world. We had to adapt to many different things: knowledge levels, time constraints, participants who really wanted to get a specific thing from the expedition.

Here is my rundown from the major discoveries of that period:

Number 1: It is very hard to predict what someone will learn from a data expedition – but they will learn something

Everything depends on the course the group takes. It’s hard to know how far the group will even get.

If you are trying to teach a specific skill in a workshop, you either need to stage parts of the expedition very carefully (possible, but lots of work) or, you should probably pick another format.

Number 2: The right people are important, but they’re not the ones you might think.

Most important skillset: topic expertise — you can do a huge amount with basic tools, even if there are no advanced engineers or analysts in the room. All you need is one or two people who have a deep understanding of the topic area. If you are low on data-chops in the room, you’ll need to be more hands-on as a facilitator and probably spend more time helping people to google things. Don’t let it become too much about you showing them things, try and encourage the same self sufficiency as if they were genuinely on their own.

Number 3: Online expeditions can be hairy, but you can make them work.

Online expeditions are particularly facilitator intensive, because people don’t keep the same level of focus as they do in person. Even if they are engaged at the beginning, their attention wanes… they end up in Buzzfeed listicle rabbitholes. For longer expeditions, it’s hard to gauge availability and whether people are stuck. The poor stuck people are left hanging as the only person in their group who can help goes to have a bath or pick up their kid from kindergarten.

The most successful expeditions we ran online were short, a couple of hours to a day max. Both online and offline, a short timeline helps to focus people on their desired outcomes.

Unexpected side effects of data expeditions

Both at MozFest and in the online version, people were forced to spend time with people they wouldn’t normally do. I remember one girl coming up to me and saying, entirely out of the blue:

“I’ve never spoken to a coder before!”

Also online, while a lot of the groups entirely disintegrated, some people used the group structure we had set up to stay in touch or ask for help on data or tech issues long beyond the date that the data expedition was scheduled to finish.

Data expeditions were more than just a teaching tool, they brought people together in a way that working alone on a problem or exercise never could.

The final balance

The success of the Data Expeditions and other in-person formats like Data Clinics or targetted workshops meant that School of Data moved away from being a solely online learning mechanism to one which favoured human interaction.

School of Data did still produce materials, and as community members attest, they are a core part of the identity, but the English resources were usually produced “on demand” when an event was coming up which needed them.

The focus on in-person training also changed the nature of what we produced: more lesson plans and materials suited for in-person training.

As the reputation of School of Data grew, the demand for in-person training did too. This is the reason the fellowship was born and that a lot of what School of Data currently does is skillshare. It is much better for people to learn in their own language, taught by people who understand local contexts than for a small group of Europeans to fly around the world pretending to know everything.


  • Get yourself some foundational resources so that you can react quickly to common requests for training.
  • Instead of developing material for every topic on the planet, tailor existing resources to specific audiences you are going to work with. If you are working with a budgeting group from Nepal, use budget data from Nepal if you can get it. If you can’t get it, at least use something locally relevant.
  • Find yourself some trainers with big ears, who listen more than they talk. A teacher’s job is to understand the problems people are having and provide solutions which are appropriate for them — not to deliver pre-packaged solutions.

Materials are important for sustainability. They can quickly be picked up, translated and shared all across the world. But nothing compares to the reality check that comes from being with the users of those materials in person to make sure you are keeping the project on the right lines.


Some of you will have noticed that I promised to write a 5 part series nearly 6 months ago now and have so far produced only 2/5 posts.

The rest of these posts have been sitting on my harddrive, festering and I have been too deliberative to finish them.

On 13th of September 2015, procrastination exterminator and cattle-prod extraordinaire, Michael Bauer, friend and School of Data colleague tragically and unexpectedly passed away.

Michael could not stand procrastination, and never allowed anyone around him to engage in it.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to you than actually finishing this, Michael. I hope you realised how much things moved forward because of you.

A version of this post appears on Tech to Human as part of the 5 years worth of learnings series.

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In memory of Michael Bauer

- September 24, 2015 in Community

It was with great sadness that we learned last week that we had lost one of our greats. Michael Bauer passed away suddenly on 13th September 2015 while running the Wachau half marathon. In this post, the School of Data team (both past and present) remember what he gave to the project, and our favourite moments from working with him.

If you knew and loved Michael and want to share your stories, pictures and memories, please post them here:

Michael joined School of Data as one of the first team members in 2012 and worked on the project up until October 2014. In this time, he trained and helped hundreds of activists from across the world and built an amazing community of likeminded people – a community which is now thriving, in large part due to the contributions and skills that Michael gave.

His extraordinary intelligence and skills gave School of Data an “edge”; for him, anything done on the project had to be both educational and fun, else there was no point in doing it. He taught all of us personally a huge amount about what it means to be a ‘data trainer’. He was a great colleague, and an even better friend.

The School of Data team is largely remote – we work from wherever we like and connect with each other online. This means we don’t see each other so often and most of our contact is done via emails, online meetings or, as usually was the case with Michael, Skype chats from airport lounges…

Playing ‘Where is Michael?’ was always a fun game.

It also means that when we do meet in person, the time is precious. We travelled together across the world – and wow, did Michael travel. He was always up for spontaneous trips (sometimes with as little as twelve hours notice before intercontinental travel), for throwing himself into getting to know new communities, to spend nights dancing even with early starts due the next day. Colourful both in personality and turnout, we will always remember Michael in his shiny cape at Mozfest when we ran our first ever data expedition – our Data Diva.

People genuinely never forgot Michael – he was charismatic and commanded people’s attention. He managed to understand data and people, and he could inspire every single person he met, no matter how many were in the workshop. He was a true polymath, too – he went from medical doctor, to academic, to data trainer/coder, to a journalist – and all before the age of 35.

To us, Michael was intelligent, always ready to help people, honest (sometimes painfully), funny and, as all the best people are, wonderfully awkward. Most of all, he was generous with his time, humble, and thoughtful. He managed to foster an environment where anyone could ask him a question, or for help on building something – and he would answer without any fuss, and with contagious enthusiasm.

As a key architect of many of School of Data’s workshop styles, particularly Data Clinics and Data Expeditions, his legacy lives on through the character sheets he made just 10 minutes before the first expedition started, and in many of the materials the community use today.

When he moved on to, we were torn between happiness for him – that he was starting a new stage in his life – and sadness, that he was leaving our team. He was so excited about it though: finally, he would “stop talking about data journalism and start doing it.”

As a leaving gift, we made him this video to show him how much we appreciated him.

His response was: “Nearly cried <3 you all!”.

It goes without saying that you will be missed beyond words, Michael. We will do our best to make you proud and continue the great work that you started.

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User Experience Design – Skillshare

- November 28, 2014 in HowTo

“User Experience Design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction and loyalty by improving usability, ease of use and pleasure provided in the the interaction between the user and the product.”

This week Siyabonga Africa, one of our fellows in South Africa, led an amazing introduction to how to think about your users when designing a project to make sure they get the most out of it. In case you missed it – you can watch the entire skillshare online and get Siya’s slides.



Where can I learn more?

For more in the skillshare series – keep your eye on the Open Knowledge Google Plus page and follow @SchoolofData.

For more from Siyabonga – poke @siyafrica on Twitter.

Image Credits: Glen Scarborough (CC-BY-SA) .

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School of Data Fellows: Applications are CLOSED!

- June 11, 2014 in Community, Update

Yesterday – 10th June, we closed our first ever round of applications for fellows. We are astounded by the response and wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who applied and everyone who helped with the outreach!

This is a quick post to slice and dice our applications data and to let applicants know about the next steps!

Image credits: Alex France on Flickr

We received over 200 applications from 51 different countries, here’s how they sliced up:

Applications by region:

Africa – 55
Asia- 45
Europe – 30
Latin America -52
MENA – 8
Not eligible/ Duplicate – 11

We’re also delighted to announce a large number of female applicants – approximately ⅓ of applicants. While we will clearly work to make sure we achieve even better than this in terms of equality, we are delighted to see such a promising start from our first round of applications!

What’s next?

The School of Data team and the crack team of local experts from each region will be combing the applications in the next few days. Shortlisted applicants will receive an email in the next few days requesting an interview with the team.

All candidates will be evaluated according to the same criteria. As a refresh, here’s what they are:

  • Overall impression
  • Teaching potential
  • Skills and experience
  • Potential to support NGOs and/ or journalists
  • Bonus points (as we mentioned before – things like superb videos or quirky application methods etc will be looked upon favourably)

What if I didn’t get selected or wasn’t eligible?

Don’t despair! We’re working on two major areas:

1) An enhanced community programme, which will outline lots of ways to get involved with School of Data. Watch this space or sign up for the newsletter below.
2) The next round of fellowship applications, we hope to be able to run this programme again – hopefully with a wider selection of countries. Watch this space!

Don’t want to miss an announcement? Sign up for the School of Data newsletter!

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We’re hiring: Open Development Toolkit Lead

- November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is a joint position between Development Initiatives & Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation and Development Initiatives are seeking an Open Development Toolkit Lead to support users of open data about international development. To do this, we will work on curating and developing training materials and oversee production of software tools that help in publishing, accessing and understanding the data.

This role would bring together Development Initiatives’ topic-specific knowledge of the aid and development sector, with the open data, technical and training experience of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Open Knowledge Foundation and Development Initiatives are working in partnership to appoint a contractor to fulfil this role. This is initially devised as a one year contract, starting as soon as possible, but possibility to extend will be strongly considered.


We are looking for someone to help us close skills and tool gaps which hinder data uptake and use in the development sphere by overseeing the development of an Open Resource Data Toolkit, which provides tools and skills that support users of open resource and development data.

The Role

The job will involve a wide range of diverse activities, and working in a complex environment combining work with colleagues both virtual and in-person communities. The central responsibility of the person will be to manage the production of an Open Resource Data Toolkit – to enable users of data on development to easily work with the data and successfully use it in their advocacy. It will involve:

Training Development:

In the initial phase of work, responsibilities will include:

  • Gap analysis of current state of training offerings and reviewing remixable content.
  • Producing or commissioning ‘How To’ guides on:
    • Publishing and using IATI data
    • Using open source tools to answer particular questions;
    • Other courses as emerging needs transpire
  • Collaborate with others producing training materials in this area to ensure openly-licensed where appropriate and reusable
  • Coordinate support to users wishing to access, analyse or use open resource data
  • Convening workshops, Data Expeditions, training and skill-sharing activities for data users;

Community Development:

  • Blogging about the latest developments in the toolkit;
  • Collect and publicise examples of community initiatives, ideas & apps (through, the OKFN blog and other relevant channels)
  • Coordinate communications strategy around the project. Liaison point for media enquiries.

Tool Development:

  • Working with data users to understand their needs, and to develop the specification for new tools and services;
  • Commissioning and managing the development of new software tools and platforms for the Toolkit, or managing the further development of existing tools;
  • Overseeing the landscape of who is producing tools to work with this type of data, exploring and supporting opportunities for these tools to be included in the Toolkit.
  • Develop a business plan and fundraise for ongoing support for the toolkit

The toolkit development will take place after the initial curating and training phase and pending successful grant funding

Person Specification

The required person is passionate about the potential of open data to provide a mechanism for greater accountability and citizen empowerment, and excited by the prospect of promoting the use and application of data to those ends. They will:

  • Be data-savvy and community connected: equally happy communicating the ‘open’ vision to senior policy staff, members of civil society organisations and project implementers in the IT sphere.
  • Be a strong facilitator, both at in-person and online meetings and training,
  • Bring a user-centred perspective to designing and delivering products.
  • Be flexible and willing to learn on the job, working at the forefront of high profile global open data initiatives.
  • Be willing to travel to conduct meetings & lead training
  • Have excellent communication skills – the ability to explain technical solutions and applications to non-technical audiences, and excellent written English
  • Be an effective social networker, with ability to develop and facilitate communities and communicate effectively using social media tools
  • Recognize, create and seize opportunities to put ideas into practice

Knowledge/Technical Skills

  • (Required) Experience in the delivery and management of IT projects
  • (Required) Demonstrable ability to write technical guidance and communications in plain English for non-technical audiences
  • (Nice to have) Good understanding of:
    • The open data movement and the opportunities / challenges
    • Other Multi-stakeholder Transparency Initiatives surrounding financial flows, e.g. Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), Open Contracting, Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT).
    • Understanding of how data standards are developed and used
  • Strong data analysis skills including:
    • (Required) Advanced knowledge of Excel and similar tools
    • (Nice to have) The ability to structure and visualise complex data to make it accessible to different audiences
    • (Strongly suggested) Experience of managing and working with databases and XML – particularly with IATI data
  • Additional language skills would be an advantage.
  • Grantwriting or business-development experience


Competitive, depending on experience. The role includes a fundraising element to raise funds for future development of the toolkit beyond the preliminary stages.

About the organisations

Development Initiatives

Development Initiatives is a not for profit organisation with offices in the UK and Kenya, working to build a global consensus to end poverty, to improve the prioritisation and allocation of resources and to look at the role of access to information in ending poverty. We seek to make information on poverty and resources transparent, accessible and useful, through research, analysis, training and collaborative projects.

The Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is a multi-award winning community-based, not-for-profit organisation. The Foundation now has projects and partnerships throughout the world and is especially active in Europe. We build tools and communities to create, use and share open knowledge – content and data that everyone can use, share and build on. We believe that by creating an open knowledge commons and developing tools and communities around this we can make a significant contribution to improving governance, research and the economy.


This is a flexible, tele-commuting contract. We have a strong preference for candidates within 3 timezones of UTC:

We will consider applicants located near to one of the Open Knowledge Foundation Hubs or Development Initiatives offices (UK, Germany, Kenya) particularly favourably.

How to apply

To apply please send the following to jobs [at] by 11th December :

  • a cover letter highlighting relevant experience
  • your CV / Resume

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Think Tanker’s Data ToolBox

- November 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’m in Prague at the Policy Research, Technology and Advocacy Event @ the Hub, run by Open Society Foundations Think Tank Fund. It’s a fascinating event with some of Europe’s best Think Tank minds; I had the pleasure of helping them work through tools that can help them to troubleshoot some of the issues they face in their day to day work.

So which tools should be in the Think Tankers Data Toolbox?

There are many excellent curated lists of tools useful for policy research, analysis and visualisation, which seem to be the most interesting topics here. Here’s just a few:

* The On Think Tanks blog has a great list of visualisation resources
* Digital Methods Toolkit from the Digital Methods Initiative.

Let’s look at the specific problems the group raised and what tools we know to help with them!

Getting Data: “What’s the best tool for conducting an online survey?”

The results of a great #groupthink from the room, who knew many options I’d never heard of – here’s what they came up with/ In no particular order:

Special thanks to Dora Hardy from Open Society Foundations for this list!

Keen to hear from you which is the best – please feel free to drop comments in the section below.

Getting Data: “My government doesn’t give me data!”

Try asking publicly! Check out online Freedom of information sites on the web such as AsktheEU. Many countries also have their own sites!

Tip: Want to see examples of how people have ensured they get machine-readable data (i.e. spreadsheets not PDFs) from Freedom of Information request. See this successful example of asking for the EU budget to see what to ask for!

Extracting Data: “My data is trapped in a PDF! Help!”

We focussed today on Tabula – a great tool which allows you to highlight tables in a PDF and extract them as CSV files. Unfortunately, it struggled with a Cyrillic copy of the Serbian Gazette, but here’s hoping that future updates will help to support other character sets.

Want more information about other options? Try the School of Data course on PDF extraction

Cleaning Data: “Are there any tools to automatically assess data quality?”

Getting into potentially dangerous territory here, however, one suggestion was made. Open Studio, by Talend – I don’t have experience with it myself, but again – any testimonials from personal experience, please drop them in the comments box.

Analysing Data: “I have huge volumes of documents and don’t know where to start”.

Projects such as Document Cloud allow you to upload and search lots and lots of documents (even PDFs). Check out also The Overview Project for an example of a tool which helps to visualise common topics in a big dump of documents and links between themes in documents. Below: visualisation of the Wikileaks War Logs: Large Words = commonly occurring words, Points = Documents, Lines = show which documents connected to the topics.

Overview, by the Associated Press

Analysing Data: “Do you have a primer for network analysis?”

Sure do! Check out this quick guide – we promise to update it soon to take account of new changes to the Twitter API.

What else we showed.

The final part of the workshop was dedicated to a quick session on Geocoding. Using a Google Spreadsheet and using some highly refined copy and paste skills from the School of Data tutorial on Geocoding, we created a beautiful TileMill map in the themed colours of ExpertForum.

If you want to get a map in your themed colours, you’ll need a colour capturer to grab your organisation’s colours. I used “Hues”, available in the App Store, but there are lots of options available.

Black magic

After the session, I showed a couple of people how to get data out of tables online where copy-paste doesn’t work. Check out the School of Data tutorial on IMPORTHTML if you have similar problems!

Final plug

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 16.54.15

Thinking of entering the On Think Tanks Datavis competition? Check out these guidelines by, School of Data Advisory board member, Gregor Aisch (DrivenByData) to avoid committing a visualisation faux-pas.

Submissions for the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition close on 20th November. Get your submission in now!

Enjoyed this? Want to stay in touch? Join the School of Data Announce Mailing List for updates on more training activities from the School of Data.

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Join us for training at Open Government Partnership Summit!

- October 30, 2013 in Events

For any participants participating in the Open Government Partnership Summit in London tomorrow – 30th October. Join us for a training session on how to work with company data.

What’s special about companies data?

Company data is tricky, it’s often hard to determine who exactly the companies in corporate databases are.

As Amrit Naresh from OpenOil explains:

“People don’t usually don’t talk in the language of official jurisdictions and corporate identifier numbers. It’s common to say that ‘X’ has done this terrible thing or ‘Y’ did that, but without knowing exactly which X or Y entity (with the full name and the corporate registration number) did it, it’s impossible to know who exactly is responsible. Another example would be the case of a company like A*, which has a contract with Nigeria’s state oil company. But is it A* Energy International PLC (registration # abc) which signed the contract, or is it A* Energy PLC (registration # xyz)? Each company may have an entirely different corporate track record or top level personnel. The media rarely reports the full names and corporate identifiers of companies involved in transactions, so it’s difficult to know which entity exactly is being discussed.”

Open Corporates Training.

What we’ll cover

  • How to discover and report accurately on which company is being referred to
  • What is beneficial ownership and how can you research it using OpenCorporates – a powerful tool for investigating companies
  • Researching networks of companies: particularly co-directors look at co-director networks
  • The new network exploration tools in OpenCorporates

When: 10.45-12.45
Where: Floor 5 festival area
Link: See more details.

Can’t make it?

We’ll publish slides and a writeup from the event shortly. Watch this space.

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Welcome to our new Writer & Analyst

- August 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Let’s also welcome another new member of the School of Data team, Neil Ashton.

two nmashtons

You may remember Neil as the editor of the blog’s Data Roundup for the first half of 2013. Neil has now joined the Open Knowledge Foundation as a writer and analyst and will be working on School of Data as well as other OKF projects. His mission is to improve project documentation and to bring the OKF’s work to a wider audience.

Neil is fresh out of graduate school, where he studied computational linguistics. Through his research, he has written on topics ranging from the grammar of Tocharian pronouns to probabilistic logic programming. Neil lives in Toronto with his wife and newborn son.

Neil can be reached at [email protected].

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Welcome to our new Project Coordinator

- August 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


This is a quick introductory post to welcome Milena Marin to the School of Data team.

Milena is based in London and joined Open Knowledge Foundation as Project and Workshop Coordinator for School of Data. Among others, she will be working with and supporting local partners, building the School of Data network around the world, and organising events, workshops and trainings.

Before joining us, she worked for over 4 years with Transparency International (TI) as Data and Technology Coordinator. Milena led the documentation of legal aid provided by TI’s Legal Advice Centres, ensuring an effective use of technology during this process, as well as supporting local partners with their data collection and analysis challenges. She was also responsible for coordinating and promoting the use of technology and the development anti-corruption solutions and tools across the TI Movement.

You can contact Milena at milena.marin [at] or and follow her on Twitter.

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The Latest from the School of Data

- July 3, 2013 in Data Blog

School of Data is currently reworking the concept of community mentorship. The link to the community mentor signup form in the post below has been disabled, pending presentation of the new concept.

A bumper edition of the Latest from School of Data!

Travels Galore

  • Data Diva Michael Bauer, and OKF’s International Community Manager Zara Rahman completed their whirlwind tour of Latin America to meet the Data Lovers of the Continent and launch the Spanish language School of Data. Read about what they got up to on the OKFN blog

  • Meanwhile, Lucy was at the InfoActivism camp, for an incredible week of learning about how activists use technology. There are tutorials (many, many tutorials), blog posts and writeups from the data expedition on mapping Key Points in South Africa at the camp (the first data expedition to involve real bloodshed [explanation – coming soon]) in the pipeline.

We’ll attempt to squeeze our brains dry of everything we learned and document it for you but in the meantime, follow the #ttccamp13 hashtag and Tactical Tech (@info_activism) for tips in 140 characters from brave and brilliant folks at the camp.

Hola – Escuela De Datos!

Since the launch – many organisations have been in touch to ask how they can also start their own version in their country. We’ll be publishing a local groups guide soon – so watch this space!

Get Involved

Community Mentors

Our call for our pilot cohort of Community Mentors will stay open until Friday, then we’ll get rolling on kitting them out to ghostbust data trouble around the globe.

Haven’t had chance to sign up yet? Here’s your opportunity.

Data Roundups

We’re looking for a new volunteer (or a team to take it in turns) to take over the weekly Data Roundups from Neil Ashton, as he manages with small baby!. If you are interested – please let us know on schoolofdata [at]

A very busy week for Ask.SchoolofData.Org – here’s just a few of the questions which have been asked and need your help!

Thanks to new faces Andrew Duffy, “OpenSAS” for their help both in asking and answering!

From the blog

Ciao for now!

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