Phillip Smith

Open data is wide open, says Bill Dunphy (@typist)

I had the opportunity to catch a talk by veteran “Open Data Reporter” Bill Dunphy at last week’s Online News Association Toronto meet-up. If you missed it, I’ve posted a thirty-minute video of the talk online.

Bill and I first met a few weeks ago and I was immediately impressed with the range of descriptions he applies to his work, like “A hack, a journalist, sometimes a writer” and “Tech evangelist and trainer, columnist and investigative reporter.” Humble yet accomplished, I thought.

Both turn out to be true.

Bill’s career spans some thirty years, yet he started out his talk by assuring us that he’s “not an expert” He went on to propose that “there are no open-data journalism experts in Canada,” and that the field is – pretty much – wide open to those journalists that are “not afraid of numbers or programming.”

Here are two examples of the kind of open data reporting that he and his colleagues at the Hamilton Spectator have been working on:

  • Our City: Our Information - Public data should be, not just public, but freely available and useful.
  • Code Red - Code Red is about your health and your neighbourhood.

Bill concluded the talk by proposing that journalists need to roll up their sleeves and start collaborating: with other reporters, with their communities, and with academics and social scientists – basically, with the people that have information and are looking for opportunities to share it.

Kudos to the ONA Toronto folks for organizing a solid event. Again, the whole thirty-minute talk is available to watch online.

If you’re hungry to get moving on Bill’s advice, pick up a copy of Fred Vallance Jones’ & David Mckie’s classic “Computer-assisted Reporting: A Comprehensive Primer” at your local Chapter-Indigo, and get reporting!


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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