October 2007

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This is what the liberalization of data is all about:

The Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency, in partnership with the Strategic Social Plan (SSP) of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Memorial University, developed a government and public-wide system that embraces an integrated, evidence-based approach to policy and program development through collaboration within and across government departments, and economic and social sectors. Termed the “Community Accounts“, it is the first Internet-based data retrieval and exchange system in Canada with unrestricted access to view and analyze data down to the community level. It provides citizens and policy makers with a single comprehensive source of key social, economic, and health data and indicators that would not be readily available, too costly to obtain, or too time consuming to manually or otherwise retrieve and compile.

Community Accounts


Open Access: the New World of Research Communication

The University of Ottawa Library, in association with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), hosted a public seminar entitled Open Access: the New World of Research Communication on Wednesday October 10, 2007

See here for vid.

Community Counts Logo an excellent data sharing initiative from Nova Scotia.

A community embodies a wide range of characteristics. Nova Scotia Community Counts presents socio-economic and other data that illustrate the unique nature of each community. With easily accessible information, Community Counts also allows comparisons of community resources among regional, provincial, and national levels to present a more complete picture of Nova Scotian communities.

via: Social Planning Network of Ontario’s Ted Hilderbrandt

Oh lala! If anyone want to purchase a present for me – well this is it!

Database Aesthetics:

examines the database as cultural and aesthetic form, explaining how artists have participated in network culture by creating data art. The essays in this collection look at how an aesthetic emerges when artists use the vast amounts of available information as their medium. Here, the ways information is ordered and organized become artistic choices, and artists have an essential role in influencing and critiquing the digitization of daily life.

Contributors: Sharon Daniel, Steve Deitz, Lynn Hershman Leeson, George Legrady, Eduardo Kac, Norman Klein, John Klima, Lev Manovich, Robert F. Nideffer, Nancy Paterson, Christiane Paul, Marko Peljhan, Warren Sack, Bill Seaman, Grahame Weinbren.

Victoria Vesna is a media artist, and professor and chair of the Department of Design and Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Civicaccess.ca is about liberating public data from public institutions and finding new ways to make these accessible and useful. So far we have been doing a good job talking about data access, some members on the list are doing some interesting work with postal code files and electoral boundaries, and some of us are writing on this blog to share new technologies, ideas, projects and issues. For the most part and so far cool technology and science examples are from the US and not many derive from home – Canada. Sigh! And alas this one is no different.

Everyscape is really interesting to me as it merges panoramic photographs and a building’s blueprint, a type of data and communication form I learned to draw and read in college, but is generally illegible/inaccessible to most not involved in building things. When I look at a blue print I see the 3 dimensions of a structure and its composition but it is hard to get a sense of space and the place. That’s why architects start with maquetes and sketches. Blue prints happen after that process to communicate to engineers, builders, and workmen (some workwomen) who will actualize the space. This software builds a 3d space from the plane views of the blue print – building’s map – and panoramic photos.

Within each photograph, a user can swivel through a full sphere of motion. To move users from within one panoramic photograph to the next, Everyscape’s servers estimate the locations of the cameras in each photograph and use that information to build sparse 3-D geometry that forms the building blocks for an animated 3-D transition.

The technology is not about getting somewhere it is about being somewhere. When I viewed the MIT hallway 3 MoK video, I was reminded of my architectural walking tours of old Chicago buildings, how my eye navigated the contours, paused at detail, moved through boring stuff quickly to get to a more interesting space.Everscape in MIT Technology Review

This may be a disruptive technology to the 3D viz scientists and 3d modeller geomaticians as google earth was to cartographers and GISers. Mostly though, I like the fact that it seems to make space and place data more accessible, usable, understandable and immersive. Hopefully there will be some interesting public applications!

The Whole Internet:

Yes, we map all 4,294,967,296 IP addresses onto a huge image and let you zoom into it and pan around. Just like google maps, but more internetty.

It is not what you think! It’s a visualization poling tool that shows what people think about a particular politician’s quote during an election, in this case the elections in Australia. Online opinion polls are always tricky, as they are driven by how the question is framed, the media outlet that poses it, they often miss the opinions of the non connected which are often those in rural and remote areas or of lower income or particularly less connected demographic groups. Nonetheless it is an interesting way to get a sense of what a select sub section of a population – connected, urban, msn news reader, literate with new media savvyness – thinks.

Passion PulsePassion Pulse Map

Via my Favorite: Information Aesthetics


Zipskinny.com … enter a (US) zip code, get census data, and other goodies. Very nice. Does anyone know how much would it cost to pay statscanada for a license to do something similar in Canada?

From ie.blognation.com:

In a recent competition for the best idea for a webapp with an Irish focus, I was surprised to find several submissions were about citizen interaction with the public service and the Government. This set me thinking that we should not encourage the public service to build applications and sites but to build APIs for our data.

The key word is “our”. There is still a strong belief in the public service that somehow they own our data whether that is a hospital telling me I can only get my son’s x-rays through the Freedom of Information act, the Ordnance Survey keeping an iron-grip on GIS data or local government publishing data in proprietary Word docs and PDFs….

[thanks for the pointer, mat]


The SPNO crafted a spreadsheet that is circulating for error detection and it inspired me to go looking for the results.

Elections Ontario has a rather crude interactive map that lacks a certain information and cartographic aesthetic Je ne sais quoi. Infographic standards aside you can click on a red, orange, green or blue section of the map and get results in a small pop up window.

Ontario Election 2007 Map

You can go below the map and select from a drop down box , your riding or your candidate and get the results.

Ontario Election 2007 Ottawa Centre Results

You can also scroll way down and see the voter turnout – an appauling 52.8 percent, a record low according to CBC News. You cannot however YET download a spreadsheet with the Riding name, Riding #, Party Name, Party Candidate, # of votes, total # of voters, % of the vote so that you can do your own global analysis. For instance which parts of the province voted more and others less and then try and figure out why from a public policy or communications process. On Election Night the Elections Ontario 2007 site was unavailable due to over demand! 🙁

Elections Ontario however lets you download the electoral district (ED) boundary maps, the ED Names and codes list, the Postal Code File by ED (.zip + .xls), transposition of electors and votes spreadsheets (.xls), the Preliminary List of Electors for the 2007, and the 107 EDs Shapefile (.shp). This is really fantastic! Dunno what the licenses are, nor are these files accompanied by any metadata but the fact they are offering these to citizens free of charge is amazing! If you get a change – do tell you new MP and Elections Ontario how happy you are about that!

As for other coverage on Election Night – October 10, 2007. I got my results from Globe and Mail Ontario Election 2007 and CBC Ontario Votes since the Elections Ontario was down.

The Globe provided a MP postal code look-up tool, and a by first and last name of your candidate look up. What I loved best however were the riding stats. They have both 2007 and 2003 riding results. At a glance on Wed. I guessed right away that the turnout was really low which was later confirmed. It also provided me with some context. It did not have an overall map, nor could I see a full provincial picture but I pretty quickly got to see who my new MP was and then go chase my son around who scared me when I got home by telling me that the party I loathe got in!Ontario Elections 2007 Globe&Mail

The CBC Ontario Votes site was not as shnazzy as the Globe’s reporting but it provided much more context, particularly at the riding level. It is also where I first read about the tragic results of the poorly marketed referendum on electoral change – MMP.

Ontario Elections CBC

Ontario Elections CBC

Ontario Elections CBC

The CBC also provides an excellent page called Ontario by the Numbers, which is loaded with data and information on voter turnout, changes overtime etc. It is doing a great job as a public broadcaster.

The Site that surprised me the most was an independent called Nodice.ca. It came up first in all searches on Election night and still today. It also did not crash as did the Elections Ontario site. It is

an independent website which contains educational resources and links for Canadian teachers and students, and information about federal, provincial and territorial elections in Canada. The site gets its information from a variety of sources, including news articles (print, televised, or otherwise), party websites, candidates, as well as from information received through online contact forms. While the accuracy of the information received cannot be guaranteed, the majority of information is sourced before it is posted. Nodice.ca is owned and operated by David A. MacDonald.

The site contained the winners per riding, only the top 4 parties though! The seat projections, opinion polls, results, a list of leaders by party overtime, links to all the parties, and so on. This is an example of an excellent citizen led initiative. Funny, because I did not know who and what this site was about I had to validate what I read with other news and data sources that I trust and which have clear accountability structures. All the sites did have disclaimers on the results they posted!

Ontario Elections 2007nodice

This is all I looked at. At home I listen to Radio Canada, and their coverage was not the best and the windup toward the elections was also not superb. I guess Ontario is also not the province of their target audience. The best windup I got was from my son, whose grade 8 English teacher had them follow articles in the Globe and write up the issues everyday. He kept me up to date. The Issue that got me talking the most was Religious Private School Funding. I do not read the French press so missed it to!

From a data, information and news perspective democracy won out. The MMP issue lost out however as the public education component was near nil! Wonder who got the communication’s contract for that one! Yikes!

Would really like to know what you followed if not covered here, more from the French Press and other grassroots blogs or sites that provided good coverage. For instance in Montreal Ile Sans Fil, Zap Québec with CivicSense RSS fed the blogs, sites, you tube video’s etc. to their portal pages during the Québec elections. Very cool!

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