Code the City 12 – Tourism

The Challenge

Tourism is vital to the local economy. While loads of tourists pass through Aberdeen we could do so much more to make it a destination of choice.

The featured image above is how we used to attract tourists to Aberdeen. How should we do it now? What role does design, marketing, technology or data play in new interactions with tourists?

Who should attend?

Anyone – despite our name, coding is a small bit of what we do.

Of course, coders, data wranglers, designers and other techies are important to a hack weekend.

We’d be delighted to see you if:

  • You work in the tourism sector, operating attractions, providing accomodation or other services
  • You have identified a problem with service delivery, or see an opportunity to do things better!
  • You have an interesting in service design
  • You work or study in the creative industries
  • You have experience as a tourist in Aberdeen or anywhere else
  • You are someone who wants to do more with data but isn’t sure where to start
  • You are a student (of any discipline)
  • You are someone who wants to improve the local area, or use digital and skills to improve local services
  • You are from the third sector or local government
  • You work with mapping, GIS, or location data
  • You are curious about learning new techniques and skills to use in your day job, and finally
  • And, of course, if you are a developer, designer, UX expert, data wrangler, coders, or service designer

So it’s a Toursim hack?

Yes – we’ll be identifying opportunities and barriers to making Aberdeen City and Shire a destination of choice for tourists, creating projects, teams and prototypes to address those. Some of those will turn into coding projects – and some will all be about research, service design and paper prototyping.

Timings

The event will run Saturday 9.30am to about 5pm, then Sunday 9.30 to about 4.30pm.

What happens over the weekend?

* identification of opportunities and barriers

* ideation to address those

* creation of project teams to work on those

* agile prototyping of solutions, so that by close of play Sunday we will have demonstrable solutions which could be developed into real worls products or services.

But, a ticket will cost £5 (*)

What do you mean, it’s not free? CTC is usually free!

At CTC 11 in December we broke with a tradition established over the previous 10 events and charged a small amount to attend. The reasone was that in a couple of recent CTC events we had higher than normal numbers of people booking free tickets and not showing up. That meant we over-catered, and despite our best efforts we had left-over food, which is a bad thing and wastes money too.

So, we attached a monetary value to the ticket (* backed up by our promise that those attending would get their  money back when they showed up). And it worked. The bookings didn’t go down. Fewer people dropped out. We didn’t waste food and we banked the money that went unclaimed. A few generous individuals recognising our new charity status even refused their money back, which was nice.

Tickets

You can get tickets here (on Eventbrite).

Location & Getting There

We’ll be at the Sir Ian Wood Building at Robert Gordon University’s Garthdee Campus. You can get a No 1 bus from King Street / Union Street which will take you into the campus and drop you at the door. Or you can get a No. 2 bus which will drop you at the gates to the campus.

If you must drive, then parking is free and open at weekends on campus.

Sponsorship

Robert Gordon University will be sponsoring this event. We could do with another sponosor or two to make sure we cover all costs. If you would like to sponsor it, get in touch with @codethecity on Twitter.

We look forward to seeing you in February!

Ian, Steve, Andrew and Bruce.

Code the City

Registered Charity in Scotland: SC047835

An open letter to Aberdeen City Council

It has been well documented that there is a problem with Aberdeen City Council and their approach to Smart City and Open Data in particular. See these posts, these requests and this github page from a project at CTC11, where we tried to help fix things. Today, a Finnish researcher on Smart Cities posted this on Reddit!  International reputation? What international reputation!

Now it appears that in the relaunch last week of the Aberdeen City Council website, the council has ditched masses of content. This includes the city-wide What’s On which was until recently the most heavily-used part of the council website and which provided an extremely useful community resource.

More digging – well Googling of some popular terms for council website content  and functions – returns nothing but 404 errors. See the list below for some examples.

When, in 2006 when when the site last underwent a major update, the small team took just six months on the transition, beginning to end. No content was lost or broken, and with URL rewriting and redirects they ensured that everything worked on day one.

The council have been working on the current relaunch – on and off as managers were swapped around or were dispensed with – for two years! And the mess of the site, with massive holes in content and functionality,  far outweighs the much-improved look and feel.

So, what is the plan to restore content, much of which is a matter of public record?

We, as tax-payers, have paid for the creation of functionality and information which is of significant public use. So, where has it gone?

For example where is:

Don’t the citizens of Aberdeen deserve better than this?

Maybe someone would care to make an FOI request to the city council – to ask what data the decision-making on transfer of content and functionality was based on, and get a copy of the website stats for the last three months? I think they are fed up of me.

Ian

What can I do at Codethecity 11?

We’ve had loads of positive comments that CTC is returning on 25-26 Nov with a Christmas themed hack weekend.

Other than at our very first CTC weekend, we’ve tended to have a theme – health, culture, sport etc. Those themes have put some shape around the weekends’ activities and helped people to identify challenges to work on, projects to tackle and solutions to develop. Which is great.

Who should attend?

Anyone – despite our name, coding is a small bit of what we do. We’d be delighted to see you if

  • You are a service user, or service provider, who has a problem with service delivery, or sees an opportunity to do things better!
  • You have an interesting in service design,
  • You are someone who wants to do more with data but isn’t sure where to start
  • You are a student (of any discipline),
  • You are someone who wants to improve their local area, or use digital and skills to improve local services,
  • You are from the third sector or local government,
  • You are curious about learning new techniques and skills to use in your day job, and finally
  • Of course, if you are a developer, designer, UX expert, data wrangler, coders, or service designer.

What to expect

For many of our serial-attendees, they know what to expect and how we work. So they are happy to go with the flow. If you haven’t been to a CTC event before, having a look at those links above will give you an idea of how things go.

Some others have asked ‘why no theme this time?’ – perhaps expecting a more traditional service-type theme.

Well …… there is a theme: FUN.

If you come along, you can interpret that pretty much as you like!

Tell me more

Here are some examples, of some suggestions that we’ve heard. How much fun you consider them is a personal matter!

  • Bruce has been posting about how he would like to crowd-source a guide to fun things to do in Aberdeen.
  • Andrew has let it be known that he wants to work on his arduino-powered mini-theatre – and you would be welcome to work on it too.
  • Steve is threatening to take some robot-artist device for you to programme to sketch rude pictures with.
  • Ian has suggested that his classmates from RGU get stuck into a resurrected project to scrape FOI data.

There also have been mention of building a Raspberry Pi-powered hadoop cluster, citizen-science style home data scraping kits and a whole bunch more.

Maybe you want to create some software to write (and tweet?) its own cracker-style jokes. Or a platform to lobby councillors to provide better open data, or anything else [We said fun – Ed].

It is entirely up to you. But as you think up some ideas, you might want to consider two things:

  • Will you manage to pitch the idea at the opening session to others so that they will work with you on it? Building a project team is much more productive than working solo on something. To do the latter you could stay at home.
  • Would it impress Santa? If you want the funny old fellow to reward your efforts you need to impress him, spread a little happiness, or make something that improves lives.

And, finally …..

If you don’t have an idea to bring, that is cool too. We’ll start the Saturday with some pitch sessions, so listen to others and join a team to work on their project which inspires you.

Don’t delay, get a ticket now! Otherwise, you might be disappointed!

See you there.

Ian, Steve, Andrew, Bruce

Final presentations at CTC10 – Perth

We had four presentations at the final pitch session at CTC10.

We have uploaded these to Vimeo below (trimming them for time to just the core presentations, and eliminating intros and questions):

Team one: https://vimeo.com/236647324

Team two: https://vimeo.com/236648125

Team three: https://vimeo.com/236649327

Team four: https://vimeo.com/236650501

These brought an enjoyable and productive couple of days to a close.

Well done to all participants involved!.

CTC8 – Chatbots and AI -final presentations

After two days of intense activity and a whole heap of learning for all of us, Code The City #8, our Chatbots and AI weekend came to an end at tea time on Sunday.

It couldn’t have happened without the generous sponsorship of our two sponsors: The Health Alliance, and Fifth Ring, for which we are very grateful.

The weekend rounded off with presentations of each project, four of which we’ve captured on video (see below).

Each of the projects has its own Github repo. Links are included at the end of each project description. And, two days later, the projects are still being worked on!

Team: ALISS

Team ALISS worked on providing a chatbot interface onto healthcare and social data provided via the ALISS system.

ALISS bot project : Code the City 8 from Andrew Sage on Vimeo.

You can find Project ALISS’s code here on Github.

You can also watch this video of Douglas Maxwell from the Alliance being interviewed about the weekend (although at the time of writing the video is offline due to an AWS problem).

Team: City-consult

This team aimed to make the quality of consultations better through using intelligent chatbot interfaces to guide users through the process – and to provide challenge by prompting citizens to comment on previous consultees’ input.

City-Consult bot project : Code the City 8 from Andrew Sage on Vimeo.

You can find the code for City-Consult at this Github repo.

Team: NoBot

The concept for NoBot came from an initial idea which was of a bot which would make scheduling meetings easier. That spawned the idea – what if the Bot’s purpose was to make you have fewer meetings by challenging you at every turn, and in the process the bot’s personality as a sarcastic gatekeeper was born.

NoBot project : Code the City 8 from Andrew Sage on Vimeo.

The code for Nobot lives here on Github.

Team: Seymour

Sadly there is no video of the wind-up talk for Seymour. In short the purpose of Seymour is to help you keep your houseplants alive. (More details to come).

You can find the code for Seymour at this repo on Github.

Team: Stuff Happens

We started this project with the aim to help citizens find out what was happening in the myriad of local events which we each often seem to miss. Many local authorities have a What’s On calendar, sometimes with an RSS feed. None we found had an API unfortunately.

We identified that by pulling multiple RSS feeds into a single database then putting a bot in front of it, and either through scripting or applying some AI, it should be possible to put potential audiences in touch with what is happening.

Further, by enhancing the collected data – enriching it either manually or by applying machine logic, we could make it more easily navigable and intelligible.

Expect a full write-up of the challenges of this project, and what progress was made, on Ian’s blog,

There is no video, but you an find the project code here on Github.

Team: W[oa]nder

This project set out to solve the problem of checking if a shop or business was still open for the day through a Facebook bot interface – as you with wander around, wondering about the question, as it were.

W[oa]nder bot project : Code the City 8 from Andrew Sage on Vimeo.

You can find their code here.

And finally we were joined by Rory on day two who set out to assist team Stuff-Happens through developing some of the AI around terminologies or categories. That became the:

Word Association Scorer

This is now on Github – not a bot but a set of python functions that scores a given text against a set of categories.

And Finally

We had loads of positive feedback from those who attended the weekend (both old hands and newbies) and from those who watched from afar, following progress on Twitter.

We’ve published the dates for CTC9 and subsequent workshops on our front page. We hope you can join us for more creative fun.

Ian, Andrew, Steve and Bruce
@codethecity

CTC8 – Thanks to our sponsors

Code The City Weekends would not happen were it not for the generosity of our sponsors.

As we approach CodeTheCity #8 we must recognise two organisations who have backed this event.

The first is The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) who is sponsoring the event through its ALISS Programme.

The ALISS Programme is excited to be sponsoring and attending the Code the City, AI and Chatbots hack weekend. This area of our work allows us to test concepts and prototype real world solutions to problems like; how does a person who is living with sight loss access the great local resources available on ALISS? Or, how does a person who finds it challenging to use normal desk-based computers access the local support available through ALISS? We will hopefully test these types of problems at the hack weekend and follow this up with a blog on our work.

ALISS Logo
ALISS Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Please follow the Alliance and their work on Twitter: at @ALLIANCEScot  @ALISSProgramme or the hashtag search for #ALISS .  If you are attending the weekend please make sure you hook up with @DouglasMaxw3ll and have a chat to him about the great work that his organisation does.

Our other main sponsor is Fifth Ring.

contact___fifth_ring

Fifth Ring is a marketing and communications agency in Aberdeen, Houston and Singapore with a big focus on digital and inbound marketing. Fifth Ring is already experimenting with conversational interfaces for some of their client work.

If you are attending the weekend please make sure to say hello to Steve Milne or Alan Stobie to discuss some of the great work they do.

You can find Fifth Ring on the web, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

 

Scraping Goes Off The Rails

This post was originally published on 10ml.com by Ian Watt

The art of scraping websites is one beset by difficulties, as I was reminded this week when re-testing a scraper that I built recently.

Schienenbruch

 

Railway performance

As part of my participation in 100 Days of Code I’ve been working on a few projects.

The first one that I tackled was a scraper to gather data from the PDF performance reports which are published on a four-weekly cycle Scotrail’s website. On the face of it this is a straightforward things to do.

  1. Find the link to the latest PDF on the performance page using the label “Download Monthly Performance Results”.
  2. Grab that PDF to archive it. (Scotrail don’t do that – they vanish each one and replace it with a new one every four weeks, so there is no archive).
  3. Use a service such as PDFTables which has an API, uploading the PDF and getting a CSV file in return (XSLX and XML versions are also available but less useful in this project).
  4. Parse the CSV file and extract a number of values, including headline figures, and four monthly measures for each of the 73 stations in Scotland.
  5. Store those values somewhere. I decided on clean monthly CSV output files as a failsafe, and a relational SQLite database as an additional, better solution.

Creating the scraper

So, I built the bones of the scraper in a few hours over the first couple of days of the year. I tested it on the then current PDF which was for period nine of 2016-17. That worked, first creating the clean CSV, then later adding the DB-write routines.

Boom – number 1

I then remembered that I had downloaded the previous period’s PDF. So I modified the code (to omit the downloading routine) and ran it to test the scraping routine on it – and it blew up my code. The format of the table structure in the PDF had changed with an extra blank link to the right of the first list of station names.

After creating a new version and publishing that, I sat back and waited for the publication of period 10 data. That was published in the middle of this week.

Boom – number 2

I re-ran the scraper to add that new PDF to my database – and guess what? It blew up the scraper again. What had happened? Scotrail had changed the structure of the filename of the PDF – from using dashes (as in ‘performance-display-p1617-09.pdf’) to underscores (‘performance_display_p1617_10.pdf’)

That change meant that my routine for sicking out the year and period, which is used to identify database records, broke. So I had to rewrite it. Not a major hassle – but it means that each new publication has necessitated a tweaking of the code. Hopefully in time the code will be flexible enough to accommodate minor deviations from what is expected without manual changes. We’ll see.

We’re ‘doing the wrong thing righter’ – Drucker

Of course, none of this should be necessary.

In a perfect world Scotrail would publish well structured, machine-readable open data for performance. I did email them on 26th November 2016, long before I started the scraper, both asking for past periods’ data and asking if they wanted assistance in creating Open Data. I got a customer service reply on 7th December saying that a manager would be in touch. To date (15 Jan 2017) I’ve had no further response.

The right thing

Abelio operates the Scotrail franchise under contract to the Scottish Government.

Should the terms of such contracts not put an obligation on the companies not only to put the monthly data into the public domain, but also that it be made available as good open data – and follow the Scottish Government’s on strategy for Open Data ? Extending the government’s open data obligation to those performing contracts for governments would be a welcome step forward for Scotland.

CTC7 – Health – Final Presentations

These are the six presentations made by the teams at the conclusion of Code The City 7, Health Hack, captured on periscope.tv.

Team Float My Boat

An enhanced prototype has been created, with plans to create a more complete version. Using postcodes and mapping it would be straightforward to consume good data from elsewhere if available.

Some community centres and churches have over 100 groups operating at some point in the month. They can be hugely valuable, but somewhat invisible to the internet. Just making the existence of many of these groups visible can be a big step.

Also discussion of the importance of occupational therapists, librarians, dog walkers – many different individuals in the community that can feed valuable information into this kind of platform – important to remember that it’s not just primary care data that matters.

https://www.periscope.tv/w/1gqxvRgODoexB

Some interesting visualisations of the underlying data were also created, and led to some interesting discussions around assumptions that are made about data. Again, the value of having the experts in the room at a hack event was demonstrated, as assumptions were challenged, and analysis changed based on feedback. Such feedback can often take weeks to acquire – but was available during the presentation. A snapshot of the data is available on github, and you can see the visualisation here.

https://www.periscope.tv/w/1dRKZRLnErbKB

Team Text

phone

The team have a working prototype, with functioning logic to query the Aliss dataset and return three results vis SMS. Pulling json data from Aliss based on a query generated from the SMS exchange, and sending those results.

The team say that there is still work to do to make this production ready, and some of the language processing and logic could be improved – but getting a working prototype over the course of the weekend is a real achievement. You can see elements of the code on github.

https://www.periscope.tv/watty62/1nAKEkZeAqXJL?

Team Pomoc

The team have created a video prototype, which looks great. The full Polish translation is complete, and will be added to the video using youtube closed captions, as well as an audio overlay later.

The project is to be presented to a group of GPs later this week for feedback as to usefulness and likely impact. Code, and scripts, are posted to the team github page.

https://www.periscope.tv/watty62/1vAGRXqNVBaxl?

Team Delta Test

The limiting factor for this team has been the size of the datasets that they are working with, and the speed at which these can be moved around. Despite early setbacks with port access through the wifi (something we’re working on for the next weekend) the team were able to show some real results for the final presentation.

Some interesting findings around the geotagging, and inconsistencies that can arise. Some really interesting possible extensions to the project were discussed. The plan is to take this project ‘back to the office’ as the prototype for a full roll out to help optimise the use of lab support for GPs.

https://www.periscope.tv/watty62/1kvJpqRjjzMxE?

Team Friend Tree

This team found that overlaps between their objectives and those of other teams were significant, so concentrated on some of the more ‘marketing’ aspects of service delivery – identity, and some thoughts around messaging to bring people into the service.

Hand drawn illustrations
Hand drawn illustrations

A good example of a service that could be rolled out quickly on top of the kind of datasets being used by the Float your boat project.

https://www.periscope.tv/watty62/1eaKblAmPdnJX?

CTC7 – Health – more ideas than you can shake a prescription pad at

In the lead up to Code the City 7 we sent attendees some blank Barrier and Opportunity cards.  We asked them to complete and bring them – with a single suggestion or idea per sheet.

On arrival people were to stick them to the wall. The response was great – with an enormous display of creativity quickly assembled. Many of these suggestions grouped well together.  As we got started, five volunteers stepped forward to be the champion for one idea each, which formed the starting point of each of the projects taken forward during the weekend. You can read more about these from this blogpost onwards. Even the drawings accompanying the ideas were great – see the montage above!

But what of the remaining ideas – of which there were dozens? I read each of them and have summarised some of them – often grouping several together – below. Each of these has merit as a potential area to explore further (perhaps at a future event).

  • Find out how busy a GP practice is, before you register

This links number of a blog post I wrote recently about the ratio of  GPS to patients at Scottish Surgeries.

  • Information on GP practices

It is suggested that there is no consistency across the NHS Grampian area – with some good examples of websites and some poor.

  • Waiting times for appointments at GPs’ surgeries?

Where is the data to show which days are busier than others. How could that help patients?

  • Live Tracking of referrals to consultants

Patients, on being referred to a consultant are often left in the dark for weeks or months until a letter arrives. How could that be made transparent? Could we have a ‘track my referral’ as you would a ‘track my parcel’? How or when will you get an appointment with a consultant? Could you self select from calendar rather than get one which doesn’t suit and has to be changed.

  • Lack of data interoperability between elements of health service / Health and Social Care etc.
  • Assist GPS to do more online – self service –  online calendars for appointments  – meaning that they can spend longer with patients or reduce waiting times for appointments
  • Citizen / Patient digital literacy

How could we assist patients to use digital services as these are developed. Which also raise the issue of health literacy – how could we assist people to understand their own health – e.g. cause and effect.

  • Persuade / help GPs to get citizens to use informal / community-based support
  • A shared calendaring across NHS Grampian to share training opportunities. Much training is common but is delivered is a siloed basis.
  • Develop a common organogram showing remits, areas of operation across the formal and inform H&SC landscape
  • Address the challenges of patients being treated in parallel between two specialists, so that they don’t feel that they are being passed from pillar to post.

These ideas alone would feed another three hack weekends! If you are interested in working or these – or sponsoring a further weekend such as this, please let us know!

Bridge of Don Active Travel Hub – Innovation Day

 

Saturday 10th December from 0900 – 1600 at  Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen, AB22 8RR

Sport Aberdeen and Code the City are inviting people from across Bridge of Don and the wider Aberdeen area to take part in a full day community workshop looking at active travel ideas.  The day will consider ideas to develop an Active Travel Hub in Bridge of Don which can promote and support cycling and walking in the community.

The event will be structured across a whole day, and allowing for drop in attendance throughout the day.

You can choose to drop in either morning or afternoon – or even stay for the full day if you like.

The day will involve:

  • Identification of potential opportunities or problems relating to the siting and functionality of an active travel hub in the Bridge of Don area.
  • Group idea generation session to address each of these areas employing a variety of appropriate techniques in order to generate the best ideas possible.
  • Team and group work to explore each idea – developing these to envision what future states might be.
  • Iterative development of prototype ‘solutions’.
  • Catering (teas, coffee, juices, snacks during the morning and afternoon and a sandwich / pizza lunch) for all participants.

Please register your interest via event brite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/active-travel-hub-innovation-day-tickets-29474133928

For more detail on the event please contact Susan Fraser, Project Development Manager, Sport Aberdeen sufraser@sportaberdeen.co.uk