The Open Data Services team produced in the first development sprint some prototype code that demonstrates that critical parts of the Local News Engine concept work at the most basic level (code on GitHub). That is to say:
1 – It is possible to produce a secure database of local planning and licensing data across two London Boroughs and turn pdf Magistrates Court lists into structured data
2 – The database can be searched for a list of newsworthy names and
3 – The geospatial information in in the data can deliver results for newsworthy places.
The first output, based on names (picture above) tabulates the data by name, with links to where the name or close matches occur across the different databases. The second output sorts by ward, dumping all results into a single html file. Even though these files are only intended to be a crude proof of concept, they simplify for me the scanning, sorting process as I think about what to write. They also give, for the first time a cross-borough, cross-data overview of critical accountability information. This data is not intended for publication, merely to point up potential story leads for journalists/reporters to follow up.
This has led to a simple article on Kings Cross Environment that I would not have spotted without Local News Engine, a basic planning story that flags a change of ownership in a local cafe in a flagship location, from an interesting independent to a Pret a Manger. I am also working with the local paper on a more substantive piece on HMO licensing that emerged from the data.
There’s a long way to go from this early proof of concept to our aim to run the Local News Engine ‘as live’ for 20 days later this year in a simulation of real practice – in particular working on how the data is filtered, displayed and used to alert journalists. As well as how easily and quickly the data is loaded as it updates at source. ODS are into the second development sprint now, informed by outcomes of the user research by Neontribe. Code is appearing all the time on GitHub. I’ll keep blogging as we go.
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