Belfast Telegraph

Code4Pizza events make it much easier to get where you’re going

By Jase Bell

In June this year the government made a big push on launching data.gov.uk, a website that contains public data that developers could use.

It was part of a transparency programme for the UK public sector that also involves the ‘fathers’ of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, and Tom Steinberg.

Open data isn't a new idea. The US has had various data available for years and, if you think about it, the now common-as-muck RSS feed was the start of opening data out to the masses.

The data currently available at data.gov.uk is vast. My personal favourite is still ‘abandoned shopping trolleys in Bristol rivers’, though I'm racking my brains as to what type of app or website would make use of the |information.

Having all this data is fine, but you still need developers who know what they are doing, and that are willing to spend the time to create applications that will make use of it.

Code4Pizza is an event that usually runs monthly. Organised by Matt Johnston, it brings together developers, designers, and other creative-minded types to create something for the common good. In return for your time, brain power, and creativity you get well fed with a selection of pizza and soft drink.

More to the point, there are some interesting applications in the pipeline. The first using data kindly supplied by Translink. The bus stop locations and timetables of the Belfast bus service might not sound that exciting, but to the curious, great things happen. A few weeks ago I saw a demo by Mark Breen and his Android-based mobile application that used the timetable. Mark's an accountant with an interest in software development, but his application was great on many levels.

As well as Translink data, there are other projects on the cards. OpenLiveNet is an initiative by Mencap to help children and adults with learning difficulties to use information technology. There's also a mooring mobile app in development where the proceeds go back to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). All great ideas with purpose and willing to give something back — a perfect combination in my eyes.

If you have an idea for some software that will benefit everyone, then I would suggest that Code4Pizza is a great place to start. You don't have to be a software developer. Even if you aren't in Belfast, it shouldn't stop you getting involved. Though Translink gave Belfast data away, I've worked on an iPhone application to gather up locations of bus stops in other areas of the province. I made it open source and put it up on the internet so anyone can add, improve, and start using it.

Code4Pizza will be demonstrating some of the work going on at Showcase Conference in Derry on September 16.

Belfast Telegraph

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