OpenData needle work: stitching together the local debate

The views expressed here are mine, and mine alone, and not my employer’s (DCLG) official policy or opinion


I’m sure you’ve heard about the Government’s localism agenda.  It is at the core of shifting power into the hands of individuals, communities and local authorities.

For this to work, I think we’ll need new and smarter ways for citizens, communities and public service providers to work together and solve real-world problems.   I’ve been wondering about the potential role for on-line technologies here  – in particular social media.   This led me to one obvious key question, which is: to what extent is the debate and pro-active collaboration already happening in different localities, via tools like Twitter or  Facebook?

To help answer that, I’ve used some of my spare time over Christmas to build a new prototype application.   At its core, is a register of news feeds and twitter streams provided by all English local authorities, and several hundred hyperlocal sites.

At the time of writing, I’ve catalogued around 350 news and twitter feeds from local councils, and over 400 equivalent feeds from the hyper-local world.   To find out more about the sources I’ve used, please see the section below.

The application then uses this register to “read” individual feeds, highlight trends  and show you the latest tweets and news articles.  I’ve called the app “drumalism”.  You’ll find it here:

Where next for the app and data feeds register?

As with my previous prototypes, I’ve developed drumalism in my spare time, using my own equipment.  This really is a “one man and his dog” operation: where the dog is Lillie, my Bassett Hound, who is usually wrapped around my computer chair with a “when are we going out” expression on her face.

I’ve licenced the app and data registry under Creative Commons’ NonCommercial-ShareAlike (v3.0), so you’re free to re-use it on those terms.  I hope that what I’ve done serves as a good example of what can be done to join-up established sources of news and opinion in different localities.  It would be great to see similar sources and tools incorporated in Local Authority and hyperlocal sites.

Currently, I have no plans to develop drumalism as a commercial venture, but please do get in touch if you’re interested in exploring that further.

Drumalism – data sources

The feeds registry behind drumalism comprises four main as Google Fusion tables.

1.  A list of all English Local Authorities – fusion table ID 2456608 .  I’ve sourced this from Local DirectGov, adding in grid references by geo-coding the main office address.

2.  A list of twitter, RSS,  facebook and open data feeds provided by Local Authorities – fusion table ID 2455274.   I’ve developed this myself, by manually trawling through local authority websites.

3.  A list of hyperlocal sites – fusion table ID 2452252.  I’ve sourced this from the list at, and then extended it to incorporate additional sites I’ve uncovered as I developed the application.

4. A list of twitter and RSS feeds provided by hyper-local sites – fusion table ID 2455251.  Big thanks again here to OpenlyLocal for providing the initial list, which I then manually checked and extended.

3 responses to “OpenData needle work: stitching together the local debate

  1. This is excellent – love it! And developed in your spare time as well. I like the way you’ve presented Facebook on a map. Do you plan to do the same with Twitter?

    Are you attending #UKGC12? If so, this would be a great session topic.

  2. Pingback: Drumalism – great new app from @SemanticTourist | markbraggins·

  3. Great stuff Steve!
    So at the moment it takes Twitter feeds from local authority accounts right? I guess 1 option to get local citizen views would be to also pull in hashtags for each authority e.g. #Lewisham or which contain the authority name with the hashtag e.g. #lewishamroadworks
    No idea if that would work or can be done of course!
    Hope all is good.


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