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ODI Leeds at Leeds Digital Festival 2017

Our incredible week as part of Leeds Digital Festival 2017

From Monday 24 April to Saturday 29 April, we hosted a series of events as part of Leeds Digital Festival. This was our second year participating as a venue and organiser, and we more than doubled the number of events on offer at our innovation space.

It would not have been possible without the generous support of sponsors for the festival, so we'd like to thank OpenDataSoft for sponsoring our Showcase event, and thank IBM for sponsoring the whole week, which enabled us to supercharge ourselves, and offer innovative and informative events, talks and training open to everyone. Thank you.

  • Paul Connell of ODI Leeds
  • OpenDataSoft
  • Jeni Tennison
  • Tanja Lichtensteiger

Returning again this year, we started the week with our Showcase. A full write up can be found here but in a nutshell - it was awesome. From VR data demos to improving performance with data at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, flexible data platforms to a sprawling internet-of-things network for the people. No matter how many times we hold events like this, we are always blown away by the support and energised by learning about new projects and seeing new faces. It just reinforces the fact that Leeds' digital culture is always growing and changing, bringing more exciting work to the city and making it stand out. It is a privilege to be involved in that vibrant digital ecosystem, and our Showcase is a way to not only strut our stuff, but highlight the hard work of our friends and collaborators.

Tuesday was a space take-over by DWP Digital, who held an all-day workshop. The evening was then given to a festival special of Leeds DevOps. Always a popular meetup, the festival special tends to draw an especially exuberant crowd and this session was no exception. Ian Masingham was the first speaker, with plenty of new Amazon Web Services developments to talk about, followed by Chris Urwin to talk about the Rancher platform.

  • Nick Efford facilitator
  • Open data exercise

Wednesday was a day for knowledge, a chance to deliver some of our ODI world class training - we held two taster sessions of official open data training! Facilitated by Nick Efford, our ODI-certified trainer, eager students were taken through 'open data in a half-day' in the morning, and 'finding, preparing, and visualising data' in the afternoon. The morning covered aspects such as what is open data, how is it licensed, what makes it open, and why some data can never be open, whilst the afternoon got down to more practical but essential considerations, such as cleaning and sorting data before using it. Open data has great potential for businesses and organisations alike but people need to be equipped to understand and use it. As data continues to grow as part of the digital world (data scientists are increasingly in demand and are some of the highest paid in the industry), so too must people keep up with it lest they risk losing business or losing trust.

  • Alex Craven of Bloom
  • Rob Wilmot of Corwdicity
Photos - Leeds Digital Festival

The Wednesday evening was a late addition to the schedule of Leeds Digital Festival events - we had a week to promote Innovation, Innovation, Innovation and still managed an impressive crowd. With a top lineup of speakers, it was a no-brainer really. Paul Connell, founder of ODI Leeds, was joined by Alex Craven of Bloom and Rob Wilmot of Crowdicity. Rob's name might sound familiar - he was one of the founders of Freeserve! Each one had a story about innovation and how they approach it within their organisations. You can view Paul's slides here and you can view Rob Wilmot's slides here.

Video - Leeds Digital Festival/Zimovi

Thursday was another take-over day, this time with Leeds City Council using the space for an innovation lab focusing on helping the elderly lead healthy independent lives. Part of the 100% Digital Leeds initiative, there was a particular emphasis on digital services that could help. Participants were split into groups and then buddied with a developer (our own Stuart Lowe included), working through the morning on the concept. Developers were then left to work on a proof-of-concept or prototype whilst participants sat through a series of inspirational talks, including Professor José Iparraguirre from AgeUK to present the results of their well-being research. Ageing, and the provision of care for the elderly, is a hot topic at the moment. Nothing is certain in regards to funding and social care, so could digital solutions help?

Friday was the last full day of our events schedule, so it had to have fireworks. Well, not literally but we did have lights, camera, and action instead - in the form of our first ever live-stream! The Open Data Institute has a series of Lunchtime Lectures that it regularly holds in its offices in Shoreditch, live-streaming out to the rest of the world. But for Leeds Digital Festival, we planned and hosted our very own Lunchtime Lecture and live-streamed down to London (and beyond)! Tom Forth, head of ODI Leeds Challenge Team, was invited to talk about his experiences of using and creating open data, taking us through his findings from the Leeds Bin App and spotting traffic patterns with a cheap smart phone mounted on a tripod (the Mini Car Counter).

The afternoon was devoted to setting up for Algorave. Tables and chairs were all cleared to make way for the dancefloor, screens were suspended from the ceiling to act as canvasses for the digital art, and speakers the size of a person were somehow squeezed into the lift and then shuffled into place. People started to arrive, ready to have their ear drums blown and their minds opened. Algorave is certainly a unique experience, pushing the boundaries of electronic music. The coders are in control at all times, wrangling the algorithms as needed. Visual artists work alongside them, casting abstract shapes that bend and morph to the will of the music.

  • Algorave
  • Algorave
  • Algorave
  • Algorave
  • Algorave
  • Algorave
Photos - Leeds Digital Festival

On Saturday, we welcomed folks to the Live Coding Music Workshop, hosted by the same coders from the Algorave the night before. Participants could learn how to use code to make algorithmic music, focusing on FoxDot, ixi-lang, and TidalCycles as code environments.

And so ends another fantastic Leeds Digital Festival. More than 400 people joined us physically over the course of the week, thousands more virtually, part of a festival that drew thousands to the city. We look forward to the next one!

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