Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 2): Building an Open Source Website

The previous post explained why a streamlined structure for organising cultural event data is necessary for creating an open data source and what currently is offered in terms of a method for this type of event schema.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Benjamin Beker)

Once a standardised method of tracking cultural event data online is decided upon, it can be utilised by any organisation that aims to add others’ event data to their website or downloadable app. All this related data has to be stored somewhere, and most websites store data in databases. There are several options available; some you might already have access to if you have Microsoft’s Office Suite, which includes Excel and Access, and some are free, like MySQL, an open source database. In addition, if you do not already have a website, there are several user-friendly methods of creating your own website either from scratch or using site-provided templates. Excellent sites that allow users to create their own websites are WordPress, Drupal, Blogger, Google Sites, and Jekyll.

Additionally, there exists online software that focuses on facilitating open data websites, such as CKAN and DKAN. Both CKAN and DKAN are mostly utilised in government-related websites, not events or culture-related data. Currently, the UK government uses CKAN alongside Jekyll, which is primarily a blogging platform, just like WordPress and Blogger, and the US government uses CKAN alongside WordPress. CKAN is built using the Python programming language, while DKAN uses the PHP programming language. DKAN is preferred by those who already use PHP or Drupal since users do not have to learn a new system or programming language. DKAN has many of the same functionalities as CKAN, and it’s seen as a complimentary offering to CKAN.

Whichever platform is chosen to build an open data website, the standardised vocabulary discussed in the previous post needs to be utilised in the website’s HTML to document all cultural event information. Most websites allow users a choice of editing the HTML either as text  or through a more user-friendly interface. The text version is necessary for embedding the metadata for the cultural event data. While this may seem intimidating for those who do not have a programming background, it really is a simple task.  All that is required is the addition of tags around the pertinent information.  The difficult task is deciding upon a standardised vocabulary!

Have you thought about creating a website listing cultural events data or adding cultural events data to your current website?  What types of problems have you encountered?  Please leave your comments below!

In the next post, we’ll take a look at some of the apps that are possible when you have access to cultural event data that is also open data.

Read the previous post: Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 1): Background for Creating an Open Data Source for Kent Cultural Events

Bridging the Gap Between Data & Audiences (part 1): Background for Creating an Open Data Source for Kent Cultural Events

One of the main goals of Culture Kent is to provide a streamlined method for cultural events to be listed online. This will provide many opportunities for broadening the potential audience, publicising cultural events, and including smaller organisations. However, there are many steps required before this becomes a realisations.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Manu Palomeque)

First, all potential cultural organisations need to use the same terms to describe variables such as their customer, event type, date, time, duration, and location. When listed on a website using HTML, the code all websites are written in, these terms will have property tags. Common HTML tags are, used to indicate the start of html code, and , which indicates an image. As you can see, HTML tags let webcrawlers (they are on the internet and an read websites) know what types of elements are used in a website.

Even more specific tags can be used, and these are called metadata. Like HTML tags, they need to be consistent to make it easy for webcrawlers to identify similar tags. So when an event is listed online, additional tags can be included in the HTML. These types of tags would enable organisations to easily find cultural event data on websites and include the events to their own websites’ calendar of events and potentially build apps to engage audiences and develop a datapool of cultural event information that is accessible to the public (open data). Although great things are possible, there still needs to be a standardised method of attributing cultural events data online.

Currently, schema.org already provides some vocabulary for Event Data, cultural events might require more specific or additional terms. Culture Kent is working with Deeson and a Steering Group chaird by Visit Kent to try to figure out how to best create a standardised vocabulary for cultural event data.

Have you run into similar problems of creating a schema for your events data?  Do you know of any other schema that might be useful?  Please leave your comments below!

The next post will examine various technologies that are being considered and how they work towards the our goals.

Cultural Data Research in Europe: Data Pools for Offering Cultural Events on Websites

Culture Kent is not alone in its aims to centralise cultural events data. Other European countries also have conducted research or developed applications that enable a global audience to access their cultural data and events. Providing audiences with access to data covering cultural events offered by a many organisations requires a data pool, or a centralised repository of information.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Benjamin Beker)

In Germany, CultureBase is a online database listing all cultural events, addresses and cultural active persons in Germany. Enabling its users to choose between German and English. this system can reach a broader audience, which ultimately can increase the number of tourists that can access Germany’s cultural information.

In contrast Kultur-online is only written in German. Information on this site might also be beneficial to travellers, but as it covers cultural events in German-speaking countries such as Austria, Switzerland and Southern Germany, perhaps offering information only in German will appeal to a specific audience.

In the area around France and Germany, Info-Culture.com is available in French or German and provides several search options (type, location, category, date) for searching cultural events in the region around Strasbourg and Lorraine in France and Badem-Württemberg, Germany .

Italy also has an online community for major art events in the main Italian Cities. Exibart Art Community, only offered in Italian. was also designed to share ideas and information on art and culture among researchers, students, artists, and the general public.

For cultural events across Europe, EuroNews Agenda has many language options and offers a calendar of major art exhibitions and other cultural events in different countries. Information can be accessed by country or region, making it easy for the user to find events that interest them.

Although these are just a few examples of how cultural events data pools are used in Europe, it is evident that these data and websites are important for many countries in informing people around the world about their events. The potential to gain new visitors and audiences is high, but a lot of time and effort is needed to gather this data. It is encouraging that Culture Kent is not alone in recognising the importance of sharing cultural data with a global audience.

Image Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary (photo: Nick Gutteridge)

Tracking Down Cultural Data in Kent (part 2)

The last post talked about how difficult it is to define the categories of “cultural” data and decide what information to collect. This post is all about the problems of gathering information from lots of different sources. A much more detailed explanation can be found in the Culture 24 report – available to download at the bottom of this post.

“The mapping exercise attempted specifically to identify sources that either aggregate cultural data or publish aggregated cultural data” (Culture 24 report p9).

So how is data aggregated? And how is it published?

As the report outlines, there are three main ways to gather information:

  • Collect and input it yourself
  • Get people to input their own data
  • Automate the process

There are pros and cons with all three methods. Collecting it yourself is time-consuming (therefore expensive), and there is no guarantee the information is fully accurate. If you want to get people to input their own data you need to give them a very good reason for taking the time – so you have to prove your website(or other digital platform) reaches more people, or a specific group of people, than they can reach through their own sites. Automation can be useful but it can be costly and you still need to have a good, ongoing relationship with the providers.

And once you have the information? Online data sources themselves need to be marketed, so the way the information is presented may be:

  • Targeted at people with a particular interest (e.g. folk music or visual art)
  • or Centred on a geographical location (e.g a directory of information for local people or the tourist attractions of a specific town or city)
  • or For people with common needs (e.g. families).

Some sites just list the venues or organisations, while others include event information too.

In deciding how to collect and present data, Culture Kent will prioritise the way that best delivers the intention to increase the number of visitors to Kent’s cultural organisations.

Read the full report here: CKP Culture24 Data Mapping Research FINAL

Read the previous post: Tracking Down Cultural Data in Kent (part 1)

Tracking Down Cultural Data in Kent (part 1)

Culture Kent wanted to find out what cultural data is already available to people. We know that there is an enormous amount of information freely available on the web, from events listings to individual cultural organisations’ websites. What are the barriers preventing all that information being brought together in one place? We commissioned Culture24 to give us an overview of the situation and the next three posts are a summary of some of their findings.

So what is Cultural Data? We are thinking of information related to the following categories:

  • Comedy
  • Dance
  • Festivals
  • Film and Animation
  • Museums & Exhibitions
  • Cultural heritage sites
  • Live Music
  • Poetry & spoken word
  • Theatre & performance
  • Visual Art
  • Talks (if related to one of these other categories)

Hopefully, anything else you might think of will be a sub-category of one of these main groups. For tourism purposes, we might want to include other venues like nightclubs, bars, pubs and restaurants – but for the moment we are sticking to the categories above (unless one of those events is taking place in a nightclub, bar, pub or restaurant… confused? you will be!)

Now we’ve defined our categories, we can look at what kind of information is out there. There are really two sorts – functional information and cultural content. Generally, cultural ‘content’ is created information that is owned by, or attributed to, its creator. This includes digitised collections, editorial, user reviews or comments, photos, videos, and podcasts. Whilst this content is often used alongside venue and events listings data to make things more interesting for the audience, we are excluding any purely content-driven sources of information from our work.

At the moment, we need to keep things as simple as possible so we are focusing on the information about what is happening, when and where. We think there is core information we need to collect for every event.

  • Up to date opening hours/event timings and entrance rates
  • Accurate geo-locations
  • Name and a basic description of the venue or event
  • Venue or event website url
  • Breadth of coverage of relevant domain

Research shows that people like to easily find information about well-known places first – this gives reassurance that quality information is available. But people also want to find out about new, interesting and slightly different options.

Having got the basic information of a good range of venues and activities, it is then important to provide interesting and useful information. Listings might, therefore, include:

  • A relevant/interesting/appealing image, cleared for use, at the required size and resolution
  • Subject tags to facilitate discovery, personalisation and sharing
  • Target audience information
  • Detailed, audience-appropriate, descriptive copy
  • Direct route to booking service (if relevant)
  • ‘Special offer’ or discount information
  • Additional venue information (if relevant), such as:
    • Venue facilities (e.g. disabled access, parking, cafes, gardens)
    • Venue services (e.g. education or identification services, wedding or conference hire)
    • Exhibitions (e.g. permanent and temporary)
    • Collections (e.g. overviews of collections, key exhibits, key artists)
    • Resources (e.g. loan boxes, bookable learning sessions, books, podcasts, websites, leaflets, games, and teachers’ packs)
    • Associated events/venues
    • Associated content – video/audio/text

So, this is the kind of information we are looking to collect. In the next post, we’ll look at what is available already (online and in print) and how that information is currently gathered.

The full report is here for downloading

CKP Culture24 Data Mapping Research FINAL