Strategic activation of new cities

Metabolism of Cities Data Hub
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Hi all,

Hereby a discussion topic to discuss the strategic activation of new cities. This is mostly driven by Aris' active lobbying for new cities to be added (see here). While this is great, we need a bit of coordination around this. Aris, before we jump into things can you elaborate a bit on why you want them activated? Who is going to work on them? Why did they (/you) pick those cities? What should we expect the data contributors to achieve in the coming months? There are a number of places that you wanted to open the larger metro dashboard in addition to the city dashboard. What is the motivation for this?

Let me know those things and then we can make a strategic plan around the dashboard opening up workflow!

So for Zurich which is a city, I would like to activate it for a course I'll be giving this afternoon. This way during the exercise, (50+) students can populate the dashboard and understand how the mechanics of data collection and processing work. Zurich is chosen as a third case study in Switzerland because it has a great data portal and therefore it is an easy example to work on.

For the 2 other cases, it is mainly because work on some projects with the respective metropolises and would like them to use their dashboards. These two later pose more fundamental questions as they are metro areas rather than strictly cities.

In general for strategic activation, should we ask every time the reason why people want a new portal and if it remains empty for more than x months we take it out?

Hey Aris hereby my thoughts, open to your suggestions:

  • Doing exercises with large student groups is cool, BUT we should evaluate. From running the MOOC I have seen that there is a learning curve, and we get the best input from people willing to invest some time in learning. Also remember the Brussels group? We got a number of Brussels Sprout images uploaded there... which then needs cleanup from more advanced users making it questionable if this is a net-positive event. So I think it's great to try out, and by all means go wild, but please evaluate the results and report back on how much this contributed.
  • At the same time I strongly believe in the power of showcasing this in class. Not necessarily as an exercise, but merely as a demonstration of how this works, followed by an invitation to students to get involved. That way there is a self-selection filter and we get the more enthusiastic people on board. At worst no one follows up but it does mean a number of future researchers get to know the site, so still a positive outcome.
  • For the other metros that you work with, I think it is also a nice opportunity BUT again let's think about if people are really going to use it. And in fact in an ideal scenario we first get someone to commit (from your message I see you "would like" them to use it but that sounds like no one is keen yet). There are plenty of cities for them to see how it works, and all the required documentation and info is online to get started. The moment someone is ready to roll we can very easily activate a dashboard. We can also do the option of you activating them now, and deactivating later on if nothing is uploaded. But who will do that check? We lack "community engagement" capacity. If you are happy to commit to checking up on things a month down the line then by all means go ahead.
  • For the metros indeed there are some additional challenges of how to make them fit in. If the people you work with are really only interested in the metro and not city data, and they are very enthusiastic, then let's find a way around it. If they are keen to work on the city first, then let's start with that.
  • I don't want to squash your enthusiasm and marketing efforts, but I am just a bit worried about the admin and communication fallout that comes from this, and therefore want to make sure we use that capacity as wisely as possible.

Let me know what you think.

Hey Paul,

Thanks for your thoughts. very welcomed. We indeed miss some "taking stock" moments with these experiences. I'll try to answer now here below.

  • You are right the balance is not very evident to find. I think there is huge benefits to do this in a big classroom set up but perhaps we would need many at least a couple of exercises sessions to make sure you can do the whole thing. I think that the Data Hub is a great step up from Multiplicity in terms of usability in big formats. Now I'm trying to do one session on data collection and one on data processing. Ideally in the future there might also be one in analysis. As we have discussed the analysis is perhaps the one step missing for a longer term engagement and from start to finish. All in all, I would really would like to figure this format out. Perhaps we can discuss how to create a small sprint format that can be carried out in 2-3 weeks instead of 10-15 like our different online courses in order to get a taste of the platform instead of doing the whole deal.

  • I do agree, and I try to do so during workshops, and courses. However, I feel that unless you really get your hands dirty that you understand the "power" of it or can't imagine what the analysis will look like.

  • I agree, that is the way to go forward.

  • Sure that sounds quite a good idea as well. Let's wait for "really interested" first before we spend the small time we have available.

  • No, no, you are right :) You should be worried :) More seriously, I think that it is great that we try to get different users and use cases. There is going to be some trial and error and lost time but at least let's try to be more conscious about the choices.

  • We would still need to perhaps develop some guideline as to how we decided to open up portals (and maintain them).


Great Aris! Sounds all good. And yes, it would be a very good idea to try and develop these small sprints for big groups. I think it's something you should put on the to-do list for our Data Hub Priority 2021 ;-) I'm very happy to help with that.

And indeed guidelines for opening / maintaining portals will also be helpful. Let's also make that part of our workplan.

Hey Aris, I did a quick review of material uploaded so far by your students, so that we have an initial insight into the main challenges. What I observe:

I haven't done a full review and I haven't done any cleanup. But my first tentative feeling is that we should think of prioritizing quality over quantity when doing these events, and we gotta figure out how we do that. Having these initial lessons may help figure out the way forward.

(and if you have a follow-up class it would be great if you can go over these kinds of things and try and encourage them to clean up their earlier submissions, that may be the easiest way to do it!)

Hey Paul,

Thanks for the feedback and taking the time for looking at this. I will do the follow up next weeks with your comment.
I had tried to supervise as much as possible but it is very difficult to do so online.
I think perhaps there are some datasets or layers that are easier and less "dangerous" than others. Perhaps only focusing on the Flows and stocks layer might be straightforward?

For the shapefiles I do see there quite some issues. Why have you marked this one as a bad example?

For the geospatial spreadsheet, is there a format for it? Is it the one of GPS coordinates? This one only exists for Infrastructure and not for flows. Should restaurants be considered as infrastructure and not places of consumption?

Also do we consider that in flows, we do not accept a shapefile and rather only datasets to be attached to the reference spaces from Layer 1 and 3?

Noted for the non-relevant and too large files. I will touch upon these things during the next course.

Finally, quick question I see that the visualisation of the datasets of Geneva I get the loading gear spinning but no visualisation actually loads. Is this something on my side?

Yes I also think we can likely find some layers that are more suitable than others. We must just sit down and come up with this plan. But I wouldn't do just stocks & flows, that's too broad. Some very specific sublayers are likely best, things that people don't get wrong easily (e.g. water consumption for the city, emissions (totals, NOT measurements), fuel sales, etc). We must sit down to unpack I think.

That one shapefile initially had too many files (as you can see from the error). However it seems the user cleaned it up later as I now see four files so this one is currently looking good.

Geospatial spreadsheet -> yes indeed it's the GPS coordinates format. And indeed only for infrastructure. Restaurants are part of the infrastructure of the city, if you have their locations. If you have data on their sales, then it is part of flows. Whether infrastructure data for restaurants is useful should be evaluated. And indeed, flows should never be reported in shapefiles.

For Geneva please send me a link so I can review.


Ok great, this will then be discussed on Monday if we have time!

Thanks for the rest as well. Noted.

For Geneva, I have the issue with all datasets with visualisations but here is an example

Ahhh gotcha with the error, that is a bug I unintentionally introduced yesterday. It's fixed now in my code - should be online within 30 min.

Cool it works now!

Hi Aris,

I saw there are some new uploads. Is there another group of students working on things? It might be good to steer them in the right direction from the start -- the uploads seem to have the same kinds of issues as before (e.g. incorrect shapefile, irrelevant huge file, incorrectly formatted GPS coordinates, incorrectly classified as map when it's a shapefile). Descriptions are also lacking/too minimal, like we saw before. If you have a chance, it would be great to give the students some additional guidance around these specific issues.

Hi Paul,
Based on the new request to open new dashboards by new volunteers. Should we ask them to follow the data collection course first? Else some times we could get some empty dashboards that are not maintained. That also helps us to know that they are motivated enough to actually add data. This could also be a badge you earn (data collector) which gives you the "right" to start dashboards.

Hi Aris,

Yes for sure we would benefit from something like that. Ideally we would:

  • Write out a clear procedure about this
  • Have someone in charge of this kind of communication (which ideally would also include some direct emailing/messaging and following up say 2 weeks later to see how things are going, I think that would greatly increase participation and help activation)

Could you add a task for this? Would be great to have this as part of the priority plan. I think a written-out one pager that explains to people how and when to open new dashboards and what they should do would be incredibly helpful!

I made a draft page here, which can be edited here. Once it is done I will activate publicly!

OK cool. I will add a task today along with the other EW-MFA tasks!
If you have time could you check why this dataset can't get processed.

Great, thanks Aris!!

Will respond in the other thread - thanks!

Hey Aris, with regards to the procedure for new cities I could not locate a task for that. In light of the upcoming sprint I therefore added the task, see here.

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