Governments have embraced Open Data initiatives in the last decade to increase data accessibility and improve data sharing. However, assessing the impact of Open Data from the perspective of different user groups is challenging. Some Open Data portals offer discussion forums and online forms for user input, and user stories. However, there is no standardised way to compare user feedback across the different Open Data initiatives. Feedback mechanisms, regardless of form, serve the same purpose: allow citizens to have a say in how government data is used and accessed.
Feedback is a key element to promote circularity in Open Data initiatives. When an Open Data initiative has a circular trait, it promotes the reuse of data rather than generating new data. If the organisations behind Open Data initiatives do not take into account the feedback from users, for example, they may not be aware of existing datasets that should be improved to promote reuse.
Direct and indirect user feedback clues in Open Data Portals
Direct user feedback can be collected through online, paper, or in-person interviews. Also, we can review user comments. User comments can be found in various places, such as social media, review sites, and forums. These comments can give insights into what users like and don’t like about the Open Data Portal.
The user feedback for an Open Data Portal can be indirectly obtained with analytic tools such as Google Analytics. Analytics tools can track how users interact with the Open Data Portal. This can include tracking what pages are being viewed, how long users spend on the site, and what search terms are used.
Additionally, there are a few ways a user can give feedback for an Open Data Portal:
Use the Feedback Form: Most Open Data Portals have a feedback form somewhere on the site that users can fill out to provide feedback.
Contact the Portal Administrator: If there is no feedback form, users can try contacting the administrator of the Open Data Portal directly to provide feedback.
Use Social Media: Another option is to reach out to the Open Data Portal on social media and provide feedback that way.
Social media is an interesting source of information. The access to the users’ comments in social networks can be automated but their use for discovering user feedback is less straightforward if we compare with, for example, Google Analytics. What can we do to extract user feedback on Open Data Portals from social media?
Social Media as source of user feedback in Open Data Portals
As a first step to study user feedback and to explore how to stimulate users’ engagement, we have analysed as part of our research in ODECO user feedback on social networks. Twitter is a commonly used platform by stakeholders and is accessible for systematic study. Our work published in Linking Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries 2022, Italy has analysed the buzz around Open Data initiatives on Twitter, and proposed a technique for collecting a set of variables that identify the main characteristics of Open Data initiatives and the Twitter activity around them. This has allowed us to identify connections and trends among open data initiative organisers, providers, and user groups.
Conclusion: If you are not the administrator of the data initiatives, you don’t have direct access to the logs and analysis of analytic tools, or that the preparation of surveys is complex and, sometimes, with little success. Therefore, the most pragmatic and objective way to analyse feedback in different open data initiatives, is to analyse comments in social networks. Lastly, by analysing user feedback, by being circular, Open Data initiatives can better understand the user experience and identify areas for improvement.
Abdul Aziz, Early Stage Researcher