LoQutus and Möbius hack the library of Ghent

Event

On Saturday the 21st of March, the city of Ghent and its digital partners organized Apps For Ghent. Completely in the spirit of the ‘smart cities’ evolution, the city of Ghent brought together open data enthusiasts, developers and actively participating civilians in a co-creation event. This co-creation event, in the form of a hackathon, focused on possible new and insightful uses for the data of the library of the city of Ghent. Accordingly, the event was named “Hack the Library’.

For the first time, the data of the library was open to the public. Two weeks before the event, a ‘data dive’ was organized where the datasets intended to be released were presented. The date were related to over 35 million (anonymized) book loans over 250.000 members reading over 500.000 books. The data itself would only be available the day before the event, so the pressure was on! To make things even more exciting, Bart Rosseau, the driving force behind the open data initiative in Ghent,shared with us that we would need more than your basic home, garden and kitchen resources to tackle this problem.

Approach

LoQutus and Möbius teamed up to develop a platform to quickly extract insights from the provided data. Given the limited timeframe, the approach of a 'sandbox' environment was chosen. The platform was built using the open-source statistical programming language R and the visualization tool Qlick Sense. It allows users to navigate and explore the extensive dataset themselves and to produce insightful dashboards. Such a self-service BI (Business Intelligence) environment adds great value to the use of data to support fact-based discussions, which might steer a business (in this case the library of the city of Ghent) into a new direction. Especially in the context of a ‘smarter city’, such environments might become increasingly more popular, since they invoke discussions and allow users to support their opinions with clear and beautifully visualized data.

Setup

More in detail, we achieved the following during our participation of the hacketon:

  • We wrote code to quickly handle data cleaning steps;
  • We combined our ‘cleaning’ code with user documentation;
  • We built some very intuitive dashboards;
  • Which ultimately delivered a reproducible analysis (i.e. added value for the library and its users).

By the end of the event, this allowed us to visualize a membership dashboard with the membership number evolution between 1996 and 2015, the members per statistical sector of Ghent and the members per birth decennium. In addition, a book dashboard was also created, which shows how the loans for a particular book evolved over the years, the most popular books for a selected author and a milestone spike in 2008 for the lending and reading of ‘Het Verdriet van België’, when the author Hugo Claus deceased.

The pitch we delivered can be found on Slideshare .

Results

In the open spirit of Apps For Ghent, as a participative platform for ‘smart city’ innovation, we decided to reveal our data cleaning and the Qlik Sense configuration. You can find the data cleaning on Rpubs and the Qlik Sense configuration on our Slideshare.

A hackaton of course does not lead to a very polished result. However, the 'sandbox' approach is relevant for digital initiatives in any enterprise. Raw data can be mined for insights in detailing business requirements, for providing business value quickly and as an agile proof of concept for more robust developments. LoQutus and Möbius use this approach regularly in guiding enterprises in their digital transformation.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact us !

By Thomas Michem, Piet-Michiel Rappelet and Jeroen Colin

Check out the blogpost about hacking the library on the Möbius website!