Home > Publications > NDL Newsletter > No. 200, June 2015

National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 200, June 2015

Ideathon "Let's make maximum use of the NDL's web page":
NDL Open Data workshop

Digital Information Distribution Division and
Research and Development for Next-Generation Systems Office,
Digital Information Department

This article is a translation of the article in Japanese of the same title in
NDL Monthly Bulletin No. 649 (April/May 2015).


1. Introduction

"Ideathon ‘Let's make maximum use of the NDL's web page’: NDL Open Data workshop" was held in the Tokyo Main Library of the National Diet Library (NDL) on February 21, 2015, aiming at promoting the use of various data available on web pages of the NDL. This article introduces the workshop, as well as the national promotion of open data in recent years.

To the head of this page

2. What is open data?

Open data is released with explicit conditions for secondary use (reuse, redistribution) in a machine readable data format. Currently the national government, local governments, universities and research institutions promote open data in Japan. Open data of the national government and local governments is recognized as a way to realize the active open government movement1 of recent years. The G8 leaders adopted the Open Data Charter in the June 2013 summit. The Japanese government is in process of opening its data by establishing the Open Government Data Strategy in July 2012 and the Roadmap for Promotion Open Data in Electronic Administration (in Japanese) in June 2013.

To promote the use of open data, it is important not only to publish data but also to involve the ordinary citizens and software developers. These days, various events are being held in many places in Japan such as workshops called "ideathons" to create ideas for use through discussion and "hackathons (a blend word of "hack" and "marathon")" to develop applications in a short period, and application development contests using open data. With the aim of fostering momentum toward open data, International Open Data Day is held, featuring related events on the same day all over the world: In February 2014, related events took place in 32 cities in Japan and a total 194 cities all over the world.

What is "ideathon"?

  • Coined word by blending "idea" and "marathon"
  • A workshop where people with diverse backgrounds gather, discuss a certain topic and create a broad range of ideas in a short period, with the following principles in mind:
    - Don't criticize other ideas
    - Imagine freely
    - Join in the ideas of others
    - Don't pause for reality checks

To the head of this page

3. NDL's efforts for the open data

The NDL has been working on the open data, too. In September 2014, it released a webpage on open data (in Japanese) to show the contents of various open data provided by the NDL and the terms of use. In January 2015, it put about one million bibliographic information records in the National Diet Library Digital Collections downloadable in an open data set (electronic files in xlsx and tsv formats). Since FY2013, the NDL has participated as a data providing partner in the Linked Open Data Challenge Japan (in Japanese), a competition which calls for and encourages by rewarding a wide range of approaches for publishing and using open data.

The NDL Open Data workshop is one of these endeavors for open data. We held the workshop to contribute to promoting open data in Japan, on the same day as the above-mentioned International Open Data Day.

To the head of this page

4. NDL Open Data workshop

In the workshop, an ideathon was conducted under the topic "How to make full use of various data on the NDL's website?" As mentioned above, an ideathon is a new word coined by combining "idea" and "marathon" and means an event where people with diverse backgrounds gather, discuss a certain topic and create a broad range of ideas in a short period. It was the first such event held at the NDL, and we expected about 20 participants. However, beyond expectation, we actually received applications from over 30 people including students, librarians and company employees. Including the NDL staff members, a total of 45 people in seven groups participated in the event.

In the first part, an NDL staff member outlined the data in the NDL website including the NDL Search, Web NDL Authorities (in Japanese), NDL Digital Collections, RESEARCH NAVI, Collaborative Reference Database (in Japanese), etc2 . Next, participants split into groups according to discussion topics, wrote down on pieces of paper ideas for utilizing data, and shared the ideas within the groups.

<<Idea sharing in groups>>

<<Various ideas jotted on pieces of paper>>

Then, an introduction of existing tools and applications for smartphones using the NDL's data was given by Prof. Takashi HARADA (Doshisha University; Adjunct Researcher of NDL). Prof. Harada took the "Obtaining sheet and search sheet for NDL's bibliographic data," "Kindigi Reader (reader for the Digital Library from the Meiji Era)," "Digital reading support system" and "Extension for Digital Collection with Taggy Bank" as examples, and explained various measures for promoting the use of data, such as allowing easy download of data, making user-friendly display on smartphones, and combining with other institutions' data or other types of data.

<<Prof. Harada>>

Reference: Existing tools and applications using NDL's data (in Japanese)

Obtaining sheet and search sheet for NDL's bibliographic data
MS Excel sheets which enable obtaining bibliographic data of the NDL by inputting ISBN
Kindigi Reader
Application for viewing the contents of the Digital Library from the Meiji Era (Kindigi) easily on the small display of smartphones
Digital reading support system
Tool for displaying notes and columns linked from text images of digital materials
Extension for Digital Collection with Taggy Bank
Application to create mutual links among the NDL Search, NDL Digital Collections, and CiNii Books

In the latter part, participants further developed the ideas in a 90-minute group discussion. Everyone worked hard to deepen discussion by confirming details of data with the NDL staff in the group. After the discussion, each group presented the outcomes, and a popularity vote was held by all the participants. The event ended with Prof. Harada's comments on the whole program.

Some of the ideas produced in the workshop

  • "Concept mind log" which visualizes the related information of media and art works (parodies, prizes winning, film adaptation, etc.) using authority data of the Web NDL Authorities
  • "Casual digital collection" which allows the easy use of NDL Digital Collections in social media
  • Application to recommend relevant books from users' feelings posted in Twitter, by giving feeling tags (e.g. sleepy) to the reference cases in the Collaborative Reference Database

Handouts distributed and outcomes of the ideathon are available in the NDL Lab (in Japanese).

To the head of this page

5. Conclusion

The workshop received positive reviews from participants, and some said they were looking forward to taking part in the next workshop. The NDL will further proceed with the open data to make use of the outcomes of this workshop.

Feedback from a participant

"I took part in an ideathon for the first time. Before starting, I was a little bit nervous but looked forward to seeing what ideas are produced and how they are put into practice. My group dealt with such keywords as the Soke monjo (documents of the Soke (So clan)) [NDL Call no.: WA1-6-1 to 40] and educational materials, and created an idea of "Game of Life in the Edo period." I had never thought of that idea before the event. This is the fruits of active exchange of ideas by the participants with diverse backgrounds. Other groups also generated attractive ideas. I fully enjoyed the ideathon. I will further develop various ideas using NDL's website."
(Mr. Yu SATO, a graduate student in literary history at the Graduate School of Letters, Doshisha University)

To the head of this page

  1. The open government movement aims to enhance transparency of the government and local governments, and to realize government by dialogue and cooperation with citizens.
  2. In this event, these data were assumed to be open data, although not all of them are open under the existing conditions.

To the head of this page