What is Labs?

We're a community of civic hackers, data wranglers and ordinary citizens intrigued and excited by the possibilities of combining technology and information for good – making government more accountable, culture more accessible and science more efficient.

We focus on making things - whether that’s apps, insights or tools. We have a strong preference for open data and free / open source software.

We're part of the Open Knowledge Foundation Network and operate as a collaborative community which anyone can join. Labs is organized through a public GitHub repository.

You don't need to be an uber-geek to participate: interest and a willingness to get your hands dirty (digitally) be that with making, testing or helping is all that's needed - though we do allow lurking on the mailing list ;-).

Principles

We have some simple community principles that outline how we function and which act as a guide for community members.

  • Openness: open data, open content, and open tools. In Labs we only make open stuff. We also have a strong preference for using open stuff but we aren't obsessed about this – if Excel or Google Docs or [insert tool] is what you use to get the job done that's ok!
  • Positive and welcoming: We're friendly to newcomers and old hands alike. Everyone was new once (and sought to reinvent the wheel!). Enthusiasm and support for others at all levels of skill and experience is important.
  • Doing: we're focused on the concrete not the abstract, making not theorizing.
  • Insights as well as apps: insights, analysis, and stories may be just as valuable as the tools and the apps.
  • More than code: designing, testing, documenting, wrangling are just as valued as coding.
  • Informal: we don't get caught up in formal processes or hierarchies. We only have process where its essential, or authority where it matters such as access to limited resources, management of shared infrastructure

Governance and Roles

Whilst anyone can participate in Labs without formally signing up, you can self-identify as an official "Member" as a way to show you are part of the community. Anyone may become a member: just sign-up!

We also have a special category of "(Official) Contributors" and "Leads". Official Contributors are members recognized for their contributions in Labs and more widely. Contributors are entitled to certain privileges, for example in relation to use of resources or in featuring projects on the site. More detail about contributors can be found below.

Leads

One or more members may act (on a rotating basis) as "leads", helping to coordinate and organize Labs activity. They have authority and responsibility for things like:

  • labs@ email address
  • Requisitioning new resources
  • Managing and delegating access to things like twitter, website etc
  • Raising and responding to issues from members and the community

The current Leads are:

Contributors

Privileges

  • Access to Labs' resources
  • Direct access to the website
  • List and showcase projects in the projects list
  • Organize Labs' events

Responsibilities

  • Build, run and support (QA, blogging, docs) something (e.g. an app or service or viz etc)
  • Ongoing participation - Contributors who can no longer actively participate become alumni!

Becoming a Contributor

You become a Contributor through a combination of

  • Contributing to Labs-associated project for a period of time and/or doing good Labs related work (e.g. building a tool or doing an analysis that is highly regarded)
  • Being recommended by an existing Contributor

You can stop being a Contributor by (any of the following)

  • Just asking!
  • Becoming inactive or uncontactable – inactive means something like no commits on relevant repos, no blog posts, no contribution on the mailing list over a period of several months
If you stop being a Contributor you remain a Member and are designated as a Contributor alumni.

FAQs

Is there a fee for being a Member or a Contributor?

Simple answer: no - there's no fee and we do not plan to have one. It is possible that at some point in the future we may want to think about this as a way to defray the costs of infrastructure if these get too large (there would be a full community discussion on the matter if this ever did come up). However, our hope is that simple donations will suffice – and if you are able to donate money or make an in-kind contribution (e.g. servers) we'd love to hear from you.

How is Labs resourced?

Labs is community based and run and its activities and management is done by its members. As such there are no staff costs. Infrastructure such as hosting and storage are provided and managed on an ongoing basis by the Open Knowledge Foundation with contributions from the community.

The Shuttleworth Foundation provided financial support to set up Labs and maintain infrastructure. We gratefully acknowledge this support and would like to say a huge thank-you to the Shuttleworth Foundation for their support here.

Shuttleworth Supported

Get involved

Join our discussion list. Here, we exchange datasets and ideas and plan our projects.


Many of us also hang out on IRC. Check out:

irc.freenode.org: #okfn

Get Hacking

Check out the projects list or the ideas page.