Mapping co-ops and their relationships

Moved from the introductions topic:

@chris, thank you for your kind words about my map :slight_smile:

I love maps … but the data has to come before the map. If we have machine-readable, distributed data, accessible over the internet, then the same data can power many applications, including maps. That is why I’m concentrating on data, rather than maps, and why I think that the Linked Open Data technologies are very exciting.

For those interested in geographic mapping, i recommend you look at the work of Transformap, and join in the TransforMap discourse forum. I have also been working with them on Linked Open Data.

Doesn’t already use Leaflet/OSM? Certainly the first map on the home page seems to.

I have looked at the software for developing co-op diagrams, but as above, I’m more interested in data that can be used for many applications, rather than embedding the data in a particular representation - in this case a box/arrow diagram.

I think it would be great to map the network.

There’s been a suggestion about adding a new ‘project’ content type to the main co-tech website to track which co-ops are collaborating on what. It could include project value, services provided/technologies used, etc.

I think there would also be some value in mapping the skills, experience and aptitudes for individuals in CoTech so we can more easily find appropriate collaborators, etc.

I’d be very interested in getting involved with this and I dare say Open Data Services and Cetis would be interested too.



1 Like

I love a good map and have helped build a bunch. coops + maps would make me very happy. I’m well up for helping with such a thing.

Perhaps a first small step could be to add a little more structure to the wiki entry for each coop on and use that?

1 Like

Media wiki is a bit rubbish for unstructured data. I’d suggest WordPress
which is surprisingly fine.

@mattw do you have an example of the sort of days you would want to collect?

@harry wondering if you meant “structured data” and “data” rather than days?

What about Semantic Mediawiki for structured data? I’m not an expert but thought that was a good match for linked open data?


I’m no expert either, but Semantic MediaWiki is the first thing I’d investigate if I were looking for a wiki for storing structured data.

If you look at the Linked Open Data (easiest to read in Turtle) that I have, courtesy of the co-ops Uk dataset, for Agile Collective, for example:
you can see that there’s not much there - that was all I needed for an experimental voyage into the world of LOD.

The interesting things (to me!) are the links to other data sets:

  • Link to Ordnance Survey using Postcode, enables us to get (approx) lat/long (and many other things too)
  • Link to Companies House using registered number allows us to get at a load more info.

Another thing that would be good to add to the data is the Co-ops UK Organization ID, which you can see in the CSV data on the above link (and in the URI that uniquely identifies the resource “Agile Collective” in my dataset).

Would be great to get coop data in - it’s open source and built by Outlandish & TABLEFLIP & Shared Assets, and is intended to pull together and visualise the open data on the UK. Its more focused on land data, but it’d be reasonable to coop location & skills in there.

1 Like

Point. Gildedsplinters is entirely ‘distributed’ as is our work; UK, India, Malaysia, USA currently eg.
Perhaps some form of ‘reach’ overlay?

As you say, it all depends what the intended use is for the data. Off the top of my head, here are a few geographic questions that could be asked:

  • Does the co-op provide its services at/to a particular location? i.e. What is its geographic domain of operation? (e.g. “reach” of a veg-box delivery scheme)
  • Where do the members of the co-op work? (e.g. the co-op may have one or more places of work)
  • Where can I go to trade person-to-person with this co-op? (e.g. a shop/outlet)
  • Where is the registered office? (Best answered via a link to the data held by the registration authority).
  • What similar organizations are near to a particular co-op?

Some, all, or none of these may be meaningful for any particular co-op, depending on what it does.

I did a prototype for the last question (similar organizations nearby) in my map-app: If you want to try this, find a co-op with a red icon (which means that it is registered with Companies House), click on the icon, then click on “similar companies nearby”, and it will run a SPARQL query on Companies House Linked Open Data, and using Ordnance Survey Linked Open Data to give a result like this one for Agile Collective. As I say, it’s a prototype, but I think it illustrates the power of using Linked Open Data, and linking to other datasets, rather than duplicating data in your own dataset.

Loads of work has been done on representing and querying geographic data, e.g. by OGC. I expect that the data structures/queries needed to define a “domain of operation” are lurking somewhere in GeoSPARQL.

I think the best patterns are those that serve an existing need. If you can winkle something into a living system, then it is much more likely to evolve.

To that end, what do you reckon about a piece of data which is a work agreement for a specific contract between coops.
It could start out super simple, sometime like

  parties: [ 'TableFlip', 'Protozoa' ]
  author: 'mixmix',
  agreement: "
    For the next 2 weeks, we're gonna work on making a map for coops. We 
    will each pay ourselves 500 NZD, and that's it!

This sort of thing might sound stupid, but having a written record of casual agreements is really important. It points out how vague I might be, and also gives us something to reference back in time.
The plus side here is that you can see exactly who is collaborating with who.
This side-step the problem of “oh yeah, the map is stale again…who wants to update it?” which I’ve seen so many initiative die on.

There are implementation details about how we can keep important data private to the parties involved, if that’s important. In terms of hosting something like this, I’d be keen on a decentralised platform (with no global singletons).

p.s. Hi, I’m Mix, I’ve met a few of you before. I hail from New Zealand, I’m an Enspiral member, co-author of Loomio, and have just started a tech coop called Protozoa.
I’m an active crypto-social-anarchist in the scuttleverse. I do things like programming, education, and facilitation.


I wonder if we should be inviting Colm Massey from ISE (data specialist) and/or Karen Christiansen into this community/conversation? They have been doing some work on data mapping of coops …

at the risk of repetition, I’m thinking that it might be still a very good idea to consider the formats of the mapping data to be gathered, and ensure it is as portable / interoperable / open as we can make it, all before someone starts putting hours in to this good work?

It is motivating to produce something that can be reused by others in other co-operative ways, maybe ways that were not envisaged to begin with.


To my, non-ubertech, mind this seems a good NB

1 Like

It feels like there are a couple of threads in here :

  • what data and what format is useful for now and the future
  • how much are people prepared to invest in open data commons

Openness and decentralisation have a cost (in my experience). For example,
do people value it enough to pay for it, either with some server, or with
installing a piece of software on their computer?

I’m all for it, but am technical. I think whatever solution is proposed
would be better if it doesn’t need more passwords + logins, and can be
close to other useful tools / flows.

1 Like

Hi @Sion. I’m the person at ISE who has been doing most of our work on data and mapping, so no need to invite Colm on those grounds. But it would be good to see him here anyway! I’ll suggest to him that he joins.

1 Like

Contracts are definitely good candidates for data. It brings up a basic question for me:

  • How do we know that ‘TableFlip’ here is the same as ‘tableflip’ that appears in some other dataset, which may well have been developed independently of this contract data?

I realise that your example was given as a sketch; I am taking this as an opportunity to mention something that I feel is important and fundamental. I make no apologies for using this as an opportunity to say more about Linked Data (you may notice a pattern in my posts!)

If we were modelling this using Linked Data, then instead of the string ‘TableFlip’, we’d have something like

This is a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier). It is globally unique. Although it looks like a URL, it is just a string that identifies the thing ‘TableFlip’. CoTech has the right to ‘mint’ URIs in its domain. If it is a well-behaved URI, then it will also be dereferenceable - i.e you can get a useful response when you GET it over HTTP: a human-readable response if a web browser asks for HTML, and machine-readable response (e.g. JSON, and many other formats) if a computer program asks for machine-readable response.

By inserting this URI into our data, as opposed to the string ‘TableFlip’, programs that use this data can ‘follow the links’ to other information about TableFlip, which may also be presented as links … to yet more information. In this way, a Web of Data is created.

It is also possible that the best source of Linked Data about TableFlip actually is available through a different URI. For example

In that case, we’d have Linked Data that declares that both URIs refer to the same thing. Things can have more than one name (identifier).

Yes. A couple of threads, at least! I’ve suggested that a category for Data or Data & Mapping is created: Forum Categories - #4 by mattw . Although it may be that we have to create new threads before that will happen.

Yes. The question about investment is pretty crucial. In espousing the virtues of using Linked Data, I’m also aware that there’s a learning overhead, and more time is required to put something in place that is intended for general use, rather than for the use of a single application. I’m certainly right behind the idea of an open data commons, as a key infrastructure layer to support digital tools for the Solidarity Economy, and can invest some time to this end.

1 Like

Hey @mattw, pretty sure we’re on the same page. I’d go further with the linked data - it should be the hash of a message, so that it’s a content-addressable location, not a URL :stuck_out_tongue:

The system I’m running (scuttlebutt) for a bunch of my business already has this built it. Would love to nerd out about it if you’re keen sometime.