Tony Hirst (blogger)

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Tony Hirst is an academic in the Department of Computing and Communications at the Open University, [1] but better known for the OUseful Blog [2] on practical applications of open data.

Open University distance and research university in the United Kingdom

The Open University (OU) is a public distance learning and research university, and the biggest university in the UK for undergraduate education. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based in the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus; many of its courses can also be studied anywhere in the world. There are also a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48-hectare university campus where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1,000 members of academic and research staff and over 2,500 administrative, operational and support staff.

Open data practice of sharing data publicly and reusably

Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The goals of the open-source data movement are similar to those of other "open(-source)" movements such as open-source software, hardware, open content, open education, open educational resources, open government, open knowledge, open access, open science, and the open web. Paradoxically, the growth of the open data movement is paralleled by a rise in intellectual property rights. The philosophy behind open data has been long established, but the term "open data" itself is recent, gaining popularity with the rise of the Internet and World Wide Web and, especially, with the launch of open-data government initiatives such as, and


Notable achievements

In February 2009, Hirst and colleague Joss Winn, established WriteToReply, to re-publish the UK Government's Digital Britain Interim Report in a way that allowed readers to comment on each paragraph. This was among a number of experiments to promote greater online public participation in government consultations. [3]

In March 2009, Hirst created a technique for extracting and presenting subtitles generated from Twitter status updates in SubRip (*.srt) format [4]

Twitter subtitling is the process of using live or recorded tweets from the backchannel to create subtitles for video content. The use of 'twitter subtitling' has mainly been used to enhance the video archive of live events.

Hirst won the 2011 "Open Up" contest for his ideas about the use of UCAS data. [5] The Open Up contest was run by TSO (formerly "The Stationery Office", a publishing company that supplies the UK Government) and came with a £50,000 development fund to enable the idea. [6] Hirst was chosen by a judging panel headed up by TSO director of digital products Robin Brattel, and included artificial intelligence expert Sir Nigel Richard Shadbolt and Open University director of communications Lucian J Hudson. [7] [8]

UCAS UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities. It operates as an independent charity, funded by fees charged to applicants and to universities, plus advertising income, and was formed in 1992 through the merger of the former university admissions system UCCA and the former polytechnics admissions system PCAS.

The Stationery Office British publishing company

The Stationery Office (TSO) is a British publishing company created in 1996 when the publishing arm of Her Majesty's Stationery Office was privatised. It is the official publisher and the distributor for legislation, command and house papers, select committee reports, Hansard, and the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, the UK government's three official journals of record. With more than 9,000 titles in print and digital formats published every year, it is one of the UK's largest publishers by volume.

Robin Thomas Brattel is a technology and publishing entrepreneur from the UK, known for being the founder of Inapub Ltd., Joinin (Eventility) Ltd. and WeGoDo Inc. & Ltd.

Hirst was described as "brilliant" by The Guardian data blog for his work analysing the use of Twitter by journalists. [9] [10]

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.

Media work

Hirst has been an academic adviser and expert contributor to the BBC World Service programme Click, formerly Digital Planet. [11] [12]

<i>Click</i> (radio programme) Radio show broadcast on the BBC World service

Click is a radio programme broadcast on the BBC World Service. A sister programme of the same name is broadcast on BBC News and BBC World News television.

He was co-founder of the Open University Robotics Outreach Group, which led to the Blue Peter/RoboFesta Competition in 2001. This competition - which required children to "Design a Really Useful Robot" - had 32,000 entries. [13]

Related Research Articles

RoboCup is an annual international robotics competition proposed and founded in 1996 (Pre-RoboCup) by a group of university professors. The aim of such a competition consists of promoting robotics and AI research, by offering a publicly appealing, but formidable challenge.

Jodelle Ferland Canadian actress

Jodelle Micah Ferland is a Canadian actress.

RoboCup Junior (RCJ), sometimes stylised RobocupJunior, is a division of RoboCup, a not-for-profit robotics organisation. It focuses on education and aims to introduce the larger goals of the RoboCup project to primary and secondary school aged children. Participants compete in one of three main leagues: Soccer, Rescue or Dance. Dance Theatre also exists as a sub-league of Dance, and Premier Rescue is part of the competition in Australia. is a collaborative weblog devoted to the works of Joss Whedon. Submissions of new content ended on August 21, 2017, following the publication of an open letter by Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole. At its inception in 2002, Whedonesque covered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but expanded to follow Whedon's professional output, as well as the careers of cast and crew associated with Whedon projects. Since 2004, the site has been recognized in other media outlets by awards and citations of Whedon's writings originally posted to Whedonesque.

Randall Munroe creator of the webcomic xkcd

Randall Patrick Munroe is an American cartoonist, author, engineer, scientific theorist, and the creator of the webcomic xkcd. He and the webcomic have developed a large fanbase, and shortly after graduating from college, he became a professional webcomic artist.

There are a number of competitions and prizes to promote research in artificial intelligence.

Nao (robot) small humanoid robot developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics

Nao is an autonomous, programmable humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company headquartered in Paris, which was acquired by SoftBank Group in 2015 and rebranded as SoftBank Robotics. The robot's development began with the launch of Project Nao in 2004. On 15 August 2007, Nao replaced Sony's robot dog Aibo as the robot used in the RoboCup Standard Platform League (SPL), an international robot soccer competition. The Nao was used in RoboCup 2008 and 2009, and the NaoV3R was chosen as the platform for the SPL at RoboCup 2010.

Apache Wave

Apache Wave was a software framework for real-time collaborative editing online. Google originally developed it as Google Wave. It was announced at the Google I/O conference on May 27, 2009.

RoboCup Standard Platform League

The RoboCup Standard Platform League (SPL) is one of several leagues within RoboCup, an international competition with autonomous robotic soccer matches as the main event.

Blain|Southern is a contemporary art gallery with branches in London and Berlin. It was started in September 2010 by Harry Blain and Graham Southern, who had sold their previous gallery, Haunch of Venison, to Christie's. The gallery was originally at 21 Dering Street, but moved to 4 Hanover Square, London W1, in October 2012.

Doctor Octoroc American chiptune musician

Levi "Doctor Octoroc" Buffum, is an American chiptune musician and pixel artist based in Philadelphia. Drawing influences from 80's pop culture and beyond, primarily video games from console systems made by Nintendo, the artist initially gained notable Internet recognition in December 2008 with his chiptunes album of Christmas songs arranged in the style of different Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games, entitled 8-Bit Jesus.


DARWIN-OP which stands for Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence–Open Platform is a miniature-humanoid robot platform with advanced computational power, sophisticated sensors, high payload capacity, and dynamic motion ability developed and manufactured by Korean robot manufacturer Robotis in collaboration with Virginia Tech, Purdue University,and University of Pennsylvania. DARWIN-OP has twenty degrees of freedom [20 DOF] each controlled by a DYNAMIXEL MX-28T servo motor. The MX-28T has a stall torque of 24 kgf·cm and a 360 degree range of motion.

BBC Redux is a BBC Research & Development system that digitally records television and radio output in the United Kingdom produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation. It has been operating since 2007 and contains several petabytes of recordings and subtitle data. It is notable for being the proof of concept for the Flash video streaming version of the BBC iPlayer.

A Twitter bot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API. The bot software may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, re-tweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts. The automation of Twitter accounts is governed by a set of automation rules that outline proper and improper uses of automation. Proper usage includes broadcasting helpful information, automatically generating interesting or creative content, and automatically replying to users via direct message. Improper usage includes circumventing API rate limits, violating user privacy, or spamming.

Starfury Conventions is a company that run several yearly science fiction conventions in the United Kingdom, as well as conventions for other genres. The conventions always take place during a weekend, starting with registration and opening ceremony Friday evening, and ending with the final party Sunday evening. Three ticket types are available Standard, Gold and Child, with prices on the door usually around 10 GBP higher. All tickets include an autograph by all the guest actors, unless otherwise advertised.

Moneyfarm is an online investment advisor and one of the largest digital wealth management companies in Europe, regulated by the FCA (UK) and Banca d'Italia (ITA).

Common Sense was a magazine of left-wing theory published in Edinburgh, Scotland from 1987. It ceased publication in 1999. The creators of Common Sense aimed to be minimalist in its production.


  1. "Biography at Arcadia Project". Arcadia Project. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  2. Tony Hirst. "OUseful Blog" . Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  3. WriteToReply (Tony Hirst and Joss Winn) (2009-02-05). "What's it all about?". WriteToReply Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
  4. Tony Hirst (2009-03-08). "Twitter Powered Subtitles for Conference Audio/Videos on Youtube". OUseful Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  5. Tony Hirst (2011-04-06). "Blog Post From Tony Hirst, OpenUp Winner 2011". TSO OpenUp Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  6. "OpenUp – TSO Launches Open Data Challenge with £50,000 Development Fund" (Press release). TSO. 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  7. "UK Digital Technology takes another step – Open Data | Lucian J. Hudson, Director of Communications, The Open University – personal blog". 2011-03-26. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  8. "OpenUp Panel Chair Robin Brattel, shares the panel's 'judging thoughts' « TSO Open.Up Blog". 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  9. Simon Rogers (2011-04-11). "UK journalists on Twitter: how they all follow each other". Guardian Data Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-11. The brilliant Tony Hirst on his blog Ouseful has [...]
  10. Tony Hirst (2011-04-10). "UK Journalists on Twitter". OUseful Blog. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  11. "BBC World Service Programmes - Click 01/02/2011". 2011-02-01. Retrieved 2011-05-05. In the first of a series of programmes on openness, Tony Hirst of the Open University joins Gareth Mitchell to discuss these ideas, looking at open source, open data and open standards.
  12. "Digital Planet investigates the history of the PC". 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2011-05-05. Dr Tony Hirst from the Department of Communication and Systems at The Open University and academic advisor for the series [...]
  13. "The Blue Peter – RoboFesta Robot Design Competition". 2001-03-23. Retrieved 2011-05-05.