Introducing: Data Counsel

This is a guest post from Aaron Schiff, who I recently appointed as Data Counsel at Figure.NZ. Here he explains what’s behind the title…

“I’m really excited to be appointed as Data Counsel at Figure.NZ (formerly Wiki New Zealand), and I could be your Data Counsel too. What’s a Data Counsel? I’ll explain, but first…

Figure.NZ is on a mission to democratise data by making it usable by everyone. There’s tons of fascinating public data out there, but for the most part it’s trapped in obstinate spreadsheets and clunky web tools. Figure.NZ has built some really cool software called Grace that liberates this data and turns it into friendly charts and tables, and also serves it up via an API. One of the super-talented developers, Nigel McNie, explains a bit more about Grace here.

This is really important because data only creates value when it is used. Before Figure.NZ, using New Zealand’s public data required a lot of specialised skills and knowledge. Now all you need is curiosity. This means that vastly more people will be able to use data and generate value from it.

So what is a Data Counsel? Lillian Grace, Figure.NZ’s Founder and CEO, created this term for me. It is inspired by legal counsel, who advise, solve problems, and dispense general wisdom. This is essentially what I’ll be doing for Figure.NZ, its clients and its users but obviously in relation to data instead of law. You can have your own Data Counsel too — I’m still available for hire and consulting work directly.

As well as data publishing, Figure.NZ often gets asked by companies, government, individuals, industry groups, and others for advice on how to think about or use data, and sometimes this is internal or private data that falls outside Figure.NZ’s main focus. Sometimes the guidance can be easily and freely given, sometimes it turns into a project that sees more data published on Figure.NZ, and sometimes it requires really specialised work. I’ll be helping with all of these things.

Always ahead of the curve, Lillian also recently appointed a Chief Data Officer, Andrea Carboni. The first sentence Lillian usually says about Andrea is “He’s changed my life!”. Andrea heads up all Figure.NZ’s data work full-time, guides the data team, and makes sure everything that’s published is accurate and adheres to the Figure.NZ graph usability standards. I expect we’ll be seeing lots of other organisations sprouting Chief Data Officers and engaging Data Counsel in short order.

I’m super excited and grateful to be able to help such a talented group of people who are doing important and valuable work. We have some great things coming soon, so stay tuned!”