The movie will be up shortly on the conference’s website. Enjoy!
On Saturday and Sunday, I worked on the “Political Colours” map of Romania (in fact, a wannabe geo-spatial database for any and all kinds of data that you can divide up to the commune or village level). This was part of the Open Media Challenge hackathon organized by “the Sponge Media Innovation Lab”.
Before the event
When I first heard about the idea back in May, it seemed like a great opportunity to make an inventory of the existing data sources and the licenses they can be used under. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the “let’s distribute them freely [as in free content]” part turned into “let’s put them on the web with a big fat disclaimer and hope no one calls the police”. So the whole idea was a big failure from this point of view.
The organizing committee worked in total secrecy, ignoring the public mailing list created for this kind of discussions and showing a very original approach to the concept of “openness”.
During the event
The hackaton was organized in The Bucharest Polytechnic. Saturday morning was the day when students came to register before the school year (or something like that), which meant that the venue was full of people. Fortunately, the rooms were clearly marked with arrows – or so I thought. In fact, they forgot to mark the most important room – the rendez-vous point. 🙂 No biggie, somebody had left their phone number on the marks so I was able to find the place quickly.
The actual organization of the event was quite good – wireless Internet, coffee, juices and water at will, pizza for lunch and sandwiches in the afternoon. There was always someone around to help us with any organizing issue.
The people participating could be divided into 3 categories:
- Coders – very realistic, result driven people, just like you would expect. My team was especially lucky to have an equilibrated age structure – both young students and more seasoned professionals.
- Journalists – the only thing I could tell about them is: over dressed and over enthusiastic. Some of them seemed to be so focused on opening the government data that they were ignoring even the most basic rules of personal data protection. The phrase “it’s public money, so you need to have your data public if you want some!” seemed to be their motto.
- Others (activists, curious bystanders and even business people) – this category is probably too broad to characterize as one. Each one had their own ideas, plans and objectives. Some of them were interesting people, others not so much (read: useless hipsters)
After the event
On Sunday we were invited to a bar in the Old City to present each team’s achievements and to have some more presentations from “interesting” foreigners. To me, it was extremely boring, so I gave up and left after about an hour (and missed the moment when the jury announced we had won :P). Again, the catering was pretty good.
Overall, I think the OMC was a little more than a waste of time. Less talks and more talk (between participants) on Sunday would have gone a long way. The project I’ve worked on was in pretty good shape already, so we only fixed some bugs and imported more data. The planning was not fabulous, but it was better than in other hackathons I’ve been in. What we lacked was that one thing that would have all of us work together. We could very well work from home and have the exact same results.
At the express request of the public and almost a year late, I decided to publish the story of my trip to Asia last fall. The first part of the story is already available online at my tourist blog (Romanian only).
In all, there are 6 parts that will be published in the next 2 weeks at the same address. Next month we’ll have another article about the US! Stick around, it will be fun.
I haven’t had much time to write on the blog in the past year, but I though I should mark the new edition of Wiki Loves Monuments we’re organizing. Below is a movie on how you can contribute this year – we have a much easier method for you!
That WLM has enemies, we knew. Right here in Romania, we had some guy with a problem against RLUG which decided to write daily articles calling us idiots.
But a French photographers’ association decided to up the stakes a little, putting out a press release that says, among other things:
“Presented as a philanthropic operation, this initiative looks more like a commercial action. Indeed, the participation is conditioned by the acceptance of a CC license allowing the commercial reuse of the pictures.
Private or public entities can therefore use this pictures legally as postcards, posters, books or as illustrations in the press.
The professional photographers living from the copyrights are worried by this initiative […]”
As somebody put it on the WLM list, this means either: “some of our members didn’t bother to read the rules of the contest and discovered too late that people could reuse their work” or “There are some really good photographers out there who share their work for free so how on earth are we going to charge a lot of money for a bunch of good photos?”
What I want to point out is that in Romania, the jury is composed of members of an equivalent organization, the AAFR. We also had pictured sent by serious photographers who understood that the CCBYSA license was not a threat to their rights. It took some tedious explaining at times, but we made it.
I think it is important for all parties to understand that content contributed gratis by volunteers will never fully replace professional photographers. Fashion magazines cannot just call some volunteers to make the photos for their next cover simply because of the time constraints involved.
On the other hand, some news websites do use free content, often without attribution. This is usually resolved easily by email, as demonstrated by the recent appearances of OpenStreetMap content in Evenimentul Zilei and Hotnews, 2 very popular websites.
In the last months I, together with Nicu, have prepared an interesting project aimed to support the development of the Romanian Wikipedia. Now I can finally reveal the result: Wiki Loves Monuments România.
We are part of a European contest that takes place in September in 17 European countries. People are invited to take pictures of heritage sites in Romania and then upload them to Wikimedia Commons or Flickr under the CC-BY-SA-RO license. The 10 winners from Romania will get some prizes, then will go on to fight for the European jackpot (which is still to be unveiled).
So, whether you’re a Wikipedia contributor, a photographer or a monument aficionado, take the picture (or make a movie!) about a monument and upload it!
This summer, I’m going to be a mentor for a project in Rosedu Summer of Code, the local version of GSoC. The goal of the project is to create a way for Pidgin and LibreOffice users to send Romanian words that do not exist in the Romanian spelling dictionary to the maintainers of the dictionary. This is a continuation of my previous work on the issue with Firefox. It is also acceptable for the student to choose another application to work on.
Working with open source will mean learning to use the tools used in the project, as well as communicate with the other developers involved in the project by using mailing lists, wikis, IRC or any other mean used within the project.
Open Content, Publications, Romana, School, Wikipedia / 3 Comments
Acum două săptămâni am fost invitat să le vorbesc unor studenți ce urmează “Cursul de dezvoltare liberă” despre Wikipedia și alte proiecte libere în care am fost implicat. Am decis să mă orientez spre proiecte non-software, tocmai pentru a le oferi și o altă abordare a libertății decât cea pe care o văd la curs.
Am vorbit deci despre oportunitatea folosirii limbii române în cât mai multe din proiectele la care participă, apoi despre Wikipedia și OpenStreetMap, iar în final le-am prezentat câteva informații sumare despre licențele specifice pentru bazele de date. Prezentarea este disponibilă in format odp și pdf.
Prezentarea a fost bine primită, diferența între harta OSM înainte și după importul de date CLC smulgând câteva aplauze 😛 Din păcate s-a observat și în rândul studenților prezenți acolo o lipsă de încredere în capacitatea românilor de a produce conținut de calitate, precum și dorința multora de a pleca din România. Argumentul cel mai des folosit pentru utilizarea limbii engleze în blogurile lor a fost “pot să îl prezint unui angajator de afară”.
Un oarecare interes a stârnit și ideea mea cu o aplicație Google Apps de transfer de date între OSM și Wikipedia. Voi încerca să o pun în aplicare la următorul Coding Day organizat de PyBucurești.
Sper ca din cei vreo 20 de oameni prezenți măcar vreo 2-3 să aibă curiozitate să încerce proiectele despre care am vorbit.
De aseară, Wikipedia în limba română este disponibilă în versiune mobilă. Prima pagină este asemănătoare cu cea clasică, fiind însă adaptată la dimensiunile ecranelor mobile. Dacă aveți sugestii referitoare la această pagină, le puteți exprima în pagina de discuții.
Dacă intrați pe Internet de pe un telefon mobil sau de pe un dispozitiv gen iPad și aveți nevoie de Wikipedia, puteți folosi cu încredere http://ro.m.wikipedia.org/
After a short discussion on the Romanian OSM mailing list, I decided to write a small Python script to import the postal code data from SIRUTA into OSM, cited as demanded by law 542/2008, art. 32. As cities have multiple postal codes, I had to settle for importing data for villages, hamlets and towns. Still, over 12.000 new entries were added to OpenStreetMap. I will surely be an important resource for people wanting to use coordinates – postal codes association freely.
For people wanting to peek at the code, you can find it here. It uses the OsmApi library and a stripped version of the dbf fron INSSE (converted to CSV), containing the following fields: siruta_code, village_name, postcode, postocde_source.