Bromptons in Museums and Art Galleries

Every time I visit London, with my Brompton bicycle of course, I try to find time to take in a museum or art gallery. Some are very accommodating and will cheerfully look after a folded Brompton in a cloakroom (e.g. Tate Modern, Science Museum) or, more informally, in an office or behind the security desk (Bank of England Museum, Petrie Museum, Geffrye Museum; thanks folks).

Brompton bicycle folded

When folded, Brompton bikes take up very little space

Others, without a cloakroom, have lockers for bags and coats, but these are too small for a Brompton (e.g. Imperial War Museum, Museum of London) or they simply refuse to accept one (V&A, British Museum).

A Brompton bike is not something you want to chain up in the street, and carrying a hefty bike-lock would defeat the purpose of the bike’s portability.

Jack Wills, New Street (geograph 4944811)

This Brompton bike hire unit, in Birmingham, can store ten folded bikes each side. The design could be repurposed for use at venues like museums or galleries.

I have an idea. Brompton could work with museums — in London, where Brompton bikes are ubiquitous, and elsewhere, though my Brompton and I have never been turned away from a museum outside London — to install lockers which can take a folded Brompton. These could be inside with the bag lockers (preferred) or outside, using the same units as their bike hire scheme (pictured above).

Where has your Brompton had a good, or bad, reception?


Less than two hours after I posted this, Will Butler-Adams, MD of Brompton, >replied to me on Twitter:

so now I’m reaching out to museums, in London to start with, to see who’s interested.

Posted in ideas | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Four Stars of Open Standards

I’m writing this at UKGovCamp, a wonderful unconference. This post constitutes notes, which I will flesh out and polish later.

I’m in a session on open standards in government, convened by my good friend Terence Eden, who is the Open Standards Lead at Government Digital Service, part of the United Kingdom government’s Cabinet Office.

Inspired by Tim Berners-Lee’s “Five Stars of Open Data“, I’ve drafted “Four Stars of Open Standards”.

These are:

  1. Publish your content consistently
  2. Publish your content using a shared standard
  3. Publish your content using an open standard
  4. Publish your content using the best open standard

Bonus points for:

  • making clear which standard you use
  • publishing your content under an open licence
  • contributing your experience to the development of the standard.

Point one, if you like is about having your own local standard — if you publish three related data sets for instance, be consistent between them.

Point two could simply mean agreeing a common standard with other items your organisation, neighbouring local authorities, or suchlike.

In points three and four, I’ve taken “open” to be the term used in the “Open Definition“:

Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).

Further reading:

Posted in ideas, web standards | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment


I remember fondly my first unconference, UKLocalGovCamp, in Birmingham in 2009. It really was life-changing for me; the way it opened my eyes to the possibilities of disruptive innovation was the catalyst for me eventually becoming a freelancer. I made many long-standing friends, makers and activists inside and outside local government, there, too.

Since then I’ve attended many more, and have run or facilitated a good number of unconferences, and unconference-style sessions within more traditional types of events. If I say so myself, it’s something I’m good at, and I certainly enjoy it.

So I was pleased, last Saturday, to be able to spend the day in London to attend, and help to facilitate, HASLibCamp, an unconference for librarians in the field of Health and Science. That’s a relatively narrow focus, and so the event wasn’t as big as some I’ve been to, but in no way did that diminish the quality of the sessions, nor the participants’ enthusiasm.

After housekeeping and introductions on behalf of our host, the Department of Library & Information Science at London City University (CityLIS), I asked for a few shows-of-hands, and quickly determined that we had been joined by academic, commercial, hospital and public librarians, and archivists, as well as some student librarians.

I then explained how unconferences work, and invited any of them who wanted to, to give a thirty-second “pitch” for a session in which they wanted to participate, or a topic they wished to discuss.

Luckily, we had just the right number of pitches for the rooms and timeslots available, leaving two gaps after lunch, which were filled during the day with follow-up sessions. A “chill out” room was also avaialable, as was space for ad-hoc discussions and meetings.

whiteboard with list of sessions, in timetable format

The pitched sessions.

I pitched two sessions, one on ORCID identifiers (what they are, and how librarians can help to embed them in their organisations), and another – in response to a request received before the event – on Wikipedia, Wikidata and my work as a Wikimedian in Residence.

I also attended a session on what public libraries might learn about giving healthcare information, from academic libraries. Several resources were mentioned and are linked in the Storify reporting (see below). My final session was billed as being about understanding customer needs, and took the form of a lateral-thinking exercise.

Here’s a brief roundup of coverage elsewhere:

I’m grateful to the Consortium of Independent Health Libraries in London (CHILL) for sponsoring my attendance at the event (a condition of which was that this blog post be written).

Posted in local government, reviews, volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An open letter to Rupa Huq, MP, regarding official Parliamentary videos

Dear Dr. Huq,

I have been very interested to read about your recent call for an end to the prohibition on the use of footage from official parliamentary broadcasts in satirical programmes, made at the behest of your brother-in-law and constituent, the television personality Charlie Brooker.

Rupa Huq 2015

Rupa Huq

I was equally disappointed at the stance of the (Conservative) Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, who said:

it is very important that we make sure the coverage of this House is use in an appropriate way — I am not in favour of it being used for satire programmes.

He is wrong, because satire is not an inappropriate use of such footage, which is made with public funds.

But the right to use it in satire is not enough — we should all be able to use it wherever we want, freely. For example, on Wikipedia, for educational purposes. And for that reason, it should be made available under an “open licence”, allowing anyone to use it, for any purpose (subject, of course, to existing laws such as those on decency and defamation), with the only requirement being to attribute the source. (I have written previously about what open licensing is and why it should apply to media about politicians.)

Please take up Mr Grayling’s suggestion, and pursue your campaign with the Commons’ administration committee — but please don’t limit your request to the right to satirise. Please push for full open licensing.

Thank you.

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Documenting public art, on Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a number of articles listing public artworks (statues, murals, etc) in counties, cities and towns, around the world. For example, in Birmingham. There’s also a list of the lists.

Gilded statue of three men

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch (1956) by William Bloye.
Image by Oosoom, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are, frankly, not enough of these articles; and few of those that do exist are anywhere near complete (the best is probably the list for Westminster).

How you can help

I invite you to collaborate with me, to make more lists, and to populate them.

You might have knowledge of your local artwork, or be able to visit your nearest library to make enquiries; or to take pictures (in the United Kingdom, of “permanent” works, for copyright reasons — for other countries, read up on local ‘Freedom of Panorama‘) and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, or even just find coordinates for items added by someone else. If you’re a hyperlocal blogger, or a journalist, perhaps you can appeal to your readership to assist?

Practical steps

You can enter details of an artwork using the “Public art row” family of templates. A blank entry looks like:

{{Public art row
| image =
| commonscat =
| subject =
| location =
| date =
| show_artist= yes
| artist =
| type =
| material =
| dimensions =
| designation =
| coordinates =
| owner =
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata =
| notes =

(change “yes” to “no” if a particular column isn’t wanted) and you simply type in the information you have, like this:

{{Public art row
| image = Boulton, Watt and Murdoch.jpg
| commonscat = Statue of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, Birmingham
| subject = ''[[Boulton, Watt and Murdoch]]''
| location = Near the House of Sport – Broad Street
| date = {{Start date|1956}}
| artist = [[William Bloye]]
| type = statue
| material = Gilded [[Bronze]]
| dimensions = 10 feet tall
| designation = Grade II listed
| coordinates = 52.478587,-1.908395
| owner = [[Birmingham City Council]]
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata = Q4949742
| notes = <ref></ref>

Apart from the subject, all the values are optional.

In the above (as well as some invented values for illustrative purposes):

but if that’s too complicated, you can just enter text values, and someone else will come along and do the formatting (experienced Wikipedians can use the {{Coord}} template for coordinates, too). If you get stuck, drop me a line, or ask for help at Wikipedia’s Teahouse.

What this does

The “Public art row” template makes it easy to enter data, keeps everything tidy and consistently formatted, and makes the content machine-readable, That means that we can parse all the contents and enter them into Wikidata, creating new items if required, as we go.

We can then include other identifiers for the artworks in Wikidata, and include the artworks’ Wikidata identifiers in other systems such as OpenStreetMap, so everything becomes available as linked, open data for others to reuse and build new apps and tools with.

Posted in Birmingham, hyperlocal, Uncategorized, volunteering, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

United Kingdom parliamentary URL structure: change needed

In Wikidata, Wikipedia’s sister project for storing statements of fact as , we record a number of unique identifiers.

For example, Tim Berners-Lee has the identifier “85312226” and is known to the as “nm3805083”.

We know that we can convert these to URLs by adding a prefix, so

by adding the prefixes:


respectively. We only need to store those prefixes in Wikidata once each.


The in August 2014,
picture by Henry Kellner, CC BY-SA 3.0

The United Kingdom Parliament website also uses identifiers for MPs and members of the House of Lords.

For example, Tom Watson, an MP, is “1463”, and Jim Knight, aka The Lord Knight of Weymouth, is “4160”.

However, the respective URLs are:

meaning that the prefixes are not consistent, and require you to know the name or exact title.

Yet more ridiculous is that, if Tom Watson ever gets appointed to the House of Lords, even though his unique ID won’t change, the URL required to find his biography on the parliamentary website will change — and, because we don’t know whether he would be, say Lord Watson of Sandwell Valley, or Lord Watson of West Bromwich, we can’t predict what it will be.

When building databases, like Wikidata, this is all extremely unhelpful.

What we would like the parliamentary authorities to do — and what would benefit others wanting to make use of parliamentary URLs — is to use a standard, predictable type of URL, for example which uses the unique identifier, but does not require the individual’s house, name or title, and does not change if they shift to “the other place”.

If necessary they could then make that redirect to the longer URLs they prefer (though I wouldn’t recommend it).

I’ve asked them; but they don’t currently do this. In fact they explained their preference for the longer URLs thus:

…we are unable [sic] to shorten the url any further as the purpose of the current pattern of the web address is to display a pathway to the page.

The url also identifies the page i.e the indication of biographies including the name of the respective Member as to make it informative for online users who may view the page.

I find these arguments unconvincing, to say the least.

Screenshot, with Watson's name in the largest font on the page

There’s a big enough clue on the page, without needing to read the URL to identify its subject

Furthermore, the most verbose parts of the URLs are non-functioning; if we truncate Tom’s URL by simply dropping the final digit:, then we get the biography of a different MP. On the other hand, if we change it to, say:, we still get Tom’s page. Try them for yourself.

So, how can we help the people running the Parliamentary website to change their minds, and to use a more helpful URL structure? Who do we need to persuade?

Posted in annoyances, ideas, open data, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

HLF licensing requirement considered harmful

This morning I attended a very interesting presentation on the availability, in the United Kingdom, of grant funding from the (HLF), for digital heritage projects. I’ve previously worked as Wikipedian in Residence or as a Wikipedia consultant on HLF-funded projects*, helping to disseminate knowledge and content generated by those projects via Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons and via Wikidata.

Badge reads 'Birmingham Socialist A.R.P. Canteen fund' and has a drawing of ARP wardens being served at a mobile canteen

This fantastic image of a World War II badge was taken by Sasha Taylor during a Wikipedia editathon I ran as part of my HLF-funded residency at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. Because Sasha was a volunteer, he’s not bound by HLF rules, so was able to use a CC BY-SA licence, and I was then able to add the image to Wikipedia articles. With an NC restriction, I couldn’t have done so.

As part of the presentation, it was proudly pointed out that the HLF’s current terms of funding include:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) for the life of your contract with HLF, unless we have agreed otherwise

However, I’m really irked by this. I’ve written previously about what this means and why Wikipedia and its sister projects require content to be under a less restrictive licence, allowing for commercial reuse (briefly: people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situations, for example in newspapers, or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices). Others — have — written about why the NC restriction can be harmful.

Of course, mechanical copies of out-of-copyright works should be marked as such, and no attempt to claim copyright over them should be made.

In response to my question, it was confirmed that the terms prohibit less-restrictive licences, even if those doing the work wish to use them.

[Admittedly there is a work-around, which is to dual licence as both CC BY-NC and a less-restrictive version; which technically meets the letter of HLF’s requirement, but is actually nonsensical.]

I can see no earthly reason why HLF would insist on prohibiting a less restrictive licence, if the bodies they are funding choose to use one. If I’ve missed something, I’d be grateful for an explanation.

The phrase “for the life of your contract with HLF” is also nonsensical, since such licences are both indefinite and irrevocable.

I would like to see the above wording changed, to something like:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) or a less restrictive licence (e.g. CC BY, CC BY-SA, or CC0), unless we have agreed otherwise

Better sill, HLF could mandate an open licence, unless agreed otherwise.

How about it, HLF?

* If you’re bidding for HLF funding and would like advice about including a Wikipedia component, please drop me a line#.

# That might lead to someone paying me. Some would argue that that means I can’t use a NC-restricted image on this page.

Posted in annoyances, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Public Keys in ORCID Profiles

My friend Terence Eden is knowledgeable (and blogs wittily and accessibly) about IT security issues. He’s also a vociferous advocate of PGP, a computer program for the encryption and decryption of data and communications. At my suggestion, he just registered for an ORCID iD (it’s 0000-0002-9265-9069), and the first thing he did was to include a link to his PGP Public key in his ORCID profile.

ORCID Profile for Terence Eden

That’s the first time I’ve seen this done.

Perhaps more people should include links to public keys in their ORCID profiles? Maybe ORCID could consider a separate parameter for this (or is the “websites” section of the profile adequate)? What do you think?

But whatever you do, when you link to your PGP public key from your ORCID profile, don’t use!

Note: I’m Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID. An ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) identifier is a nonproprietary alphanumeric code to uniquely identify scientific and other academic authors and content contributors — like an ISBN, but for people.

Posted in ideas, ORCID, Wikipedia | 2 Comments

Matching ORCID and other authority control identifiers in Wikidata BEACON

Further to my previous post on finding ORCID identifiers used in Wikidata & Wikipedia, Magnus Manske has released another useful gadget. “Wikidata BEACON” is a new tool that matches individuals’ (or other subjects’) entries in two different authority control systems. One of these, of course, can be ORCID.

For example to find people who are listed in Wikidata, and have an ORCID identifier recorded there, and who also have, say, a VIAF identifier, or a MusicBrainz artist profile, choose one of those properties, then the other, from the two drop down menus, then select “Get BEACON data”.


Screenshot of Beacon, with ORCID and VIAF identifiers selected.

The result is returned as a pipe (“|“)-separated list, with the middle of the three columns being the Wikidata ID (in the format “Qnnn“) of the item concerned. (For the technically inclined, the format is BEACON, used to enable third party data re-users to automate the conversion of identifier values into web links. You can see the part-URLs, to which the values must be appended, at the head of the results page, labelled #PREFIX and #TARGET)

So, Bill Thompson, for instance, appears as:


showing respectively, his VIAF (4426461), Wikidata (Q4911143), and ORCID (0000-0003-4402-5296) identifiers

A query can also be made in the form of a URL, for example this one:

in which “496” is from Wikidata’s code for an ORCID identifier and “214” for a VIAF identifier.

Another example is:

which shows the identifiers of chemicals in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ChemSpider database and the matching Wikimedia Commons categories.


matches the BBC and Internet Movie Database (IMDb) identifiers of television programmes.

Beacon is a good illustration of the way in which Wikidata has become a hub linking disparate datasets about people, and other things; as described by Andrew Gray in “Wikidata identifiers and the ODNB – where next?“.

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Finding ORCID identifiers used in Wikidata & Wikipedia

As you may know, I’m was appointed Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID in June this year.

I’ve previously written a guide to using ORCID identifiers in Wikipedia.

A new tool, ‘Resolver‘, by my friend Magnus Manske, who has awesome coding skills, and is generous with them, allows you to find whether a particular ORCID identifier is used in (and thus in one or more Wikipedia projects, in any language).

By entering the property “P496” (the Wikidata property for an ORCID ID) and the ORCID ID value (the short form, e.g. “0000-0003-4402-5296”, not the full identifier, “”) into Resolver, the relevant Wikidata page, if any, is retuned. At the foot of that page are links to Wikipedia articles (again, if any).

Resolver screenshot

An ORCID identifier query in Resolver

Alternatively, you may compile a URL in the format – which will automagically redirect.

Note that this works for articles, but not identifiers used on Wikipedia editors’ user pages, which have no Wikidata equivalent.

Resolver works with other unique identifiers, too, such as VIAF, or BBC Your Paintings artist identifiers, and many more. If you want to know why that’s important, see Andrew Gray’s post, “Wikidata identifiers and the ODNB – where next?“. Resolver is not just for people, though. It will also resolve unique identifiers for other types of subjects, such as BBC programme IDs or ChemSpider IDs for chemical compounds.

Posted in ORCID, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment