Category Archives: web standards

Bullet points from UK Govcamp 2012

I spent Friday and Saturday at UKGovCamp2012, a splendid unconference, in London, for people interested in the use of digital technologies in local and national government. Or “Glasto for Geeks” as it has famously been described. My friend and fellow attendee Dan Slee has suggested that we all blog a list of 20 thoughts we brought away from the event. I’m happy to oblige.

Steph Gray planning sessions at UKGovCamp 2012. Picture by David J Pearson; some rights reserved.

  1. Our national and London rail systems are overpriced, and the former’s ticketing is ridiculously over-complicated.
  2. It’s a good idea to walk (or cycle) through London, rather then getting the tube. You’ll see great architecture and public art, and get a better impression of how the various districts are laid out. But wear sensible shoes.
  3. Geeks do have great senses of humour. Especially those at our generous hosts and butt of jokes, Microsoft.
  4. There is still a lot of uncertainty about Open Data — what’s it for, what do we want, how should we use it. This is good, because — despite some valid concerns about the centralisation of innovation more generally — there is still room for us to innovate with Open Data.
  5. There are a lot of Brompton bikes in London. I’m determined to take mine on a future trip.
  6. We need better systems in place for using social media in responding to emergency situations. Expect some exciting news about a new project I and some fellow attendees are planning, soon.
  7. Anke Holst does not appear old enough to have a teenage child.
  8. When beta.gov.uk comes out of beta, and current .go.uk domains are “retired”, it’s really, really important that existing links to them, from external sites, still work. And by work, I mean go to relevant content, not a home page. As a very wise man once said, “Cool URIs don’t change“.
  9. It’s possible to spend one or two days at an event with good friends, and still fail to manage to say hello to them. Apologies if that’s you.
  10. Open Data and Freedom of Information are the two are opposite sides of the same coin. If an organisation has people responsible for Open Data and FoI and those people are not either the same, or closely linked, then that organisation has a problem.
  11. Terence Eden is not only (with ) a generous host, but also an impressively entertaining speaker. If his day job fails (it won’t) he has a viable alternative career in stand-up observational comedy. I went to his QR code session not only to learn, but to enjoy.
  12. If you ask them, people who share will kindly change their settings, so others can tag them.
  13. If you put three expert™ Wikipedia editors together in a room you will get at least four interpretations of the Conflict of Interest policy.
  14. Twitter still rocks. Its so ubiquitous (to us) that we forget that; and that some people still don’t get it.
  15. There are — contrary to popular perception — people working in Government who are keen to and do, make the images they produce available under open licences, so that others may reuse them. OpenAttribute may be useful to them.
  16. I want a Scottevest!
  17. People like having the #ukgc12 bookmarks curated on Pinboard.
  18. People recently turned, or thinking of becoming, freelance need more advice and help, and perhaps a support network.
  19. If our wonderful organisers Dave Briggs and Steph Gray are “the Lennon and McCartney of gov digital people”, who is going to be The Frog Chorus?
  20. Beer tastes even better when it’s free. Thank you, kind sponsors.

See you there next year!

Open-licensing your images. What it means and how to do it.

I do a lot of editing on Wikipedia. Sometimes I approach someone connected with a subject I’m writing about (or the subject themself), and ask them to provide an “open licensed” image. In other words, an image whose copyright they own, but given a licence which allows anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes.

With a few exceptions, only images made available under such licences can be used on Wikipedia.

Creative Commons

The commonest form of open licence is Creative Commons — a set of legalistic prose documents which cover various ways of licensing images.

Some Creative Commons include “non-commercial” (“NC”) clauses; these are incompatible with Wikipedia, because people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situation, such as in newspapers or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices (provided they comply with other licence terms). The same applies to “no derivatives” (“ND”) clauses, which mean that people cannot edit, crop, recolour or otherwise change your picture when reusing it.

The Creative Commons licences compatible with Wikipedia are:

  • Attribution Creative Commons (CC-BY)
  • Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA)

In which:

  • “Attribution” means that the copyright holder must be given a credit
  • “ShareAlike” means that if someone uses your picture, anything made with it must have the same licence

It’s important that anyone open licencing an image understands what that means. For example, Wikimedia (the organisation behind Wikipedia) suggests that people donating images are asked to agree to the following:

  • I acknowledge that I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product, and to modify it according to their needs, as long as they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
  • I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by me.
  • I am aware that the free license only concerns copyright, and I reserve the option to take action against anyone who uses this work in a libelous way, or in violation of personality rights, trademark restrictions, etc.
  • I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement…

(and yes, that wording has a CC-BY-SA licence!)

Which is the best licence to use?

That depends on the circumstances, but CC-BY-SA fits most cases, giving the re-user the greatest flexibility, while protecting the copyright holder’s right to be recognised.

So, how do I open-licence an image?

There are a variety of ways to open-licence an image. Here are some of the commonest:

  • Upload your images to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • Upload your images to Flickr, specifying one of the above open licences
  • Upload your images to your own website, with a clear and unambiguous statement that they are under a specified open licence

My images are on Flickr, how do I change the licence?

To open-licence a single image in Flickr:

Selecting an open licence in Flickr's pop-up dialogue

  • View the specific image
  • Under “Owner settings”, alongside current licence setting (perhaps “All Rights Reserved”), click “edit”
  • In the pop-up window, check one of the compatible licences
  • Save

[Postscript: My friend John Cummings wrote an equivalent guide for YouTube]

Won’t I lose money doing this?

the ingliston gorilla

Not necessarily. Some commercial photographers release low- or medium- resolution copies of their images, and sell high-resolution copies, but most people take images for personal purposes, which have no commercial value, and for which they will never be paid. Open-licensing them enables the community to benefit, at no cost to the photographer. Think of open-licensing your images as a way of giving back to the community which has given you so many open-source tools, without which the web would not work.

If this post has inspired you to openly-licence your images please let me know, in the comments.

And yes you can use other people’s open-licenced images, including many of mine, free. Help yourself!

Caveat

Yes, I know there are other open licences, and more complex use-cases. This is intended as a beginners’ guide. A competent lawyer will be able to provide you with legal advice. I offer more general advice to institutions wanting to open-licence their images or other content, or to work with the Wikipedia community, as part of my professional services.

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-jM.

The 9th and 10th QR Code commandents

My friend Terence Eden has written a great blog post including The Ten Commandments of using QR Codes, and cleverly (or lazily!) supplied eight of those commandments, inviting his readers to supply the final two. Mine would be:

9. Your QR code shall be displayed in clever places

We’re becoming used to seeing QR codes in print advertising, and on posters, but there are many other places they can be used, and not only the quirky ones like my neat QR Code cufflinks by .

For example, every public building, private office or shop should have a QR Code by their entrance, so that it is prominently seen when the building is closed. It should take the customer to a page with opening times, contact details (see below), further information and perhaps an on-line store.

Bus or tram stops should have QR Codes linking to (mobile-friendly, as per Terence’s third commandment) timetable and fare information. And why not directions for people who’ve just alighted, such as directions to local tourist attractions or the nearest shops?

There are dozens of other paces QR codes can be displayed: on pay-to-park machines; on vehicles; on lamp-posts (but only if you’re the owning authority; no fly-posting, please!); on beer-mats; on envelopes; on bookmarks; and even on cakes. Mmmmm, cake…

QR code cake

10. Your QR code shall lead to downloadable contact details

If you’re going to put QR Codes linking to your website on business cards or brochures, make sure the page you link to either has, or links to a page which has, a downloadable file. You can do this by marking up your contact details with the , and linking to a third-party conversion site, as I do on my contact page. If your customer is using a mobile device the last thing they want to have to do is tiresomely copy’n’paste, or retype, your contact details, when that device is capable of doing the job for them.

Making best use of QR Codes and microformats are among the services in the portfolio I’m offering as part of my new freelance career. How can I help you to use them?

Poll: To at or not to at?

Today, while other people are out enjoying the warm sunshine, I’ve been sat at my computer, grappling with one of life’s big issues:

at symbol @

When we link to somone’s Twitter profile, should we include the liquorice allsort charcter, the “@” symbol, in the link, or not?

In other words, should my profile be linked to as:

@pigsonthewing

or as:

@pigsonthewing

What do you think? Have your say below (using the WP-Polls plugin for WordPress, which coincidentally I’m trialling); and please ask your friends to do so, too.

Where should the "@" go?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Thank you.

Making a Difference to My Career

As you may know, I left my job with Birmingham City Council (after 21 years!) at the end of April, and am now in the process of setting up as a freelance advisor on online communities and content. I’ll write more about that soon; it was my plan to take May off, to do some bird watching, relax, and plan my future activities — including trying to come up with snappier way to describe the services I’ll be offering!

However, I was delighted to be immediately approached by Vicky Sargent of Boilerhouse, and asked to be part of the ‘Making A Difference with Data‘ project, set up to spread understanding about open data and transparency in local public services.

My role will be to blog, and aggregate bookmarks, about good and bad practice in publishing and using open data in the roads and transport sector. (My MaDWD blog posts will be linked to, from the ‘My comments elsewhere’ section of this site; and will appear on .) I’ll also be involved in running an on-line conference in June.

I’m delighted to have found my first gig so quickly, and really looking forward to a task which focusses on a subject about which I feel passionately.

I’d be very interested to hear what you think are the issues affecting that subject; good examples you’ve come across, and relevant datasets which you’d like to see made available openly. Examples from overseas are especially welcome.

HashMash: My invention of a new hashtag search tool

Yesterday, while reading through the for last Monday’s superb Twicket event (for background, read the , which I wrote), I started to notice that other hashtags had been used in tweets discussing it. I started to wonder which had been used the most, and what subjects they were about, and this gave me an idea, which I posted to Twitter:

Sadly, my coding days were so long ago that I no longer have the technical skills to make that happen.

Top tag is #digitalbritain, followed by #welovebrenda

Tags tweeted alongside #twicket

Then Rachel Beer () kindly retweeted my comment, and one of her followers, Simon Painter (), immediately responded that it was was something he could do. That evening, he already had a first daft up-and-running, and the tool, which I named “HashMash”, is now available for public use at . He’s done a superb job, it works just how I imagined it would. (Nonetheless, Simon tells me that he plans to make a jquery version and beautify it).

He kindly credited Rachel and me in the footer, so I recoded the footer to include links, and “tag” , and popped my amendments to Simon’s markup onto the very useful PasteBin website, which has syntax highlighting.

Just one minute later, Simon had uploaded my new markup.

Footer includes links to Andy Mabbett's and Rachel Beer's websites and Twitter accounts

The revised HashMash footer

Bearing in mind that Simon and I have never met, had never corresponded, and weren’t even following each other on Twitter until this happened, this has been a first-class example of the power of social media, and the JFDI approach to getting stuff done. In many large organisations, the first meeting about a project initiation document wouldn’t even be scheduled.

Why not ? Let me know what you think.

Simon and Rachel: Thank you. I owe you both a beer!

Footnote: Simon has the best Twitter disclaimer ever.

Update: Simon has written a .

Update 2: Following design changes, my “footer” markup is now at the top of the page!

Do you make comments on others’ blogs? Bookmark and share them!

You may notice (on the right hand side of this site, if you use the default view; or see image below), a list headed “My comments elsewhere”, with links to other people’s blog posts, on which I’ve recently commented.

List of the five last posts on which I commented, each linked to the post concerned

Screen shot of my recent comments, at the time of writing

I’ve been asked how I do this.

Every time I comment on a blog post — and I try to do so often, both to show my interest in others’ work, and to be part of their conversations — I bookmark that post on the site Delicious Pinboard, and tag it “comment”.

I then pass the RSS feed of all my bookmarks with that tag: http://feeds.pinboard.in/rss/u:pigsonthewing/t:comment/ to WordPress (the software I use to author and host this blog), which magically displays a list of the most recent five, as you can see.

The full feed is, of course, also available to anyone who wishes to subscribe to it in the feed reader of their choice; and my tagged comments can also be read as a web page.

In this way, as well as telling my readers what I’ve done, I bring extra attention to the blogs I comment on, thereby helping, albeit in a small way, their authors.

Why not bookmark your comments, and put a feed of them on your own blog?

Update: Delicious became awful when it relaunched, I now use Pinboard.

Update: You can also use this technique to add the list of your comments (specifically, the relevant URL on the bookmarking site) as a “work”, in your profile page on services which list your publications, such as ORCID.