Tag Archives: microformats

The BBC, Open Content and Wikipedia

I had a really interesting meeting with Robin Morley, the BBC‘s Social media lead for the English Regions, a couple of weeks ago. After he gave me a very interesting tour of their premises in Birmingham’s Mailbox (where, in its former guise as Royal Mail’s Birmingham head office, my father Trevor had an office), he described to me the work he does.

We then discussed how his London colleagues insert automatically content from Wikipedia, into the BBC website’s pages on wildlife (example: Barn Owl), and on music (example, of course, ). I contributed to the former by writing markup to make them emit the ‘species’ microformat, of which I’m also the author.

Screen capture of BBC article on Pink Floyd, linked to in post

BBC article on Pink Floyd, including Wikipedia content (links to original article)

They are able to do this because all of Wikipedia’s content is available under a . In other words, anyone can reuse it, for free.

I suggested to Robin that his news staff could similarly reuse Wikipedia content. For example, the article “Birmingham Assay Office silver name plaque stolen“:

screen shot of BBC article linked to from this post

BBC Birmingham & Black Country article on a theft from Birmingham Assay Office (links to original article)

could use text from Wikipedia in a pullout (a sub-section, or box at the side of the article) which might say:

The Birmingham Assay Office is one of the four remaining assay offices in the United Kingdom.

It opened on 31 August 1773 and initially operated from three rooms in the King’s Head Inn on New Street employing only four staff and was only operating on a Tuesday. The first customer on that day was Matthew Boulton. The hallmark of the Birmingham Assay Office is the Anchor.

Services provided by the office include nickel testing, metal analysis, plating thickness determination, bullion certification, consultancy and gem certification.

Text in this section copyright Wikipedia authors, licenced

All that would be required would be for credit to Wikipedia to be given, and the pullout text (but not the whole BBC article) to be made available under the same open licence, as above.

This could be done on articles about all sorts of topics: people, places, organisations, events and more, as well as sports reports.

Robin seemed to like the idea, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he and his colleagues make use of Wikipedia content.

Update: Another post, “The BBC, Regional News and Sport, and Hyperlocal Blogs” about something else we discussed at our our meeting, is now published.

Lightning Talks Strike Twice

I very much enjoyed attending Local Gov Camp North West last weekend. Although it was attended by fewer people than other unconferences I’ve been to (due to people crying off for fear the impending snowpocalypse would leave them stranded in northern wastelands; I mean Preston), this meant it was a more intimate event, the smaller groups allowing everyone a chance to speak more. I curated lots of links tweeted during the event, using Pinboard.

IMGA0025

Rapt attention at Local Gov Camp North West — pic © John Popham, CC-BY-NC-SA

With some attendees also leaving early as news of snowbound roads and delayed trains filtered through to us, it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to fill the final hour’s worth of breakout sessions. This gave me the chance to propose trying something I’ve wanted to do at a GovCamp since experiencing them at GLAMCamp Amsterdam last December: lightning talks.

The three-day GLAMCamp event had one hour of such talks scheduled, but they proved so popular that it was agreed to set aside another two. Anyone who had an idea to pitch, a story to share or a problem they wanted help to solve, could speak for a maximum of five minutes (less if that was all they needed), but unlike most unconference sessions, they could speak to most of the attendees at once.

Details of the GLAMsterdam lightning talks were captured on an Etherpad for Saturday and an Etherpad for Sunday, which have links to individual videos of several of the talks.

Because the lightning talks were only a few minutes long, there wasn’t really time for people to grow bored if a particular talk wasn’t relevant to them, and they could always check their mail or social media, grab a drink or take a comfort break if they did. I gave a quick, inpromptu talk on my deployment of microformats on Wikipedia. Many people, who wouldn’t have elected to come to a full session on the topic, told me they found it useful.

I’m glad to say people at #LocalGovCampNW (as we hash-tagged it) readily accepted my proposal and am grateful for that, and their participation. We restricted the talks to just three minutes (I was ruthless with my stopwatch app), and despite people having had little time to prepare (which I think was a disadvantage), and no use of Powerpoint (unlike at GLAMcamp), we managed to cover several topics in about 20 minutes, ranging from SMS alerts to data visualisation and from promoting an upcoming event, the Eureka Festival of Resources, to my talk on BrewCamp. While some talks were curtailed after the allotted time, conversations could be and were continued afterwards, and online; the interested participants having had the opportunity to identify one another.

John Popham caught the talks on video, as part of his “celebration2.0” project :

Daniel Goodwin, Chief Executive of St Albans City & District Council, said they “provided an interesting insight into people’s concerns“.

Why not try a session of lightning talks at your next unconference?

Talking about GLAM, Wikipedia and QRpedia in Amsterdam and Hamburg

During the first weekend of December, I was in Amsterdam, at the invitation of Wikimedia-UK and Wikimedia-NL (two of Wikipedia’s many “chapters”, which support the work of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects). I was there — along with Wikipedians from 22 countries — to participate in GLAMcamp, an unconference about GLAMWiki collaborations, between Wikimedia volunteers and Galleries, Libraries, Archves and Museums (GLAMs), including my work as Wikipedia Outreach Ambassador to ARKive. Unlike most Wikipedia events, which are open, this one was an invitation-only event (though there was a public workshop on the Friday afternoon), so I was flattered to be invited.

I was asked to lead a workshop about QRpedia, the project with which I’m involved, which puts QR codes into GLAMs, linking to Wikipedia articles, but detects the language used by the GLAM visitor’s mobile device and serves them an article in that language or offers the alternative languages or a Google translation if none is available. Did you know Wikipedia exists in 272 languages? How many museums do you know that can afford to offer interpretive material in so many languages? Or even a few?

A square barcode

This QRpedia code links to the Hindi article about Qrpedia — but if you scan it with a phone set to use another language, such as English, guess what happens..?

Feedback about QRpedia was positive, and I was told of its use in India, though I’m still awaiting details. The biggest areas of concern expressed were the availability of statistics, so I was delighted to be shown this QRpedia stats tool created by the project’s developer Terence Eden; and the need to provide unique URLs for institutions, so we can distinguish, say, requests for the article on the industrial revolution from a museum in Amsterdam from one in Birmingham. We’re currently holding a consultation on how best to create custom URLs for that purpose, and input from museum colleagues would be especially welcome.

While at GLAMcamp, I also gave a brief talk on my work deploying , which aroused quite a lot of interest, and I’m now in discussion with representatives of a couple of non-English Wikipedias, who are looking to deploy them.

Our venue was Mediamatic, which doubles as an art gallery, and had an exhibition in progress about fungi. They kindly agreed to allow us, durng the event, to deploy the Netherlands’ first QRpedia code, on an exhibit about .

People using mobile phones to scan a QRcode, displayed above specimens of a fungus

Wikipedians from various countries queue to scan the first QRpedia code in The Netherlands

Of course, it wasn’t all work, and we managed to fit in two backstage museum visits, to the (whose staff were particularly accommodating) and , as well as some good meals and some local snacks, including broodje kroket, the moreish stroopwafel and the seasonal delights of banketstaaf, kruidnoten, and gevulde speculaas — all traditionally eaten on Saint Nicholas’ Day, the final day of my stay, when visits.

We also spent an evening at “Boom Chicago” an hilarious comedy improvisation show, delivered by US/Canadian crew, in English. And guess who they decided to pick on?

paunchy white male in blond wig, comedy glasses and massive false red beard

Boom Chicago: I have no idea who this is supposed to be…

Sarah Stierch kindly videoed “my” guest appearance, complete with references to an answer I gave earlier in the evening, when I was asked to name a profession, and replied “Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker “.

After my QRpedia presentation, I was surprised and delighted to be asked to repeat it — four days later, in Hamburg, Germany! A very quick turnaround by Wikimdia-DE, who kindly funded my trip, meant I was able to book flights immediately upon my return to Birmingham — flying out via Zurich and back via Copenhagen. Spending my first, brief, visits to Switzerland and Denmark wholly inside airports, was bizarre.

So, a few days after Amsterdam, I found myself delivering a localised version of my presentation to staff from the various museums that make up the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg (Foundation of Historical Museums of Hamburg), as well as enjoying a tour of the Hamburgmuseum and even a little birdwatching (my German bird list now includes Grey Wagtail, Fieldfare, Peregrine and Buzzard, among more common species) But best of all, we were able to deploy Germany’s first QRpedia code at the museum.

Young white woman scanning a QR code using a mobile phone

Martina Fritz of the Hamburgmuseum scans the first QRpedia code in Germany

So, two national firsts for QRpedia, and five airports in five countries, in five days for me. I have to say, much as I enjoyed it, speaking about Wikipedia in Dudley a few days later wasn’t quite so glitzy!

My thanks to everyone involved for making the two trips both possible and memorable, and especially Peter Weis in Hamburg, who sacrificed two days of his own time to make sure I was kept entertained. I came away from GLAMCamp with renewed enthusiasm for working with the GLAM sector, and a bunch of new friends and contacts with whom I can share tips and requests for advice and assistance.

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?

Fixing Facebook’s Microformats (at their request)

Twitter, and the wider ‘blogosphere’, have been alive tonight (UK time), with people commenting on, or mostly simply repeating, the news that Facebook have implemented the on all their events, making them parsable by machines and thus easy to add to desktop or on-line calendars. They’ve also included for venue details.

This is generally a good thing, but what most people — at least some of whom should have known better — failed to notice was that the implementation is broken.

Consider this event, a concert by my friends’ band, Treebeard:

which, as you can see, is on 18 February from 19:00–22:00 (7–10pm).

That’s encoded, in the Facebook page’s mark-up, as:

<span class=”dtstart”><span class=”value-title” title=”2011-02-18T19:00:00-08:00“> </span>19:00</span> – <span class=”dtend”><span class=”value-title” title=”2011-02-18T22:00:00-08:00“> </span>22:00</span>

The “-08:00” at the end of each date-time value represents a timezone 8 hours behind UTC (as we must now call Greenwich Mean Time) — that would be correct were the event in California, or elsewhere in the Pacific Time Zone; but for the UK, the mark-up translates to 3-6am.

Since the event is in the UK, the start time should be encoded as “2011-02-18T19:00:00+00:00“, which puts it in the correct UTC timezone (in British Summer Time, it would be “2011-02-18T19:00:00+01:00“). Ditto for the end time.

The same will apply for events in any other timezone on the planet, each with an appropriate adjustment.

I’ve already alerted Facebook developer Paul Tarjan to the problem, and this is my response to his requests for assistance in fixing it.

Everything at your postcode – proposal for a new website

Over the last few weeks, I have been imagining a website for UK citizens and visitors; where they can enter their postcode and be served a page or pages of hyperlocal links about everything to do with where they live. This post is me continuing that thinking out loud; comments — including the constructively critical — are actively solicited.

Links could be almost anything, from local government services (via DirectGov and OpenlyLocal) to public transport information; from maps to fun things. They would either link to sites which use postcodes as as an argument; or would be built using the target site’s postcode-lookup API.

The site would avoid the need for each hyperlocal website to compile its own list of such links.

Here are a few such links, based on a randomly-selected postcode, B23 6UH (I simply opened a local newspaper and picked the first advert that used a Birmingham postcode). Note that the first link is computed; the rest use the postcode directly.

User would also be able to suggest additional links if they find a good web service which takes a postcode as a locator — for now, please feel free to do so in comments on this post, and I’ll add them to the above list. Purely commercial links, like individual chains’ store locators, would be excluded (a few paid for links, clearly identified as such, might generate enough revenue to cover hosting costs).

As can be seen from the above, the site wouldn’t actually store or generate content; just links. The links could be clustered under headings, or on sub-pages, like “maps”, “local services”, and “fun stuff”.

It might also be possible for the site to determine the user’s nearest postcode, using their browser or device’s GeoLocation feature, or by selection from a map. The site would also accept partial postcodes, such as “B”, “B23” or “B23 6”.

The service could perhaps be “widgetised” for inclusion on other sites. And of course, it would be possible to link to the site using postcode as an argument.

The site would, of course, make data available in RSS, OPML and open data formats; and use microformats.

Unfortunately, though be willing to collate and maintain the links and code some HTML, I lack the programming and graphic-design skills to make such a site, which means that I must rely on the good will of others. Can you help? Should I organise a hack event (a day, or an evening) at a Birmingham venue, to work on this collaboratively?

Or does such a service — curated, rather than spammy — already exist? Would it belong better as an adjunct to an existing service like OpenlyLocal or DirectGov?

Over to you…

An open letter to Facebook, about their broken microformats

Dear Facebook,

Thank you for adding an hCard microformat to my profile on your site.

However, it’s broken, as you can see in this screenshot, made using the debugger in the superb ‘Operator’ add-on for Firefox:

Microformat contains bogus "org" and "title" properties and no ""URL" or "email" properties

My Facebook profile, with broken hCard microformat shown in Operator toolbar's debugger

You need to fix some things:

  • I am not an organisation, so please remove the org property (you may have some user accounts for organisations, contrary to your own polices. That’s their, and your, problem — individual users are by far the majority).
  • The names of six of my friends, chosen by you at random, are not my titles. My title is currently “Mr”. (I say currently; it might change to “The Right Honourable”, if ever gets to be PM and I threaten to publish the pictures).
  • Add class="url" and rel="me" to my web addresses, This is probably the single most useful thing you could do for me right now. Unless you like ironing.
  • Add class="email" to… oh, you guessed, To my e-mail address; that’s right. I’m sure that won’t be hard to do.
  • Add a machine readable date and mark up my birthday as such: I might get more cards if you do.
  • Mark up my address as such, or at least as a label.

If you do this for me, I promise not to refer to you as “Farcebook” again. Until the next time you screw up, that is.

All the best

Andy
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