Mozilla Weekend is coming to Berlin


In less than 2 weeks, Berlin will be lightened up by one of the flagship Mozilla community events: Mozilla Weekend, organized on the 11th and 12th.
As the name suggests, the whole weekend is dedicated to Mozilla, its products and its initiatives, especially, but not limited to, Firefox and Firefox OS. After the German speaking community meetup in February, Mozilla Weekend aims to cater to new contributors and help the onboarding process.



The first day of the event (Saturday) will be filled with presentations and will take place at the Wikimedia Offices, while the second day will focus on workshops. Also, don´t miss out on the AMA (ask me anything) sessions as the Mozilla Leadership will be there!
The variety of presentations offers something for anyone, no matter if technical or not. Afterall, the passion for the open internet is the greatest common ground for us. You can register your (free) ticket via Eventbrite on mozweekend.de
Of course there will be free goodies and drinks, so even if you cannot attend the whole day, feel free to pass by!


 

Wikimedia Office (Tempelhofer Ufer 23-24)

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Mozilla Office (Voltastr. 5)

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Analysing journalistic data with detective.io

detectiveioNo doubt, the power of the internet has changed profoundly the way in which journalists gather their information. To keep up with the growing amount of data digitally available, more and more tools for data-journalists are being developed. They help facing the challenge of handling vast amounts of data and the subsequent extraction of relevant information (here you can find our little collection of useful tools).

One powerful tool is detective.io, a platform that allows you to store and mine all the data you have collected on a precise topic. Developed by Journalism++, a Berlin- and Paris-based agency for data-journalism, it was launched one year ago.

By now, several investigations that used the tool have made headlines in Europe, amongst others The Belarus Network, an investigation about Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko and the country’s elite affairs by French news channel France24, and, most notably, The Migrants Files, a database on the more than 25,000 migrants who have died on their way to Europe since 2000. According to the developers at Journalism++, the applied methodology, measuring the actual casualty rate per migration route – has now been picked up by UNHCR and IOM. Another example is a still ongoing investigation on police violence, started by NU.nl, the main news website in the Netherlands.

What does detective.io do?

Basically, detective.io lets you upload and store your data and search relationships in it bywith a graph search using some network analyses. The tool, which is open source and still a beta version, structures and maps relationships between subjects of an investigation. This can be a vast number of entities such as organizations, countries, people and events.

In its basic version, the tool offers three generic data schemes that help structuring the data you have – for instance on a corporate network, the respective ownerships, branches, individuals involved and so on. To deal with more complex datasets, a customized data scheme is needed. There is no need for special skills to use detective.io but one needs to think hard about what elements of information are needed for the analysis before creating the data structure. However, such custom data schemes are not included in the basic version. The team at Detective.io offers several paid plans that include additional and/or customized data schemes and respective customer support.

There are special offers for NGOs and investigative journalists, too.

Open Steps Directory - Detective.io 2014-11-09 13-56-12One powerful asset of detective.io is that investigations can be shared with collaborators and/or made public. Here you can have a look at what our Open Knowledge Directory looks like on detective.io and explore the relations of organizations and individuals by using the graph search.

Currently, the developers at Journalism++ are working on a new GUI/frontend for detective.io that will allow every user to edit the data schemes by themselves.

Here you can request an account for the beta version and if you are interested to collaborate in the development of detective.io, you can find the tool’s GitHub here.

WikiAkademia and AdaCamp in Berlin!

I’ve been to a number of open source and technical conferences over the last few years, most of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But AdaCamp is a special kind of experience.

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia and other wiki-related projects, open knowledge and education, creative fan culture, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together over two days to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

Adacamp gave me the ability to see how a major conference’s code of conduct was deeply flawed and the confidence to approach them with suggestions for how to fix it.

It’s encouraged me to speak frankly about diversity in our communities and how to improve it.

It’s helped me to meet so many incredible women, to share experience and to learn a lot.

I finally met others Wikipedians from all over the world. I have a year that I am contributing for Wikipedia and I had never met anyone in person. That motivates me a lot and made me feel proud of my work with WikiAcademy Albania. I’ve created contacts that will lead to exciting and future workshops/events at our hacker space Open Labs.

One of the best things about AdaCamp was learning about imposter syndrome. That session was empowering. The belief that one’s work is inferior and one’s achievements and recognition are fraudulent — in open technology and culture endeavors where public scrutiny of their work is routine.

Workshop about clean code was so useful thanks to Franzi.The compliments corner was funny and inspiring as well. The discussion about femnisem, women in open culture, non-open culture, code, education, social events and everything else in there, made Adacamp the perfect place to be those two days.

Now I know that I want to reach out to other women that identify as “geek”, “feminist” or both. I realized that I was among not only amazingly smart women, but also very generous people.

If you’ve never been to a feminist conference, you’re missing out a lot.

If you’ve never found yourself surrounded by dozens of brilliant, empathetic, creative and determined women, you should consider giving it a try. If you’ve never gone from learning about how open source cloud computing platforms work straight to a discussion of microaggressions and how to deal with them, finishing things off by sharing your favorite feminist response gifs – well, maybe you should go to AdaCamp.
Writen By: Greta Doçi
All photos and posts are CC-BY SA

The value of sharing your know-how openly

In June 2010 I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Electronic Engineering and quickly embarked up on the typical academic career trajectory: I participated in conferences in the US and Asia, and took part in the race to publish papers in the best regarded academic journals in my field. Over time I achieved a respectable standing amongst my peers but I could not shake the feeling that there was more to be done to propel my career and give it a stronger aim.

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How I discovered academic papers are not the only solution to progress my career

Somewhere in the fall of 2012 I attended a workshop aimed at helping scientists to promote themselves called: “making the most of your Postdoc”. Amongst the various advices offered to us, one particularly stuck with me: “raise your profile by creating a profile”. The person leading the workshop gave the example of a fellow researcher who had created an “about me” profile page that stated his area of interest and listed some useful information such as past publications, presentations and grants he obtained.

A few days later I was wondering how I could best advertise some of my non-peer review and equally important practical knowhow such as “troubleshooting problems in order to keep my research equipment operational” or “knowing what every single wire does inside that hardware rack”. Actually I had acquired a vast amount of non-peer reviewed knowledge in order to successfully create my peer-reviewed output. The act of designing, building, re-designing, fixing and improving things had become so blasé I hardly noticed how impressive it was to the outsider until I started trying to explain what I was doing to my first PhD students. By the time my third PhD student had arrived, and I was explaining the same concepts and ideas, I realised my knowledge could well be extremely useful to others as well. And there it struck me: why not create a blog to share all those bits of knowledge with those who might find them useful? This ”Eureka!” moment led to the inception of my blog, which was inaugurated in November 2012 with my first series of knowhow posts.

Blogging allowed me to reach a whole new level of recognition among my peers

When I started http://faebianbastiman.wordpress.com/I had of course expected some interest from my fellow colleagues and PhD students. However, the positive reaction was truly a surprise to me: my visitors climbed steadily over the first few months and by mid-2013 I was getting 400 unique visitors per month. I also started to get comments on my posts as well as questions from other researchers from academia and industry.  I answered those questions dutifully and wrote a new series of articles to cover the missing content. It was not long before the first consulting requests reached my mailbox. It occurred to me that my knowledge was not only useful to others, that usefulness gave it an inherent value.

Now, not only am I able to direct a regular income from my consultation services but I am on the way of doubling my previous income as an academic researcher with consulting alone. Additionally, working with industry provides me with a pleasant break from my closeted research existence and the opportunity to meet many interesting new people who recognize me for my expertise.

Faebian Bastiman

Discussing the hottest topics of the decentralized web at GET-D

„If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” is a more than adequate motto chosen by GET-D‘s organisers to give character to this event, a conference aiming to explore the status, possibilities and challenges of the decentralized web. In its first edition, GET-D took place between the 17th and 19th of September in the amazing Agora Collective space in Berlin-Neukölln.

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Decentralized web is a relatively new topic for many, as it is my case, and completely unknown by the vast majority of the internet users. If you belong to the latter group, let me explain briefly what I understand behind this term: The internet that most of the people use today (let me call it mainstream web) is structured in a centralized manner and a huge percent of the information is stored in big data centres and routed through servers owned by gigantic corporations. This makes possible that we all enjoy great services such as our favourite social networks, search engines and cloud storage services but has several negative implications such as poor inter-operability between information sources and, as you might already be aware of, governments accessing your private data.

As an opposition to the current infrastructure, the decentralized web proposes a much more democratic approach, where logic and storage is more balanced across the nodes of the network. Going back to GET-D’s motto, this idea also supports strongly the principles of collaboration. Because, in order to make things work, every node needs to work with the others. Last but not least, the re-use of resources (being digital information or physical assets) is also one of the main benefits of this approach.

What can we expect from a new and decentralized web?

As part of GET-D’s programme, we had the opportunity to discover very interesting projects that bring a new perspective to aspects of our current digital lives. To mention just a few, we enjoyed the presence of the folks developing Mail Pile, a free, add-free and Open Source email client that you can run on your local machine or server so you actually have total control of your data. Or Leihbar, a platform that tries to shift our consumer society towards a sharing economy. Leihbar envisions a network of boxes spread through the cities, where users can have access to all kind of products for particular occasions: from a projector to watch a movie, through tools for fixing your bike to an inflatable boat to enjoy a day at the lake. This way, we do not need to buy stuff that we are going to use just from time to time, we share it with others.

Internet of things (IoT) is also a hot topic nowadays. We are seeing how all kind of devices are becoming connected to the internet. Cars, public infrastructure or even coffee machines are now capable of interacting with the digital world and between them, in a de-centralized manner. At GET-D, a couple of IoT-related projects were presented: Starting with RiotOS, a free LGPL-licensed operative system for those devices the IoT is being built upon, or Gatesense, a project which encourages the community to imagine and shape the future of this field. With such a vast amount of devices generating tons of information, initiatives are also being launched to help us managing it efficiently. It is the case of Jolocom, a distributed visualisation tool which helps users make sense of complex connections between persons, projects, sensors and devices from the Internet of Things.

Hackaton: After theory it comes coding

I personally enjoyed the hacking sessions. Parallel to a series of interesting presentations and hangouts with folks working on decentralized web projects around the globe, they shaped the 3 days we spent at GET-D. Together with other participants, I worked on a project I would like to introduce here. Portable Linked Profiles (PLP) are set of components which offer an easy way for users, organisations and venues to create their public data, and most important, host it wherever they want. Thanks to its modular design and its Open Source nature, developers can create applications on top of PLP. This applications (named Browsers) would be something like our Open Knowledge directory which aggregates and maps contact information of individuals and organisations working on Open Knowledge worldwide. Expect more details about this on our blog soon.

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Stay tuned for more GET-D

This first edition had already very good outcomes and the great thing is that there will be more to come. The topic of Decentralized web is still in a young state and more research, discussion and implementation is still needed. As we could experience, such an event offers a perfect environment for this and we are looking forward to attending next editions of GET-D.

OKFest, Berlin, 15th-17th July

It has been a long time we didn’t post any news, not because there is nothing to document from Berlin where the Open Steps journey came to its end one month ago, but for the simple reason we were very busy preparing the next steps of our project. You should have heard about that if you happened to attend the OKFest last week. The OKFN had the great idea to organize its annual event in Berlin this year, and we were more than happy to be part of this international encounter, together with more than 1000 participants from all over the world. Of course, we met again numerous activists we got to know during these last 12 months in their home country. Seeing them at the other side of the world was a very warm feeling and simultaneously the best opportunity to follow up the latest status of their projects we documented on the way. But, as the list of OK related projects don’t stop there, we could discover many new faces of the community and are now eager to blog about them.

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The 3-days conference took place in the Kulturbrauerei, an old beer fabric made of red bricks in the Prenzlauer Berg district of the German capital. On the first day, an OK fair was scheduled and Open Steps was invited to have a stand. Perfectopportunity to present what we have learnt during the journey, discussing about the difficulties arising in Europe, India, Asia or South-America and sharing our overview on what have already been achieved. You can read our final report here. At the same time, we introduced the newest version of our directory, renamed Open Knowledge Directory which consists on mapping individuals and organisations from all over the world and actively supporting the Open Knowledge principles, what ever they are focusing on: Open Data, Open Government, Open Science, Open Source, Data journalism or other related fields. The tool directly responds to challenges we experienced on first hand by travelling: first, it has the goal to increase worldwide the visibility of OK projects, both inside and outside the OK community (because it is still difficult for an uninitiated public to have an overview on what is going on). Secondly, to facilitate the communication and collaboration across borders (it is obvious to say there is a big potential to share forces and know-how). If you haven’t taken a look on it yet, please check it now, fill out the 2-minutes form to be listed, and spread the word!

DSCF9003The programme of the rest of the festival was full of interesting sessions, which made very difficult to choose some of them, not speaking about the unconference which happened at itsside and the fact that we were volunteering during the 3 days, helping around in order to make such an amazing event possible and running from room to room. On the last day, Neelie Kroes, EU-Commissioner for Digital Agenda and Vice-President of the Commission, honoured us with her speech, encouraging all of us to keep working hard and promising good perspectives regarding the political support in Europe, starting an Erasmus for Open Data in September and granting funds through the programme Horizon 2020 and the FI-WARE initiative. Brilliant!

Interview with Journalism++ @ Paris/Berlin, France/Germany

logo_jppJournalism++ is a network of data-journalists and developers which has chapters in five cities across Europe. With the goal of promoting the use of data and its visualisation for journalistic purposes, they create Open Source tools, organise trainings and consult other organisations in this area.

We contacted Nicolas Kayser-Bril, one of its co-founders, and asked him to give us an inside view about his company and the concept of data-journalism. Covering the theory, how data is currently being used to enhance story-telling, and the advantages for journalists working with Open Source and Open Data, this interview exposes a topic we were eager to learn more about.

1) Hi Nico, many thanks for sharing time with us. Could you first introduce yourself and present briefly Journalism++? How does it come that you are represented in five different cities in Europe?

We started Journalism++ with Pierre Romera, a developer, in 2011. At the time, we were working together at OWNI as a team of journalist & developer. When we left, we asked several newsrooms if we could join, as a team, and do data-journalism. Most were eager to hire us but not one was ready to let us work together. In order to keep working together, we created Journalism++. The name is a nerdy joke, as the “++” sign is an increment in most programming languages. In effect, it means “journalism is now equal to journalism plus one”.

As the company grew, we offered other data-journalists in Europe to use the Journalism++ brand. The Journalism++ network is organized around these chapters, in something that resembles a franchise. Companies such as Subway or NGOs like Transparency International operate in much the same way. Today, 3 companies that operate independently from us use the brand in Stockholm, Amsterdam and Cologne. All we ask from chapters is that they adhere to the Journalism++ Manifesto and be financially sustainable.

2) What does it mean to be a data-journalist? How does it differ from traditional journalism? Is the use of Open Data and its visualisation what make that difference?

At its most basic, data-journalism means using numerical data to tell stories. Let’s say you have a database to work from. You’ll need to clean it, check its authenticity, interview the data using data-mining techniques, and finally communicate your results, sometimes using data visualisations or more complex interfaces. This process can be done by one-person operations using Google Spreadsheets. But sometimes, you’ll need much expert skills, like statistics, computer forensics, designers or developers. And project managers to hold everything together. The end product changes too. Where we had articles or video reports, we can now tell stories using evolving databases. Homicide watch in Washington, DC, is a good example: it compiles all data it can find on homicides in the town. It accomplishes a basic task of journalism in a totally new format.

From a simple thing (doing journalism with data) we end up with a totally new way of doing journalism, which is very close to traditional software development. That explains why small companies like ours are better equipped than big newsrooms to do data-journalism.

3) You have participated in many events and trainings around Europe, divulging the benefits of using Open Data applied to journalism. How is Open Data seen among the journalistic community? Is there a general movement towards using Open Data in journalism or is it still a new and almost undiscovered topic?

Data-driven is still very new to most newsrooms. There is an acknowledgement of what it can do and that it can help journalists overcoming some of the challenges they face. But there’s no movement towards using open data. The number of requests for open data in most EU countries (look at the reports from CADA in France or at tools like Frag den Staat in Germany and Austria) from journalists still range in the few hundreds per year. It’s getting better, but very slowly.

4) We have seen in your portfolio that some of your clients come from the public sector. Is the public administration specially demanding Open Data-based-tools nowadays?

We’re very proud to work for the ĂŽle-de-France region, Europe’s biggest region by GDP. They set up a data-driven communication strategy alongside their open data platform, which we help them implement. Many administrations, as well as NGOs and corporations, are realizing that they sit on very valuable data troves. Most are just starting to organizing them and are thinking of making them more open. They understand that more open data will make it easier for them to communicate on their action.

5) You already developed really interesting tools and civic apps (Cartolycées, e-diplomacy, Alertepolitique, Datawrapper, …). Where do all these ideas come from? Could you explain more about the conception process and its context?

Most of our projects start at the coffee table, within the company or with clients and partners. We then take these ideas from a drawing on a napkin to full-fledged products. We sometimes have to find funding in the process. Clients are very open to experimenting with new ideas. In the case of E-diplomacy, for instance, a visualisation of diplomats’ Twitter streams for Agence France Presse, the tool really emerged from a back-and-forth ideation process between us and AFP journalists.

6) We know it might be difficult to choose one, but can you pitch one of your projects in particular? Perhaps the one you consider the most useful?

I’ll take the latest project we released, called SpendingStories. We had this idea with the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF), which financed the project through a grant from the Knight Foundation. With its OpenSpending project, OKF collects a lot of data on budgets and spending throughout the world. But not many people know how to read, much less make sense of, this data. So we built a very simple interface that let people enter any amount, in any currency, and see how it compares to items in different budgets. We hope it’ll make it easier for journalists to put things into perspective when a politician announces a million or billion-euro plan, instead of resorting to meaningless comparisons such as “this is as much as the GDP of [insert country here]”. You can access the demo version of SpendingStories, which contains data about UK public spending, here: http://okf-spendingstories.herokuapp.com

7) You release most of your projects as Open Source. What is the motivation behind this? What are the benefits for a private company like yours in a market economy?

There are several reasons. One is practical: Open source projects are granted privileges by many companies eager to encourage openness. We don’t pay to host our code at Github and many APIs and other services are free for open source projects. It’s also a great way to showcase our work to other developers and make sure that we code in a clean manner. It’s great to ensure a high quality in our work.

So far, we haven’t coded anything that is worth protecting for its technical value. What we sell to clients is our expertise rather than our code proper. They know that we’ll develop an app or a variation of an app much faster than they would, so it makes a lot of sense for them to pay us rather than simply take the code and do it themselves.

8) Where do you find the data you are working with? Does this data already exist or does it have to be collected before? Is the data already open and available? Which are the Open Data platforms you are using the most?

There’s no fixed rule. Sometimes we’ll tell stories using open data. Sometimes we’ll do a Freedom of Information request. Sometimes we’ll scrape it. Sometimes we’ll obtain it though leaked documents. Sometimes we structure already available data. And if we still don’t find what we need, we crowdsource data collection.

As for open data platforms, the World Bank’s is certainly the most useable. It’s great to see institutions such as the IMF and Eurostat making their data available. But I’m not a fan of the newer brand of data catalogs, Ă  la data.gov. Most of them simply aggregate data that was already published somewhere else and add little value in the process.

9) Let’s talk about what it’s still to come. In your opinion, how will data-journalism evolve in the upcoming years and what are the future steps for Journalism++?

We want to become the number one network of data-journalism companies worldwide: a dozen of financially independent companies operating in close cooperation, so as to be able to launch large-scale journalism projects at anytime and keep hacking things!

Year of Open Source: Interview with Sam Muirhead, Berlin, Germany

img_webSam Muirhead, filmmaker from New Zealand and based in Berlin, has realised a project we couldn’t miss as part of our research. He decided in August 2012 to make the following experiment for one year: living Open Source in every aspect of his life. From the clothes he wears to the equipment he uses for his work, even his daily transportation, the goal was to avoid traditionally copyrighted products, use products released under open licenses, or adapt and develop his own when he couldn’t find existing ones. All of this in order to investigate how free / libre / open source ideas have spread to areas outside software.

However, within the first month Sam changed the perspective of his project, quote: “I came to the conclusion that living without all-rights-reserved copyright and patents was a much less interesting approach than I expected – you could avoid most patents or copyright simply by not buying new products or media, but you wouldn’t have said anything interesting about open source hardware or free culture”. So, instead of looking for an open alternative in the most various areas thinkable, he focused on documenting on his website ingenious initiatives from creative people he met, as the mate based beer called Mier, and reporting his own attempts, successful or not, to invent new open source products as a 3d-printed programmable camera slider or his parametric underwear line.

The Year of Open Source is now finished and there are plenty of fascinating stories to discover on yearofopensource.net. We could not meet him before leaving Berlin, so he kindly accepted to answer some questions for us via E-Mail. You can find the interview here below and learn more about his project and its outcomes!

1) How did you come up with the idea of living open source for one year? Were you already using open source or was it a radical change?

For a long time I had been very interested in the concept of open source, and done plenty of reading up on the subject (Benkler, Lessig, etc). I was mostly interested in open source hardware like the RepRap project, and digital commons projects like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap.

But I had no experience working with these projects myself, and I had never used or developed any open hardware. I had no understanding of programming and little interest in software, but now having switched to free software I’ve had to learn (and enjoyed learning!) a lot more about how computers and software work.

Before starting this project basically the only free software programs I was (knowingly) using were OpenOffice and Firefox. I edited video with Final Cut on a Mac, and had a pirated copy of Adobe Creative Suite. I had never tried out open education, never remixed anything from the public domain, and never published anything under a libre license.

The decision to try a ‘Year of Open Source’ came about in a few different ways – for a long time I had felt that my own choices and actions did not fully reflect my ethics and interests. Also the whole theory of peer production and open source development models is usually: the more people contribute and participate, the better the system becomes. I wasn’t participating, I was only watching from the sidelines.

However, I was apprehensive about getting involved in open source, having no technical background, no knowledge of electrical or mechanical engineering or software development. It can seem somewhat daunting from the outside, and I felt there may be many other people in a similar situation to me. So I thought my lack of experience could make me a nice experimental guinea pig. People could follow my progress and see if, or to what extent, open hardware/design ‘democratises production’ – could a complete newbie also start designing and making things, or would it be too complicated? I thought by focusing more on the concepts and processes of open source and how they are applied in different areas, rather than focusing on linux distributions or copyright licenses, I could reach out to another audience than the usual open source crowd.

2) What was your favourite open project you have documented or discovered along this year? Could you choose one?

Maybe I’ll mention some that I haven’t been able to document yet: Premium is a German/Swiss/Austrian collective which started as a ‘fork’ of Afri-Cola – a group of customers who were disappointed with the new product started producing the old cola recipe, and used this product as a way to start hacking the economy around them. Rather than seeing themselves as a separate entity, exerting price pressure on suppliers and customers around them, Premium see those suppliers and customers as part of their ‘company’ and ensure that everyone gets a fair deal. They are a non-profit organisation and have never taken out a loan – yet their sales and market share have been steadily growing for over a decade. They don’t advertise because it’s annoying. They practice total transparency, publishing every transaction on the website, offering an ‘anti-bulk discount’ and publishing their business model and lessons learned as an ‘operating system’ for anyone to replicate. If you want to run your own company along their model, you can call your product ‘Premium’ too, it’s an open brand.

Open Structures is a grid system and a construction set for which parts and products can be designed to fit together in a modular way. By using a set ratio and developing modular parts, you can rearrange parts and pieces easily – it’s like a LEGO kit for EVERYTHING – if you no longer want your kettle, just dismantle the parts and reassemble them as part of your bicycle, garage door, and coffee plunger.

WikiHouse is also an amazing open source architecture initiative – but Alastair explains it much better than I can.

Two of my most-visited sites: I get the music for my videos from the Free Music Archive (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA tracks) and I also love the Public Domain Review!

3) What was the less „predictable“ area of life you found an open source alternative for?

I was surprised that there was not more of a culture of sharing in clothing and fashion – there’s basically no copyright involved in clothing at all (trademarks are a separate issue) and everybody copies everyone else. But it’s not done with intent. You don’t see Prada selling their clothing with digital files for you to make your own copies, but you can very easily – and legally – copy the design simply by tracing the seams of the garment.

Digital manufacturing has yet to make much of an impact in this field. 3D printing and laser cutting in fashion tends to be more gimmicky than practical, and I wanted to find another way to use digital technology to make it easier for people to make their own clothing. So with the help of a talented tailor called Swantje Wendt, who runs a co-sewing space, I learned about how patterns work, how they are graded between sizes, and I used a parametric design tool called Magic Box to create an adjustable boxer short pattern (another friend helped me out with some algebra here). And at OpenTechSchool I got some help in transferring the template to a more suitable format and language. Then I had a very basic software program, a parametric pattern where you type in your waist measurement, and the pattern adjusts to fit. Then you can print out the pattern and sew away. Or, if you’re like me, you need a helpful, patient person like Swantje to teach you how to sew first.

The idea behind this project was to let computers do the not-very-fun job of calculating how to grade a pattern to your own size, which leaves the human free to do what they do best, to think creatively about their clothing, and the material or techniques they want to use to create or personalise it. Unfortunately I haven’t finished documenting this project so it isn’t published yet, but the boxers themselves are very comfortable indeed.

4) Through applications based on Open Data, the interaction between citizens and the city, public administrations, transportation has also changed. Did Open Data play a role in your evolution to an open source life?

Well I had to ride my bike through the winter! I chose not to use public transport for the year (except for 4 unavoidable trips) because the Berlin public transport organisation has been very opposed to releasing open data. In other cities the use of real-time info for transportation has made it much easier and more convenient to use public transport, but in Berlin they’re a bit slow to catch on. With the help of some digital activists, gently herding them towards progress, things seem to be slowly changing, but it will take some time.

However, I enjoyed using and contributing to user-generated open datasets such as OpenStreetMap and also Mundraub.org, which has a city map showing where you can find fruit trees in public spaces. Not only is is a Mundraub a great way to publicise this wonderful common resource, but it’s a wonderful way to explore the nature within your city, and discover streets and parks you might not otherwise encounter.

5) We have read that you taught workshops and participated in conferences. Is it easy, in your experience, to convince people to „switch“ to open source? Open source is like the daily soup for computer scientists. What is your experience on divulging the topic to people without IT background?

I think there are a lot of people who haven’t spent much time trying to understand open source because the moment you mention it, all they hear is COMPUTERSCOMPUTERSCOMPUTERS… So I tend to start with the examples of Wikipedia or Open Source Ecology, or Open Education, to emphasise the sharing of knowledge and information, the logic of re-using other people’s work, and the collaborative process which is often used in the development of these projects. Then I might explain that ‘oh yes, all of this started in the free software community many years ago…’

With software, there are differing levels of completeness. Everyone can, and everyone should use LibreOffice – there’s just no need to shell out for Microsoft Office anymore. But with video editing, it’s a little tricky to win over Adobe and Final Cut users with my personal choice of free software NLE, Kdenlive. It is objectively not as complete or professional as the proprietary options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do professional work with it.

I completely understand why a video editor might prefer to stick with a proprietary workflow, so rather than push people to change their workflow, I just try to change their perspective of free software NLEs. I usually just lay out the reasons I use Kdenlive: I’m able to contribute to the development of the program, even as a user, by submitting bug reports, posting in the forums etc. The way the program works is much more transparent, I now understand more about how software works I am part of a great community of Kdenlive users on the forums, helping each other out, discussing the program, posting links to our work. Each one of us that uses this software professionally, and does good work with it, does their bit to legitimize the software, and show that it isn’t just a toy. This can in time bring in more users and encourage developers. Through having a presence in the Kdenlive forums I’ve been able to get paid work teaching workshops – with more governments and organisations switching to free software (City of Munich, French Police, etc) there’s a growing market for experienced users of the software to help with training. I have the choice to use proprietary options, but many people simply can’t afford it. By helping to publicise, legitimize and improve software that is available to everybody for free, and helping new users learn it, it gives more people the possibility to use video to tell their own stories, or make a living.

Oh, and Kdenlive respects my freedom and it doesn’t cost me anything.

It’s hard to convince someone to ‘switch’ to Open Hardware because it isn’t anywhere near as widespread or mature as its software equivalent. You can definitely get people excited about it and show them how they can get involved in projects it they like. And if anyone’s in the market for a beehive, an automated greenhouse, or some designer furniture, I’ll definitely provide them with the right links and a few encouraging words.

6) The year is now over. How does it go on now?

Right now, I just have to do paid video jobs for a month or two to get back on my feet financially, I was entirely focused on this project without much income for almost a year – the €5000 crowdfunding support at the start of the year was vital and I’m very grateful for it, the project would have been impossible without it, but it’s not really enough to survive on and pay for materials etc for a whole year, even in Berlin. But I’m also slowly tying up the loose ends of my year – finishing up projects, documenting, and editing together a video which will try to tell the whole story. It won’t be a feature-length epic, more of a highlights reel, with an accompanying written piece. There are a few differences in my life now – I sometimes catch the U-Bahn, and I go see All Rights Reserved films at the movies. But the project is basically continuing in a more relaxed fashion. There was so much more that I wanted to cover over the initial year which I wasn’t able to go into. Developing these little projects takes a very long time, and often depends upon the schedules of friendly helpers and collaborators, and there’s no budget, so the pace is slow.

7) Berlin is for sure one of the cities where open cultures are being supported the most. Which would be other cities or countries also following this trend?

Having just come back from the MakerFaire in Rome I was surprised at the depth and variety of Italian open hardware projects, many of which I had never heard of before. And I think my ignorance is perhaps to do with the tyranny of the English language! In the sites I visit and the media I come across there’s this unfortunate situation where there’s much more emphasis on projects and communities in English-speaking places or projects which document and communicate extensively in English. Luckily through visiting a few conferences and events in different parts of Europe I’ve had the chance to hear from some amazing initiatives in France, Spain, and Finland as well. I know the Netherlands is very big on digital manufacturing and makerspaces, and Barcelona has the Fab City and Smart Citizen projects amongst many others, and there’s support from the civic and Catalonian governments, so they’re on to a good thing. I can keep track of what’s happening in ‘open everything’ in the States pretty well, just from online sources, but I would love to travel to a few more places in Africa and Asia sometime soon – information on what’s happening there is harder to come by. It’s difficult to keep track of this kind of development.

8) We are going to travel along India, South-East Asia, Japan and South America. Could you point out some individuals/organisations promoting open cultures in those countries? We might visit them!

Flavio Soares in Brazil has made a movie with the open source Elphel camera and using/developing free software for post production (website: http://florestavermelha.org/).

Christopher Wang / Akiba is doing wonderful work on open source hardware in Japan (he was part of the team who developed and distributed DIY radiation sensors to villagers after Fukushima, enabling them to collect their own data and contrast it with the official story). I don’t know him, I just like his work! Here an article about him: http://www.examiner.com/article/freaklabs-christopher-wang-a-new-model-of-underground-indie-engineer-part-1

If I think of any more I’ll let you know!

Documenting Berlin Open Data Day 2013

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A few days before starting our trip, we get the opportunity to take part in the 3rd Berlin Open Data Day hosted by the Fraunhofer Institut in cooperation with the Berlin Senate Administration for Economic Affairs, Technology and Research (equivalent to regional Ministry).

By gathering representatives from the private and the public sector (at national, regional and local level), this one-day seminar has demonstrated how actual and significant is the will to open public data and to join citizens on this process.

DSCF2218In Germany, even if the national state already launched its open data platform https://www.govdata.de/, it is not its competence to force the german regions and municipalities to proceed that way. Each of them is free to go ahead with open data or not. Of course, the federal state promote to be innovative on this issue and to create an open data platform which can be used by developers to create tools and applications for various purposes, from e-participation (an example could be Frag Den Staat) to local information such as public transport.Berlin counts among the german regions which are much active on this field and has its own open data portal http://daten.berlin.de/.

DSCF2228Also, Berlin participates with Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Helsinki, Rome & Bologna into the Open Cities project http://opencities.net/content/project co-founded by the European Union to encourage innovation in public administration. The workshop we attended today showcased some examples from Barcelona (we would like to underline the project Barcelona Urban Lab), Paris and Amsterdam where citizens have been associated to their local administration to improve comunication between each other and make their daily life better.

During the whole event, the major role of the developers in this matters has been made clear. The process of gathering data, transforming it (if necessary) and building applications has been demonstrated by some app builders who expressed the need for more and better structured data (standard formats) and more appropiated licenses that don’t prohibit the use by third parties.DSCF2236

In order to accelerate this progress, some programs and initiatives which motivate the creation of the so called “civic apps” have been presented. Two examples are StadtLandCode and Code4Europe  and it was good to hear that new challenges are to come.