Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Infochimps

Everything is digitized these days. Almost all of our activities, online and offline leave a footprint that will be stored in 0’s and 1’s. All this wealth of data is fueling new perspectives and disciplines in art, journalism, anthropology, social research and, of course, in marketing and advertising.

For most people though, it may be difficult to gain access to datasets, whether because of a lack of expertise, contacts or money. Infochimps is a searchable collection of datasets that can be shared or sold. For those datasets that are free, you don’t even need to create an account to download the data. You can see examples of what can be done with the data found in the site.

There are three facets to Infochimps, community curation, user uploading and marketplace.

  1. Community Curation – In order to have a comprehensive collection of datasets that are discoverable and useful, members of the Infochimps community curate datasets. This includes fixing mistakes, improving descriptions and pointing to other sources.
  2. User Uploading – Users upload their datasets, or datasets that they deem useful, building the commons.
  3. Marketplace – Infochimps provides a marketplace for users to buy and sell data.

Infochimps is powered by Infinite Monkeywrench, an open source (GPL 3) set of tools and programming frameworks to work with large sets of data. Infinite Monkeywrench can be downloaded here.

Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

What do they know

Some european democracies have transparency laws, usually called Freedom of Information laws, that force the public institutions to answer the questions citizens ask them about their work and the data they generate. Sometimes, though, the same public institutions make it difficult to make information requests, by obscuring the process or the possibility to do so.

What do they know is a website that allows citizens in the UK to browse through Freedom of Information requests and make their own to all british public institutions.

You choose the public authority that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. We then send your request to the public authority. Any response they make is automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.

Under Freedom of Information (FOI) law, they have to respond. The response will either contain the information you want, or give a valid legal reason why it must be kept confidential.

What do they know is an open source project made by the non for-profit organization mySociety, which has developed other projects on accountability of the public institutions, like FixMyStreet.

If you want to participate, you can contribute as a volunteer, either with time or money, to the project.

Categories
Education Intellectual Property Projects & Ideas

Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is an english non-for-profit organization whose objective is to promote open knowledge, defined as:

Any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute — without any legal, technological or social restriction. The main principles are:

  1. Free and open access to the material
  2. Freedom to redistribute the material
  3. Freedom to reuse the material
  4. No restriction of the above based on who someone is (e.g. their nationality) or their field of endeavour (e.g. commercial or non-commercial)

The main purpose seems to be to apply to culture and knowledge the same principles that were developed for free and open source software. To achieve their objectives they work on several projects, a couple of which revolve around the idea of open data and open government too. Some of their projects are:

If you want to participate, they are very open to suggestions, proposals for new projects and, of course, donations. You can also take a look at the tasks list on their wiki.

Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

Parlio

Parlamentary political activity usually has two sides in the modern democracies of the west. On the first side, you get the visual, staged dramatization, ready for night news consumption, of the debates and arguments between the most prominent political representatives. On the other, there are all the bureocracy rituals, anchored in the nineteenth century foundation of this particular way of embodying political action.

Making this rituals of power more understandable for citizens, quantifying them and exposing lazyness and contradictions of politicians are some of the objectives of Parlio. They focus their activity on the Basque Parliament, the legislative body of the Basque Country autonomous community of Spain. In their own words:

We take the data from the Basque Parliament’s official site and we bring it to the people in a much more user friendly way, so we can really know what the politicians are doing… and what they are not.

However, as usual in public service websites in Spain, where there is no access to information law (the largest EU country without that law, according to Access-Info), the data in the Basque Parliament official website is not provided in a standard format and is not easily re-usable by third parties. Parlio, then, has also the secondary function of translating that data to structured formats, where mashups and other web 2.0 magic trickery takes place. The ruby module that scraps the content out of the Basque Parliament website is avaliable here with a MIT license, so you can, too gather the data for your own purposes. It seems that the whole Parlio website, also in Ruby, will be open sourced at some point. The whole Parlio website has been also open sourced (updated 7.12.09).

In fact, Parlio is funded by Pro Bono Publico, a spanish open association that promotes the use of free and open standards, data and technological platforms in the public institutions. They are looking for designers and developers with any level of expertise to help them shape other projects around public institutions and transparency.

This project was submitted through the front page form by Ana Malagon, one of the developers of Parlio.

Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Knowmore.org

Knowmore.org is a site that gathers information on corporations and their products, in order for people to have better and informed choices.

We are a grassroots, web-based community dedicated to chronicling and resisting corporate attacks on democracy, worker’s and human rights, fair trade, business ethics and the environment. Our shared goal of a more informed and conscious consumer is being accomplished via this website: a vast database of easily searchable corporate and political info designed to aid responsible citizens, progressive thinkers and activists.

Ethical Consumerism is an important movement toward corporate reform, through which individuals recognize their own role in systems of oppression, and take personal steps toward resistance and positive change.

They site rates the performance of a company in five different areas or issues: workers’ rights, human rights, environment, political influence and business ethics.  Knowmore was conceived and founded by independent hip hop artists B. Dolan and Sage Francis.

Find how you can participate in this project.

Categories
Unrest

Sourcemap

Cartography has been always one of the prime tools for control and domination, because of his apparent truthfulness, like media. Those who make a map also decide where the borders lay, what is the name of everything, how to represent other countries, or their own (bigger, greenier), etc.

For this very same reason, cartography has also been used as an activist tool, way before Google Maps was invented, but the recent trend in mapping and data visualization has meant an increment in the use of cartography as a mean to represent reality from a radical stance.

Surveillance camera maps and other countless mashups of economic and geographic data are now joined by Sourcemap. The project taps into the local consumption angle and sustainability that we have covered here before, and wants to show in a map the supply chain for a given product, calculating the carbon footprint of producing and delivering that product.

Sourcemap is a platform that enables users to contribute to and share ideas about sustainability. Whether you are inviting people to an event, buying ingredients for a recipe, or designing a product, your choices have a significant impact. Some decisions have impacts that stretch across the world, whereas others are entirely regional. Understanding the reach of our actions and facilitating positive change is fundamental to improving economic, social, and environmental conditions.

Sourcemap, sponsored by the MIT Medialab is looking for volunteers.

Categories
Intellectual Property Politics Projects & Ideas

Our Data

Governments and publicly funded initiatives generate a lot of data. That is our data, we paid for it, but most of the time it’s poorly distributed, hidden in government sites. Our Data is a project that aims to reveal that information and collect examples of use.

This site is building an overview of European initiatives and activities around Open Government Data. While working on Open Gov Data it became clear to us that there are lots of European initiatives, data sets and examples that are hard to find outside their own language area. Therefore this site aims to be a collection of pointers.

On a country by country basis we will collect and share pointers to three types of content:

  • Data sets, pointers with short descriptions of what’s available;
  • Initiatives, pointers to policy initiatives, competitions, barcamps. Also as examples of what you can do in your own country;
  • Mashups, example applications based on open government data.

See how you can help.