Web 2.0 and F/LOSS

XP on the XO, round three.

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 05/28/2009 - 10:20

Who's using XP?

With a surprising lack of fanfare, OLPCNews recently revealed that Sugar is beating out Windows XP in XO deployments:

Apparently the conversations are going pretty much as many of us had expected: Initially country representatives inquire if Windows XP runs on the XO laptop. That doesn't really come as a surprise - for many people Windows is the definition of a computer. However, upon further investigation every country decided to stick to Sugar.

It's hardly a surprise, based on the wretched state of XP on the XO for educational purposes.

The surprising part is that after thousands of people screaming (including myself) about XP on the XO, the news that everyone is choosing Sugar went almost unnoticed.

This is a very good, if somewhat Pyrrhic, victory - there was a lot of time and effort lost to get XP to run, and a lot of bad blood created.

Long-term, however, the fact that head-to-head, Sugar is winning installations after review by education ministries is fantastic:

-It's an important mindshare victory for open source, especially at the operating system level (on the computing side) and at the ministry-decision-makers level on the policy side. This win will put downstream decisions on software on a more level playing field (hopefully?)

As always, Ethan Zuckerman brings together all the threads surrounding the Guatemala protests, including information about the arrested Twitter user and some "trending topics" muckraking:


I ran a little tool I developed a few weeks back to check the frequency with which phrases and hashtags appear on Twitter. #escandalogt isn’t hugely frequent, registering at 0.052% - compared to #swineflu, for instance, which was running at over 2% at the height of hype/hysteria. What’s interesting is that #escandalogt is about as frequent as several of the tags listed on Twitter’s “Trending Topics”, getting more use than #fixreplies, #GoogleFail and #theoffice, all currently featured on the right sidebar. It’ll be interesting to see whether #escandalogt emerges there… or whether this is a sign that those topics aren’t entirely algorithmically generated and some human curation is involved.

There's been a lot of noise about the role of Twitter in the recent Moldova protests. Ethan Zuckerman took it on himself to quantify the data. It's not as glamorous as blindly claiming that twitter did (or did not) ignite the protests based on some stories, but it does provide a good sanity-check:

My bitter, cynical hope had been to demonstrate that the conversation switched from a small Romanian-language conversation about the actual protest events to a self-congratulation festival in the English-language twittersphere. Good thing we’ve got data to prove me wrong. [...] I’d expected to see “twitter” emerge as one of the most popular terms by Wednesday or Thursday, and to see the conversation shift into English. [...] But by Thursday, Twitter’s out of the top 20 entirely and “comunistii” ranks behind Moldova and Chisinau. So yes, the conversation on Wednesday - the busiest day with over 1,000 authors - included lots of non-Moldovans. But the conversation quickly shifted back to the political standoff.

That being said, there are under 200 reported actual twitter users inside Moldova; so while the conversation avoided turning into the twitter version of back-patting, it also is not the twitter flash-mob we're looking for.

Worse, governments are getting more sophisticated in limiting the utility of mobile phones for this kind of disruption, as Evgeny Morozov at ForeignPolicy reminds us:

I've just spoken to a Moldovan friend who is himself a big technology fan; according to him, there is little to none cellphone coverage in the square itself (turning off cellphone coverage in protest areas is a trick that was also used by the Belarusian authorities to diffuse 2006 protests in Minsk's central square), so protesters have to leave it to post updates to Twitter via GPRS technology on their mobiles.

It seems likely that next time around, the government will also make sure GPRS is hobbled as well, and there were reports that the government was strong-arming local ISPs into restricting outside connections.

So while Twitter was involved, it seems too early to claim it's victory, as both Evgeny Morozov and Ethan Zuckerman seem to agree on. There was no sign-in form at the protest with a "Where did you hear about this? ( ) Twitter ( ) Facebook ( ) SMS (non-twitter) ( ) Friend ... " so we can't really be sure of the impact of any one social utility over another (though we could do some interesting things with Facebook photo tagging perhaps?), and this will continue to haunt any attempts to link online social media movements with offline action.

That's not the only story here, though. While I'm excited about turning online interaction into offline action, I strongly believe that the lower-hanging fruit in social media sites is real-time, mass reporting of events. You may get a thousand different viewpoints, but you're guaranteed to not just get one filtered and sanitized report. As Evgeny Morozov notes;

There are also a few moving English-language Twitter posts like this - "in #pman a grenade thrown by the police has torn apart one of the protester's leg"- that would surely be perused by foreign journalists.

We saw the role of SMS and Twitter in getting the news out about the Mumbai bombings in November 2008. As microblogging sites get increasingly sophisticated (or their users settle on hashtags and location update formats) I think we can expect to see fast local news coming not from traditional media but from our peers. Without editorial oversight or research/verification, we'll have to rely on mass numbers of twitterers reporting on each event to present an evenhanded view, but overall I see this move towards instant sharing of information as an amazing development that will only getbetter and more interesting, both in the case of free speech and media, and for mobile possibilities for development.

Sometimes, I lie awake at night and worry about copyright. I then start worrying if this makes me irreconcilably weird.

I worry both for our American culture, as items have stopped falling into the public domain and becoming available to re-use and re-mix, or simply to re-present for free. If this doesn't seem like a problem, this video on a 6-second drumbeat will blow your mind - especially if you then read this story about an artist being sued for a 1 minute clip of silence making fun of John Cage's 4'33" of silence. The artist ended up settling out of court.

I worry more generally about international trade and development, as we inflict ever-tighter IP regulations on countries we give aid to or trade with - regulations which we scoffed and flouted during our own development.

We're no longer protecting innovation with these laws - we're protecting the first movers (often big, established businesses), and encouraging gaming the patent system to try and get the most generic and sweeping patent accepted.

OLPC and F/LOSS enthusiast Dr. Sameer Verma, an Associate Professor of Information Systems at San Francisco State University has been beating the XO drum in Jamaica with this presentation to the University of the West Indies/Mona (UWI) and at the ICT4DJamaica conference (with great photos) last September.

You probably already know Sameer from either his role as organizer of SF-OLPC or his OLPCNews guest entry earlier this year, OLPC Jamaica, and the beginnings of a pilot project in August Town, a community near UWI, a stone's throw away from where I lived while in Jamaica.

This is the continuation of my journal on getting mapping to work for Global Youth Service Day in Drupal, which starts with an overview of maps and drupal, and continues with a discussion of modules, then talks about getting content into the map.

Remember back in Part II where I mentioned the Views and Panels module?

Views gives you very precise control over what shows up on new maps you can show up. Even better, use can create "arguments" that can be passed through the URL to further define what shows up. For example, I created a view whose base URL was /gysd/map/ -- if you go there, you get a listing of years to choose from (do you want to see events from GYSD 2008? GYSD 2009?) If you click on 2008, the url is now /gysd/map/2008 - and you see all the events for that year. I then created some other map options to list by country, state, and so on, so there's another path that goes like this: /gysd/map-by-location/2008/us/FL . If I cut that one off at 2008/, I'd see a listing of all the countries I had data for. If I cut it at us/ , I'd see all the regions (states) with data. You could also set a map up with zip codes, taxonomies, and so on. Drupal 6's Views2 is an order of magnitude more powerful that Views1, and alone it's a reason to upgrade to D6.

To create a map view, you have to first (after installing the views modules above, and creating a new view) select GMap View from the Page view set of options (under View Type). This enables the map functionality. I put information into the Header section to guide users in the navigation process.

It's been a while since I posted on my Drupal Mapping project, and that's partially because I've been spending some time getting a great site that aggregates and re-publishes news for the volunteer service world together at ServiceWire.org using Drupal 6, FeedAPI, Views, and some other fun tricks - you can follow it on Twitter at @ServiceWire - it posts about once an hour or so with news about volunteer service and service-learning.

Anyhow, my experience working with D6 and the newest Views module have convinced me that as long as most of the tools I need for the map are available on D6, it's time to move. So I'm rebuilding from scratch (bad luck with upgrades of recent, and I'd like to apply and cement my recently gained knowledge). Unfortunately, the Node_import module - key to a lot of the testing I want to do on the map and views - is not quite ready, so I'm waiting for that to release an update that works with Location and CCK, and in a holding pattern until then.

Drupal and Maps III: Getting Dirty.

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 11/19/2008 - 05:31

This is the continuation of my journal on getting mapping to work for Global Youth Service Day in Drupal, which starts with an overview of maps and drupal, and continues with a discussion of modules.

So now we have the basic setup and are ready to start on the map - placeholders for content, maps, and actual content, and it's time to forge ahead with improving the user experience and information architecture (at the same time, even!).

I also just came across another blog article at around the same level of detail that covers other aspects of Drupal, which I haven't touched on much here for a more articles-rich site. Check it out: http://dejitarob.wordpress.com/2007/11/26/how-i-used-drupal-to-build-tam... . Along similar lines, I stumbled across a series by IBM that gives a surprisingly clear overview of the next level in to Drupal geekery, without flooding you with information: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ibm/library/i-osource5/

Drupal and GYSD Maps II: Modules in Play

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 14:02

Series: Overview | Modules | Structure and Taxonomies | On Drupal 6 | Functionality

Drupal by itself is pretty powerful, but where it really shines is when you start plugging in the modules which have been developed for it. There are hundreds (if not thousands), and the first mistake I made on my first Drupal install was to just start clicking away before I'd learned the ropes. Luckily, this is what sandbox installs are made from, so a few database drops and folder deletions later I could start from scratch (again).

To get this all working, I now present you with the modules I activated or installed for the map project:

Series: Overview | Modules | Structure and Taxonomies | On Drupal 6 | Functionality

This is my "journal" of work in creating a user-modifiable map of the Global Youth Service Day events taking place around the world. The goal was to create a map that staff non-techies could manage, non-techie youth and organizations from around the world could add to, and still (a) work and (b) be friendly to the techies managing it, allowing for mass import and so on.

GYSD 2008 Event Map
The GYSD Map in progress!

This is the first part of a series of entries (four or five probably). This first one covers the overview and core software I'm using, and some discussion of why I've chosen what I have. The next entry will cover modules and initial configuration work.

This guide is going to be a bit on the techie side, and I presume at least a bit of Drupal and webhosting experience when going through it, but nothing you can't google for help on from the community. As a caveat, I'm also relatively new to drupal, this is only my third foray into the more complex worlds it offers.

Tech Salon: Information Sharing and Development

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 14:49

This week's Technology Salon was on information sharing and ways to use social media and peer-generated content in international development. Less of a lecture and more of a roundtable discussion, lots of interesting ideas were floated, from using Peace Corps volunteers as on-the-ground information resources to running contests for ways to use technology in development scenarios.

Social Media for Change

Submitted by Jon on Mon, 09/01/2008 - 08:14

Ning, if you haven't heard of it, is a roll-your-own "web 2.0" platform, where you can combine blogs, videos, forums, and so on in seconds in a web interface. It's like a constrained, but amazingly easy to use social content management system. What's better is that it has impressive open-source hooks in, if you want to go down that route, you can access and build upon your site's code and data structure. It's free for it's basic my community name . ning.com, and beyond that you start paying fees for custom names and services.

A Simple Social Media Analogy

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 08/27/2008 - 11:46

This quirky animation compares social media to ice cream to explain the value of basic customer generated content (uin the form of tagging, rating and comments). It does two things - makes you hungry for ice cream, and understand the need to enable your website guests to leave feedback.

(I found this on Richie Zamor's excellent site)

RSS is my favorite web magic

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 08/20/2008 - 05:52

Note to techies - this article is intended for the nonprofit crowd and as such is basically an introduction to RSS. There's a few interesting things at the end (RSS->animated gif via feedburner, Yahoo Pipes, and MIT/Google's Exhibit tool).

The Web 2.0 revolution has democratized huge swaths of online technology, making it easier for people who didn't grow up taking computers apart and programming games from themselves out of instructions from 3-2-1 Contact magazine article to contribute to online websites via easy-to-update blogs, wikis, and so on. These are all fantastic tools, mostly free and open. You can also read my overall guide to open source tools for non-profits to get situated in some terminology and theory.

There's one technology embedded in almost all of these systems that lets you track updates, news, events, even changes to a wiki page. These updates can pop up on your desktop, appear in most email clients (but not Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 supports RSS however!), appear in your web browser, and even get embedded on your web page.

This is my favorite web magic, and it's called RSS - Real Simple Syndication. Anywhere you see this symbol, there's some RSS involved.

So in short, RSS is a tool that lets a website or blog send out updates -- new content, calendar items, blog updates, and so on -- in a standard format that makes it "really simple" to include in a webpage, subscribe to in email programs, with many web browsers such as Flock or FireFox, online tools like Google Reader, and more.

Keep reading to learn more about the why and how of RSS for nonprofits!

Zero to Fame in Three Hours

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 07/29/2008 - 21:15

Today, Twitter launched one person from their normal Internet life to getting news on the California-regional LAist and valleywag blogs, CNet, a top-rated digg story, a google search term all to herself, fan-created artwork, and a skyrocketing number of followers inside Twitter. In three hours, with one twitter.

Twitter and Outreach

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 06/18/2008 - 11:03

I'm sure you're tired of hearing me talk about twitter as an innovative and easy tool for outreach and engagement. So listen instead to Amy Gahran and her conversation with the Mars Phoenix rover - via twitter:

2.0 NonProfit Conference wrap-up and notes

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 13:55

While few of the concepts at the 2.0 nonprofit conference were hardly new to me (Use twitter! uh, ok.); it was good to see where other nonprofits were and what the nonprofit leaders in the space were doing, and what the lessons they had learned were.

Again, trying not to sound snooty here, but the lessons weren't very "new" either, but the way they phrased them were -- instead of speaking about crowdsourcing, peer-production and open source/sharing, the presenters framed the same general concepts in communications and strategy language like message control (it's dead), reader-focused theories of change, stakeholders/champions, voice and vision, and so on. This gives me more relevant vocabulary to use to champion the full-sharing concepts when I speak with nonprofits.

Read on for my run-down and links to even more event notes!

Windows Free

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 09:27

No, not the OLPC, but here's a good story about a guy who's been MS-free for a year.

Ultraportable Ubuntu?

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 16:59

Would you like an Ubuntu to go?A recent The Guardian interview with Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth reveals this gem:
TG: Will you be coming out with a tailored version of Ubuntu for the ultraportable sector?

MS We're announcing it in the first week of June. It's called the Netbook Remix. We're working with Intel, which produces chips custom-made for this sector.

It's full of stars....

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 05/02/2008 - 13:55

Somehow, this is exactly like what I expect it should look like:

Courtesy of Nexus's Facebook plugin

All I can say is wow.

Twittering for Global Youth Service Day II

Submitted by Jon on Thu, 04/24/2008 - 18:12

Global Youth Service Day will be brought to you in live Twitter form with event updates (and locations, to broadcast on TwitterVision.com) throughout the day.

Twittering for Global Youth Service Day

Submitted by Jon on Tue, 04/01/2008 - 11:13

So coming up on 25th-28th of April is the 20th annual Global Youth Service Day, and I'm trying to see if I can do something fun with Twitter; like having youth from around the world send short SMS updates about their projects. I'm looking at various ways to include others without risking problems of needing to monitor the account for inappropriate content and so forth, so SMS-style JOIN GYSDs, #tags, TwitterMail, and so on.

Web 2.0 '08 Predictions Update

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 03/21/2008 - 14:02

I predicted in January that Facebook would "hit its limit. I predict some more ad snafus a la Beacon, and the 3rd party apps become overwhelming and all-too-reminiscent of MySpace.", and today the Sillicon Alley Insider predicts a Facebook decline: For some early users, the thrill is gone.

Twittering for Good

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 02/22/2008 - 12:50

There's increasing buzz on using Twitter for non-profit goals; from the familiar sources of Idealist, NetSquared and of course Beth Kanter. It seems mostly cautious and curious at this point.

MS offers to buy Yahoo?

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 02/01/2008 - 10:06

Engadget is reporting that Microsoft has posted a formal offer to buy Yahoo (and by proxy, flickr, del.icio.us, and steer the development of Flock (...into the ground).

Google, step up your game

Web 2.0 '08

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 01/02/2008 - 10:48

A few predictions for what we'll see online in 2008:

Other Web 2.0 resources

Submitted by Jon on Wed, 01/02/2008 - 10:15

A recent thread of emails over on the 501 Tech Club DC email list brought more Web 2.0 resources to light. So in the spirit of sharing:

NetworkForGood has an excellent set of short articles on using social sites for fundraising.

http://www.cmswire.com/ Offers news on content management

Google Maps Mashup

Submitted by Jon on Mon, 12/31/2007 - 12:03

Change.org has a wonderful mashup of 501 c 3 nonprofits arranged on a Google Map, as an example of a Good Idea (tm) for Google Maps usage. You can start at Exhibit to begin creating your own mashup code!

Web 2.0 Guide for NonProfits

Submitted by Jon on Fri, 12/28/2007 - 11:35

A quick rundown of my recent posts looking at the value of using Open Source in combination with Web 2.0 tools for non-profits / NGOs and the like:

The Power of Open - an introduction to the economic background knowledge important to discuss how Web 2.0 and Open Source work (also discusses what Web 2.0 and Open Source mean).

Twitter - A sidetrack to peek at a new Web 2.0 service.

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