Thursday, September 30, 2010

#Mifos is the latest software supported by

Mifos, a product developed by the #Grameen foundation, is all about providing microfinance with a sound management information system. It is open source;  developers are welcomed to support its development and this helps make Mifos a power house application in the microfinance industry.

Statistics for Mifos in Dutch
The questionnaire module is now available for localisation at, the first localisations have gone in and as always, the first internationalisation questions have been raised. Many more modules will certainly follow.

Where the Grameen foundation operates
I am happy welcoming the new software that will provide a new interesting challenge to the translatewiki community. We hope that this will enthuse the localisers of the many countries where the Grameen foundation operates ..

Wiki loves monuments II

September has come and gone and #Commons has already been enriched with over 11.111 images of Dutch National monuments. It is still the 30th of September, there are a few more hours for people to upload their pictures.

Many Dutch Wikipedians have worked hard to ensure that things went smoothly. The pictures that were uploaded to Flickr have been continuously uploaded to Commons. And once the clock strikes midnight in the Netherlands, it will be a big job to decide on the best pictures that will be considered for a prize. It will also be a big undertaking to give these pictures a home in an article.

One big achievement has been reached: this has become a big, relevant collection of contemporary pictures of Dutch monuments with annotations and, they are freely licensed to boot.

#UK Open Government License

The news is good. It is even great. The question is: "now what? " It is not a Creative Commons license. It does have all the things that you find in the CC-by-sa license with some extra bits.

These extra bits make sense in a way; you are not to pretend that your use of the data has the approval of the UK government. You are also not allowed to mislead others or misrepresent the information or its source. The problem is, that spinning data is what governments and politicians do. I do believe that when a "misrepresentation" is truly problematic, the law does allow for legal sanctions.

The question is: will UK governmental data licensed in this way be usable in Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Using #Wikimedia #Commons for stock photography

Illustrations are a vital ingredient of blogs. The promotion of the freely licensed content of Wikimedia's Commons is important because we want people to use our illustrations, our maps, our photos. Use them outside of Wikipedia, use them in project, use them on blogs.

Grote Grazers

On this blog I prefer to use pictures from Commons however, I cannot be bothered with all the associated crap I should do. Thanks to some clever work by Magnus Manske, I am now able to have the picture in my blog and, have some license indications as well.

For my favourite picture I changed some values on the example Magnus provided to let you share my picture of big grazers. As you can see, there are many options available for reuse. This functionality is a big improvement and it deserves to be implemented so that we can promote Commons and have an added incentive for people to upload their work so that we have even more pictures to choose from.

Is this really how you understand language issues?

When people of the #Wikimedia Foundation write about language issues, it is most often a disappointment. When it is suggested that the list is ordered by the ISO-639-1, there is no place in the list for the many many languages that have no such code. There are only 162 languages with such a code and, we have many more Wikipedias. Cherokee for instance has the code chr and French is ᎠᎦᎸᏥ in Cherokee.

not properly sorted.
When a list of languages is shown in the way it is written in that language, the ones in Latin characters come first. When people cannot recognise that languages are written in their native script, it makes sense to provide them with a pointer. This would help a Hindi speaker to type हिंदी.

do you spot two font issues..
When such a list is to be completely in the local language as suggested, it would create several problems. Many people like me have a user on many Wikipedias, the language setting is sadly not a global feature and with the word Nederlands no longer available, the usability is destroyed for me and a large group of people. The second problem is to complete a list of the names of languages for all the Wikimedia languages. OmegaWiki has many of them readily available.. Thirdly many Wikipedias are not in one script or orthography. The text of articles on the Serbian Wikipedia for instance are available both in the Cyrillic and the Latin script. Finally most Wikipedians have insufficient or incomplete support for the fonts required.

The suggestion of a "universal language picker" assumes that language names are uniquely identified in that way. This is just not true. The assumption is also that there is a need for a language picker on Commons. The language should be based on the language of the user interface the only possible reason why this would not work is when Commons decides to allow for anonymous uploads.

We are asked for an opinion and having a language picker makes sense in the user preferences. Allowing for a global default would be a huge usability improvement. When it is also possible to override them locally, it would be bliss.

Monday, September 27, 2010

#Wikipedia goes #OpenID

The case for OpenID has been made often enough on this blog. Implementing it for the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation only makes sense when both the provider and the user functionality are implemented.

Ryan Lane writes on his blog that he is now a full time Operations Engineer. In the blog he writes several goals that he aims to achieve. Point 4 is the one about OpenID.

If there is one downside to this list, it is its ambition. There are more things that are really needed. One way of reading it is that it is a list of objectives for the Operations department. This means that Ryan will not be the only one caring for these goals.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

#Photokina has come and gone

A friend who is very active on #Commons went to Photokina this weekend. He came back realising that a show like Photokina is an opportunity for the Wikimedia Foundation to promote its cause. Some of the best amateur photographers come to shows like this, they shoot many pictures and what we can do is give them recognition.

Photokina 1954
Part of the show is bringing communities together. In what we are looking for, we are interested in the Photoshop enthusiasts, the people who capture critters witPeter'sh their camera, the landscape photographers even many holiday snappers can be of interest because there are so many subjects we do not have a picture off.

Photokina 2010
 These are Peter's impressions of the show:

Photokina is the largest trade fair on photography in the world. It takes place in the halls of koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. Even from a distance major brands and their commercials can be seen on large displays and walls.
The free of cost area of Photokina has several galleries displaying photographs and their projects. It is a cross section of what photography can be and what photographers make out of it.

Besides this free hall, the photokina features six other two-level halls with exhibitors from all over the world. Major brands like Canon, Nikon, Samsung, Sony, etc. have huge stands presenting the future of photography. Their newest solutions for filming, photographing, printing, displaying. For producers of system cameras models were engaged, or settings were built to try their equipment. 3D filming and display solutions, more sophisticated DSLR cameras and printing were major subjects of photokina.

The exhibitors split in two groups: the professionals and the communities.
The professionals focus on business solutions and are not that interesting for the common visitor. The communities however focus on people who take part in photography projects, online communities etc.


Where is what National Highway in #India

#Wikipedia needs to be updated to the new names wrote Shiju Alex. The response was interesting; "we have completed the rename on the English Wikipedia" and a pointer to this beautiful work in progress of a map of the Indian National Highways by Arun Ganesh. The text explaining what is being done is wonderful.

There has also been a call to work on the National Waterways of India. This is part of a "project of the month" that aims to get quality content that is currently very much missing on the Wikipedias important to Indians. I did some reading on the subject and I found this map on Commons.

I love maps because they show what is hard with words to tell. I love the notion of the many Indian Wikipedias working together. When these maps are also available in the SVG format it will be relatively easy to translate the texts in the maps. There are people who help convert maps and other illustrations to SVG, they can make it not only an Indian collaborative project but even an international collaborative project.. Eh, right, this IS Wikipedia.. :)


They say that given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. At many people work on many open and free software applications. They are critical to what they localise, they have to be because it is their job to make the message make sense in their language.

Several of the big boys at have the ability and the access to make changes to the source itself of many of the applications. This ensures that many of these "cosmetic" changes get fixed quickly. The example above is an obvious one, more complicated messages also get fixed in this way. This is only one of the ways whereby the community improves the quality of the software it supports.

Fifteen minutes of fame

I was on national television, in the public. A weekly talk show where subjects that are in the news are discussed. The show picks its guests carefully, the discussion leader and presenter Ghislaine Plag is adept in leading discussions. This makes for an interesting, lively and informative program.

Looking back, there are two things I find of interest to my public. The Wikipedia article on Ghislaine does not have a picture of her. Please, if you or your agent reads this consider donating a quality picture on Wikiportret.

A program like "Rondom 10" is similar to Wikipedia in its attempt to bring a neutral point of view. The success of the program relies on its choice of subjects that are in the news. The success of Wikipedia is in its ability to provide background information to the news. The biggest Wikipedias cover almost everything and concentrating on providing background information to what is in the news is probably the best strategy to grow relevant and well read encyclopaedic content.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The real world intruding on the wiki world

Bangkok is in the news again. The agitation by some makes the thought of travelling to Bangkok uncomfortable. When a Wiki meet up has been planned for a considerable time, the real world can and does intrude. A trip to what is a favourite tourist attraction becomes an unwanted adventure.

Who is afraid of red, yellow and blue

Today was the scheduled date for the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit. It was postponed.  Today was the planned date for the meeting in Bangalore where the first Wikimedia India Community Newsletter  was officially presented. Without the postponement, the meeting would not have taken place.

I wish a Salamon will find a satisfactory solution
People travel to places all around the world to promote the ideals that are inherent in Wikipedia. Some wikipedians write their articles with a genuine personal risk. The information that we work so hard to be of a neutral point of view is not always considered acceptable by a censor and consequently we are prevented from achieving our goal.

What we aim with all of our Wikipedias, Wikisources, Wikinewses is to provide the basic information that people need in their life. We will spread the word and do what it takes for it to get there. Remember, in the Internet age, we are not the enemy.

#Wikimedia #India Community Newsletter

When the first issue of a newsletter starts with 36 pages, when the editor says that it could have been even bigger. When you read it and find it written in small letters, chock a block with statistics, DYK's and updates on the lively communities of many of the Indian Wiki communities you can only be amazed.

What makes this newsletter so interesting are the many facts and factoids. There is a foreword by Jimmy and Bishakha, there is information about the chapter .. They dotted the i and crossed the t. A lot of excitement came out early because of a happy Jimmy telling the world about it.

The map showing where the 20 languages that have a Wikipedia are spoken is wonderful; it was made for the newsletter and these are only the current Wikipedias. When you include the large number of languages preparing their way in the Incubator, you are talking about 40 languages in total..

Mother and child in Bundi, Rajastan
If there is one quibble I have, it is that there are no pictures that show how stunningly beautiful India can be. For instance this picture that attempts to become a featured picture at Commons. Then again, it is always great to have room for improvement :)

  • the newsletter is this big because of the many communities
  • 1300 articles about India featured as DYK on the English Wikipedia
  • on Twitter, @DKYIndia can provide you with a daily DYK
  • articles from the Malayalam Wikipedia are available on CD
  • 3000 institutions were involved in a Tamil writing competition
  • Bishnupriya Manipuri is spoken by "only" 4,50,000 people
  • that Sanskrit has mother tongue speakers

Thursday, September 23, 2010

IRC chat with #Wikimedia CTO Danese Cooper

Danese getting her message out on IRC
The log of the long awaited and now that it has come and gone IRC meeting with Danese can be found on Meta. It is tough to read, because it is dense with many questions and answers all mixed together. The suggestion is that now that she has become familiar with the many issues, there will be an increase in communications from Danese and the technical team.

Some of the highlights:
  • new people hired will be to fix single points of failure
  • uptime is to rise from around 99% to 99.999% over the next five years
  • the wish for agile programming practices is one of the reasons why restricted grants are less welcome
  • a "Bugmeister" will be hired, this is one way of getting the backlog of software waiting for review processed
  • more people will get code review privileges
  • there will be a hackathon in Washington DC
  • there will also be a "data summit" I wonder if OmegaWiki will be considered
  • Erik and Danese will go to India to learn first hand about issues that need resolving
Further reading..

About sheep and pictures of sheep

A Dutch sheep with a lamb on a levee
This is what sheep look like. They are the sheep that are part of the Dutch landscape. Sheep belong on the Dutch levees as much as the ditch behind them to take care of the underseepage. With their four golden hoofs and their golden mouth they protect the surface of the levee for when the water rises.

Albanian sheep
Sheep in other parts of the world are different. Sheep with horns, a fleece that is so different. It makes it completely obvious that there is no definitive picture of a sheep. We need a picture that shows what a typical sheep looks like for the people who will read their sheep article.

Are these the typical sheep?
When articles use a representative picture of what a subject looks like for its audience, it is most effective. This is why we need pictures of African sheep, Asian sheep, European sheep and American sheep. I understand they have sheep in Australia too..

Australian merino
Showing such diversity of sheep in the Wikipedias, having pictures of the typical sheep in Commons will make both more effective. When we have typical sheep, we can follow up with cows, dogs, churches, farms ..

This is an other side of localisation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A new #Wikimedia project waiting to happen..

This October will see the beginning of the "Account Creation Improvement Project". I love the premise; "it is the first time we really get into contact with a person and we should do the best we can". In a presentation there is a comparison with the Facebook account creation. It is no surprise that ours is more wordy.

True to form, there are charts that provide some metrics. How many new users for five Wikipedias but as important how many end up editing.

Even at this stage of what looks like a brainstorming phase, there are interesting ideas. The one that is a double edged sword proposes to connect Wikipedia's account to Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites. When this means that the Wikimedia Foundation starts supporting OpenID and these social media sites accept our credentials as well, I could not be more happy.

It would allow websites that are part of the Wikimedia movement (think Wikia,, Wikihow..) to be connected. I doubt that the commercial social media sites dare to lose control of "their" users and without it being a two way street the privacy issues become overwhelming.

Getting the mix right is important. One of the stronger motivations to contribute to Wikipedia is ideology. Without reciprocal arrangements it will fall foul of what many consider acceptable.

Paying for information, paying for advice

On TechCrunch there is an interesting article about paying for information. The question raised is: is information more valuable when you pay for it.

Valuable means that there is inherent value. When you consider if information will be valued, you get to a more fundamental question: is paid for information valued higher then information that came at no expense. The information from either source can be the same, the difference may be in the reputation of the source.

When a newspaper article is hidden behind a paywall, the article loses its power in a dispute as it is not readily available for verification. When a newspaper is hidden behind a paywall, it will slowly but surely lose its visibility by the general internet population. It will be left with a community of like minded people who will be disconnected from the general public.

When you need advice, expert advice, experts often do add value. They have taken the time to learn their subject matter well. A running shoe sold by an expert is likely to prevent you from injury. A real estate agent knows the market and prevents you from paying too much. By understanding their role, their added value, it becomes reasonable to pay for advice.

It is however not easy to recognise the value of advice. The best advice a person can get is often given for free. It is given by friends, parents. It is valuable because they know the person intimately well, they know the circumstances, the history better then a professional advisor will ever do.

The trick with information and advice is to understand what is provided and what makes it valuable. When you appreciate the value by making use of it and by thanking for the help that was given, you will have grown your network of people that are able and willing to help you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beautiful artwork

illustration by Rahul Das
Some derivatives of the #Wikipedia globe are more equal then others. The Time Out Mumbai had a nice article on the Wikimedia Foundation setting up an office in India.

They interviewed Bishanka, Barry, Arun and Achal for this. They even have a picture of Achal and Bishanka but the illustration of India fitted into the Wikimedia world is really great.

#Usability developments for #MediaWiki

Now that the software of the Usability Initiative has gone live on all the Wikimedia Foundation projects, its status has changed. It is now part of the regular software.

As the software is moved to different directories it is a good moment to end the statistics that have been running for quite some time. The "most often used messages" will change in a few weeks at so this is a great moment to prepare for the things to come.

As the relevance of the usability software has increased, it is even more relevant to make sure that its messages are localised. Most of them have been moved elsewhere so it is now more of a puzzle to get them all done.

Actually best is to localise them all anyway.. :)

Want to crash your browser ?

One of the best images at #Wikimedia #Commons contains five images of the scull of a male Chlorocebus sabaeus

Want to crash your browser ?
The picture is gorgeous, the toothy grin of the skull shows off really well that this beastie has what it takes when your fingers come to close. When you read the Commons page of the picture you are warned..
Some browsers may have trouble displaying this image at full resolution: This image has a large number of pixels and may either not load properly or cause your browser to freeze.

There is even a link to a non-Flash tool that complained to me that it is not "a valid JPG file". There are open source tools that do a credible job paging through a big file like this one (35.56 MB). It is not even a genuinely big file. Many maps are much larger..

Why not choose a program that does a splendid job so that we do not have to warn people that they might crash their browser when they want to see pictures like this in all its glory?

#StatusNet has extensions

Status.Net is a company that provides a product. An open source product that you can implement and, it is a product that you can get support for. It has on its a translators group for people who are involved in its localisation.

When you implement a solution like, there are all kinds of extensions to the base functionality you like to have. Like the core product, you may require localisation for the whole package. We at are really happy that we are now able to support the StatusNet extensions as well.

In order to support the extensions, improved functionality for the Translate software had to be developed. As this functionality improves our support for gettext, it improves translatewiki's support not only for StatusNet.

It is great to see how the support we get from StatusNet helps us support all Free and Open Source software.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wiki loves ...

The Dutch #Wikimedia chapter loves #GLAM, we have informed you about great collaborations with museums and archives, it is now time for libraries to come into the limelight.

Scheepswerf "de Schelde" in 1912
I just found a blog of the library of Vlissingen, where they actively seek people willing to help with writing the history of shipbuilding in the Netherlands. This would not only be about the companies but also about the development of shipbuilding technology.

Story about the sloop ..
Just googling about the shipyard "de Schelde" brings up many encyclopaedic stories that will fit in wonderfully. When I read in the blog about the organisations that are on board involved in making their material available I cannot wait to learn more so that I can inform you about how this evolves.

Introducing: the "nightmare star"

nightmare barn star
#Wikipedia has its barnstars, #MediaWiki does not have a way of showing appreciation. At we show our appreciation for LiquidThreads for instance by using it. We care about supporting software by running its bleeding edge.

The value of localisation can be appreciated by giving it a value. For instance when the work of a developer is 100, the work of a localiser can be thought of as 1. Some simple arithmetic has the value of much of the localisation done higher then the development itself..

Siebrand makes it its policy to quietly work behind the scenes to get best results and only when this fails he will let his displeasure be known. Given that FlaggedRevisions is on trial at the English Wikipedia, given that there will be a vote to continue the use of the software this is surely an argument against the software.

Prior to the process of publishing localisations there is a lot of Quality Control work done. When people no longer care, the quality will suffer even more.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Serving #Flash with #Gnash

Gnash is the free implementation of Flash. Gnash is one of the projects that is deemed vital as it prevents people to have a completely Free system. It is vital because Flash is used for many applications that are really popular like Youtube it is also used a lot for educational software.

The inability of using Flash in MediaWiki is considered by most to be problematic. Having met Rob Savoye, I learned the first things of Flash and Gnash. Gnash is used widely, it is used for OLPC and it is used in many embedded systems. I expect that what Gnash serves, a Flash client can display.

We do not want to use Flash to serve content, but we can use Gnash in stead. We can advice people to use the Gnash software for best results. This would in my opinion save the cabbage and the goat from the wolf :)

Have a good idea, may have the money to realise it!!

The #Wikimedia Deutschland posted on their blog an invitation to spread the word that they are looking to realise the communities fondest wishes. To make sure that the ideas are indeed what the community is looking for, the jury consists of community members so that is also well taken care off.

WissensWert – Wikimedia Deutschland fördert mutige Ideen

The one thing that may be problematic is that proposals have to be in German. The rules and other intersting stuff can be found here..

Spending money is not easy; you have to have an idea, then you have to make a plan and it does not end with executing a plan; there is always the reporting. I have some ideas, I could even mangle the beautiful German language and be understood.

  • 5000 € to invest in the realisation of the SignWriting extension. This will prepare the way for Wikipedias in sign languages (among them Gebaerdensprache :) )
  • 5000 € for a photo competition in Indonesia. We have too little great pictures about the modern Indonesia.. Hmmm there are more countries that would do better with more pictures
  • 5000 € for the inclusion of the Batak script in Unicode AND the realisation of a free font
I am sure that you can think of even more ideas ... finding someone who knows how to write German is not that hard either ... Not only Germany is full of them.

Finally I want to congratulate the German Verein with this worthwhile idea.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Holy cow II

Eugene updated his blog and I am happy to quote:
Update: I had a brain fart in my original post, and referred to the many languages spoken in India as “dialects.” This is totally incorrect, and I’m not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. Many thanks to Gerard Meijssen for correcting my mistake.

In mail that we exchanged, Eugene told me that he wrote this when it was already late. I know how this goes, it happens to people who do things and are not afraid to be heard. I appreciate Eugene for his work and for publicly discussing the numbers approach of the strategy initiative. I appreciate Eugene because he dares to be wrong and admit to it.