01 November 2009

Summary of this week 25 Oct - 31 Oct

From my Diigo Bookmark this week. Please also feel free to follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/Web_Evolution!  

A few states are already rising to the challenge. Both Texas and Missouri implemented online models and found the fiscal tracking to be a boon. On the Texas site (http://window.state.tx.us/comptrol/checkup/), according to Governing, “information is updated daily and drills down so far that citizens can find out how much agencies spend on pencils, if they want to know. . . . Anyone can search the site to see what checks were cut to which vendors doing business with the state. ”The Missouri Accountability Portal (mapyourtaxes.mo.gov) features data stretching back to 2000, including the salary of each state employee, as well as business tax credits.
Not only the U.S. central government but also an increasing number of local governments are gearing toward more open and transparent organizations.

The Open Planning Project (TOPP), one of the organizations mentioned in Ms. Chen’s article, has been a major driver of the open data movement. They have produced useful one-off applications, such as FixCity.org, which crowdsources potential locations for new bike racks thus speeding their installation. They have also acted as stewards of open standards in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) community and, more recently, the Open 311 community. Mayor Bloomberg pioneered the 311 non-emergency telephone-based citizen information service, but has been slow to open up the data for mashups by eager civic hackers. Washington D.C. was the first to move on this, and TOPP is now stewarding the effort at Open311.org to create a standard for all Open311 APIs in any city. Another telling example can be found in Ms. Chen’s article. Tom Lowenhaupt has been fighting for almost ten years to bring the .nyc top-level domain to New York City. His vision has been to use the revenue generated from this civic resource to provide digital literacy and civic education through neighborhood-oriented online community spaces. In that time, Tom has built a knowledge base (within a TOPP wiki) that has become a common reference point for City TLD initiatives globally. It contains a wide range of information, including arguments for why a TLD needs to be as carefully planned as city streets, and the potential civic benefits that can accrue through such planning. Tom has worked with parallel initiatives in global cities such as Paris and Barcelona to develop international standards for City TLDs, ensuring that non-English speakers can easily access the city’s resources.
Open data initiatives at the city level are also gaining momentum, which have given birth to a number of epochal applications like the ones mentioned here. 

This move is obviously a big win for open source. As John Scott of Open Source for America (a group advocating open source adoption by government, to which I am an advisor) noted in an email to me: "This is great news not only for the use of open source software, but the validation of the open source development model. The White House's adoption of community-based software provides a great example for the rest of the government to follow."
John is right. While open source is already widespread throughout the government, its adoption by the White House will almost certainly give permission for much wider uptake.
Having the public write code may seem like a security risk, but it's just the opposite, experts inside and outside the government argued. Because programmers collaborate to find errors or opportunities to exploit Web code, the final product is therefore more secure. When you build a vibrant, extensible platform, others add value to the foundation you establish; when you join such a platform, you get the benefit of all those features you didn't have to develop yourself.
The fact that an organization as complex and diverse as White House has adopted the concept of open source would be a huge boost for both gov2.0 and open source movements.

The online-savvy administration on Saturday switched to open-source code for – meaning the programming language is written in public view, available for public use and able for people to edit. http://www.whitehouse.gov
"We now have a technology platform to get more and more voices on the site," White House new media director Macon Phillips told The Associated Press hours before the new site went live on Saturday. "This is state-of-the-art technology and the government is a participant in it."
It will be a much faster way to change the programming behind the Web site. When the model was owned solely by the government, federal contractors would have to work through the reams of code to troubleshoot it or upgrade it. Now, it can be done in the matter of days and free to taxpayers.
Under the open-source model, thousands of people pick it apart simultaneously and increase security. It comes more cheaply than computer coding designed for a single client, such as the Executive Office of the President. It gives programmers around the world a chance to offer upgrades, additions or tweaks to existing programs that the White House could – or could not – include in daily updates.

The mission of OSFA is to educate decision makers in the U.S. Federal government about the advantages of using free and open source software; to encourage the Federal agencies to give equal priority to procuring free and open source software in all of their procurement decisions; and generally provide an effective voice to the U.S. Federal government on behalf of the open source software community, private industry, academia, and other non-profits.
The mission incorporates three goals:
  • to effectuate changes in U.S. Federal government policies and practices so that all the government may more fully benefit from and utilize free and open source software;
  • to help coordinate these communities to collaborate with the Federal government on technology requirements;
  • to raise awareness and create understanding among federal government leaders in the executive and legislative branches about the values and implications of open source software. OSFA may also participate in standards development and other activities that may support its open source mission.
Another huge open source initiative in the U.S. Attention must be paid on how this initiative evolves.


This document is a code of best practices designed to help those preparing OpenCourseWare (OCW) to interpret and apply fair use under United States copyright law. The OCW movement, which is part of the larger Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, was pioneered in 2002, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched its OpenCourseWare initiative, making course materials available in digital form on a free and open basis to all. In 2005, MIT helped to organize with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation a group of not-for-profit organizations interested in following the OpenCourseWare model and standardizing the delivery of OCW material. This group of institutions, known as the OCW Consortium (OCWC), has grown into a concern of more than 200 universities worldwide promoting universal access to knowledge on a nonprofit basis. The mission of OCWC is “to advance formal and informal learning through the worldwide sharing and use of free, open, high-quality educational materials organized as courses.”
A thorough piece of report regarding the application of fair use of OCW. It sheds light on a number of legal issues involved in making educational materials public.

[Updated 10/24/09 5:30 p.m. with additional interview material] All 1.6 million books digitized so far by the Internet Archive, the San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to the universal sharing of knowledge, will be available free to children around the world who have laptops built by the Cambridge, MA-based One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC), Internet Archive director Brewster Kahle announced today at the Boston Book Festival in downtown Boston.
The Internet Archive operates 20 scanning centers in five countries, where hundreds of workers are manually scanning books from public and university libraries, mostly public-domain works for which the copyright term has expired. It collects these books at its Open Access Text Archive. It also makes them available to people in developing nations via a network of satellite-connected print-on-demand “bookmobiles.”
One criticism of the Internet Archive’s book digitization effort, which involves the use of optical character recognition software to transform images into digital text, is that the process results in numerous typographical errors. But last Monday, Kahle notes, the Internet Archive demonstrated a Wiki-like system that allows readers to instantly correct typos they find in the organization’s e-books. “This is all the advantage of openness,” Kahle says. (The demonstration was part of a larger rollout of the Internet Archive’s new Book Server project, envisioned as a centralized clearinghouse for e-book distribution that would provide publishers and libraries with an alternative to Amazon, Google, and the like.)
Not only people in developed countries but rather people in developing coutries would be able to benefit from open education movements. 

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.
We have 1000+ videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance which have been recorded by Salman Khan.
One of the most thorough educational materials provided by an inidividual.  "With just a computer and a pen-tablet-mouse, one can educate the world! Even better, the content never goes old. My (or your) great-great-great grandchildren could learn from the very same videos!" is his words. In the internet era, when what individuals can do has dramatically increased, it might be individuals like him, rather than institutional initiatives like MIT OCW, that can have bigger impact on society.

Regular updates of open education can be obtained here.

[Open Source]

Nowadays open source seems so inevitable, so commonplace, that we are not surprised to find it running everything from the New York Stock Exchange to the White House website. Of course there was a time when the idea of sharing source code seemed radical, but there was a time, too, when ideas like electricity were literally demonized. Now open source is everywhere, and more importantly, the idea that open source can do anything is even more prevalent. The GIMP was one of the first programs to really break free software (and later open source) out of the conventional mindset that open source was just for geeks, and that no open source program would ever have end-user appeal or functionality.
Open source becoming mainstream with the boosts from White House, NYSE, the U.S. Department of Defence (which is shown below) and the French Government (which is also shown below).

By now you may have read that www.whitehouse.gov is now running Drupal, the open source content management system. So, too, does the OSI itself. So first I'd like to say "welcome to the club!"
But the open source wins don't stop there. Drupal is running on top of the LAMP stack based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. On the one hand it's no surprise at all to see one more website choosing open source software in preference to proprietary software for reasons of value, reliability, and quality. But on the other hand, it signals something far more profound: an administration that not only promises greater transparency, openness, and accountability, but also one that is willing to back up those promises with concrete actions. An open source implementation of its most public face demonstrates that this administration means business!
Web 2.0 guru Tim O'Reilly sums all this up very well in a blog posting titled Thoughts on the Whitehouse.gov Switch to Drupal. Tim is one of the best writers on the web, so I encourage you to read his article. Tim lays out the complex contexts and realities of Washington's procurement systems, unique-in-the-world security requirements, and gives color and depth to the real considerations of using, and contributing to, open source software. No two-dimensional cartoon characters so typical of most industry wags there!

New Defense Department guidance puts open-source software on the same level as commercial software and urges DOD agencies to evaluate it on an equal basis with proprietary offerings. The guidance also encourages services to share copies of open-source software internally wherever possible
"To effectively achieve its missions, the Department of Defense must develop and update its software-based capabilities faster than ever, to anticipate new threats and respond to continuously changing requirements," wrote acting DOD Chief Information Officer David Wennergren, in a cover letter to the guidance, which was issued Oct. 16.  "The use of Open Source Software can provide advantages in this regard."

I've been holding my breath for so long waiting for this memo that I may not remember how to start breathing again, but here it is. The Department of Defense Deputy CIO Dave Wennergren has signed and released "Clarifying Guidance on Open Source Software."
On DOD attempting to implement open source.

The French Government's public finance department will switch 130,000 desktop PC's to Mozilla's email and calendar applications. Mozilla's Thunderbird email service, Lightning Calendar and an open-source groupware will replace IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office.
About 30,000 city employees will use Gmail and have access to Google Docs.


The collection is a collaborative effort that combines financial support from Google.org with the editorial independence and rigor of PLoS and the expert opinion of leading researchers from several different disciplines. You can read more about Google.org's involvement in a blog post from Frank Rijsberman. In one of the articles (from PLoS Biology), Gupta et al. discuss Google.org’s vision as a funding agency for how the international community might unite to best take advantage of the new technology for combating infectious disease. The challenges are large and each article ends with a section summarizing what these are and how they might be overcome.
Many scientific journals produce special issues on a topic of interest for their audiences. However, our open-access model of publishing makes it possible to have such a large multidisciplinary cross-journal collection simultaneously available online for unrestricted reuse, regardless of venue. This collection will add to other “open science” activities that have helped provide insights into infectious disease more quickly than would have been thought feasible only a few years ago. The faster, cheaper, and more openly we can distribute the discoveries of science, the better for scientific progress and public health. As the collection emphasizes, managing the threat of novel, reemerging, and longstanding infectious diseases is challenging enough even without barriers to scientific research. We encourage you to make the most of this collection by sharing, rating, and annotating the articles using our online commenting tools. Better yet, join the discussion by providing your own vision to prevent the emergence and spread of the next rogue pathogen.


WWL is an ambitious project. Our goal is to make collaborative translation an embedded service that is built into most publishing and web app development environments. If we do this, translation will become a common feature throughout the web, and eventually it will become an ambient service that millions of people use, often without realizing it. It's fun stuff to work with, and could bring a lot of good to a lot of people. So if you'd like to help us make that happen, drop me a line at bsmcconnell /at/ gmail to learn more.

"This represents one small step for ICANN, but one big step for half of mankind who use non-Latin scripts, such as those in Korea, China and the Arabic speaking world as well as across Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world," Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's CEO, said ahead of the vote.
The decision comes as the internet celebrates its 40th anniversary. The internet traces its roots to experimental computer networks at U.S. government and university labs in 1969.
Is there still a possibility that languages other than English could become the dominant language on the web? Rather than all information converging into one single language, will the future be where many local languages survive?


This may be obvious to many of you, but I was also struck by how isolated the teens seemed from all the cool new tech that Silicon Valley nerds are excited about. None of them owned an iPhone, or any of the newer smartphones. They still used Google for all their web searches and only seemed vaguely aware of Microsoft’s search engine Bing. And while almost everyone I know uses Gmail for their personal email, one teen (a boy) declared, “Hot girls use Hotmail.”
So how seriously should we take all these comments? Do they represent the future of the web? Well, maybe not — beyond the obvious caveat that these are just five teens, The New York Times has noted that many of the most popular sites on the web have become hits through an adult audience, so the importance of teens may be overstated.
It is usually adults who are enthusiastiac about new technologies and new future profiles, and it is always doubtful whether those futures can be and will be embraced by children. 

All the video footages from O'Reilly Web2Summit.

"Take me to Bob Smith" - If Bob is your friend on Latitude then Google Maps Navigation can take you to him. If Bob moves then GMN could even re-route you. I wonder if they will enable the chase scenario.
"Drop me off in time for the #48 bus" - Google knows the public transit schedule. So not only can it drop you off at the nearest stop, it could drop you off at the stop that will ensure the shortest multi-modal trip.
"Show me homes under 500K in Capitol Hill" - Via Google Base, Google has real estate information (it has had neighborhood data for quite sometime).
"Take me to my next appointment" - If you use Google Calendar and you accurately fill out the location field then this is a snap.
"Take me to the nearest Winter Coat Sale" - Using Adsense for Google Maps, GMN can easily lead you to local sales.
"Take me to the bar my friends go to the most" - Using Social Graph API and the new, experimental Social Search to tap into Foursquare, GMN can determine where you friends go, aggregate their destinations and lead you to their favorite watering hole.
"Take me to the largest event" - Using a combination of Latitude and its new access to the Twitter Firehose (which will soon include location - Radar post), Google can determine where people are.
"Take me on a tour of the top 10 historical sites here" - Using Wikipedia Google can determine what the sites are and where you should be taken. Alternately, Google could take you on user-generated tour.
"Take me to the most picturesque place near here" - Several years ago Google bought Panoramio, a location-based photo site. Google can determine which place nearby has had the most photos of it taken.
"Take me on a tour of the site from Around the World in 80 Days" - Google already geoparses many of the books it scans (just see this map). This routing is quite possible.
"Take me to the EPA's protected sites" - Government data is becoming more available. This is just one possible governmental query. You could also ask to go on a tour of TARP fund recipients or Democratic donors.
With that context, go back up and read Brady's post again, seeing just how many amazing data assets Google is assembling and bringing to bear in delivering its next generation internet applications. I love where Google is going, but I also think the future is better with lots of competition, so I'd like to see others figuring out how to go there as well. Few have all the capabilities that Google has assembled, but by working together via federation, there may be interesting alternatives.
On what might become possible with location aware technologies and Tim O'Reilly's comment on it.

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The Treasury Department says it wants companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. to resume instant messaging services in countries including Cuba and Iran that remain under U.S. trade sanctions.
Microsoft and Google cut off the use of instant messages by citizens of Iran, Syria, Cuba and Sudan, saying U.S. regulations prohibit the required downloads. Now the Treasury Department is saying the online communications foster democracy and should be restored.
After the disputed presidential election in Iran on June 12, opposition organizers used Twitter Inc.’s messaging to organize street protests. The State Department intervened to dissuade Twitter from shutting down for a planned upgrade, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We called and said, ‘Please don’t shut down,’ because this is a major communications loop for people on the streets,” Clinton said in a forum at George Washington University in Washington on Oct. 6.

Thorough study on P2P.

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