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Updated: 11 hours 6 min ago

Dan Scott: Wikidata, Canada 150, and music festival data

Fri, 2017-06-02 17:15

Following my workshop at the Wikipedia/Canadian Music preconference, I had the opportunity to present with Stacy Allison-Cassin on the subject of Wikidata, Music, and Community: Leveraging Local Music Festival Data to a more general audience of music librarians--most of whom had never heard of Wikidata--on why we were advocating the use of Wikidata as one of the repositories of data about Canadian music festivals.

Our central argument was that, rather than focusing on directly enhancing our own local data repository silos (for example, library catalogues, digital exhibits), libraries and archives should invest their limited resources in enriching Wikidata, a centralized data repository, to maximize the visibility of those entities and the reusability of that data in the world at large… and then pull that data back into our local repositories to enrich our displays and integration with the broader world of data.

Having heard from colleagues at the Evergreen conference in April that they were tired of hearing about the promise of linked data and wanted to see some actual demonstrable value for users, I showed a proof of concept that I had implemented for Laurentian University's catalogue. Any record recognized as a "music album" adds a musical note to the primary contributor's name; clicking that note queries Wikidata for a band or musician with a matching name and displays a subset of available data, such as a description, an image, a link to their website, etc. In the following image you can see the result of pulling up a record for the fine Canadian band Men Without Hats and clicking on the musical note:

It is a simple example: the user experience could be greatly improved, and it would be far better if we used the Wikidata entity ID as the authority control value in the underlying records to avoid any ambiguities in the cases of bands or musicians that have identical names, but for a quick hack put together over a few hours, I'm pretty happy with the results. The code is available, of course :)

Stacy and I began with a high-level overview of Wikidata, noting that it is:

  • Like Wikipedia, but machine & human-readable & writable
  • Focuses on entities, with statements of fact about those entities backed up by references
  • Open for participation: no organizational barriers such as having to be an OCLC member to contribute to LCNAF
  • Open for use: all data is CC0 licensed (dedicated to the public domain) thus requiring no special acknowledgements, etc on the part of the user of the data

As an example of how Wikidata supports Wikipedia, I highlighted how authority control used to be accomplished in Wikipedia articles via manually-coded lists of authority references for a given person, but now that job can be delegated to the Wikidata entity counterpart via the {{Authority control}} macro to dynamically generate an authority list, helping both humans & machines. The multilingual nature of the data means that those lists no longer need to be manually updated in every language variant! But of course there is still plenty of labour-saving development to be done: for example, the Infobox musical artist in Wikipedia is still maintained manually.

Stacy discussed some comparisons of the musical genres in Wikidata versus the Library of Congress vocabulary (in short: the quantity of genres is certainly there, but some work linking the vocabularies would be beneficial), and highlighting how we have been experimenting with structuring music festivals in Wikidata. Even with a recent example like the Northern Lights Festival Boréal 2015, we found only 25% of the performers already had corresponding entities in Wikidata. That leaves a lot of room for us to improve the visibility of Canadian musicians during the Canada 150 Wikipedia edit-a-thons--and with Wikidata's notability policy that allows new entities to be added if they fulfill a structural need by making statements made in other items more useful, we believe this is a positive way forward.

In the hopes that others may find our presentation useful, Stacy and I offer our slides under the CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.

Hugh Cayless: Reminder

Fri, 2017-06-02 13:07
In the midst of the ongoing disaster that has befallen the country, I had a reminder recently that healthcare in the USA is still a wreck. When I had my episode of food poisoning (or whatever it was) in Michigan recently, my concerned wife took me to an urgent care. We of course had to pay out-of-pocket for service (about $100), as we were way outside our network (the group of providers who have agreements with our insurance company). I submitted the paperwork to our insurance company when we got home (Duke uses Aetna), to see if they would reimburse some of that amount. Nope. Rejected, because we didn't call them first to get approval—not something you think of at a time like that. Thank God I waved off the 911 responders when my daughter called them after I first got sick and almost passed out. We might have been out thousands of dollars. And this is with really first-class insurance, mind you. I have great insurance through Duke. You can't get much better in this country.

People from countries with real healthcare systems find this kind of thing shocking, but it's par for the course here. And our government is actively trying to make it worse. It's just one more bit of dreadful in a sea's worth, but it's worth remembering that the disastrous state of healthcare in the US affects all of us, even the lucky ones with insurance through our jobs. And again, our government is trying its best to make it worse. You can be quite sure it will be worse for everyone.

Open Knowledge Foundation: How participatory budgeting can transform community engagement – An interview with Amir Campos

Fri, 2017-06-02 13:00

For most municipalities, participatory budgeting is a relatively new approach to include their citizens directly in the decision making for new investments and developments in their community. Fundación Civio is a civic tech organisation based in Madrid, Spain that develops tools for citizens that both reveal the civic value of data and promote transparency. The organisation has developed an online platform for participatory budgeting processes, both for voting and monitoring incoming proposals, that is currently being tested in three Spanish municipalities.

Diana Krebs (Project Manager for Fiscal Projects at OKI) talked with Amir Campos, project officer at Fundación Civio, on how tech solutions can help to make participatory budgeting a sustainable process in communities and what is needed beyond from a non-tech point of view.

Amir Campos, Project officer at Fundación Civio

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a relatively new form for municipalities to engage with their citizens. You developed an online platform to help to make the participatory process easier. How can this help in order to turn PB in an integrative part of community life?

Participatory budgets are born with the desire to democratise power at a local level, to “municipalise the State”, with a clear objective, that these actions at local level serve as an example at a regional and national level and foster change in State participation and investment policies. This aim for the democratisation of power also represents a struggle for a better distribution of wealth, giving voice to the citizens, taking them out of political anonymity every year, making local investment’s needs visible much faster than any traditional electoral process. Participatory budgeting is a tough citizen’s marking of their local representatives.

The tool we have designed is powerful but easy to use because we have avoided the development of a tool that only technical people would use. Users are able to upload their own data (submitting or voting proposals, comments, feedback, etc. in order to generate discussions, voting processes, announcements, visualisations, etc.) It has a more visual approach that clearly differentiates our solution from existing solutions and gives further value to it. Our tool is targeted at administrators, users and policy makers without advanced technical skills and it is online, presented as Software as a Service (SaaS), avoiding the need for users to download or install any special software.

All in all, out tool, will bring the experience of taking part in a process of participatory budgeting closer to all citizens. Once registered, its user-friendliness and visual features will keep users connected, not only to vote proposals but also to monitor and share them, while exercising effective decision-making actions and redistributing available resources in their municipality. Along with off-line participatory processes, this platform gives voice to citizens, vote and also gives them the possibility of making their public representatives more accountable through its monitoring capabilities. The final aim is to enable real participatory experiences, providing solutions that are easy to implement by all stakeholders involved, thus strengthening the democratic process.

Do you think that participatory budgeting is a concept that will be more successful in small communities, where the daily business is less ruled by political parties’ interest and more by consent of what the community needs (like new playgrounds or sports parks)? Or can it work in bigger communities such as Madrid as well?

Of course! The smaller the community, the better the decision-making process, not only at the PB level but at all levels. Wherever there is a “feeling” of a community it is much easier to generate agreements oriented towards the common good. That is why in large cities there are always more than one PB process at the same time, one at the neighborhood level, and another at the municipal level (whole city), to engage people at the neighborhood level and push them to vote at the city level. Examples such as Paris or Madrid, which use on-line and off-line platforms use that division, instead, small town halls, such as Torrelodones, open just a single process for the whole municipality. All process need municipal representatives commitment and citizens engagement, connected to a culture of participation, for harvesting successful outcomes.

Do you see a chance that PB might increase fiscal data literacy if communities are more involved in deciding on what the community should spend tax money on?

Well, I am not sure about an improvement on fiscal data literacy, but I am absolutely convinced that citizens will better understand the budget cycle, concepts and the overall approval process. Currently, in most cases, budget preparation and approval has been a closed-door process within administrations. Municipal PB implementations will act as enabling processes for citizens to influence budget decisions, becoming actual stakeholders of the decision-making process and auditing budget compromised vs. actual spending and giving feedback to the administrations.

Furthermore, projects implemented thanks to a PB will last longer since citizens will take on a commitment to the project implemented, their representatives and their peers with whom individuals will have to agree once and will easily renew this agreement.

The educational resources available for citizens in the platform will help also to improve the degree of literacy. They provide online materials to better understand the budget period, terms used or how to influence and monitor the budget.

What non-tech measures and commitments do a municipal council or parliament need to take so that participatory budgeting will become a long-term integrative part of citizens’ engagement?

They will have to agree as a government. One of the key steps to maintain a Participatory Budgets initiative over time is to legislate on this so that, regardless of the party that governs the municipality, the Participatory Budgeting processes keep running and a long-lasting prevalence is achieved. Porto Alegre (Brazil) is a very good example of this; they have been redistributing their resources at the municipal level for the last 25 years.

Fundación Civio is part of the EU H2020 project openbudgets.eu, where it collaborates with 8 other partners around topics of fiscal transparency.

 

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