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An alternative to Facebook events

7 Dec

After leaving Facebook, you realise how much people rely on it to organise events. Some organisations and even administrations actually only use Facebook to publicise their events, and people have to have an account to be able to RSVP, or even have a look at the detailed information.

Screenshot_2016-12-04-19-24-07.png

The pleasures of browsing a Facebook event when not signed up. Interestingly, the mobile view shows even less than the desktop website: not even a description of the event.

I thought I’d ask and look around for an alternative that people could use. Heck, even my local council advertises their events mostly through Facebook, how inclusive is that.

Ideally, my alternative event hosting would:

  • not require an account to RSVP or browse the information;
  • be free of charge;
  • be based on Free or Open Source software;
  • be respectful of privacy;
  • allow to export the event in different formats to add to calendars;
  • be easy to connect to Facebook.

The reality is that people still love the convenience of having all their events centralised in their Facebook, which means that if I am to convince some people to use a different service / platform, it will have to be nicely hooked up to Facebook so they don’t have to do twice as much work.

Sadly, the social network I am currently using (Diaspora, part of the Federation) does not have an event element to it. However, I used it to ask the community if they had ideas.

Some people recommended software like OpenSondage, Framadate (based on OpenSondage), and Dudle. Unfortunately, those are only enough to figure out what is the best time to schedule an event, as opposed to a fully-fledged event manager (where people see a description with a picture, find times and the address, can RSVP and share…).

I was also recommended to use ownCloud or Nextcloud to create an event with the calendar app. That is not enough, as it is not possible to advertise the event publicly – only through email. However, Framasoft based their software Framagenda on it, adding some functionalities like sharing the event by public link – but I could only figure out how to make a whole calendar public. It seems like the differences with the Nextcloud calendar element are minor.

Communecter is a great tool that allows to build a network between citizens, local councils, businesses and organisations. It looks very useful but is more directed towards organising and communicating at the local level, to foster inclusion  and involvement in the community. Not quite the simple event-creating tool I am looking for.

Open Event is Free Software (GPL-3.0) with several components to create events that follow a standard format and publish them to the web with a website generator, or to Android with an app generator; another component allows organisers to self-host a fully-fledged event manager that supports venues, programs and invitations. This is a very promising piece of software, and there is a live implementation at open-event-dev.herokuapp.com, but I could not register an account in order to test the event creation. It is definitely a project I will closely follow as it seems it is the closest to my requirements, but it seems it needs some more work to be usable on the demonstration website (server error when creating an account, 404 when trying to get a free ticket to an event, missing “how it works” page…). Their standardised format also makes it a great candidate for a potential integration in other Free Software projects like Diaspora.

Another very promising piece of Free Software that allows you to self-host is Attendize (AAL). It is already completely functional as a feature-full event management system (messaging, stats, ticketing and payment…), and is also very beautiful. There is a demonstration backend but it is only designed to test the software, which makes it less likely to replace an event manager that you simply need to sign up to. However, the software is very advanced and fits most of my requirements, so it is definitely something I would look into self-hosting.

Finally, Eventbrite is the obvious alternative that ticks most of the boxes. It is free of charge for free events, but their codebase is not entirely released as Free or Open Source software, although the company seems active on different FLOSS projects (see their GitHub account). They work hard on providing a good API to integrate their services to other apps and websites, which makes it super easy for Facebook users to have their event on both platforms.

In conclusion:

  • If you are ready to self-host, go with Attendize: it is Free Software and seems to do everything you might need it to as far as managing events goes. Also keep an eye out for developments in Open Event.
  • If you are advertising your events on Facebook but want to make them available to all, please create them on something like Eventbrite. They have a one-click Facebook publishing button that will make life easier, and you won’t coerce people into (re-)creating a Facebook account.

Do you know of other alternatives that would match the requirements?

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Fnac.com vous emprisonne en rendant la suppression de compte fastidieuse

5 Jul

J’ai récemment créé un compte sur Fnac.com afin de télécharger quelques ouvrages en format EPUB, sans DRM (il y a quelques titres disponibles dans leur catalogue). Malheureusement, comme beaucoup, je n’ai pas lu les conditions générales de vente avant de faire ça.

En effet, après avoir réalisé que mon compte n’allait pas m’être d’une grande utilité, j’ai décidé de le supprimer (j’essaie de conserver une liste des comptes que j’ai créés sur Internet, et de les supprimer rapidement s’ils ne vont plus (ou peu) m’être utile dans le futur). Quelle n’a pas été ma surprise quand j’ai vu qu’ils demandent aux utilisateurs de leur envoyer une copie d’une carte d’identité ou d’un passeport pour supprimer votre compte et vos données de leurs serveurs. (Voir l’article 14 de cette section ou l’explication dans la page d’aide dédiée.)

J’ai horreur de ce genre de pratiques, qui à l’évidence existent seulement afin de rendre extrêmement difficile la suppression d’un compte, pour que vous décidiez au final d’y rester, contre votre grès. Les conditions générales de vente stipulent que cela est conforme à la « réglementation en vigueur » mais il me semble que cela ne s’applique pas nécessairement à la simple suppression d’un compte en ligne.

Voilà ce qui m’a été dit lorsque j’ai demandé la suppression de mon compte par e-mail :

Conformément à la réglementation en vigueur, votre demande de clôture doit être signée et accompagnée de la photocopie de votre pièce d’identité portant votre signature.

Merci également de nous préciser une adresse postale pour la réception de votre réponse qui arrivera sous un délai maximum de 2 mois.

Quelle pratique d’un autre temps ! Je crée un compte en deux seconde sur leur site, puis pour le supprimer je dois leur écrire une lettre, leur fournir une pièce d’identité et attendre qu’ils me disent si ça leur plaît par voie postale ??

La démarche de désinscription est décrite sur plusieurs sites, dont me-desinscrire.fr et moncompte.info. Des commentaires indiquent qu’ils conservent également des données après la suppression, et que c’est une des seules entreprises à exiger une pièce d’identité. Est également justement évoquée le risque que vos documents d’identité soient volés en chemin.

Mon conseil : ne créez pas de compte sur Fnac.com, et si vous en avez déjà un et qu’il ne vous sert pas, supprimez-le en précisant que ces pratiques sont abusives.

Mise à jour (2016-07-11) : après m’être plaint de la difficulté de la démarche, et avoir demandé que l’on me communique la « réglementation en vigueur » à laquelle ils font référence, j’ai reçu un e-mail du service client pour me notifier de la suppression / désactivation (les deux termes sont utilisés de façon inconsistante à différents endroits) de mon compte, malgré le fait que je ne leur ai pas envoyé les documents d’identité demandés. Preuve selon moi qu’ils n’en ont pas vraiment besoin, et que c’est uniquement destiné à vous garder contre votre grès.

 

 

Upgrade CKeditor when migrating from Drupal 6 to 7

10 Jun

Here is a quick fix that might help you if you are migrating from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7.

If your CKEditor version is stuck at 3.6 in your status report, but you are sure you have the latest version of the module in your module folder, you might think that Drupal 7 deliberately only offers the CKEditor 3 branch.

Actually, you can use CKEditor 4 by checking if the path to your installation is right, and by making sure you have the actual latest library files in the right folder.

First, download the module and unpack it into the right module folder (probably sites/all/modules/contrib). You might have to remove a pre-existing CKEditor module folder. (Or better, rename it to ckeditor_old for the time being, and delete it when you are sure everything works fine.)

Then, download the library files add the library files into the ckeditor/ckeditor folder (where the COPY_HERE.txt file is).

Finally, you can change the path to the CKEditor library files by going to your website’s /admin/config/content/ckeditor/editg page and pointing to %m/ckeditor in the “Path to CKEditor” field.

This should allow you to use the latest version of CKEditor. Check in your status report that the right version appears. If everything goes well (and if you have copied your custom configurations to your new installation, specifically to the ckeditor.config.js file, if needed), you can delete the old module folder and the old library files.

Ebay and their encryption double standard

9 May

I am not often using Ebay, but every so often it happens to be one of the only options for a specific kind of purchase. I recently bought a product to expand my MPC’s internal memory, and tried to communicate with the seller by using my email account (as an Ebay “guest” user).

I have been automatically signing my emails with PGP for a while now, and haven’t had any major problem (except for a Brisbane council issue that somehow filtered my emails because of the unrecognised attachment, an issue that was fixed a while ago, at least in the particular section I have been volunteering at).

Interestingly enough, Ebay rejected my signed (unencrypted) email, with the following explanation:

To better protect our members from identity theft and unwanted emails, we don’t allow encrypted emails. Because your recent email message to [xxx] was encrypted, we didn’t send it.

Please remove the encryption and resend your message.

The notification email links to a messaging help page [snapshot] that states the following:

Emails that are encrypted before they are sent (or are automatically encrypted when sent) will not be delivered through eBay Messages. Encryption is a way of scrambling or coding information before it’s sent, and then decoding the same information when it’s received. If you’re using encryption software, you may need to turn it off before sending messages.

At first, I thought I sort of understood why they would filter out encrypted emails: so they can apply a keyword-based spam filter. However, I still haven’t heard about spammers making use of encryption. It seems to me that encrypting is an obvious massive obstacle to the main objective of spamming: sending large amounts of emails that are not specifically targeted. Encrypting would require the spammer to collect each recipient’s public key and scramble each separate message accordingly… It does not sound likely to become a common spamming practice, which leads me to think that there might be other incentives for Ebay to only have plain-text messages transiting through their servers (data collection and analysis, anyone?).

Add to that the fact that Ebay obviously does a terrible job at telling apart signed plain-text emails from encrypted emails…

In their help page titled “Keeping you safe on Ebay” [snapshot], they state the following:

We use procedural and technical safeguards, including firewalls, encryption and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) to help protect your personal information against loss, theft and unauthorised access and disclosure by users inside and outside the company.

In “Protecting your privacy” [snapshot], it is said that Ebay provide:

Secure communication for all external parties—including customers, vendors, and any business partners outside of eBay—by monitoring every email message, except in countries that have laws prohibiting monitoring of email. If an email contains private information, it will be encrypted through our eBay Secured Email system.

However, the users using encryption themselves (or even just PGP signatures) are considered a threat and denied privacy. What about people who want to make sure they are keeping a particular transaction private from a member of their family, a threatening community, a potential online criminal organisation, or from an oppressive government, for whatever reason?

Funnily enough, at the time of writing, the link to “eBay Secured Email” is a dead link, so good luck if you want to find out more about this particular “system”…

This issue draws me further away from Ebay – as if I needed more reasons.

Exportez vos anniversaires depuis Facebook via Evolution

27 Apr

Si vous dépendez de Facebook pour vous rappeler des anniversaires de vos amis, il est possible de récupérer cette information pour l’avoir sous forme de tableur, ou pour les transférer à un autre calendrier. Voilà la marche à suivre :

Sur Facebook, allez dans « Évènements ». Dans une boîte sur la droite, vous trouverez des instructions pour ajouter des données à un calendrier externe. Copiez le lien « anniversaires » (il devrait commencer par « webcal:// »).

Dans Evolution, allez dans l’onglet Agenda et choisissez « Fichier > Nouveau > Agenda ». Sélectionnez « Type: Sur le Web » puis collez l’URL que vous avez copié dans la boîte « URL ».

Si tout se passe bien, vous avez à présent vos anniversaires dans votre agenda. Mais comme ce nouvel agenda reste connecté à votre compte Facebook, il se peut que vous vouliez extraire cette info et garder un fichier statique, sous forme de tableur par exemple.

Pour cela, il faut exporter l’agenda en question en format CSV (clic-droit sur son nom, « enregistrer sous > Format: .csv »). Vous pouvez à présent manipuler cette information comme vous le voulez, avec LibreOffice Calc par exemple, ou l’importer dans un autre calendrier, local ou externe à Evolution. Et ne plus dépendre de Facebook pour vous rappeler d’envoyer vos souhaits !

My business on OSM in five minutes

4 Oct

You might have seen Google ads around, suggesting people to add their business to Google Maps. I thought I would write a short post to help out people trying to add their business to a different project: OpenStreetMap.

You can very easily add your business to OpenStreetMap (OSM), a crowd-sourced map of the world that is more and more widely used as the data is released under an Open Database License (ODbL).

Here are the five easy steps to add your business in the database for everyone to find. It is very likely it will actually take you less than five minutes.

1

Go on the OSM website, find where your business is located and click on the “edit” button.

Find where your business is and click on "edit".

Find where your business is and click on “edit”.

You might have to create an account if you don’t have one already (it only takes a few seconds!).

2

Click on “Point” and add a node to the map where your business is located.

Click on "Point" and add a single node to the map.

Click on “Point” and add a single node to the map.

3

Search for the business type, or the closest matching category, and click on it.

Search for your business category.

Search for your business category.

4

Add details about your business in the fields.

Add information about your business.

Add information about your business.

You can add extra information by clicking on the icons below the fields, like phone number and website.

Extra fields are also available at the bottom.

Extra fields are also available at the bottom.

The only tricky field is for the opening hours. Make sure you have a look at examples on this wiki page. In my example, in have to use the syntax Mo - Su 10:00-24:00 for a business opening seven days a week, from 10 am till midnight.

5

Save your changes by clicking on “Save”, and add a commit message like “my own business” to justify them.

Save your changes.

Save your changes.

Done!

You will be able to see your changes on the map just a few minutes after you saved your changes. And your business will be that much more visible!

If you have any question or need some help, feel free to comment below or to have a look at the OSM wiki, where you can search for information specific to your business type.

Cheers for reading!

Happy 10th birthday, OpenStreetMap!

20 Aug

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a open data project focused on mapping our entire physical world. Just a few days ago, the project turned ten.

The wiki introduces the project as follows:

Welcome to OpenStreetMap, the project that creates and distributes free geographic data for the world. We started it because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways.

The Wikipedia article describes the project as “a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world.”  It adds that “two major driving forces behind the establishment and growth of OSM have been restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices.”

OSM started on the 1st of July 2004. I started helping out as a simple local contributor almost three years ago, and I have closed more than 200 changesets. It isn’t much, but I feel like I am doing my bit for an amazing project. I sort of moved from Wikipedia to OSM as the open knowledge project I contribute the most to, although I never really stopped editing Wikipedia. I might even focus on it again later on, who knows!

For the tenth birthday of this project I really love, here are a few random examples of the great thing that the freely available data OSM offers lets people do and create, just in the two last years. Another example would be OpenBeerMap, a project I wrote about recently. I gathered them (with their captions) from the great selection of images offered by the Featured Images page on the wiki. Click on the pictures for more details.

3D-printed models

File:Gorbals 3d.jpg

3D printed model of the Gorbals, Glasgow, location of the Commonwealth games 2014. Created using osm2world to convert from .osm to 3D and SRTM elevation data. Printed using a Ultimaker 2.

Some information from Gary Martin:

“Duncan Bain documented the data extract process nicely in his blog post http://duncanbain.com/research/blog/state-of-the-map-scotland-2013/ I followed the same process, but also added elevation data from SRTM when using OSM2World; Blender was for the 3d clean-up work; Cura for slicing the 3d model to gcode; and an Ultimaker 2 for the final 7 hour PLA print.”

HOT is a humanitarian mapping project

File:HOT changesets west africa 2014-04-05.png

HOT (Humanitarian OSM Team) is coordinating mapping efforts for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The map shows all changesets with #HOT in and around Guinea. The tool visualises changesets of the last seven days with a certain comment.

HOT coordinates humanitarian mapping projects depending on what happens around the world, and often helps others do a better job at delivering aid on site after major natural disasters of health issues.

File:Three large poster maps of Tacloban, Guiuan and Ormoc.jpg

Large OSM-based poster maps of Tacloban, Guiuan and Ormoc printed and delivered by International Organization on Migration in DSWD Operations Center in Tacloban Airport. The maps will be used to coordinate the relief and rescue efforts for the victims/survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

User-friendly open-source mapping tools

File:Nfgusedautoparts gps 1000x664.jpg

A car dashboard kitted out with gadgets. This is just one of a wide variety of mapping techniques. Visible here (left to right): A smartphone running OsmAnd (information and map display) and a tablet computer set up with OSMtracker (POI recording).

Interdisciplinary workshops

File:2014 Cochabamba workshop.jpg

1st “OpenStreetMap Workshop from scratch” – a free and open event that brought together artists, cartographers, marketing companies and territorial planning/computer science students as part of the activities of the HackLabCocha in Cochabamba, Bolivia. View the full set of photos.

GIS integration

File:QGIS tram lines black.png

Viewing OpenStreetMap buildings and tram data within the open source QGIS software.

Rendering data for events

File:Sochi Olympics Krasnaya Polyana Mountain Cluster.png

The 2014 Olympics ski venues in the Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi) mountain cluster. This spontaneous mashup using Leaflet shows OpenSnowMap’s ski pistes and lifts on OpenTopoMap as baselayer on a slippy map.

Base for displaying meteorological information

File:OpenWeatherMap for Leaflet 2013-10-28 15-03-01.jpg

Wind speeds and directions of storm Christian at 28th October 2013 in Northwest Germany overlaid on an OSM base map. The leaflet-openweathermap JavaScript library shows free OpenWeatherMap data in a slippy map.

Cool-looking things

File:Lille toile.jpg

A colourful artistic map of Lille (France) with its characteristic star-shaped citadel, made using OpenStreetMap data and QGIS as described in the tutorial here.

File:20130223 DSC1072 Looking at Buildings.jpg

OSM contributor Hawkeye admiring his laser-etched acrylic map (bounding box at OSM.org) of OpenStreetMap buildings in central Glasgow, made at the MAKLab in The Lighthouse, Glasgow.

File:Softcities map leggings.jpg

OpenStreetMap leggings. A prototype on show at State Of The Map U.S. 2012 of a new product from softcities.net.

 

File:IMG 20120428 164740.jpg

Maps copied onto shoes (by tracing over a projector image).

Crowd-sourced mapping activity visualisation

File:OSM-node-density-map-HD-crop-2013.png

No volcanic eruptions, no wildfires, but burning passion of OpenStreetMap volunteers – represented by a map showing the colourised node density of OpenStreetMap data. Alternative views: full world as slippy map, full world as single image (67 Mpx, 1 MiB); full world scaled down, more info how this was created.

Empower websites

File:LeMondeMapBox.png

Le Monde, one of the largest French newspapers, relaunched their online paid edition with interactive French maps powered by OpenStreetMap. Read more on the MapBox blog.

File:School-phys-sci.png

The University of Cambridge’s new online map was made live at http://map.cam.ac.uk in late September 2012 (and also linked from the University’s home page). This prestigious, year-long project has contributed lots of data to OSM and uses OSM data for its street index and custom renderings.

Video games

File:STK Rostock compare.jpg

Supertuxkart is a free, open-source racing game. Using 3D data from OpenStreetMap we can race around real-world street layouts, such as this suburb of Rostock.

Fun data visualisation

File:Taginfo-tag-cloud.png

Taginfo shows what tags are used in the OSM database. Here, the size is correlated to the number of times the tags are use.

File:Data tiles with 32MB of OpenStreetMap data.png

This curious map of the world, shows the result of dividing the OpenStreetMap dataset into quarters until each of these vector tiles is less than 32MB in size. An experiment by Eric Fischer (details).

Decision-making in urbanism

File:Glasgow park access network.png

Map showing distance from parks in Glasgow, using openstreetmap data and GRASS/QGIS network analysis. Dark red means further away from a park.

File:Surging seas climate change New York 10ft.png

The “Surging Seas” map blends OpenStreetMap and aerial imagery to interactively simulate sea level rise due to climate change. Here we see New York after a 10ft rise, the maximum setting. The storm surge of Hurricane Sandy brought a rise of up to 13ft.

Education

File:HermeskeilOSMTraining.jpg

Students from Azores Islands, Portugal, visiting Germany on a training course in JOSM and QA Editor as part of the Life Long Learning Mapping Project.

File:T garmin.jpg

“Life Long Learning Mapping Project : Şeyma, Kader, Neslihan,(teachers: Manfred, Miray) Simge, Özge, Our project aims to tackle the issue of gender-stereotyping. Students from Karacabey, Turkey, learning how to use a tracking device (Garmin) to improve OSM in Turkey.”

File:UCAD team Dakar.JPG

Team from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop after a five day training course in AUF Dakar. 23 students and researchers focussed on mapping the Medina municipality of Dakar, Senegal. See the HOT blog write-up by Augustin Doury.

File:Cubbon Park OSM Map.png

Pedestrian Map for Cubbon park, Bangalore, created as part of a class project at NID. Students developed a system of navigation and wayfinding for visitors to the park. Data was collected using Walking Papers, added to OpenStreetMap, and then exported and processed in Adobe Illustrator for the final output.

File:BBSSaarburg.jpg

Students and teachers from five countries meet in Saarburg, Germany to learn how to gather data, use mapping devices, feed in and maintain the OSM data. Meetings in Portugal, Slovenia, Romania and Turkey will follow as part of this two year EU funded Comenius project.

Routing

File:Android-osmand-routing.png

One of the many apps available for navigation purposes, this is a screenshot of OSMAnd on an Android phone.

Want to help?

Obviously, there are many more great things to be said about this project and the data’s many uses. If you want to help make this this great project grow, feel free to have a look at the beginner’s guide on the wiki and navigate the rest of the pages to learn more. You can also ask questions on OSM help. (With more than 7000 questions, it is likely yours is already answered!) But you can also go straight to the main website, create an account and click “edit” to contribute your local knowledge to you area’s map!

OpenBeerMap: what beers are offered nearby?

6 Aug OpenBeerMap close-up

I am a big fan of OpenStreetMap (OSM), the collaborative map of the world, in particular because of what people can create from all the information contained in that open database.

One really nice one is the OpenBeerMap project. It focuses on where a beer can be found close to you, but also what kind of beers are served (if the information was added to the database).

OpenBeerMap's website. Find the closest Karmeliet. Quick.

OpenBeerMap’s website. Find the closest Karmeliet. Quick.

Noémie (nlehuby on Github) has created a nifty website that uses that data with a nice minimalist Stamen background, integrated with Leaflet. You can share your location in your browser and find the closest bars/pubs/cafés, and if they are tagged with the “brewery” key in the OSM database, it will tell you which brands of beer they offer. You can find the sources of the website (and fork it) on its Github page, and a detailed account of the developing process on Noémie’s blog (in French).

This website is a more modern version of Open Brewpub Map, or rather complements it as it shows slightly different information: it only reveals the places that have been tagged with the “microbrewery” key, i.e. the places that produce their own craft beer.

I think that the website becomes even more useful on a smartphone. Here is the (very) easy guide to OpenBeerMap on Android.

There is no dedicated app for it yet, so head to openbeermap.github.io from your stock browser. There, you can browse the map and see information about the surrounding bars.

One great thing is that you can add information about the particular bar you are sipping a beer at, straight from the website. Just click the “add information about this bar” and you can update what beers that are available, add a new brand if it is not listed already, confirm WiFi availability and fill in the opening hours and even the happy hours to help your fellow cerevisaphiles! (Although for the moment the two hour fields are greyed out because, according to Noémie – and I can confirm that! –, the formatting for the OSM tags related to time are a bit tricky to get right.) Note that your edits will be credited to the user account OpenBeerMapContributor, and not yours. If you want your contribution to be credited to you, you can always use the link “éditer directement dans OpenStreetMap”.

Node modified via OpenBeerMap

Node modified via OpenBeerMap

To make it easier to access it on your phone, bookmark the website and select “Add to home screen” in order to create a launcher (see pictures below). It will even have a nice maß icon.

Another way to do it is to use Firefox to visit the Firefox Marketplace and get the OpenBeerMap app, for a more native experience (launcher, updates and uninstalling all work). And if you are on Firefox OS, go straight to the Marketplace to find it!

One known issue with the website is that it will only show nodes, and not the polygons that have the right tags. Another problem is that, as the website looks for places tagges as pubs, bars and café, even the ones not tagged with the “brewery” key, the beer glass icon does not necessarily mean that you will find beer there: you might just be able to have a cup of tea instead.

Now, hopefully this new website will attract more information to the database. At the time of writing, only 1883 objects are tagged with the “brewery” key. Contributing to the database will make it more useful for everyone. And give you a good excuse to drink more beers.

 

Edit: This article was edited on the 11th of August 2014 to integrate the comment I got from Matthias Ämmm on Diaspora (about Open Brewpub Map) and the comments from Noémie herself (about the actual map background and the Firefox integration). Thanks guys!

Leave Dropbox, join SpiderOak

27 Jul SpiderOak client and integration

While you are waiting for your own little home server to install your OwnCloud, make sure you change from Dropbox to SpiderOak as your default cloud storage service.

There are heaps of cloud storage businesses to choose from at the moment, but they differentiate in many ways. Dropbox is renowned for security and privacy issues, including possible involvement with PRISM and access to your files for copyright checks and deduplication. The English-language Wikipedia article about Dropbox details several issues that arose in the last few years. In SpiderOak’s case, data deduplication also exists but the difference is that it does not happen across users.

Surprinsingly, SpiderOak has been around longer than Dropbox: they started in 2007, and Dropbox the next year. They stress that their service focuses on security and privacy, using the term “zero-knowledge” to tell us that they won’t know anything about our personal stuff, and they have had a recent surge in new users because of the recent NSA revelations and the subsequent efforts of various non-for-profits to promote privacy in particular, and digital rights in general. On the 25th of July, their newsletter titled “Edward Snowden’s effect on SpiderOak” aknowledged that and read:

[…]We are excited to have you part of SpiderOak’s ‘Zero-Knowledge’ community. As more and more people become aware of our approach to user privacy and its implications for our digital lives, we can’t help but feel we are creating more than a business. We are actually creating a movement.
As it turns out, many people were listening when Edward Snowden mentioned SpiderOak. As a result, we’re seeing the highest rate of signups in our history. This has caused a dramatic increase in server load and customer inquiries. It’s been all hands on deck, around the clock to deliver the kind of service and response we feel is appropriate for such an occasion. By way of managing expectation, we plan to be fully adjusted within the week. […]
SpiderOak client and integration

SpiderOak client and integration

Another great thing about SpiderOak is that they provide a feature-full native client for Linux, including for Debian-, Fedora- and Slackware-based distributions, for both 32 and 64-bit architectures. In my test with both Ubuntu 13.10 and 14.04 (64-bit), the client integrated nicely with an indicator and a default sync folder that comes up in Nautilus (called the “SpiderOak Hive”). To find the client, go to their download page. You can also find their various open-source coding efforts on their GitHub page.

Because we are all about options, you can find other alternatives to Dropbox on the AlternativeTo website.

By the way, SpiderOak have a referral system that allows us to expand the free 2 GB storage space to up to 10 GB when getting friends to join (one GB per referral). If you want an extra gig when you join, let me know in a PM, I still have a few available.

CritiqueBrainz is in Beta!

20 May

CritiqueBrainz "logo"You might have heard of MusicBrainz, the open music database? It’s a bit of a nerdy Discogs, with more details and a better structure. It is run by the MetaBrainz non-profit organisation, and the data is of course gathered by more than 250,000 contributors, similarly to Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap. This project has been around for a while (it started in 2002), and a thing that I love about it is that it keeps on getting better with very regular updates. It also adds elements to the database scheme, which makes it potentially more precise, while getting more user friendly too by enhancing the user interface. Overall, this gives me a warm feeling of sustainability in the project. At the moment of writing, the database includes more than 840,000 artists, 1.2 million releases, 13.4 million recordings and 81,000 labels.

One thing that was missing in the project, even though users could give a five-star rating to entities, was the capacity to write actual creative release reviews – which makes sense as the database aims at gathering verifiable objective data about music, not user opinions about it. It is now possible with the launch of the CritiqueBrainz beta, as separate website that gathers reviews under a Creative Commons (CC) license. To kick-start the new MusicBrainz family member, a big import of nearly 9000 BBC reviews under CC license has been made.

One cool thing is that the reviews integrate a little Spotify player that lets you listen to the album while reading someone’s rants/praise (if (1) you have a Spotify account and (2) the release in question – or, better said in the database jargon, “release group” – has been matched with a Spotify release in the MusicBrainz database).

Even if a release group has not been reviewed yet, you can still browse the MusicBrainz database through the CritiqueBrainz website, and it looks a lot more like what the lambda user expects of a discography website – which also makes it very practical for example for finding out which cover arts are missing from the database.

The look of an artist page on CritiqueBrainz - less cryptic than its big brother.

The look of an artist page on CritiqueBrainz – less cryptic than its big brother.

One thing I have noticed is that for the moment, the reviewers are not able to give ratings to the releases. As I mentioned earlier, it is possible in MusicBrainz to rate most elements out of five stars (artists, releases, recordings, works, labels…), but the reviewers on CritiqueBrainz seem to only communicate their views through the written comments. It could be a way to promote a more elaborate explanation of the contributor’s judgement, which is fair enough I guess. But this brand new website also has the potential to attract original reviews and congregate a number of reviews already available on the Internet under a CC license, which would ultimately be a great way to add this kind of relevant data to the database itself.

Readers can however thumb up or thumb down the reviews, which will likely reveal the most interesting, convincing and well-written ones to the top after a big enough user base has joined the project.

Example of a review on CritiqueBrainz

Example of a review on CritiqueBrainz. This one, on the latest Knife album, was imported from the BBC reviews.

This website was made possible thanks to the work of two Google Summer of Code students: Maciej Czerwiński for the year 2013, and Roman Tsukanov for the year 2014. Thank you guys for that great work!

And to finish, I will just quote Ruaok’s description of the new project:

“We’re hoping to make CritiqueBrainz a user site that uses more cover-art and white space to make a site that is friendlier to browse the amazing pieces of information that MusicBrainz has collected. Unlike the data nerds at MusicBrainz, not everyone loves information overload; this site should hopefully make non-data nerds happy about MusicBrainz data.”

You can read the whole announcement on the MusicBrainz blog by following this link.

And if you want to participate in this website’s development, the code is on GitHub.

Edit: the issue about rating releases has been reported on the bug tracker already, and Roman stated that the enhancement is on the roadmap.