1. TICTeC: looking back to Florence and forward to Taipei

    Thanks so much to everyone who joined us in Florence last week for the third Impacts of Civic Technology conference, TICTEC. As always, it was an event shaped by the many thoughtful contributions from both the speakers and the audience.

    Resources

    For those who couldn’t be there, and for those who were but couldn’t see everything, here’s where to find a taste of the two days.

    • The official TICTeC website has a full list of speakers and the schedule. To see more about any session, click on it from the speaker’s page or from the schedule. We’ll add any links, transcripts, slides or videos as they become available to these pages, too.
    • Want to know more about a specific session? Most speakers have included their Twitter handles on their page, so you can tweet them your question.
    • You can also see all the slides in one place (where we’ve received permission from speakers; there may be more to follow) on Slideshare.
    • Everyone who attended is automatically a member of the TICTeC Google Group (and you can also join even if you weren’t there, of course). Feel free to continue discussions or start new ones there.
    • Thanks so much to the enterprising delegates who contributed to these crowdsourced notes on many of the sessions.
    • We’ve gathered together the best tweets and pictures on Storify.
    • Key sessions were videoed, and we also interviewed several delegates — but editing takes a little time, so keep an eye on this blog or our Twitter feed to find out when those go live.
    • We’ll also put professional photos from the event over on our Flickr account, as soon as we have them. They’ll all be under Creative Commons, so feel free to download and share them if you wish.

    Taiwan

    Don’t forget that TICTeC is expanding this year: we’ll also be in Taipei as part of the Civic Tech fest in September.

    We’re really glad to be taking the event to Asia, and we’re certain that this will bring a completely new perspective to the issues and initiatives discussed — it should also make the event accessible to a wider audience.

    If you’d like to present at TICTeC@Taipei, please submit a session proposal by 16th June 2017. Applications for travel grants are now also open, so if you need financial support to attend submit your application here by the same deadline.

  2. Adding translated subtitles on YouTube

    Almost all the videos on our YouTube channel now have subtitles in English. You can tell which ones do, by the small CC symbol beneath each one:

    mySociety YouTube channel

    Watching our videos with subtitles

    To switch subtitles on or off, you click the CC sign at the bottom right of every video:

    Where to find the CC button on youtube videos

    If we’ve already provided subtitles for the video you’re watching, that’s what you’ll see. If you’ve picked one of the few we still haven’t got round to, you get YouTube’s automatically-generated subtitles which — while they do obviously represent great strides in voice recognition technology, compared to how things were only a few years ago — can still be a bit hit and miss.

    Subtitles make videos more useful for all sorts of people, from the hearing impaired to those who just want to watch without disturbing others. But of course, English subtitles aren’t necessarily useful for people who speak other languages.

    The National Democratic Institute (NDI) recently asked whether we’d mind them translating some of our subtitles into Arabic. Mind? We were positively delighted.

    Video with Arabic subtitles

    It turns out that YouTube has really upped its game on subtitles, making it much easier to add them to our own videos, and providing the means for others to contribute too.

    Here’s how to view subtitles in another language:

    Click on the ‘settings’ cogwheel at the bottom right of the video:

    settings cogwheel on youtube videos

    You’ll see a short menu pop up. Click on ‘subtitles/CC’:

    settings menu on youtube videos

    Then select the language you require: in this case, you have the choice between Arabic, our own English subtitles, or, for potential comic value, the auto-generated version.

    language menu for subtitles on youtube

    Incredibly, you can also select ‘auto-translate’, which takes the English transcript and gives you what appears to be a fairly reasonable version (presumably run through Google Translate) in any one of more than 100 different languages.

    Here’s how to contribute subtitles in another language

    If you think our videos might be useful for organisations, researchers or students, but that they would benefit from being able to read the subtitles in their own language, you are more than welcome to contribute a translation.

    Begin by clicking on the three dots next to the word ‘More’, and then selecting ‘transcript’ from the drop-down menu:

    youtube where to find the 'add transcript' menu

    This will show you the existing transcript in written form. At the top you’ll see a dropdown menu with options for the transcripts which are already in place, and at the bottom, ‘Add subtitles/CC’:

    where to find the 'add transcript' menu on youtube

    Again, you’ll be shown a list of the translations that we already have, and invited to search for the language that you wish to add — in this case, let’s say Greek:

    select a language to translate into on youtubeClick on the name of the language, and you get this simple translation interface, with a box below each section of the existing transcript for you to type your translation into. And as you type, you’ll see how the subtitles will look on the video.

    translation interface youtubeOnce you’re done, you just click ‘submit for review’ on the top right, and that sends us an email to tell us there’s a translation waiting.

    And that’s it! You’ve benefited everyone who speaks your language… and of course we here at mySociety will also be very grateful.


    Image:
    © European Union 2012 EP/Pietro Naj-Oleari (CC by-nc-nd/2.0)

  3. How 350 FOI requests will increase the chance of success for start-ups

    Gavin Chait hates walking past empty shops.

    We’re talking about shops where the only person inside is a bored cashier, waiting for customers. Gavin sees it as a sign that the business should never have been set up in that location, and, more importantly, as something that’s completely avoidable.

    With his company Whythawk, he’s on a mission to get that changed — and he’s using Freedom of Information to do so. It’s a very interesting case study that shows just how WhatDoTheyKnow, our Freedom of Information platform, can be used for the social good.

    So, if you have a few minutes, sit back and watch Gavin explain what led him to make 350 FOI requests, one to each local authority in England and Wales — and what he did when many of them were turned down.

    You can read more about the whole project at Pikhaya.com.

    Thanks very much to Gavin for taking the time to talk to us.

    Do you have a story to tell about how you’ve used one of mySociety’s sites? We’d love to hear from you: just drop us a line on communications@mysociety.org.


    Image: Dan Thompson (CC)

  4. Videos from AlaveteliCon

    Earlier this year, the AlaveteliCon conference brought together people with an interest in online Freedom of Information technologies.

    It was an event quite unlike any other, and left a lasting impression of many dedicated people making good things happen for their communities, in places across the world.

    That impression is reflected in these short videos, which came about when we yanked attendees away from their lunches and asked them questions in a darkened room.

    Thanks very much to everyone who responded so amiably, as well as giving us such useful insights into what it’s like to run an FOI site in all sorts of circumstances. We’ve named them at the foot of this post, along with links to their sites.

    (more…)

  5. Alaveteli and mySociety

    Just to finish off this collection of video clips from the Alaveteli conference, here are a couple featuring mySociety people. They were shot by Romina Colman.

    First, mySociety Director Tom Steinberg, talking about what he hopes will happen as a result of the conference.

    And below is Seb Bacon, Lead Developer of the Alaveteli Platform, explaining how the project began:

    You can see all Romina’s videos from the Alaveteli Conference – some in English, some in Spanish – on YouTube. Romina also put together a Storify story of the conference.

    Phew! Do you feel like you were there yet? If you’ve been inspired by the examples and advice from transparency hackers and activists around the world, you may be thinking about building your own Alaveteli site. Why not join our mailing list and introduce yourself? After all, if you’ve watched these videos, you’ll already be familiar with many of the people on the list!

  6. Alaveteli in Italy

    Romina Colman is, in her own words, a Freedom of Information activist from Buenos Aires. She did a great job of recording events at AlaveteliCon, what with blogging for Argentina’s national newspaper La Nacion, copious tweeting, and videos.

    Here, Romina speaks to Andrea Menapace from Italy, co-founder of Diritto di Sapere.

    In this short clip (1:15), Andrea explains the current situation with Freedom of Information in Italy, and what his nascent organisation hopes to achieve.

    Together with Guido Romeo (science editor at Wired Italy) I am the founder of Diritto di Sapere, a brand new organisation working on the Right to Information and Transparency in Italy. I am a lawyer by training and I have been working as a researcher and project manager in human rights and humanitarian organizations. I am currently working as a consultant for international NGOs on digital media and civil society capacity building projects.

    Find Andrea on Twitter.

  7. Alaveteli in Serbia

    Two good reasons to use Alaveteli: it’s flexible, and there’s a supportive, worldwide community. So says Danko Nikolic from Serbia in this half-minute clip.

    Danko is one of the founders of the Zajecar Initiative (ZI). ZI has grown into a leading civil society organization working outside the capital of Belgrade. On behalf of ZI, he has developed, co-managed and managed projects funded by various donors, such as National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA Embassy Democracy Commission, USAID, Fund for an Open Society and others.

    Zajecar Initiative is now working on the Serbian version of WriteToThem, aiming to enable the citizens of Serbia to communicate with their local representatives and MPs.

     

  8. Alaveteli in Brazil

    This is Daniela B. Silva from Transparência Hacker in Brazil. In this short clip, Daniela speaks about launching Queremossaber, a Freedom of Information website, into a country where the Right to Know is not yet an embedded part of civic life:

    We know that these things are not going to come from Government so easily… you have to create a culture that’s not so based on secrecy; more based on dialogue.”

    Transparência Hacker is an autonomous and decentralised community of more than 800 hackers and activists for transparency and openness in Brazil. Queremos Saber is the first Brazilian platform for access to information requests. Transparência Hacker also run the Ônibus Hacker, a bus to spread DIY culture in Brazilian localities – as well as many other projects.

  9. Alaveteli in Spain

    Here’s David Cabo from Tuderechoasaber.es. In another minute-long chat, he explains the environment in Spain, into which the Alaveteli-powered site launched.

    “No-one has done it before, so no-one knows how to start.”

    David in his own words:

    I’m vice-president of Pro Bono Publico – a Spanish association organizing the biggest Open Data hackathon in the country, AbreDatos – and creator of dondevanmisimpuestos.es, a web site for visualizing the annual budgets from Spanish public administrations, developed in collaboration with the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN). I worked with mySociety and Access Info Europe in the development of the EU access to information site, AsktheEU.org. I launched the transparency initiative #adoptaundiputado (Adopt an MP) to crowdsource the parsing of Spanish parliamentarians’ financial disclosure reports, and have collaborated with investigative journalists in the extraction and analysis of public records (Looting the Seas, ICIJ). I’m currently working on tuderechoasaber.es, an access to information site for Spain based on the Alaveteli software and funded by more than 150 small donors using the crowdfunding platform Goteo.

  10. Alaveteli in the Czech Republic

    During the Alaveteli conference, mySociety’s Director Tom had a quick chat with some of the delegates. And quick means quick! This one lasts just 61 seconds.

    It’s Josef Pospisil from the Czech Republic, explaining why Alaveteli was the platform of choice for his forthcoming FOI (Freedom of Information) site, www.infoprovsechny.cz.

    Here’s Josef in his own words:

    I am a Czech developer based in the North Bohemian city of Liberec. I was the first Rubyist in the Czech Republic, even before Rails was released. I answered the call of duty last December when the Czech FOI community was searching for a Ruby on Rails expert. From that time I am working on getting the Czech version of WDTK going.