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Flickr August 26, 2008

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This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Eye-candy… but of a serious kind: Tips on how to display figures February 26, 2008

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  Visualizing Information for Advocacy:

  An Introduction to Information Design
  By John Emerson
  Tactical Technology Collective
  http://tacticaltech.org
  Printed in India, January 2008
  Creative Commons License
  Downloadable from http://www.tacticaltech.org/infodesign
 
Reviewed by Frederick Noronha
fred@bytesforall.org
 
You’ve got data. Now what do you do with it? Can you tell an   effective story with the information you have? Can you “move   your audience”?

This is a manual that “offers an introductino to information design”. And it is indended to provide non-government organisations “with a useful and powerful tool for advocacy and research.”

TacticalTech’s Marek Tuszynski, who announced this booklet, said: “Modern life is saturated with ever increasing amounts of information, advertising and media with little time to
digest what is being said. Against this background, NGOs and advocates too often find the information they want to communicate, either buried in long reports full of professional jargon and statistics, or overlooked in an endless stream of media releases.”
 
Next, we go to the link between information design and advocacy, analysis, consumer education and strategy. To make it practical, there’s a “how to begin” chapter, and another how-to on “planning your information design”.
 
Keeping in sync with the tone of the book, the short, visually-rich chapters of the book focus on assessing your data, sorting and sketching, assessing your media, designing your graphics, clarifying your graphics and more.

This publication has been sponsored by Soros’ Open Society Institute Information Program. It leads you thought an explanation of what information design is, how you could use it, and specificially where it fits into advocacy.

But this is a practical book. Using images and comparisons, for example, it explains how spectrum lobbying works.

It points to sites like justvision.org, and the time-line on it, as examples of the good presentation of data (of stories of Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace, in this case). See http://justvision.org/en/timeline

There’s more eye-candy (but of a serious kind!) too. A project of Greenpeace, Exxon Secrets charts funding by the Exxon Foundation to institutions and individual ‘climate change skeptics’ working to undermine solutions to global warming and climate change. The interface makes it easy to visualize and navigate the research. See http://exxonsecrets.org

Some fascinating use of facts, figures and images here. As we’re told: “Information design uses pictures, symbols, colours, and words to communicate ideas, illustrate information or express relationships visually.”

There are practical tips:

“There are many ways to tell a story or to present data. How do you know what kind of presentation to use? The main thing to consider is: how will your information design be used? Is it for planning? Or advocacy? Are you trying to tell a specific story? Or are you trying to create a more neutral map to guide a process of discovery?”

In its 25 pages, there are a whole lot of examples … that really make you think.

Of special interest is a section focussing on how Free Software tools can be used in these tasks. OpenOffice does your office-computing work. NeoOffice works for Mac OS. Ajax13 is a web-based office suite at [http://us.ajax13.com]

InkScape is a vector graphics editor “with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand or CorelDraw”.

PDFCreator will create PDF files from “nearly any Windows application that can print”. Scribus can create layouts for newsletters, stationery, posters, training manuals, technical documentation, business cards and more. The GIMP is an “image manipulation programme”. GIMPShop is a version of this tool modified to be more user-friendly for Photoshop users.

You could write for copies from infodesign@tacticaltech.org But why waste forests when it’s just a download away? Click to get this book for free from http://www.tacticaltech.org/infodesign

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Newsrack… a great tool January 16, 2007

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Newsrack is a great tool. You can use it to keep track of news on issues related to keywords of your interest. Written by a friend, Subramanya “Subbu” Sastry <sastry at cs.wisc.edu>

In Subbu’s words:

I am Subbu and I have been working on the news monitoring tool NewsRack, one of which is accessible at http://floss.sarai.net/newsrack Currently, over 250 users have registered with NewsRack….

At this time, NewsRack is able to track news from 5 different Hindi sources:

  • Dainik Jagran
  • BBC-Hindi
  • Navbharat Times
  • Dainik Bhaskar
  • Hindustan Dainik

and one Kannada source

  • Kannada Prabha

This list is expected to grow in the future.

So, at this time, on NewsRack, it is possible to track only Hindi news from the above sources, or it is possible to track English and Hindi (and Kannada) news at the same time for the same topic. As an example, check the coverage for the ongoing Singur land acquisition saga http://floss.sarai.net/newsrack/Browse.do?owner=subbu&issue=Land+Issues&catID=3

It would be good as an example to set up something entirely in Hindi .. so
feel free to email me if any of you has a need for tracking a particular
topic using the above Hindi sources.

Check out the Goa-linked stories on Newsrack.

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Blog of the ‘vicious beast’ January 15, 2007

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Derek Cordeiro very modestly showed me the template and blog he had created for himself. Derek, 22, is a Goa Engineering College student and the guy who keeps my comp(s) working… in fine shape. He has done it for years, and I’ve had no complaint whatsoever. One can always rely on his ingenuity to find some solution to any (or so it seems) problem one things of in the IT world. His blog says:

This blog isn’t about anything specific. I usually focus on alternate technology, better technology, Free/ Open Source Software, Books(Technical) and various events in my life… Viciously Yours, The Beast.

Looks neat. Well made. Looking forward to more blogs. Specially from the GNU/Linux community in Goa… and everyone else too.

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F[L]OSS … in the neighbourhood January 14, 2007

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It was nice to see my essay on Free and Open Source Software in Pakistan (unexpectedly) make it to the cover of the Linux For You magazine. Thanks to the International Open Source Network for giving me the opportunity to compile this in the first place, and making it sharable! I need to work on some of the corrections and additions that I received feedback on. It was very interesting working on this report… and spreading the word about how much is actually happening in a way that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

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No complaints: a stolen DVD January 10, 2007

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Why would someone in the postal department somewhere (I assume) want to steal my GNU/Linux DVD?

Firstly, I doubt too many postmen use this operating system. (Don’t get me wrong… it would be great if they did.) Secondly, this is Free Software. If someone really wanted it, I would gladly make a copy for them.

One can only assume that the person slitting my magazine envelope, and helping himself to the DVD didn’t quite know what was inside. Anyway, I lost a recent Ubuntu DVD….

The only good news is that the same DVD came in another magazine. There’s so much of Free Software around, that we have to deal with the issues of surplus!

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Yesterday’s politicised students, fighting for change… and relevant tech now January 10, 2007

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Photo Karina Vasquez

An ICT-for-development workshop got underway in Goa last weekend.It was  organised by the St John’s University of New York and the
Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media. Expectedly, and in
keeping with Goa’s size, it is a small event.

Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala (green shirt, front row, fourth from left), known
for his CorDECT wireless in local loop telephony solutions, and also
for inspiring so many students to do innovative work at IIT-Chennai,
was among those present. We spoke about how politicised students of the
yesteryears had turned into the key movers and shakers in a movement to
now make technology relevant to the common(wo)man. “IIT Kanpur
was at the centre of it all. We were in between two movements, the
Jayaprakash movement, and the Naxalite movement,” he said. And he
also spoke of the latter influences of Gandhism and his links with the
PPST (the Patriotic, and People-Oriented Science and Technology
movement, with its inexpensive and hardly glamourous publications,
which I saw as a young journalist … and which probably influence
a whole lot of other youngsters too).

Of course, Dr Jhunjhunwala was someone who influenced me too…
with his 2001 seminar on telephony for the ‘developing’
world. It’s interesting to see how, over the years, the
possibility of using ICT for more than just export dollars is getting a
serious re-look. But, what’s to be done to prevent the debate
from being hijacked? ….

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The promise of … the ‘Bangalore Tiger’ December 25, 2006

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While passing through Bangalore yesterday, I came across Bangalore Tiger: How Indian Tech UPstart Wipro is Rewriting the Rules of Global Competition by Steve Hamm. This is a 2007-dated Indian edition released by Tata McGraw-Hill and priced a rupee or five (can’t recall) below the Rs 300 mark.

Am only at the beginning of the book. But Hamm seems to be trying hard to tell a tech story in an interesting with, with a human face. There are still a lot of details to contend with.

Some reviews and links (including Amazon.com) to the book are here.

On the back cover, the book promises:

“At one time, the West’s multinationals ruled supreme. Now, the shining stars of India’s Silicon Valley are shaking up the global business establishment. Bangalore Tiger exposes the key principles of Wipro’s transnational business model, offering valuable lessons in improving quality, cutting costs, motivating employees, and streamlining processes. From its mastery of global collaboration and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and its market expansion strategy to its constant-improvement approach and ‘zero politcs’ policy, author Steve Hamm reveals the never-before-told story of how ‘The Wipro Way’ of doing business is changing the world.”

Wonder if the book will live up to its promise. If I can keep away from the comp sufficiently long to complete it, will let you know…

CC-India … a welcome from BytesForAll December 6, 2006

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Here’s a note posted to the CC-India mailing list:

Congrats to the proposed CC-India, on behalf of BytesForAll
[http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bytesforall_readers]

Our goals run parallel, and you can be assured of all support to your
proposed network. Will share your contact via that network.

At the personal level, I’m also working to create e-books (second one
almost ready) that records local history within Goa. Naturally, as you
would have guessed, these are being put out under the CreativeCommons
2.5 Attribution or parallel licenses.

PS: You can see the first book here:Behind the News: Voices from Goa’s Press by Various – Project … Download the free eBook: Behind the News: Voices from Goa’s Press by Various. www.gutenberg.org/etext/11523

This was in response to a post from Ramakrishnan Diraviyam who commented:

“We are an upcomming network of the community by name The ICT Gateway. we wish to know mare about Creative Commons.
T D Krishna.”

Getting set… the launch of the IGF October 20, 2006

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The Internet Governance Forum‘s inaugural meet is at Athens, Greece from October 30 to November 2, 2006. My Association for Progressive Communications colleagues Frédéric Dubois and Analia Lavin will be there.

To get to the background of what this is all about check this Wikipedia page. It has links to the mandate of the IGF, its structure and functions, its history, its analysis, its current situation and some external links.

As of now, there are 89 reports showing up on Google’s news page pertaining to the IGF. In terms of blog references, again via Google, there are some 3,524 links. Including this one, from APC, titled Internet Governance Forum: APC puts up the fight for an open access, equal opportunity and educative internet.

Optimism and cautious expectations? A quote from that report:

“In its short life, the internet has become an agent of dramatic, even revolutionary change and maybe one of today’s greatest instruments of progress. It is a marvellous tool to promote and defend freedom and to give access to information and knowledge,” Kofi Annan said in his statement announcing the upcoming IGF meeting.

These words by the top UN bureaucrat might sound encouraging. But for progressive communications to shine on the world, the IGF will have to be more than a test-run. If WSIS was just that, it’s time for governments, civil society and the private sector to put goodwill and openness at work.