Category Archives: OpenContent

Wikimedia India becomes an official chapter

As Wikimedia Foundation, parent of Wikipedia, grows its global network of chapters, it is exciting to see the announcement that Wikimedia India has been approved unanimously by the Wikimedia chapters committee to become an official Wikimedia chapter. Read more here about the announcement.

If you love what Wikipedia has done so far (I do :D), join in making India’s chapter successful. Browse submitted proposals, contribute your ideas, join and organize a workgroup to add to your favorite content source.

Let’s Unlock Our Data

Document Freedom Day March 31, 2010

Document Freedom Day March 31, 2010

Today is Document Freedom Day. It is a day marked around the world for document liberation. It also highlights the importance of using open standards and open data formats for document interchange between everyone who has information to share – between people, schools, businesses and governments.

Progress is being made.

The Open Government Initiative launched last year by the Obama administration is a giant step in implementing open government. Its directives define goals for improving the quality of government information available to the public and for creating a policy framework to build and maintain a culture of open government. At the level of open document and information exchange, real progress is being achieved by completing milestones that track the success of this initiative.

But there are still hurdles to overcome.

In his keynote at OSBC earlier this month, Tim O’Reilly talked about how data lock-in has become a serious challenge to open data. I believe we, and our governments, must even more persistently apply the principles of open source — transparency, collaboration and participation — to free our information and documents from the threat of data lock-in.

Google’s Indic Transliteration tool is pretty neat

While browsing through Google Labs‘ latest inventions, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Google India Labs site with this neat tool for Indic transliteration from English to 5 major Indian languages – Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. The Hindi transliterator converts Roman characters to Devanagari characters. Of course it assumes that you can type “Hinglish” but the tool produces pretty accurate results. And it supports Google services such as Blogger and Orkut which are very popular in India. I’d love to see this tool integrated into GDocs for creating Hindi and other Indian language documents, presentations, spreadsheets. It would be a really useful tool for local language word processing and developing digital content. An API for transliteration of websites is available and its documentation can be found here. If you’re an open source Indic language whiz, check this tool out and provide feedback at

Why Bloggers (Even Non-Programmers) Benefit from Participating in Open Source Projects

BlogHer 2008BlogHer 2008, is an annual conference that brings together bloggers from all over the world to confab under one roof. This year it will be held July 18-20 in San Francisco. Over 1000 women bloggers will gather together at this forum to talk and blog live about a lot of topics – from political opinion commentary to parenting, green eco-consciousness to travel, good blogging techniques to open source technology and blogging tools. Pretty cool, huh!

I’ll be one of the speakers at an exciting panel this Friday on “Why Bloggers (Even Non-Programmers) Benefit from Participating in Open Source Projects“. My fellow panelists include Mozilla’s Chief Lizard Wrangler Mitchell Baker and Freebase community director Kirrily Robert. This panel will discuss why and how bloggers, programmers and even non-programmers can participate in open source projects and the benefits of participating in the open source community which shares a lot with the blogging world. Participation begins with an itch to scratch or a problem to solve and can be challenging as well as fun in open source projects . This interactive discussion promises to be interesting and I’ll blog more on my experience later.

Software-as-a-Service and your rights

As the Web becomes an integral part of our lives and culture, web applications are being used as online services at an unprecedented scale. Email, calendaring, social bookmarks, social news, photo sharing, video sharing, social networking, mapping are all applications that we use every day. Free and open source software is being used to build many of these new web services. But we find that most of these online applications are closed source and have turned waters murky in terms of ownership (especially when open source licensed software is used). Separation of usage and distribution of software has changed the relationships between software and users. Who owns what part of the software, who controls what part, what rights do users have and how do they protect them are just some of the questions that one has to deal with.

It’s great to see a new initiative “” launched by a group of hackers and activists who are concerned about the effects by network services on user freedom. Some of contributors in this effort include Benjamin Mako Hill (MIT/FSF), Bradley Kuhn (SFLC and Software Freedom Conservancy), James Vasile (SFLC) and Luis Villa (GNOME Foundation, OSI Legal Advisory Board). The group is supported by the FSF and intends to serve as a forum to examine issues raised by network services and establish an “informed” position on software freedom and network services.

Learn more about the Franklin Street Declaration, and the Open Software Service Definition at

OOXML victory taints ISO credibility

Microsoft’s controversial OOXML private file format was voted in as standard DIS29500 by the International Standards Organization, err… the “I Sold Out” (ISO) this weekend. Amid serious allegations of irregularities in the voting process, political manipulation, cronyism, influence trading and unfair practices employed to secure favorable votes, ISO committees stuffed with inept members representing various countries voted 75% in favor of OOXML.

All for a document format! What a shame to demolish the credibility of such a prestigious standards body. And for a format from a corporation which fiercely opposes competition, cannot tolerate open standards and cannot get over misusing its corporate reach.

The Open Malaysia blog has some interesting stats about the vote.

* 24 out of 32 P-Members (Participating Members) voted in favor of OOXML (75%). The requirement for confirmation is >= 66.66%.
* A total of 61 P-Members and O-Members (Observing and Other Members) voted in favor.
* 10 out of 71 member countries voted against (14%).
* 16 countries abstained and were not counted in the total.

According to , a lot of last minute vote switching occurred due to heavy influence brokering by Microsoft, its subsidiaries and its business partners. This carried OOXML forward to approval.
But approval at what cost? Desperate efforts to win by compromising institutional integrity can only backfire and is already leading to erosion of brand credibility for Microsoft around the world. Microsoft is its own worst enemy.

Another report discussing the problems at the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) can be found at Groklaw. Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth has also commented about the process in an interview.

OSBC 2008: Bringing Television to the Web with Open Source

In another interesting keynote at OSBC by Steven Pearson, VP of Advanced Technologies at CBS Interactive, we learned about how deeply open source is being used in his organization. Almost every online property of CBS –,,, – is using open source for their application requirements, ranging from news simulcasts, live election reporting to connecting users who share similar tastes in music and customizing radio streams.

Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl, Lucene, Tomcat, PHP, Spring are among technologies that CBS is using heavily. Open source has offered greater ROI for CBS with increase in speed of development, ease of access to source code and documentation, and the ability to enhance source code when needed. CBS Interactive has also contributed back to several open source projects such as CPAN.

The future of open source is bright at CBS with more and more open source projects for the online services that CBS is offering its audiences. Interestingly, Pearson did not feel that competition with other media organizations such as NBC, ABC, and Fox prevents CBS from contributing to open source projects. After all, having content platforms, made robust through open source practices, for delivering ads helps drive up CBS’s revenues.