Vancouver

Archived Posts from this Category

For OpenDataDay 2013, a language census of Vancouver’s datasets

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 28 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: Vancouver, culture, meetings and conferences, multilingual

OpenDataDay 2013 was celebrated last Saturday, February  23rd 2013, at over 100 hackathons and work days in 38 countries around the world. The City of Vancouver hosted a hackathon at Vancouver City Hall, and I joined in. My project was a language census of Vancouver’s open data datasets. Here’s what I set out to do.

Open Data is the idea that governments (and other bodies) publish data about their activity and holdings in machine-readable form, with loose terms of use, for citizens and other parties to use, and build upon, and add value to. Open Data Day rallies citizens and governments around the world “to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption open data policies by the world’s local, regional and national governments”.  I’m proud that local Vancouver open data leader David Eaves was one of the founders of Open Data Day. The UK-based Open Knowledge Foundation is part of the organisational foundation for OpenDataDay, but much of the energy is from local groups and volunteers (for example, the OKF in Japan).

Vancouver’s Open Data Day was a full house of some 80 grassroots activists, with attendance throughout the day by city staff, including Linda, the caretaker of the Vancouver Open Data portal and the voice of @VanOpenData on Twitter.  I missed the “Speed Data-ing” session in the morning, where participants could circulate among city providers of datasets to talk directly about was available and what each side wanted. I’m told that national minister the Honourable Tony Clement was also there (who now is responsible for the Government of Canada’s Open Data portal data.gc.ca, but who also in 2010 helped turn off the spigot of open data at its source by killing the long form census). I saw Councilmember Andrea Reimer there for the afternoon working session, and listening to the day-end wrap-ups, tweeting summaries of each project. I won’t try to describe all the projects. Take a look at the Vancouver Open Data Day 2013 wiki page, or the tweets tagged #vodhd13 (for Vancouver), and tagged #OpenData (worldwide).

I gave myself two goals for the hackathon. First, provide expertise and increased visibility for internationalisation and multi-lingual issues among the participants. Second, work on a modest project which would move internationalisation of local data forward.

My vision is that apps based on Vancouver open data should be localised into all the languages in which Vancouver residents want them. Over 30% of the people in the Vancouver region speak a language other than English at home, says Stats Canada. That is over  700,000 people of the 2.9m people in the area. Now of course localising those apps and web sites is a task for the developer. My discipline, internationalisation (i18n), is a set of design and implementation techniques to make it cheaper and easier to localise an app or web site. At some point, an app or web site presents data sourced from an open data dataset. In order for the complete user experience to be localised, the dataset also needs to be localised. A challenge of enabling localisation of open data-sourced apps is to set up formats, social structures, and incentive structures which makes it easier for datasets to get localised into the languages which matter to the end users.

To that end, I picked a modest project for the day. It was to make a language census of the city of Vancouver’s Open Data datasets. The link is to a project page I started on the Open Data Day wiki. I intended it to be a simple table describing the Vancouver, but it ended up with a good deal of explanation in the front matter.  I won’t repeat all that, but just give a couple of examples.

The 3-1-1 Contact Centre Interactions dataset (CSV format) has rows like (I’ve simplified):

Category1     , Category2     , Category3          , Mode    , 2012-11, 2012-12, 2013-1
CSG - Licenses, Animal Control, Dead Animals Pickup, Voice In,      22,      13,     13

While the Animal Control Inventory Deceased Animals dataset (CSV format) has rows like (again, simplified):

ID,  Date      ,CatOther   , Description              ,Sex,ACO            , Bag
7126,2013-02-23,SDC        , Tan/black medium hair cat,   ,Duty driver- JT, 13-00033
7127,2013-02-23,Dead Budgie,                          ,   ,Duty driver-JT , 13-00034
7128,2013-02-26,Cat        , Black and White          ,F  ,               , 13-00035

Note that most of the fields are simply data: dates, numbers, codes. These do not need to be localised. Some of the fields, like the Category fields in the 311 Interactions, are English-language phrases. But they are pulled from a controlled vocabulary, and so could be translated once into the target language, and would not usually need to be updated when new data is release. In contrast, a few fields in the Animal Control Inventory dataset, e.g. CatOther, Description, and ACO, seem to contain free text in English. Potentially, every new record in the dataset represents a new translation task.

The purpose of the language census is to go through the datasets in the Vancouver Open Data catalogue, and the fields for each dataset, and simply identify which fields are data, which are controlled vocabulary, and which are free text.  It’s not a major exercise. It doesn’t involve programming. Yet I believe it’s an important building block towards the vision of localised apps driven by open data.

Incidentally, this exercise inspired me to propose another dataset for the Vancouver catalogue: a dataset listing the datasets. There are 130 datasets in the Vancouver Open Data catalogue, and more are on the way. The only listing of them is an HTML page intended for human consumption. It would be nice to have a machine-readable table in CSV or XML format, describing the names and URLs and formats of the datasets in some structured way.

I’m happy to report success at my first goal, also. Several participants stopped by to talk with me about language support and internationalisation. I’m hopeful that it will help the non-English localisation of the apps, and city datasets, happen a little bit sooner.

If you would like to help in the language census, the project page is a wiki, and you are welcome to make constructive edits. See you there! Or, add a comment below.

“It Gets Better” in music: 7. Vancouver Mens’ Chorus

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: LGBT, Vancouver

In honour of the Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival today, which celebrates the spice which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people contribute to our community — by means of a parade that ran literally past our front door — I’m kicking off a blog post series featuring my top seven favourite musical contributions to the It Gets Better project.

If you haven’t come across It Gets Better, then run don’t walk to the It Gets Better project site. Watch some of the over 10,000 videos contributed by people, from all walks of life, with a common theme: encouraging youth who are being bullied, and perhaps contemplating ending their lives, to believe that life gets better after high school — and that they too should stick around to see it happen. Continue Reading »

In honour of Derek K. Miller

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 May 2011 | Tagged as: Vancouver, culture, digital preservation, meetings and conferences, personal

Derek K. Miller self-portraiI never met Derek Miller. I take that back. I may well have met him, say at the Northern Voice conference, the annual gathering of the B.C. blogging and social media scene.  I almost certainly heard him play drums; I’m told his band, The Neurotics, played at the start line of the Vancouver Sun Run, our annual 50,000 person 10k stampede. Certainly we had a lot of friends in common. But I became aware of Derek Miller through one of his intriguing ideas. I then grew to admire his bravery, his unsentimental clarity, his humour, his compassion, as he compellingly narrated his own journey towards death.  And as the community, in which he made waves and I bob in the ripples, mourned him, it became clear how many people loved and admired him.

I first came across Derek when researching what people were learning about digital legacies: what happens to one’s online persona and works when one dies.  Derek apparently coined the term “digital executor”, the person who has the responsibility to take over all one’s blogs and accounts and presence on the net on one’s death. I think it is a brilliant term. Continue Reading »

How about an IMLIG (Internationalisation, Multilingual, Localisation Interest Group) for Vancouver?

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 27 Jun 2010 | Tagged as: Unicode, Vancouver, i18n, language, meetings and conferences, multilingual, web technology

There is a lot of international, multilingual, and multicultural activity in Vancouver. Also, there’s a thriving tech scene. But there’s no place for the people in the intersection of those two circles — those interested in and working on the internationalisation, localisation, and multilingual aspects of technology projects — to get together and share ideas. I think there ought to be.

And I’ll even propose a name: IMLIG1604, the I18n L10n M11l I6t G3p (Internationalisation, Localisation, and Multilingual Interest Group) for North America’s 604 area code. If you can decipher the title, you’re in the club!

Continue Reading »

Birdwatching the 2010 Olympics police

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 28 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: Canada, Vancouver, meetings and conferences

Mémphramagog Police shoulder flashAs the cheers still resound outside my apartment, from the street party below, let me report on my own Olympic sport: police-spotting. It’s like bird watching, but for police agencies.

Some 118 different police agencies from across Canada came to the Vancouver area as part of the $900 million 2010 Olympics security effort.  The RCMP sent over 4000 officers from provinces across Canada; various municipal police departments sent some 1700 more.  (20% of Canada’s policing power was at the Olympics.) I figured it would be fun to say hello to a constable from every one of those agencies. I didn’t get to them all, but it was fun trying.

Continue Reading »

How to plug in to the Vancouver Social Media scene

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 14 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Vancouver, meetings and conferences

A colleague from Green College, UBC, freshly graduated with an MFA in Poetry, but also with work experience in editing and publishing, is looking for a job in the Lower Mainland. At a party yesterday, we talked about the Vancouver (British Columbia) social media scene, and how she can get plugged in to it, and make it part of her job search. I’ve posted my ideas below. Do you have other leads for newcomers to plug into the local social media scene?  Please post them in the comments. Maybe, together, we can build a useful resource for other seekers.

Urban British Columbia in general, and the Vancouver metro area in particular, has thriving technology and social media communities.  (There’s industry in there somewhere, also.) This community exists in part through face-to-face relationships, and in part on-line. Through this community, you can meet interesting people, learn what is happening in the industry, network for job leads, and of course have a good time.

There’s nothing terribly unusual about the techniques for plugging into this community as opposed to any other. But here is my advice for specific starting points.

Basic Identity and Persona

The first thing to have is an identity, a way for people to refer to you and link to you. From this identity you will grow an online persona.

Continue Reading »

“Getting in touch with your Joomla’s inner database”

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 30 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Joomla, Vancouver, meetings and conferences, web technology

I’m giving another talk at the Vancouver Joomla User Group started up recently. This group started this summer, and is now attracting a steady level of participation. It’s great to see a Joomla! community developing. Here’s the coordinates:

Getting in touch with your Joomla’s inner database

Monday, 30. November 2009, 18:30-20:30h. At The Network Hub, 422 Richards Street, 3rd floor, Vancouver, BC V6B 2Z3. tel +1 604 767 8778.

A monthly meeting of the Vancouver Joomla User Group. Admission free. All people interested in learning more about the Joomla! content management system, and helping others learn more, are welcome.

Agenda

  • Introductions.
  • Featured topic: Getting in touch with your Joomla’s inner database, by Jim DeLaHunt.
  • Q&A.
  • Door prize drawing.
  • Networking.

Continue Reading »

“Going live: adding a staging server to your Joomla development process” at Vancouver Joomla User Group

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 08 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: CMS, Joomla, Vancouver, meetings and conferences

A Vancouver Joomla User Group started up recently. We’re experimenting with what format will serve us well. For this month’s meeting, I’ll give a talk about staging servers (details below) and we’ll have plenty of time for networking and Q&A. I there there’s lots of room for more Joomla content in this town. Here’s the coordinates:

Going live: adding a staging server to your Joomla development process

Thursday, 8. October 2009, 18:30-20:30hAt The Network Hub, 422 Richards Street, 3rd floor, Vancouver, BC V6B 2Z3. tel +1 604 767 8778.

A monthly meeting of the Vancouver Joomla User Group. Admission free. All people interested in learning more about the Joomla! content management system, and helping others learn more, are welcome.

Continue Reading »

Heads up for 1234567890 day!

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 12 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Vancouver, software engineering, time

1000000000 seconds since the POSIX epoch, as celebrated in Denmark in 2001During a high school class, my teacher interrupted his discussion of classical Greek history to say, “it’s twelve thirty-four on the fifth of June, 1978″. In other words, 12:34 5/6/78 (in the British notation). Alert people in the United States had already celebrated that moment on May 6th. If you missed that moment, you have another chance on Friday: 1234567890 day.

Humans love to find patterns, and dates have rich potential for that. For instance, I was walking through a train station on a business trip in Tokyo in February, 1990. I noticed that people were making an unusual fuss about the train tickets. 1990 was 平成2年 , or “Heisei year 2″, in the calendar based on the Japanese era name. The date was printed on the train tickets as “H2-2-2″. The symmetry made them collectors items. (I wish I could lay my hands on a ticket from that day, to convince myself I didn’t invent this memory…)

I have a fondness for finding leaks in the software engineering abstractions that represent our messy real world.  I wrote last year about POSIX time, and the limitations in its representation of modern calendars and time zones. So when a leaky abstractions turns up as a pretty pattern, it’s irresistible.  And that’s what happens this Friday.

Continue Reading »

IIMA talk: “…successful multilingual web strategy”

Posted by Jim DeLaHunt on 31 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: Vancouver, meetings and conferences, multilingual

Right!  I was supposed to announce this three weeks ago!

I’ve posted the slides from my Dec 10 presentation, “Expand your reach with a successful multilingual web strategy”.  I gave this talk to the  Vancouver chapter of the International Internet Marketing Association (IIMA)’s monthly meeting.

Continue Reading »

« Previous PageNext Page »