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How many people are rocking Open Knowledge events around the world? Let us know!

Beatrice Martini - April 1, 2014 in Events, Featured, Join us, Meetups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

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We’re getting to know each other more every day on mailing lists and through surveys, we know that plenty of you populate and build groundbreaking projects and communities through our network of 42 local groups, 20 working groups, infinite number of projects and beyond. Now, we’d like to know more about your Open Knowledge events (what can be called such a thing? Have look here) and in particular how many people join them! We want our gathering community to grow and want to know and understand how it grows so how we can best support its sustainable development.

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Call for action: let’s discover how many people love Open Knowledge events!

Step 1

When you run an Open Knowledge event, submit an article about it to the Open Knowledge Community Stories Tumblr. Your article can be short and sweet but should at least tell about:

  • what / where / how (topic, offline or online location, format, goals)
  • how many people attended – lets see how Open Kowledge is growing all around the world!
  • outcomes and / or upcoming plans for the future

In addition to that, anything you’d like to add – pictures, quotes and links to post-event reports by attendees of the event, graphs – is very welcome and much appreciated!

Step 2

At the end of each month we’ll write a crowded wrap-up blogpost about all the Open Knowledge events which took place in the previous weeks, to be published on the main Open Knowledge blog, and we’ll know how many people around the world are taking action gathering together to build the future of Open Knowledge.

Do you have an event in the pipeline in April? Run it, have fun!, and report it on the Tumblr by the end of April – it’ll be featured on our first wrap-up post to be published in early May!

OKFestival Call for Proposals ending soon! Submit your proposal now!

Beatrice Martini - March 26, 2014 in Events, Join us, OKFest, OKFestival, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

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We extended the deadline to give you an extra 2 weeks to come up with unusually brilliant, inventive, participatory session proposals for OKFestival 2014, but we’re getting very close to crunch-time now! This Sunday, March 30th, is the final deadline to submit the session you want to run at the festival. Then it’s over to our expert Programme Team to start selecting the proposals that will shake things up, get things done and all round inspire people at this year’s event.

Don’t miss your chance to submit an amazing idea! We’d love to see you to run an immersive, exploratory, ground-breaking session that challenges the boundaries of the Open Movement and gets things moving forward! So submit your proposal now, and hopefully we’ll be seeing you in Berlin in July.

If you want to collaborate with others, use our OKFestival Mailing List to find yourself the perfect partner, or shout out on Twitter using #OKFest14. Either way, get planning and make sure your submission is with us by Sunday 30th March.

Join the “Get Ready For Open Data Day 2014!” Hangout on January 21!

Beatrice Martini - January 15, 2014 in Events, Featured, Meetups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

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Open Data Day 2014 is coming! On February 22 – just over a month!

And you might wonder: what is it exactly, where does it come from – and how can I organise or join an Open Data Day event?

We have answers for you and we are glad to invite you to join us for a “Get Ready For Open Data Day 2014!” Hangout. On Tuesday, January 21 (at 11:00 am EST/ 8:00 PST/ 16:00 GMT /17:00 CEST) David Eaves, Heather Leson and me will host a 30-60 minute Hangout focusing on:

  1. What is Open Day Day – History
  2. Planning tips
  3. Open Q&A

Reserve your spot now!

And if you can’t wait to start talking with other Open Data Day enthusiasts, no need to wait until next week! Join the event mailing list (please note: new URL) and meet curious citizens, journalists, coders, scientists, designers and data wranglers from all around the world running and joining Open Data Day events in person and online on the day. There are 49 events so far – plus Code for America’s CodeAcross 2014! Join the party!

PDF Liberation Hackathon – January 18-19

Guest - December 19, 2013 in Events, Featured, Open Access, Open Content, Sprint / Hackday

This guest blog post has been written by Marc Joffe, of Public Sector Credit Solutions.

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Open government data is valuable only to the extent that it can be used cost-effectively. When governments provide “open data” in the form of voluminous PDFs they offer the appearance of openness without its benefits. In this situation, the open government movement had two options: demand machine readable data or hack the PDFs – using technology to liberate the interesting data from them. The two approaches are complimentary; we can pursue both at the same time.

When it comes to liberating data from PDFs, advanced technologies are available but expensive. In my previous life as a technology manager at a financial firm, I was given the opportunity to purchase a sophisticated PDF extraction tool for USD 200,000 – not counting annual maintenance and implementation consulting costs.

This amount is beyond the reach of just about every startup and non-profit in the open data world. It is also beyond the means of most media organizations, so lowering the cost of PDF extraction is also a priority for journalists. The data journalism community has responded by developing software to harvest usable information from PDFs. Tabula, a tool written by Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow Manuel Aristarán, extracts data from PDF tables in a form that can be readily imported to a spreadsheet – if the PDF was “printed” from a computer application. Introduced earlier this year, Tabula continues to evolve thanks to the volunteer efforts of Manuel, with help from OpenNews Fellow Mike Tigas and New York Times interactive developer Jeremy Merrill. Meanwhile, DocHive, a tool whose continuing development is being funded by a Knight Foundation grant, addresses PDFs that were created by scanning paper documents. DocHive is a project of Raleigh Public Record and is led by Charles and Edward Duncan.

These open source tools join a number of commercial offerings such as Able2Extract and ABBYY Fine Reader that extract data from PDFs. A more comprehensive list of open source and commercial resources is available here.

Unfortunately, the free and low cost tools available to data journalists and transparency advocates have limitations that hinder their ability to handle large scale tasks. If, like me, you want to submit hundreds of PDFs to a software tool, press “Go” and see large volumes of cleanly formatted data, you are out of luck. These limits reduce our ability to analyze and report on Parliamentary/Congressional financial disclosures, campaign contribution records and government budgets – which often arrive in volume, in PDF form.

PDF hacking has uses outside the government transparency / data journalism nexus. As Peter Murray-Rust has argued, the progress of science is being retarded because valuable data are “jailed” within PDF journal articles. For this reason, Dr. Rust and several colleagues have been developing AMI – a tool that leverages Apache PDFBox to mine usable content from scientific documents.

Whether your motive is to improve government, lower the cost of data journalism or free scientific data, you are welcome to join The PDF Liberation Hackathon on January 18-19, 2014 – sponsored by The Sunlight Foundation, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews and others. We’ll have hack sites at the NYU-Poly Incubator in New York, Chicago Community Trust, Sunlight’s Washington DC office and at RallyPad in San Francisco (one or two locations will have an opening social on the evening of the 17th). Developers can also join remotely because we will publish a number of clearly specified PDF extraction challenges before the hackathon.

Participants can work on one of the pre-specified challenges or choose their own PDF extraction projects. Ideally, hackathon teams will use (and hopefully improve upon) open source tools to meet the hacking challenges, but they will also be allowed to embed commercial tools into their projects as long as their licensing cost is less than $1000 and an unlimited trial is available.

Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded to winning entries. To receive a prize, a team must publish their source code on a GitHub public repository. To join the hackathon in DC or remotely, please sign up at Eventbrite; to hack with us in SF, please sign up via this Meetup. Signup links for New York and Chicago will be posted here. Please also complete our Google Form survey.

The PDF Liberation Hackathon is going to be a great opportunity to advance the state of the art when it comes to harvesting data from public documents. I hope you can join us.

Open Data Day 2014 is Coming Feb 22 – Time to Join the Fun!

Guest - December 17, 2013 in Events, Featured, Meetups, Sprint / Hackday, Workshop

This guest blog post has been written by David Eaves, public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and one of the initiators of Open Data Day. It was originally published on David’s blog.

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So, with much help from various community members (who reminded me that we need to get this rolling – looking at you Heather Leson), I’m pleased to say we are starting to gear up for Open Data Day 2014 on February 22nd, 2014.

From its humble beginnings of a conversation between a few friends who were interested in promoting and playing with open data, last year Open Data Day had locally organized events take place in over 100 cities around the world. Check out this video of Open Data Day in Kathmandu last year.

Why makes Open Data Day work? Mostly you. It is a global excuse for people in communities like yours to come together and organize an event that meets their needs. Whether that is a hackathon, a showcase and fair, lectures, workshops for local NGOs and businesses, training on data, or meetings with local politicians – people are free to organize around whatever they think their community needs. You can read more about how Open Data Day works on the event website.

Want to join in on the fun? I thought you’d never ask. Listed below are some different ways you can help make Open Data Day 2014 a success in your community!

a) how can i let everyone know about open data day

I love the enthusiasm. Here’s a tweet you can send:

#OpenData Day is community powered in a timezone near you http://opendataday.org #ODD2014

Yes, our hashtag is #ODD2014. Cause we are odd. And cause we love open data.

b) i’d like to participate!

Great! If you are interested in participating in check out the Open Data Day wiki. We’ve just unlocked the pages so cities haven’t been added yet but feel free to add your city to the list, and put down your name as interested in participating. You can even check to see who organized the event last year to see if they are interested in doing it again.

c) forget about participating, i want to coordinate an open data day event in my city.

Whoa! Very exciting! Here’s a short checklist of what to do:

  • If you didn’t organize one last year, check to see if anyone in your city did. It would be good to connect with them first.

  • Read the Open Data Day website. Basically, pick up on our vibe: we want Open Data Day to work for everyone, from novices who know little about data to experts like Kaggle participants and uber geeks like Bruce Schneier. These events have always been welcoming and encouraging – it is part of the design challenge.

  • Okay, now add your city to the list, let people know where it will be taking place (or that you are working on securing space), let them know a rough agenda, what to expect, and how they can contribute.

  • Add yourself to the 2014 Open Data Day map. (Hint: Wikipedia lists Lat/Long in the information side bar for each cities wiki page: “Coordinates: 43°42′N 79°24′W”)

  • Join the Open Data Day mailing list. Organizers tend to share best practices and tips here. It’s not serious, really just a help and support group. Check out resources like this and this about how to organize a successful event.

  • Start spreading the news!

d) i want to help more! how can open data day work more smoothly everywhere?

Okay, for the truly hardcore of you: right, we need help. Open Data day has grown. This means we’ve outgrown a whole bunch of our infrastructure… like our webpage! Everyone involved in this is a volunteer so… we have some extra heavy lifting we need help with. This includes:

What’s next?

I’m really looking forward to this year… I’ve lots more thoughts I’ll be sharing shortly.

Plus, I can’t wait to hear from you!

Planning Your Open Data Day 2014

Beatrice Martini - December 12, 2013 in Events, Featured, Join us, Meetups, News, Sprint / Hackday, Talks, Training, Workshop

Open Data Day is coming! On February 22, 2014 in a timezone near you!

What is it?

Open Data Day is a global community initiative to make and spread open data. People from all around the world gather together online or in person to make things with and around open data. Anyone is invited to get involved – from curious citizens to journalists, coders to scientists, designers to data wranglers.

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How does it work?

The Open Data Day events can have any kind of format / length and theme, but should all be connected by a couple of basic principles.

  • The events should happen on the same day – the next one, on February 22, 2014

  • The events should be inclusive and welcome diversity (epistemic, geographic, socio-demographic, of language and gender) – our movement is stronger when it is broader

  • Anyone can organise an event – add your name and online/ in person event to the wiki. For in person meetups: let’s try to keep it to one event per city, to maximize the local community’s strength. (Find tips on types of events in the Open Knowledge Foundation Event Handbook and in this post by our friend Michelle Thorne of Mozilla.)

  • Hacks and meetups should all involve open data

  • Show and share – each event should come up with at least one demo, brainstorm, proposal, to share online with the Open Data Day crowd (adding links to post-event materials, including pics and blog posts, to the wiki is warmly recommended). We will investigate more online spaces soon.

  • Virtual party – we aim to connect globally. Are you in a location with no in person event? Join us online via IRC, Hackpads or more (more details and links coming soon)

Some 2014 event examples? Take a look at this event organised in Washington DC at The World Bank. And did you already see the Open Data Day Japan website just launched today?

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Call to action: Help build Open Data Day!

The Open Data Day wiki needs to be prepped and polished to rock the 2014 action plan. We’re looking for stellar volunteers to help us with this. Skills required:

  • knowledge of Wiki management
  • ability to work with WordPress
  • design skills
  • mapping skills

Willing to help the wiki sprint? Get in touch with our very own Heather Leson. We’ll get this ready as soon as possible for everyone to add their Open Data Day events!

If you need some help planning your event, please do connect on the OKFN – Discuss mailing list or Open Data Day mailing list. Next week we will share some resources and planning help for local organizers.

Ready to open up data? Join the party!

Open Legislation Working Group Relaunched at OKCon

Oleg Lavrovsky - October 15, 2013 in Featured, OKCon, Sprint / Hackday, WG Open Legislation

Legal questions are at the heart of what openness is about, and there has always been interest at the Open Knowledge Foundation in open legislation – both in theory and in practice. Remarkable projects have been started around the world in open lobbying and open law data.

This has proven ample inspiration to put open law, legal apps and legislation in the spotlight at the Open Knowledge Conference 2013 in Geneva, during a four day satellite event conducted by members of the local Open Knowledge Foundation Switzerland chapter.

Law Mining Hackdays

We convened at OKCon’s conference venue for three days, then wrapped up with a day on campus at the University of Geneva. The Monday morning workshop saw over 25 people pack into the room from diverse backgrounds: hackers, lawyers, businesspeople, academics. They took part in an introduction to mining legal data, to see our expert panel present 11 challenges, and to hear John Sheridan speak about legislation.gov.uk, the open legislation portal of the United Kingdom: a remarkable project and valuable lesson in the particularities of working with legal data and making it accessible to all.


John Sheridan presentation on Vimeo

Wide public interest

Over the following three days dozens of people dropped into the specially set up OKCon hackspace to put brains, pens and computers together to make the most of the opportunity to collaborate across geographic and professional boundaries, pitching in to advance the projects during the busy conference schedule.

People took part who were already running successful legal software businesses, mingling with staunch advocates of open source and open data, data scientists applying Semantic Web ideas to meta-laws, students keenly visualizing the intricate networks of legal code, activists launching new awareness initiatives. On-the-ground experiences were being shared from around the world, and a “hacky”, let’s-do-it atmosphere prevailed.

In the buzz of excitement around OKCon and the ideas going around the room, three groups formed around our participants core areas of interests for the hackday, which we referred to as:

  • Case Law – working with data about legal cases, such as the proceedings of courts
  • Legal Concepts – making the laws and their workings more open, and
  • Usability of Law – making legal data more usable to the general public.

Law Mining Hackathon at OKCon 2013

Projects and initiatives

On Thursday we wrapped up the event with interesting results. It is clear that the law has much to say about openness, and that at the same time the road ahead to opening up the legal world to more analysis, visualization, and usable applications is long. While the technical understanding of laws around the world today continues to be more grounded in stories than systems, an enormous amount of work is being done to transform justice from a social artefact to a methodical science. The hackday projects are seeds of change:

§ Case Law as a Service (CLaaS) will make legal decisions on national and international levels available online and more accessible than ever. The team aims to create an open framework and platform architecture that allows users and a multitude of applications easy access to case law data. Concepts and demos included: Human Rights Case Laws, Case Law Linked Data, and an open search engine for the Swiss Supreme Court.

§ Open Law Search makes everyday law work easier by exposing valuable resources on the Open Web. Users can search and filter across a variety of domains especially relevant to European law. It is live and available here: http://www.openlaws.eu/

§ Open This Data! is a simple idea with an aim to help lift legal or technical restrictions on data, and get rapid community response to changes of terms of use. The Open Data Button is a new, easy, social way to raise awareness of not-so-open data.

§ Open Privacy Legislation assesses a range of government websites and rates them according to criteria from the Declaration of Parliamentary Openness. The result is this map of world legislative standards.


These projects are all open source, they need your feedback, support and championing. Please try their demos, check out the wiki pages, let us know over the mailing list if you have ideas to share with the teams.

Simultaneously to the conclusion of the Law Mining Hackdays, an exciting new project was unwrapped from across the Atlantic which we couldn’t help but admire: The Constitute Project, a beautifully designed search engine and explorer of the world’s constitutions. This and many more inspirations and open data sources will guide us in future endeavours.

What happens next?

The meetings at OKCon and Law Mining Hackathon results have led to a renewed interest and several new initiatives for the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Legislation Working Group, where Clemens Wass has stepped up to moderate the mailing list.

Discussions are re-starting after a few months of hiatus, and we are looking forward to more shared thoughts and observations on the world of legal openness. Please sign up at legislation.okfn.org and use it to send in your announcements, suggestions and ideas for projects on these themes. Stay on the list to stay on top of all the above, including news of upcoming events in the months ahead.

On behalf of my co-organizers, we extend our thanks to OKCon and the University of Geneva for hosting the event, to our experts and sponsors for their support, and most kindly to everyone who contributed sparks of knowledge and made the hackdays a blast of learning, collaboration and making. Let the #legalhack-ing continue!

CKAN hackathon: Hello from Ireland!

Denis Parfenov - October 7, 2013 in CKAN, OKF Ireland, Sprint / Hackday

This post was written by Denis Parfenov, our Ireland Ambassador, and Flora Fleischer, a member of the new Local Group for Ireland.

Last Saturday, the ‘Open Data Ireland’ community and the Open Knowledge Foundation Network held a ‘CKAN Hackathon’. This event was kindly sponsored by Fingal County Council, ESRI Ireland and The Irish Organisation for Geographic Information.

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Developers, designers, journalists, academics, policy makers, creative thinkers, civil servants, entrepreneurs and active citizens all came together to revive open data in Ireland and to establish an epicenter for encouragement and development of open knowledge in Ireland by launching the official Open Knowledge Foundation Ireland Local Group.

Groups were formed around 4 specific tasks:

(1) deploying a Central Open Data Portal that provides the people of Ireland with a single access point to the information collected by their government,
(2) auditing and validating existing public domain data for inclusion in such portal,
(3) preparing the Open Knowledge Foundation Ireland recommendations for inclusion into the first Irish Open Government Partnership National Action Plan and,
(4) creating an educational hub about the power of open data

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On the day, Group 1 managed to secure hosting and deploy CKAN 2.1, and link temporarily to a new portal site (http://ckan.curatedublin.com/) until it redirects to data.opendata.ie. It now comes complete with filestore, datastore, harvester and spatial extensions! Existing and new data sets have been transferred to the new portal. It’s still a work in progress but people in Ireland can now access a list of 275 open data sets about Ireland via the search function.

The second group started early on the day to search, audit and validate all available data pertaining to Ireland. The group searched relentlessly and identified 166 open data sets, 16 open data catalogues and 29 open data APIs available from various websites in and about Ireland. They worked together with Group 1 to determine the metadata requirements, and then proceeded to review and validate the information and usability of each data set. The group explored potential use cases of how the data available through the portal can be combined to find answers to questions that could enhance the lives of the people in Ireland, such as which local school to choose. For people who were new to the Open Data Ireland community this task was a great hands-on way of learning about the issues around open data.

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The third group came up with some new recommendations after collectively reviewing the draft report on the consultation for Ireland’s participation in the Open Government Partnership. The group talked through the advantages and challenges around making data public. In their submission to the OGP National Action Plan they recommend the creation of an Open Data Institute Ireland linked to the already well established Open Data Institute in the UK, to catalyse the evolution of an open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value. (See why we need an Open Data Institute in Ireland.)

Thanks go to ODI’s partner, long-term friend and supporter of the Open Data community in Ireland, CTO of ‘Open Data Solutions’ Jason Hare (Raleigh, NC) for attending and supporting the group in preparation of the submission.

The fourth group did a great job at setting up an intuitive and contemporary website to help the average citizen to understand what open data is, what it can do for us and how we can be empowered by it. The site also gives practical tips on how to get involved. The team set up a Google website, and migration to opendata.ie is a work in progress.

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The last group made sure that we were capturing this very, very successful CKAN Hackathon for the outside world. The group never failed to fill in and support other groups, providing assistance whenever necessary. A great job was done making it a fun and successful event!

Thanks to everyone who participated in CKAN Hackathon ‘in the room’ or online! Together, we co-founded Open Knowledge Foundation Local Initiative in Ireland on September 28th, 2013!

We now have a flickr site capturing the event in pics and if you’d like to follow-up with what has been happening on Twitter while we were hard at work, you can do that, too, at storify.

The next ‘Open Data Ireland’ meetup will take place in TCube on Thursday, 24th October 2013. Doors open at 18:30

Images: Dublin Castle by Wojtek Gurak, CC-BY-NC; CKAN Hackathon by OKF Ireland, CC-BY-NC-SA

CKAN Hackathon and Local Group launch, Dublin

Denis Parfenov - September 27, 2013 in CKAN, OKF Ireland, Sprint / Hackday

The following is cross-posted from the Open Government Partnership blog

A CKAN hackathon is taking place on Saturday, 28th September at TCube in Dublin, bringing together IT specialists, political representatives and members of the public with an interest in making data open.

Developers, designers, journalists, academics, policy makers, creative thinkers, civil servants, entrepreneurs and interested parties are invited to the event which aims to provide the people of Ireland with a single access point to the information collected by their government by deploying a Central Open Data Portal. Open, usable and available knowledge will lead to greater transparency for Irish citizens and accountability from Irish representatives.

We strongly believe that comprehensive and meaningful information has the potential to empower better evidence-based decision-making for all of us: about the food we buy and eat, the services we enlist, choices about healthcare and education that we make, the pension plans we decide to invest in, and the public representatives we elect. Better information empowers us to be better consumers, clients, patients, students, investors and active citizens.

The event is co-organised by the ‘Open Data Ireland’ community and the Open Knowledge Foundation with the support of Fingal County Council, ESRI Ireland and The Irish Organisation for Geographic Information (IRLOGI).

The hackathon will review information that is already publicly available and launch a local Open Knowledge Foundation Network Local Group which will encourage the development of open knowledge in Ireland.

You can register for the event here, and follow #okfnIRL for updates on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s activities in Ireland.

Open Education Handbook Booksprint

Marieke Guy - September 5, 2013 in Linked Up, Sprint / Hackday, WG Open Education

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Yesterday seventeen open education experts came together to begin writing the Open Education Handbook. The handbook is part of the LinkedUp project, and the project team have chosen to also make it one of the first activities of the soon-to-be-launched Open Education Working Group. The handbook takes the form of an open, living document and it made sense to start the process through a collaborative effort – in the form of a booksprint.

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The booksprint methodology (initiated by Adam Hyde of booksprints.net) involves moving from zero to published book in 3-5 days. It was decided to take a less-pressurised and more collaborative approach to writing the Open Education Handbook handbook. By kickstarting with a mini-one-day-booksprint we could get the initial outline of the handbook, the final edited version will be written collaboratively over a longer time period of time (with a final version delivered October next year). The booksprint was held at C4CC in London and open education experts from many different sectors (commercial, academic, government, not-for profit) were invited to attend.

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Details of the day’s agenda are available on the LinkedUp blog, but the result was a lot of brainstorming and discussion, a brilliant community-building day and over 30 pages of outline and written text.

If you are interested in hearing more about the Open Education Handbook or would like to contribute to it then join the Open Education Working Group mailing list for updates. The Open Education Working Group will be officially launched at OKCon at a panel session on open education.

Images: Illustrations by Kevin Mears, photos OKFN, all CC-BY

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