On Saturday 7th March 2020, the tenth Open Data Day took place with people around the world organising over 300 events to celebrate, promote and spread the use of open data. Thanks to generous support from key funders, the Open Knowledge Foundation was able to support the running of more than 60 of these events via our mini-grants scheme

This blogpost is a report by Offray Vladimir Luna Cárdenas from Grafoscopio in Colombia who received funding from Resource Watch to bring together two citizen science communities working on air quality issues and reproducible research, data activism, visualisation and storytelling. But the start of the COVID-19 pandemic lead to a change of plans.

We, at the Grafoscopio community, started our usual celebration of the Open Data Day 2020 prototyping a project to create a Minipedia about Bogota city and its air quality, bridging two Colombian originated hacktivist and digital citizen projects: Canair.io and Grafoscopio. But as the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic spread, we repurposed our endeavours, practices and infrastructures to create the Coronapedia.

This is my story of how we did it.

As usual since 2016, the Grafoscopio community planned to celebrate Open Data Day 2020. As long participants of this celebration, we try to keep the event open and lean, using what we have practiced since early Data Weeks organised in 2015 and the shorter versions, called Data Rodas.

Since last year, our extra setup was focused on applying for an Open Knowledge Foundation mini-grant, which makes a huge difference, particularly for communities located in the Global South, such as ours.

Our winning proposal was related to “bringing together two citizen science communities working on air quality issues and reproducible research, data activism, visualisation and storytelling”. The guest community was Canair.io and the idea was to create a Minipedia, which is kind of a Minimalist take on Wikipedia infrastructures on two principles:

  • Simplify infrastructures to amplify/diversify participation
  • Fork infrastructures to bifurcate the futures

Our emphasis on infrastructures is related with what Susan L. Star called the infrastructural inversion and is related to putting what is in the background (infrastructures) in the foreground and vice versa. This concern for infrastructures would become even more important after our first meeting as the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly made this infrastructural inversion a reality on a global wide scale (do we have proper health care food, work insurance, Internet connectivity, open learning materials, privacy respectful telepresence tools? —and so on).

We started on March 14 introducing ourselves, the hackerspace and the Minipedia. As usual the presentation was (novice) friendly and tried a dialogue between the technical and the social aspects of our project and approaches. We used Docutopia, our CodiMD community hosted instance to do the workshop notes and memories and showcased how our current prototype was able to import the history of any desired Wikipedia article, using Fossil for storage and Pharo for interactive programming.

At the end of our first Saturday (March 14th) we finished our celebration discovering a bug in the Minipedia importation algorithm, so we called it a day and went for some beers. Coronavirus was already a topic in the bar.

The week after the 14th was pretty surreal for me. After a kind of normal Sunday, in which I started the importation bug fixing, gathering places started to become emptier on Monday even though air and road traffic was normal. By Tuesday, you could see people wearing mask on streets and road traffic was sparse, as I could see while traveling to my parents house in a town near to Bogota, the capital city.

News about the quick spread of the virus in several cities of the country was more and more frequent, as well as recommendations to stay at home. That same day I send a message to the Grafoscopio mailing list with a new proposal: repurpose our Bogopedia and air quality project towards the Coronapedia, a Minipedia focused in curated information about the coronavirus, that could use our “pocket infrastructures” to provide agile and resilient information for places with non/low/intermittent Internet connectivity (like Colombia).

Several members quickly responded and I spent the rest of the week modularising Wikipedia to the Minipedia importation code to make it easier to debug, launching a poll about the name of the project and collecting the base information for the Coronapedia. The next long weekend in Colombia, the Bogota Major, Claudia López, launched a stay at home order. On the afternoon of Saturday 21st March, the Grafoscopio community gathered again, this time virtually, for the second part of our Open Data Day (and the 43th Data Roda).

For this second part, we had even more attendance that the previous weekend. We did a recap of the previous session, welcoming newcomers and reconnecting the participants. We then deployed the base infrastructure while explaining how and why. We finished the workshop with a public Fossil repository and the base Docutopia document for the Coronapedia hosted there and cloned between participants.

With that information I spent the rest of the long weekend implementing versioning (which required the revision to be dynamically included in the page using a Nim script exported to JavaScript) and writing the real content over the base skeleton left on Saturday. It was a demanding process and I was almost totally focused on it until Wednesday 25th. But current times require such kind of commitment and bursts of energy and attention, as the world becomes stranger and hopefully will allow us to find common ground, solidarity and better worlds in the cracks of the worlds left behind.

Now, I’m finishing this blogpost and thinking about what is coming. I’m here between tiredness and a strange hope, because, as some say, hope in a time of crisis is also a political act.

• This blogpost was originally published via mutabit.com