Adding data, not systems

For the most part, and leaving aside some tool-making or data-checking programming, I think it is far more relaxing to add data to the world than to add more systems-for-working-with-data. Contributing to Wikisource, Openstreetmap, Commons, even Flickr and Reddit, will further the cause (what ’cause’?) more than building some new system for cataloguing photos or conducting conversations.

So take photos, draw maps, write blog posts, explore the world and record what you see. Don’t devise the means to do these things — we already have the means, and have had for a rather long time. Better to get on and do it, I think. The means won’t be perfectly what you’d prefer, but then they never will be (even after you’ve built the system that’s perfectly exactly what you want).

If you see what I mean?

Anyway, I’m only saying this because I’m going to be away from regular coding for a few months from next week, so shall be focussing on Doing more than Building. And I can’t wait!

Freo on the web

I am trying to get my head around all of the various places that Fremantle features (regularly, topically) on the Web. I want to figure out where the Fremantle Society’s website fits in, and what it might be used for (what might be missing from elsewhere).

So I started from the outside, yesterday, and moved inwards…

  1. Wikipedia, a first port of call for general info about anywhere, gives a reasonable overview to Freo from an outsider’s perspective. The Fremantle category has the subcategories show in the graph at right (which comes from the catgraph tool by User:Dapete). Obviously, this categorisation isn’t complete, and needs to be improved to reflect what’s actually important in Freo. (More on this later…)

  2. Next, there’s the Council’s website, fremantle.wa.gov.au, which has recently undergone a redesign, and is looking… umm… well, there’s lots of great information for residents and whatnot! There is a news feed, and a calendar of upcoming events (which I’d link to, but it’s a JS overlay thing that doesn’t seem to have it’s own URL). There are plans for new web-based methods of communication with constituents: firstly via a CRM for interacting with Council (for the general public? or just precinct committees?); and secondly (and I think this is going to be separate from the CRM) a network of community-group/precinct websites, called FREOSPACE. This is akin, perhaps, to the Cockburn Community Portal.

    I got my information about these plans from the presentation that Jen Valesini (Coordinator of the Fremantle Volunteer Service; is that right? perhaps not; anyway, she was part of the Precinct Review) gave to last week’s Freo Society meeting; and the Precinct Group Report.

  3. Then, there’s a host of topical and personal blogs: Adele Carles, State MP for Fremantle, Brad Pettitt, Fremantle’s Mayor, Cyclefreo, Dismantle, FERN, the Fremantle Environment Resource Centre, Freo Tribe, the blog of the Fremantle Society, Freo’s View, Tom M. Wilson, Love Freo, Melissa Parke, Federal MP for Fremantle, and The Painted Fish. There are more. I’ve started collecting a list of these as a ‘Freo Planet’ (to use that possibly-too-geeky term for an aggregation of news feeds); the planet itself has a news feed, the idea being that one could subscribe to just one source to get all Freo news.

There’s more to be looked at, but in a general sense I think there is room for a ‘reference’ website about Fremantle. An open site for the stories and detail of Freo, rather like Wikipedia but with ‘non-notable’ topics permitted (not notable in a global perspective, that is). Somewhere that will record, preserve, and make available the minutiae of what goes on here. Is the Freo Society the best organisation to provide this? I don’t know. I’m talking about something more than just the straight ‘history’ of the City (for that one might say that the Local History Centre would be the best coordinator). This would be a site that accepts photos of caravans on South Beach in the ’40s as well as contemporary cafe reviews. It would have a comprehensive calendar of events, and essays on life in Fremantle…

Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away. Certainly it’s time to stop writing, and head down to Kulcha….

Documentation

The documenting of how we live, where we live, what we do — that’s what I’m interested in. And it’s a waste of time, really, in that it doesn’t contribute to any of those things (oh, of course that’s simplifying it too much; oh well). It’s also necessary to live, to be of the world, to construct and do.

Being an observer is quite entertaining in its own right. Sitting, looking, writing; it’s a nice enough way to pass the time. I used to do it, alone and with fountain pen and Moleskine, on a street corner; that was good, but around 2001 I found this whole world of people doing and thinking similar things with ‘description’, out here on the web. Such excitement to be found in this throng! So now, I work at documenting and recording, editing wikis and building catalogues — not failing to recognise the recursive, self-modifying way that these activities impact how they’re done, but still aiming at something called ‘neutrality’, or ‘objectivity’ — and slowly watching things take shape. I’d give up, convince myself that this is actually stupid, if it weren’t for the many other people — the bloggers, Wikipedians, urbexers, hipsters — working in a similar vein. It’s the community, engaged with or not, that makes it worth it. (You should, of course, laugh at me for saying this; it’s cliqué and daftness, I know.)

But that’s not always enough, so I step back from the digital agglomeration: being an observer is exhausting, and seems to dull one’s concern about how one’s own life is lead. So, making steps in, for me, and I sew and work wood and brew beer and bake bread; worldly things, bringing sanity.

Anyway, I’m just once again trying to muddle through this dicotomy, and what I say probably isn’t quite on the mark. Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the less I can see a way through; probably not unpredictable, that. Oh well.