Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wikimedia Estonia

Wikimedia EestiI’ve met Ivo, a university student of about my age in last October to discuss the possibilities and benefits of setting up a Wikimedia chapter in Estonia.

At the time he has just finished giving a lecture on how to use Wikipedia in the Tartu local library and I was confident that if he could get a couple of more people that share his enthusiasm, they could achieve a lot for free culture in Estonia.

Fast forward to the present, and Wikimedia Eesti has been established and approved by the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation as an official chapter.

This past year has not been spent in vain; however, as a couple of projects, like an image gathering drive and an article writing contest have been started on the Estonian Wikipedia  and from what I gather from their recent grant request, a project involving Estonian schools is well in preparation, as well.

Please join me in welcoming Wikimedia Eesti to the network of Wikimedia chapters and wish them luck for their first projects.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Estonian Parliament

The entrance to the Parliament

The Estonian Parliament is a curiously eclectic building in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town just behind the ornamental three-domed building of the Russian Orthodox Nevsky Cathedral. Nevsky Cathedral

This building complex blends completely into its surrounding like a chameleon, so much so that each side of the building comes from a different century. The backside of the building is actually the original town walls blending into a medieval castle.


Inside the building one finds the usual accessories of parliamentary buildings with a courtyard to solve any parking problems of cabinet members and deputies, large reception areas with exquisitely woven carpets and overhanging chandeliers, offices and of course the debating chamber.

The blue room that accommodates the hundred or so MPs is situated in the blue part of the building and as a nice feature it receives natural light from the courtyard, which surely helps the deliberation and cuts down on the electricity bill.HPIM7314

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Welsh Assembly

Front view of the Senned
On my January visit to Cardiff I chanced upon the second devolved parliament of Britain that is not housed in an ordinary building (I haven't yet had the chance to visit Belfast, but I imagine Stormont to be a more traditional building). The Welsh National Assembly building is located in the bay area of the town next to the iconic Millenium Centre.

The debating chamber's walls become the roof
The building was finished in 2006 and it projects the image of transparency, openness.One also notices the prominent use of natural materials such as wood and glass. The steps in front of the glass portal of the building covered by the wavy, overhanging roof made of wood are inviting to the public and fit well into the area with the sea nearby and the rainy English weather. The whole building suggest looking out to the sea, the people and looking forward to the future, as well as invitingly offering shelter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Slovakian Parliament

National Council of the Slovak Republic
On my last trips to Bratislava unfortunately I didn't get to visit the Slovakian Parliament's building. It is located in the best possible place of the town, next to the castle. Unfortunately, it is quite an uninteresting (from outside), gray, concrete building next to the imposing castle so most tourists probably don't even realize its significance and head directly through the gate on the opposite side of the street to the castle grounds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Chaos

I am studying for my English phonology exam and I wanted to share what I'm going through, so here's a poem by Gerald Nolst Trenité (IPA version; one of the many video adaptations).

Awkward Situations for Men

Ever since I caught a glimpse on a fine summer afternoon in London of Danny Wallace's attempts to create his own country I have been hooked on his humour and "special boy projects", like accidentally founding a cult or saying yes to everything.

I have found the book versions of his escapades quite funny (less so with his later attempts to revisit some old friends or find the center of the universe) so I am having great hopes about his adventures in the New World, which should come out in book form in about a month and will hopefully become a TV series on ABC I guess in the autumn, if all goes well.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010


Holocaust memorial
Last week I was in Berlin for the 2010 Wikimedia Conference. This has been my third visit to Berlin and probably the most enjoyable, so far.

The conference was very productive and made more enjoyable by the presence of all those people who stayed because of the ash cloud. I am sure we can convert some of the energy of the conference into cool events here in Hungary.

Best of all, after many night-time sightseeing tours in Berlin I had the chance to look around during the day in the fine weather. Hopefully, at my next visit I will also have the time to visit some of the museums of Berlin.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Combating link rot on Wikipedia

Wikipedia's W (favicon). The "W" ori...Image via Wikipedia
One of the main principles of Wikipedia is verifiability, the idea that any fact you find in an article can also be found in a reliable external source (that's why there are so many footnotes in any given Wikipedia article). These external sources can either be offline paper products or more often than not online web pages. Unfortunately, web pages often change or become unavailable, a process nicknamed link rot , which goes counter to the ability of verification.

One way to combat link rot and to ensure that a reader can always find the sources used to make up a Wikipedia article is to rely on online archiving services such as the Internet Archive or WebCite. The solution to the problem is to submit each linked web page to the archives' attention to make sure they will have a copy of the referenced webpages in the eventuality that they become unavailable.

There is no automatic way to submit all links on a Wikipedia to an archive and different projects have come up with different solutions. The English Wikipedia used to send every new link added to the various articles to the WebCite archive (to the point that said archive had to increase server capacity). The French Wikipedia have devised a way to link to an archived version of linked pages at the Wikiwix search engine, but I don't know the particulars.

So far the Hungarian Wikipedia doesn't have a systematic way of eliminating dead external links. As a first step in the right direction I slightly modified a component of the Pywikipedia framework to go through every single page in the Hungarian Wikipedia and send every external link to the WebCite archive. The method was inefficient because I am not a programmer and both Python and the WebCite website often crashed. (The ideal program would have used the external links database dump that contains only the links without the irrelevant article text.)

As a results of my efforts the vast majority of the external web pages that were linked from the Hungarian Wikipedia and were alive at the end of 2009 can now be found in the WebCite archive. (Such as this copy of the Nobel prize website.) I will run my program periodically to include new links added to articles.

The logical extension of my work would be to include the links to the archived versions next to the links themselves if a page dies. This could be done either manually or automatically, however I haven't the expertise or time to make this happen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Deeper explorations of international law

A trial at the Old Bailey in London as drawn b...Image via Wikipedia
I have to come up with a plan and the first chapter for my thesis on peremptory norms (jus cogens) in international law and I am  considering participating in a competition that touches upon State immunity, diplomatic immunity of Heads of States and probably the right to self-defense. 
Consequently, I had to immerse myself very deeply in details of international law and there are some very interesting facets.

It seems that one has to be quite the magician to traverse this field where one and the same court case can be used in arguments both pro and contra and where practice doesn't seem to follow theory, yet we are assured that practice is at fault. I believe this is one of the reasons why there is so much academic activity surrounding it, thought it is not totally without interest to non-experts.

In my explorations I have stumbled upon two very interesting blogs that reflect on  current issues (such as the current Falklands dispute, the US drone attacks or the alleged Mossad hit in Dubai) and their implications in international law. Both the blog of the European Journal of International Law, EJIL: Talk! and Opinio Juris  write in an accessible language and present interesting arguments from leading scholars in the field.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scottish Parliament – no icon, no Ikea

During my farewell trip to Estonia I made a stop in the UK and visited the various parliament buildings in Great Britain. One of the interesting and frankly quite strange ones was the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

It is quite difficult for me to decide whether I liked the building complex that is well over-packed with symbolism and Scottish cultural references, which are an achievement in their own right as the architect, who died before he could explain what he meant by the building, was not Scottish. It feels as if someone has bulk ordered some modern symbolism and applied it all to the building without discrimination.

My ambiguity – apart from my aversion to symbols that would be enough to fill a Dan Brown trilogy – probably stems from the fact that I was not expecting a new, modern building for a Parliament that is centuries old (although not in existence for 300 years). The building itself is quite functional from the inside (with bare cement walls in places and a very big and roomy debating chamber) and very strange from the outside. Only, if one would look down on the building from the nearby mountain would he discover that the building is supposed to symbolize the petals of a flower; however, he would probably have a hard time realizing this as the grass on the roof makes it difficult to make out the shape.

Edwin Morgan puts it quite elegantly and accurately in his poem:
Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to
the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite
and grey granite, seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete
blond and smooth as silk – the mix is almost alive – it
breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!
Debating chamber. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

More pictures at the Parliament website.