Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens

Archive for the 'Site administration' Category

Deleting users, for security

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

As this site has been the target of some hackers (who were being paid by a Canadian pharmaceutical seller), I’m having to delete user registration here.

Sorry about that. Being hacked was a byproduct of having user registration, so one or the other has to go…

On the plus side, you do now get spiffy icons that will indicate whether you’re really the same person as when you last commented. So, not such a loss.

My thanks to Stefan Pause for his help and advice on securing the site.

And on the plus side, I’ve taken his advice and updated the permalink structure, which means you now get meaningful (if long) URLs. Win-win, I think. Plus I’ve got some fascinating hacker scripts to deconstruct.

Reorganising this blog: different category suggestions

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Speaking to someone this morning about the Free Our Data campaign, I found that I was constantly saying “Oh, we wrote about X on the blog…” (where X could be the Postcode Address File, or the proposal to charge for changes in the Land Registry, or whatever) – but then realised it’s very hard to find anything by that label here. Search is nice, but it’s not enough.

Therefore I’m proposing to update the “categories” here into a number of new ones, principally with the names of organisations – eg Ordnance Survey, Post Office, Hydrographic Office, Land Registry – that would be affected or included in the post.

Your suggestions welcome for how, for example, we should deal with the “Cambridge report” or the Trading Funds review. And for any other organisational change to the categorisation on this blog for posts that would make your use of it easier.

“OS replies” article – updated to two columns

Monday, April 24th, 2006

In case anyone hasn’t yet read the Ordnance Survey’s reply to our original article that launched this campaign, it’s been updated so that you now see the original and the OS replies side-by-side, in a two-column format. Many thanks to Earle Martin for the CSS work and layout.

What’s revealing is of course that it shows what OS is replying to, and what it isn’t – though of course our argument is not with the OS, but with the Treasury which makes the rules on how public organisations that collect data cover their costs.

Wow, that’s dramatic!

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Only those who haven’t been here before (or who are reading it via RSS/web feeds) will not have noticed the difference. Many thanks to Rich Holman for putting together a good-looking version of this WordPress theme, rather than the Knife & Fork Productions version that was here. It’s great, isn’t it? Next, perhaps, the wiki..

Want a wiki? We have got a wiki..

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

For those who hadn’t guessed (or didn’t care), there is a wiki on this site, which is still very much in its experimental stage – which is why it doesn’t appear in the navigation bar.

However if you want to find it and experiment with it, you’ll find it at It’s open to anyone (within reason; there are anti-spam measures, but you don’t have to register). There will certainly be tweaks needed to make it (a) sensible (b) helpful. But like any wiki, it’s an evolving thing. Let me know with a comment on this post if, for example, you create a page but cannot then edit it.

Free Our Data nominated for New Statesman award

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Here’s a nice surprise: the Free Our Data campaign has been nominated for a New Statesman New Media Awards prize under the “Advocacy” category (well, let’s be honest: we were never going to win “best-designed”).

The category so far includes Fathers Direct, net-guide and Your Local We’ll be hanging out the bunting.. er, putting up a GIF showing that we’re nominated in no time.

In the meantime, I’m still working on adding forums; and there is a wiki though it’s pretty awful and hasn’t been properly integrated into the site at all. (A bit of reflection will suggest where you can find it; please bear in mind that it’s like a house where someone has moved in and not unpacked. That said, please have a play.)

If anyone does know a web designer who wants to spruce up an NMA-nominated site, just tell them to get in touch..

That’s better: see what’s been commented on recently

Sunday, March 26th, 2006

I’ve installed a number of (free) WordPress plugins – specifically, fuzzy recent comments, fuzzy recent posts and fuzzy recently updated by Semiologic.

This means (if you look down on the right-hand side) that you can see what the latest posts are, which pages have recently been updated (this only refers those publicly visible within the /blog directory) and who’s been commenting on what. I think that this will – until I get the forums up – give us the chance to follow the discussions going on here more effectively.

Your feedback always welcome, of course. I am trying the forums; it’s a question of getting the headers consistent with the rest of the site so that people won’t disappear into some sort of black hole there. Sure, the site isn’t consistent anyway, but improvement can be incremental.

(As I write this I’m watching the BBC Panorama program on the mad money-go-round within the NHS which describes a “double whammy” for going into debt… under the rules the government sets. They have to pay back the debt and lose it from their budget of the next year. One can see why the trading funds aren’t keen to be there.)

Forums? Hold your breath.. a bit..

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Thanks for all the comments about the need for forums (which is getting clearer and clearer as we don’t have a “recent comments” or “recent posts” link in the right-hand bar, though I’d like to implement them.)

I’m evaluating the Drupal forum software, and hope to put something in soon. Thanks too for the advice on wiki software.

Got something to say? Get in touch; and suggest some forum software

Monday, March 20th, 2006

We’ve been asked how one can get in touch. It’s pretty simple: email (I’ll give that rather than my Guardian email simply because I have better spam-filtering and mail-organising options on the Gmail address).
If you’ve got something that needs saying, we’re always interested. I note that some people think forums, rather than a blog, would be a better organisational structure; that’s probably true. If anyone wants to suggest some PHP/MySQL-based forum software, I’m all ears. “Free” is a good price too..

Trouble commenting? Be patient..

Friday, March 17th, 2006

If you’ve put a comment (as many of you have – thank you) to a post and found it hasn’t appeared, or you’ve had to fill out a captcha* (where you have to say what letters appear in an image), please be patient. This is just the result of the comment spam protection used on the site, which is usually very effective.

To bypass it, you can log in (see the Login link on the right) – you choose your user name and password – which validates you in the eyes of the system. The aim is to make it possible for anyone to comment, while keeping spammers out. Thanks again for your patience, and for all the contributions.

* actually, I should have written captcha™. If you read the linked entry, it seems that Carnegie-Mellon has trademarked that acronym.

Terrible design? Yes, sorry

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Yes, we know the layout doesn’t quite work – we should have had things like the Free our data logo logo on the side here all the time, and so on and so forth. Anyone who knows how to hack a WordPress theme file so that it will (1) include images like the above in the top, and (2) match the colours and (3) give us our own footer like the other pages is welcome to comment here.
In the meantime, if you’d like to take a copy of the image for your site, and link back to this site or to the original Guardian article or the followup article, then please do