AbstractOver the past year, we at g0v.tw have demonstrated a way to combine online and offline activism. Following the model established by the Free Software community over the past two decades, we transformed social media into a platform for social production, with a fully open and decentralized cultural & technological framework.
By 2012, Social Media had firmly entrenched itself in Taiwanese everyday life, when Facebook alone claimed 75% of online users. However, netizens remained pessimistic about the potential of existing social media outlets and portals to spark civic empowerment — or even engagement — online. The writer Chang Ta-Chuen explained this disconnect during an interview:
Q: Do you see Facebook as an instrument to encourage civic engagement?
Chang: No, I can most definitely say, absolutely not. It makes citizens feel as if they have participated. […] I still can’t see how an actual, practical activism can succeed at engaging people, as lazy as we are.
According to TH Schee’s analysis, the problems were five-fold:
- Nonprofit organizations’ media exposure was ineffective and not proactive
- Individuals felt powerless to influence policies and politics
- Online participation could not translate into offline action or collaboration
- Open-source communities cared little for social issues
- A generation gap prevented offline and online activists from collaborating
In this article we present g0v.tw, a civic movement by informed netizens toward participatory self-government. Borne out of frustration at the government’s blithe lack of transparency at the end of 2012, in one year we have made these ongoing contributions:
- By establishing participatory media channels such as News Helper (§3.3) and Congress Matters (§4.1), we work with traditional media on a level footing (§4.2).
- By crowd-producing definitive works such as dictionaries (§1.2), welfare directories (§2.1) and contemporary history (§2.3), we transform ourselves from passive consumers (§0.2) into effective agents.
- By organizing regular hackathons (§0.3) and offering logistic support to social movements (§3.2), we create a shared cultural space (§4.3) that blends online and offline activism.
- By constructing sites of social production modeled after open-source principles (§1.1), we shape civic projects into communal grounds for learning and hacking alike (§2.2).
- By designing outreach programs on social issues such as labor rights (§1.3), we form ongoing dialogues with established activists, promoting social awareness and online consensus-building (§3.1).
The unifying idea behind our contributions is a simple one: Taking a hands-on, open-source and public-spirited approach, we combine best practices from Free Software, Civic Media and Social Activism into an active community around Information Transparency.
Background: Winter of 2012
The “Real Price” Incident
Amidst popular unrest regarding speculative housing inflation, President Ma Ying-jeou made housing justice a key component of his 2012 re-election platform. In an attempt to counter speculation and enable fair taxation, the parliament passed a bipartisan bill mandating that all real estate transactions register the actual price.
As part of the mandate, the Ministry of the Interior commissioned a website on which people can find transaction records by street address. The site went live on October 16 to a flood of requests and remained only intermittently accessible for most of October.
Three days after the launch, a team of four Google.tw engineers incorporated the Ministry’s data into their Real-Price Maps website, overlaying aggregated pricing information on Google Maps with a plethora of filtering features. Their remix was an instant success, serving hundreds of requests per second from Google App Engine without a hitch.
A week later, Minister without portfolio Simon Chang (a Google alum himself) invited the remixers to a round table. The team responded amiably, offering detailed suggestions about how they would like to collaborate with the government.
However, after sensational media coverage pitted the team’s shoestring budget of NTD$500 against the official site’s “million-dollar disaster”, the relationship between the two soon turned sour. The Ministry used the crawling activity as a convenient excuse for their own server’s downtime, while critics questioned the legality of scraping and remixing government data.
The incident came to a head on November 14, when the official site replaced all street addresses with image files, dramatically increasing the burden of crawling. While a skilled hacker eventually published parsed data using OCR techniques, it is clear that the attrition is of no benefit to anyone. The Real-Price Maps site closed shortly thereafter.
(Addendum: Starting July 2013, the Ministry began offering biweekly limited-timeframe download of land price data set. As of July 2015, quarterly data is finally released as Open Data without restrictions.)
“Power-Up Plan for the Economy”
While the Real Price incident was still unfolding, a new government production took the spotlight: A 40-seconds propaganda video titled “What's the Economy Power-Up Plan?”
Entirely devoid of information, the clip simply repeated the following monotonous refrain: “We have a very complex plan. It is too complicated to explain. Never mind the details — just follow instructions and go along with it!”
Met with widespread incredulity and mockery, the video went viral as viewers on YouTube rushed to click “report abuse” in protest. The automated system quickly classified the video as scam and banned the government's YouTube account for two days.
The video went on-air again on October 19, just before Yahoo Open Hack Day 2012, an annual 24-hour event in which sixty-four teams show off their innovative creations. Infuriated by the controversial ad, the four members of the “Hacker #15” team made a last-minute pivot from their “online window shopping” project. Rather than displaying merchandises, they resolved to create a bird’s eye view of how taxes are spent.
The resulting Budget Maps presented each agency’s annual spending in the form of geometric shapes of proportional sizes, inviting participants to review and rate each item’s usefulness. Calling upon citizens to “strike out rip-off spending (e.g. the Power-Up ad)”, the two-minute demo won NTD$50K in Hack Day prizes.
While demo day crowds are known to quickly forget such projects, team member CL Kao came up with an elegant hack to keep this one alive. He registered the catchy domain name g0v.tw, dedicated to citizens’ remixes of government websites. The Real-Price Maps thus became accessible at lvr.land.moi.g0v.tw before its shutdown — literally just one fingertip away from its official counterpart at lvr.land.moi.gov.tw; meanwhile, the Budget Maps lived on at budget.g0v.tw as the inaugural g0v.tw project.
Equipped with the new g0v.tw domain, the four hackers agreed to spend the NTD$50k prize on their own Hackathon to enlist more projects into this newfangled syndicate of civic remixes. Modeled after participant-driven BarCamp events, they named the event 0th Hackathon of Martial Mobilization, invoking a rebellious image from the 1949-era civil war.
Enthusiastic registrants soon exceeded the initial venue’s capacity. Fortunately, Dr. Chingteng Hsiao at Academia Sinica offered to host the event at the Research Center for Information Technology Innovation. On December 1, civic hackers filled the venue's 80-person auditorium and presented their projects, covering a wide range of government functions, including Congress, Tenders, Geography, Weather, Electricity, Healthcare and many other areas. Lively discussion continued online at Hackpad and IRC well after the daylong event.
In support of the coding efforts, writers and bloggers formed a Facebook group copywriting on demand, offering their skills to any project that asked for assistance. Designer Even Wu also initiated a design on demand group, providing hackers with various visual assets.
Dissatisfied with the makeshift logo banner, Wu would continue to work on several iterations of the logotypes, eventually completing a set of Visual Identity guidelines, which elevated g0v into an easily recognizable brand.
As the new projects continue online, writers and designers participating in g0v found that Facebook groups lacked essential features such as shared bookmarks and task tracking. On the other hand, popular tools for open-source software development such as Git, IRC and Wikis posed a high entry barrier for non-coder participants.
To address this issue, in January 2013, we launched hack.g0v.tw as the common entry point for online projects as well as face-to-face events. It combines several tools that form a cohesive space for coordination:
- Hackfoldr organizes all related links around a project into multi-level bookmarks.
- EtherCalc provides a scalable, multi-user spreadsheet with an API tailored to the needs of Hackfoldr.
- People Registry lets participants discover each other with profile tags for projects, issues, skills and interests.
- Project Registry lists the contact information for each project, as well as bite-sized tasks for new contributors.
- Web Chat keeps daily logs with a distinct URL for each line, and introduces new users to IRC via web-based chatrooms.
Owing to the diverse nature of the projects and participants, there’s a strong preference for lightweight, descriptive structures (“tags”) over rigid, prescriptive structures (“taxonomies”).
Because much of our activities are face-to-face, we also favor real-time shared documents (e.g., Hackpad and EtherCalc) over revision-controlled, long distance collaboration tools (e.g., Wikis and mailing lists).
Reclaiming Our Language
The resounding success for the December 2012 gathering prompted a successive event. The 1st Hackathon of Homesteading Commons was held on January 27 at three cities across Taiwan, attracting one hundred on-site hackers and even more online participants.
One of the online participants was Ping Yeh, a long-time open source advocate who immigrated to the US in 2011. In a blog article posted the night before the Hackathon, he called upon g0v hackers to liberate the Revised Ministry of Education Dictionary from the Ministry’s archaic website into “an open API, with full index and search capabilities, free for all individuals and companies to use.”
With over 160 thousand entries, rich etymologies, and full references to classical texts, the MoE Dictionary has been the authoritative definition of the Traditional Chinese language since it was first published in 1945. The digital-only Revised edition launched in 1996 as a website and attracted nearly 200 million visits—even with almost no upgrades—over the next seventeen years.
What would it take to bring the Revised MoE into the modern web of permanent URLs, Unicode text, and mobile devices? Yeh argued that the Ministry of Education ought to provide unencumbered dictionary data and let citizens take care of the presentation. Since the Ministry took the opposite stance by explicitly disallowing redistribution, Yeh pledged to personally design the required data structure so civic hackers could scrape the dictionary data to “reclaim our language.”
More than 30 participants on the MoeDict team—formed during the Hackathon—worked overnight. The next day, the team published not only complete data in JSON and SQL formats, but also prototyped websites and apps for all major platforms. With the recent memory of Real Price Map’s closure, we forestalled copyright issues with two legal devices:
- By claiming Fair Use of government-produced data under Article 50 of Taiwan’s Copyright Act, we took a non-infringing position by adhering to strict not-for-profit principles.
- By disclaiming all property rights using the CC0 public domain declaration, we made sure the Ministry of Education could incorporate all our contributions at any time.
After months of deliberation, the Ministry eventually agreed to our fair use claim and collaborated with us to convert their CC-licensed Taiwanese Holo & Hakka dictionaries into a cross-referenced, multilingual platform at moedict.tw. The website would go on to serve millions of visits per month, with over 100 thousand regular mobile app users by the end of 2013.
(Addendum: Starting March 2015, the Ministry began offering structured dataset downloads of the Revised MoE, Concise MoE, and Mini MoE directionaries under the CC BY-ND 3.0 license.)
It is important to job seekers to know whether an employer has followed employment laws and regulations while hiring employees. This is why Job Helper was launched.
Since June 2011, when the Labor Standards Law amendments were passed, any violations of the Law by an employer would be made public through the Labor Affairs Bureau of each county and city. However, before job applicants can get the information, they need to find in which county or city the company is registered, and then dive in a long search for related documents in various file formats stored somewhere on the official website of the Bureau. Adding to this daunting task is that many people are not aware that this kind of information is regularly published by the Labor Affairs Bureaus despite its importance to job seekers.
In January 2013, when HTC cancelled overtime wages for its employees, Ronny Wang, motivated by how poorly the employees were treated by corporations, proposed the project Job Helper. “If we could identify whether or not an employer has violated the Labor Standards Law as we seek for jobs,” said Wang, “we would be more alert about the risks of the job and would have a better sense about the reasonable wages.”
During development, the first problem encountered was the absence of information about violations on all popular job search websites. The solution was to create and utilize an extension program to the browsers. Now users can install Job Helper, a browser extension, from the Chrome Web Store. This extension can check employers listed on the job search websites and identify an employer with a history of violations. The information on these violations will then pop out when you browse the job opportunities posted by the employer.
How are these violation data accessed and collected? This work can only rely on data crawling. Ronny Wang and Guo-Wei Su analyzed various electronic documents of lists of employers violating the Labor Standards Law provided by Labor Affairs Bureaus of all the counties and cities in Taiwan, and wrote a program which automatically imports the information in the documents into database records with a uniform format.
Enormous efforts have been devoted to the project so far, and the result has turned out to be a huge success. To date, Job Helper has 34k users, and supports several popular job search websites in Taiwan, including 104, 1111, yes123, 518, and ejob. It is rated 4.88 stars out of 5 at Chrome Web Store.
Listening to Welfare
Suffering from multiple barriers at each level of government and having to deal with numerous welfare statutes, hearing-impaired developer Blue Chen decided to develop a convenient, understandable Deaf Welfare Portal, enabling people to quickly find appropriate welfare channels, relevant laws, and aid packages by simply selecting their hearing condition.
Chen recorded the idea on hack.g0v.tw, where it caught the attention of Peggy Lo, webmaster of the healthcare portal After That Day. Lo realized that her vision of “one-stop information services for medical care, welfare, and funerals” fit well with Chen’s, so she volunteered to join the development team.
During the 2nd Hackathon of Nine Major Constructions on March 23, the six team members decided to expand the scope to cover other groups, such as the elderly, children, low-income households, the disabled, and military veterans; they also added aid packages provided by local NGOs, in addition to government sources.
After four months of development, the project went online in July with the new name Listening to Welfare, as well as a new motto: “The sign of a successful society is not measured by the privileges of its wealthy, but whether its most vulnerable people can enjoy a comfortable life.”
Follow-up reports by public service media, such as NPOst, have expanded the reach of our projects, encouraging new social welfare projects in subsequent Hackathons.
Open Source Developers’ Conference
Since the first cross-community Perl/PHP/Python Party event in 2003, OSDC.tw has been the largest annual meeting for the open source developer community in Taiwan. On this occasion, g0v.tw presented two keynote speeches outlining systematic approaches for both technical and operational directions.
In the PgREST — Node.js in the Database presentation, Audrey Tang used the MoeDict’s development process to illustrate a “full-stack, no-middleware” paradigm that unifies “distributed databases, spreadsheets, collaborative documents, front-end, back-end, and mobile app development” using the same set of tools, significantly reducing the entry barrier for non-specialist web developers.
Kirby Wu’s g0v Hackathons – Coding a better society proposed three operational concepts:
- Decentralization: Each project is independent; no one individual represents g0v.tw.
- Transparency: By providing government data in an easily accessible form, we encourage civic awareness, as well as concrete proposals for improvements.
- Open Source: All our projects are released under Open Source and Creative Commons licenses, allowing community members to carry on each other’s projects.
In the conclusions to their speeches, both speakers affirmed the “standby government” approach: Instead of criticizing the government’s offerings, we can share our visions by creating “patches” to demonstrate better alternatives, thus effecting changes in the public sector. This ethos has since become the standard basis of cooperation between g0v.tw and government agencies.
From Anger to Fact
Say you discover a fine website that provides a detailed history of certain events, but later find that its resourcefulness is merely a façade, the purpose of which is to justify the wrongness of the activities of wealthy corporations. Such stories told may be beautiful, but they are only single-sided, muting voices from other sources. The façade hides the harmful actions done to the lands we live on that care little about our traditional cultures. If you are a web programmer, what would you do besides despising the corporations and mourning for our society?
Such was the circumstances that prompted Jimmy Huang to create fact.g0v.tw, a website for presenting complicated information as simple timelines with highlighted events. It is to be compared with the “consortium's version”, offering the public more chances to discover the truth.
Fact (政誌) had previously been codenamed Angry Politics (怒政), named after our anger aimed at today’s political affairs. We soon found that the Angry image was less appealing to the public in the long term, so the members came up with a better name, Fact (政誌, Political diary), which is a homophone of “politics” (政治) in Mandarin.
With this “diary”, we hope that people will remember their history wherein our efforts and passion are devoted to fighting for the right. No matter the results, a lot of things are still in progress and deserve continuous attention.
The data on Fact are collected from Wikipedia and rearranged. In addition to keeping historical data, the site reflects the editable data on Wikipedia and, in this sense, allows the public to take part in Fact in recording history.
To date, there are 21 members involved in program development and homepage editing for Fact, and its contents are contributed by numerous Wikipedia writers. Hot topics on Fact include several important events in Taiwan, such as same-sex marriage, the September political conflicts, Da-Tung oil, the White Shirt Army social movement, the Da-Pu event, the referendum on Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Plant, the Sun-Moon-Light wastewater, toxic starch, etc.
While most events are still taking place, they seem winding down due to the short memories of the media and the public. Fact needs the general public as well as the engineers to run properly, because it requires both hard data and reliable narrations stored in the people's minds to be pulled out, published, and recorded in Wikipedia, so that we shall never lose track of everything that has happened in Taiwan.
In addition to our interest in Taiwan’s current affairs, we have also been inspired by the massive upsurge of democratic activities in Europe, including, for example, Iceland’s constitutional referendum, Finland’s crowd-sourced legislation, Italy’s Five Star Movement, Germany’s Pirate Party, and other similar precedents. As g0v.tw continues to work with the government for greater information transparency, these activities have presented clear evidence for the accumulated wisdom of online communities and their potential to shape public policy.
Accordingly, the members of g0v.tw have localized the online policy-formation system Liquid Feedback and have named it 動民主 (Dynamic Democracy). The first trial took place on June 8 at our 3rd Hackathon of Living-Room Factories. We implemented a preferential voting mechanism to determine the best project in the Hackathon; four tickets to the highly sought-after COSCUP event were awarded as the winning prize.
At the end of June, Dynamic Democracy team members held an online meeting with representatives from the German and Italian Pirate Parties. We decided to expand the existing voting platform and incorporate pre-proposal discussions and post-performance tracking into the system, turning it into a “Foundation for Decision-making" (Basisentscheid) for online collaboration among policy groups.
Once we agreed on the system blueprint, coming up with a compelling interface became the next priority. The designer ET Blue began by remaking the voting system and gradually outlined the architecture of a three-tier platform for citizens’ right of initiative:
- Issues: Civic groups present issues along with their planned solutions, which are then discussed by the participants in depth and systematically refined.
- Proposals: The issues agreed on are assembled into policy and law amendment proposals; their progress in representative politics is tracked.
- Projects: Visualizing the ongoing implementation progress of the various proposals and highlighting areas in which members of the public can assist.
After extensive requirement-gathering talks with civic groups, political parties, candidates for public office, and independent media, development of the new Dynamic Democracy system began in earnest at the end of 2013.
COSCUP × 1985
COSCUP is the most popular annual conference for Taiwan’s open source users, promoters, and developers. The event took place in August 2013 at the International Conference Center with “Open x [Web, Mobile, Data]” as the main theme, attracting a total of 1,800 registrants. Among its eight concurrent tracks, the Community Track featured seven presentations by g0v.tw on our infrastructure, MoeDict, Job Helper, Listening to Welfare, and Budget Maps.
The conference opened on August 3 with a panel discussion, the Open Data Roundtable, moderated by Ping Yeh and informally dubbed Four Reps from Industry, Government, Academy, and Community: Ben Jai, founder of Hope Bay Technology; Simon Chang, Minister without portfolio; Tyng-Ruey Chuang, host of Creative Commons Taiwan; and CL Kao from g0v.tw. The quartet exchanged ideas about how government and community should interact, agreeing that “requests from the community is the only way for the government to determine which piece of data has meaningful value.”
Traditionally, various major communities hold Birds of a Feather (BoF) meetups nearby on the evening of the opening day of COSCUP. The g0v.tw BoF adopted the slogan “Dismantle our Government and Build It Anew” and was held on the Ketagalan Boulevard. Participants dressed in white and joined 250,000 other demonstrators in the peaceful protest organized by the group Citizen 1985 over Corporal Hung Chung-chiu’s death.
Citizen 1985 and g0v.tw both emerged from grassroots movements that combine online collaboration with face-to-face meetings. Following the protest, we took the initiative to offer software support to Citizen 1985, providing anti-eavesdropping and distributed network encryption technologies. The two groups would eventually enter formal collaboration in October with the launch of the Big Citizen Is Watching alliance, working together on a series of congressional oversight projects.
The five-minute Lightning Talks before the conference closing on August 4 have always been a highlight of COSCUP. When introducing the long-term Kuansim project launched by Hsin-Yi Chen, speaker Zhe-Wei Lin stated that “out-of-control government comes from the failure of citizens to exercise oversight,” calling on people in the open source community to become involved in g0v.tw.
When the passage appeared on the PTT BBS, it won enthusiastic support from netizens and was praised as the “next weapon for civil society movements” and “+9 Eye of Big Citizen”; traffic in the g0v.tw IRC chat room quickly tripled, with the cumulative number of users surpassing 500. Our Facebook page Likes exceeded 10,000 within the month.
Due to overwhelming response, 30 additional spaces were made available for the 4th Hackathon of National Assembly on August 10, for a total of 111 participants. The assembly not only included a large number of first-time participants but also covered a much wider range of topics, including more than 10 novel projects such as Petneed.me Online Adoption, Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement Disaster Map, Cost of Generating Electricity Calculator, and Real-Time Rainfall Visualization.
Among the new projects, Ronny Wang’s News Helper had the highest velocity. Led by a team of 10 hackers spread across back-end services, front-end websites, browser extensions, user experience design, data collection, and feedback mechanisms, the project went online on August 19, with the number of users quickly surpassing 10,000.
The idea for this project came from the prevalence of online rumors in Taiwan: The mainstream media often posts erroneous news without first checking its validity, including stories such as “Ancient Civilization Discovered on the Moon”, “North Korea Announces that It Has Landed on the Sun”, and “Beijing Watches Fake Sunrise on Video Screen amid Smog”. Due to the short attention span of social media stories, even if the news source later corrected or deleted the story, few people would notice.
To address this problem, the News Helper browser extension is designed to display an automatic warning whenever the user runs into a false news report—“Attention! You may be a victim of counterfeit news”—with a link to the real story with evidence. In addition, in the event that errors are found in news stories previously posted, a reminder will pop up stating that “the news story you read 10 minutes ago contains errors.”
To encourage users to report errors, the browser extension adds a “Report to News Helper” link next to the Facebook “Share” link. This one-click reporting system has effectively reversed the tendency of social media to fuel Internet rumors, providing a convenient tool for verification of online news stories as well as promoting a participatory, collaborative culture based on the principle that contributing a little time goes a long way toward better media quality.
The g0v.tw congressional project (ly.g0v.tw) was established in November 2012, making it our longest-standing project. At present, 40 people have been involved in its development.
Taiwan’s Congress produces a variety of documents on a daily basis—official gazettes, minutes of hearings, scheduled hearings, summaries of hearings, legislators’ schedules, agendas, agenda related documents, bills, interpellations, and legislative proposals—released in Word, PDF, or HTML through four online systems. However, there are no structured data that can be processed by programs.
Beginning in January 2013 with the “official gazette reader”, the project team progressively created proof-of-concept applications, such as “voting results at a glance”, “comparison of legislative drafts”, and “scheduled hearings”. In mid-August, Johnny Luo, creator of Legislator Voting Guide, joined the development team and donated the website source code to the public domain with the CCO declaration.
With the process of sorting out text data and building a open interface in JSON format largely complete, the team moved on to audio and video data. Congress’ IVOD system supported only Internet Explorer, and its records can be removed after three years. Beginning in August 2013, we collaborated with the Citizen Congress Watch initiative to automatically upload congressional videos to a YouTube channel, ensuring that proceedings are easier to share and retain, even allowing users to link to a specific time point in the proceedings.
Following the above achievements, the idea of Congress Cinema was first proposed on October 20 at the 5th Hackathon of Ilha Formosa. By including elements of community participation—such as enabling users to select any part of the proceedings for viewing and engage in real-time discussion—we made the task of monitoring Congress both convenient and fun. The implementation was completed during the Yahoo Hack Taiwan event on November 3, with the addition of interactive gestures such as throwing shoes in protest or sending virtual flowers to legislators. The project not only won the Best Popularity Award but also attracted widespread attention from Chinese-language media, both in Taiwan and abroad.
Less than a week after its launch, Congress Cinema already attracted tens of thousands in views. The team moved swiftly to bring together legislative proposals, legislative schedules, interpellations, public hearings, and Speaker profiles into Congress Matters, a visually pleasing website suitable for mobile use. When the marriage equality amendment sparked public debate in December, the site’s side-by-side presentation of legislative drafts became a widely cited reference.
Due to our decentralized nature, there is no single spokesperson for g0v.tw; this has been a difficult adjustment for traditional media. Although we always keep complete audio and video recordings, as well as transcripts, for each event, journalists still felt the need to contact the project initiator to obtain first-hand information.
With Congress Cinema gaining mainstream media attention at the end of 2013, it was increasingly the case that reporters could not find anyone to interview before their deadlines. Therefore, we developed two strategies:
- We invite reporters from media organizations—such as CommonWealth Magazine, Global Views Monthly, The Journalist, and Business Weekly—to use Hackpad to write questions they wish to ask and the deadlines for replies, allowing project members to provide answers online, which are then edited by community members into plain, easy-to-understand language suitable for publication. This method not only ensures accurate quotations but also provides a wealth of material for subsequent reports.
- Project members jointly write press releases to share their experiences on the development and collaboration process. The publicity team then publishes the press releases on blogs, social media, and online media partners, such as the CommonWealth Magazine online blog. (This article you are reading is an example of such collaborative writing.)
In addition to the text and pictures, the publicity team is actively producing a series of short videos to promote the open-source culture and its spirit of collaboration, enabling people to gain a better understanding of our cultural background.
Art and Culture
Starting from the 0th Hackathon’s design on demand group, many designers and artists have joined g0v.tw, producing illustrations, inscriptions, project avatars, and visual identities.
With the increasing output, in early August the group transitioned to a long-term project g0v.tw Ministry of Culture, and established a licensing center on December 21 during the 6th Hackathon of Labor Standards, releasing works through CC licenses. The MoC project is currently divided into several initiatives:
- Graphics: Aside from providing artwork for projects, we have also worked with various civic groups to produce illustrations such as the “Black-Box Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement”, expanding the visibility of g0v.tw.
- Text: We provide real-time word-by-word reports during physical meetings, converts audio and video recordings into meeting transcripts, and publishes periodic bulletins.
- Music: Uses the SoundCloud and Blend.io collaboration platforms to produce theme songs such as “The Wood Cutter”, “The Digger”, and “Kuansim” for community groups.
- Publicity: Promotes external cooperation through interviews with community groups, online questionnaires, short films, and articles.
Another long-term project, the g0v.tw Ministry of Education has been involved in projects such as collaborative teaching tools, a collection of g0v Onboarding articles, and the g0village interactive game. At the end of 2013, the team introduced the Leve1up project as a step-by-step guide for newcomers to become active participants, using methods such as skill trees and an achievements system.
Founded in September 2010, this project was initiated by Youth Synergy Taiwan’s chief information officer, Whisky Chang. OpenData.TW is one of Taiwan’s first online forums dedicated to the discussion and promotion of open data.
With a series of lectures and awareness enhancement programs, the project has inspired the public’s expectations and imagination surrounding open data.
The project aspires to “go beyond transparency in the public sector and beyond information-sharing in the community; the ultimate goal is to achieve an open government, by forming a policy group to lobby for necessary legislative amendments.”
Code for Tomorrow
Founded by TH Schee, CK Liu, and Ying-Chu Chen in mid-2012, the mission of this preparatory office encompasses “the encouragement of stakeholder communications, the nurturing of emerging talents, and the promotion of international development.”
In 2013, the office worked in collaboration with SYSTEX to create a Data Science training program for civic-minded individuals as well as teams.
The preparatory office hopes to establish a formal “Code for Tomorrow Foundation” in the future to connect with international open knowledge foundations and create a robust ecosystem.
Conclusions and Aspirations
In his CfA Summit opening keynote, writer Clay Shirky remarked that “the product of a Hackathon isn’t running code. It’s the social capital developed among the people.”
In contrast, Taiwan’s BBS-and-Facebook generation of digital natives are often portrayed as “small circles keeping one another warm”, a view shared even by veteran social activists.
Over the past year, we at g0v.tw have demonstrated a way to combine online and offline collaboration. Following the model established by the Free Software community over the past two decades, we transformed social media into a platform for social production. The key is a fully open and decentralized framework, cultivating a culture where “when any person is away, someone else can always take on the role.”
Looking toward 2014, we hope that our collaborative process will inspire more people to identify the issues they care about, and use this cooperative space to develop the strength to overcome feelings of powerlessness. In conjunction with fellow movements committed to information transparency, we strive to create a better, more enlightened future.