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- July 9, 2012 in Bibliographic, DM2E, Events, OKF Projects, Open GLAM, Our Work, Sprint / Hackday, TEXTUS, WG Open Bibliographic Data, Working Groups, Workshop

DSC02202 Last month we ran the Open Knowledge Foundation’s largest celebration of open bibliographic data to date. The main focus of the two-day event was to get some hacking done and use the tools the Open Knowledge Foundation has helped to build, or is currently building, for working with bibliographic data, such as BibServer, TEXTUS and BibSoup.

Open GLAM Workshop

CIMG6138 The other component to the two-day event was a one-day workshop for those working in cultural heritage institutions. It included an introduction to some of the basic technical concepts of open data such as APIs and Linked Data, as well as advice from experts in the field on how to prepare your data for a hackathon. The workshop also sought to start conversations with the institutions represented from around London about what the challenges were to opening up more of their collections online and how the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open GLAM initiative could assist in the process. The write up of the workshop can be found on and over on the Talis Systems website (thank you Tim Hodson!) One highlight of the workshop was Harry Harrold’s brilliant talk on how to get your data ready for a hackathon:
Bibliohack: Preparing your data for a hackathon from UKOLN on Vimeo.

The Hacking

The hacking began with an agreed approach of identifying one unified problem and established the need to create ‘A Bibliographic Toolkit’: bringing together the tools necessary to liberate bibliographic data, make it openly available on the net and to interact with that data. The main components to this were:
  • Utilising BibServer – adding datasets and using PubCrawler
  • Creating an Open Access Index
  • Developing annotation tools
Project diagram Groups identified particular Open Knowledge Foundation projects including TEXTUS and BibServer to find out what they could offer as part of this Toolkit, and looked into other available facilities on the web. It was so exciting so see people approaching common problems from different angles and finding new ways around problems. One example of this was the TEXTUS group’s new approach to managing bibliographic references and how it can complement approaches to semantic annotation currently being worked on by the DM2E team who were present at the hack. Adrian Pohl and Etienne Posthumus’s attempt to load the whole of German National Bibliography into a Bibserver was another such example. For some more detailed information on what occurred each day, check out the daily blog reports we wrote over on

Big Thanks

We’d like to thank all the groups involved who made the two days such a success, especially DevCSI, UK Discovery DM2E, Open GLAM, Open Biblio and all of the participants. The OKFN frequently arranges workshops, hackdays and meet-ups, so do keep an eye on this blog and meet-up channel for news of upcoming events.

Bibliographic References in Textus

- June 20, 2012 in Bibliographic, Open Shakespeare, Our Work, TEXTUS

Textus is the OKFN’s open source platform for working with collections of texts. It harnesses the power of semantic web technologies and delivers them in a simple and intuitive interface so that students, researchers and teachers can share and collaborate around collections of texts. Sites such as the upcoming and the existing contain collections of texts, annotated by their respective communities. Following some excellent conversations at the recent openBiblio workshop and hack session, we now have a plan to make these text repositories play nicely with the rest of the world. Many thanks to all the participants at the openBiblio event for their comments and help, in particular to Peter Murray-Rust and Simone Fonda, and to the organisers for getting everyone into the same room.

New features

Within the next few weeks, we’re hoping to add a whole load of new features to Textus, so you’ll be able to:
  • Browse the texts in that instance, filtering by authors, dates etc.
  • Create your own reading lists and control whether they’re publicly visible on your profile page or private. Items in these reading lists can be
    • External references, added either completely manually by filling in all the details or through a search interface.
    • Entire texts or fragments of texts from within the Textus instance itself, allowing you to add very specific content to your reading list.
    • …or you can import the entire reading list from an uploaded file in BibJSON format.
  • Add citations to your annotations. As with the reading list creation you can add entirely manually or through search, with the extra feature that you can search your own reading lists – this means you can create annotations which reference other regions of the same or other texts within the Textus instance.
  • Export your reading lists as BibJSON for import into other tools and services.

References in, references out

Currently annotations are free text comments, which may be attributable to a user or may be anonymous, but are rarely any richer than this. Annotations of this kind are valuable, but they lack solid backing. We’d like to allow our annotators to provide evidence through citations. On the other side of things, we want to be able to reference texts or parts of texts held within a Textus installation from elsewhere, including hyperlinks directly into the reader interface such that when someone cites a fragment of a play in they can provide a link which opens that part of the play in a web browser along with any relevent annotations. An interesting side effect of having a text in Textus is that citing any arbitrary part of that text becomes possible – traditionally it’s been difficult to create truly fine grained citations (down to the paragraph, sentence or even word level). We can do this trivially as Textus defines a coordinate system over each text and references refer to a contigious range of characters within this system. It will be interesting to see how tools which expect very coarse grained references (entire books, articles etc) cope with these much more precise citations, but that’s for the future…

Tech and implementation

To integrate the functionality described above into Textus we’re going to be taking advantage of three existing projects.
  • BibJSON provides a format to express bibliographic information.
  • BibServer provides a set of APIs we can use to search external sources of reference and expose references from Textus (allowing Textus to act as a BibServer instance itself)
  • FacetView provides a rich filtering and browsing interface embedded in the Textus website to allow navigation and display of collections. This depends on an ElasticSearch or SOLR instance with the data, happily we already use ElasticSearch as the data store for Textus.
So, there is one component we need to write (a sensible search UI across distributed BibServer instances, including the instance embedded within Textus) and a couple to integrate. There will certainly be glitches and things which aren’t as easy as we expect, but really thanks to the excellent work from these other projects we should be able to get a lot of functionality very quickly.

Let’s Make!

- February 10, 2012 in OKF Projects, Our Work, TEXTUS

The following post is by the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Jonathan Gray and is cross-posted from his personal blog. A little while ago I posted some ideas for a project called, which would enable users to transcribe, translate, annotate and create collections of philosophical texts which have entered the public domain. As was announced last week on this blog, the project has secured some funding from JISC, who champion digital technology for use in higher education in the UK. The project will be a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London, the University of Oxford and the Open Knowledge Foundation. It will also involve students and staff at other institutions in the UK and further afield. The project will develop an open source platform called TEXTUS, which will enable users to create, manage and interact with collections of texts. TEXTUS will power The platform will be developed with input from students and staff who will be using in their teaching and research. It will have a strong emphasis on creating something beautiful, simple, intuitive and user-centric.
It will benefit from the wisdom of a distinguished Advisory Board of philosophy professors and digital humanities experts, which currently includes:
  • Frederick Beiser, Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University
  • Tobias Blanke, Head of the Centre for e-Research at King’s College London
  • David Bourget, Director of the Centre for Computing in Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London
  • Andrew Bowie, Professor of Philosophy and German at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Dan Cohen, Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University
  • Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at New School for Social Research, New York and Editor of The Stone philosophy forum at the New York Times
  • Manuel Dries, Research Fellow in Philosophy at University of Oxford
  • Christian J. Emden, Associate Professor in German Studies at Rice University
  • Stefan Gradmann, Library and Information Science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Kenneth Haynes, Professor of Comparative Literature and Classics, Brown University
  • Derek Matravers, Professor in Philosophy at the Open University and Lecturer at the University of Cambridge.
  • Nigel Warburton, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University and Co-founder of the Philosophy Bites podcast
In the first phase of the project we will be developing a prototype of the TEXTUS platform, and sourcing and selecting public domain philosophical texts to include in If you’d like to be kept in the loop on the development of, you can request an invite to test the project when it is ready. If you’d like to come and help out, you are warmly invited to join us on the public open-philosophy discussion list. You can also follow @OpenPhilosophy on Twitter.
Pictures of Roman Ondák’s “Table” (Berlin, 2010) by Marc Wathieu, CC-BY.

JISC to fund development of TEXTUS project

- February 3, 2012 in News, OKF Projects, Our Work, TEXTUS

The following post is by Sam Leon, Community Co-ordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation. We’re delighted to announce that JISC will be funding the initial development of the TEXTUS platform as part of its Digital Infrastructure Programme. TEXTUS will be a lightweight, easy-to-use platform that will enable users to read, share and collaborate around public domain texts. It will use tools already developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation such as the Annotator and build on the OKFN humanities projects such as Open Shakespeare. Goldsmiths University will lead the project with technical development and community work to be undertaken by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Open Philosophy

The six-month JISC funded project will focus on developing a first instance of TEXTUS to be deployed as Open Philosophy on Open Philosophy – which will focus on providing access to and encouraging scholarly collaboration around philosophy texts – will be developed in close consultation with the project’s academic advisory board, students from Goldsmiths University and project partners Oxford and Royal Holloway. It is one of the main goals of the project to develop a tool that can be used by students and scholars to enrich their teaching and research, so user-centric design principles will be followed throughout to ensure that real researcher needs are addressed appropriately. There is a dedicated Open Philosophy mailing list that will focus on discussions about the content to be made available on which you can sign up to here.

Get Involved

Those interested in getting involved should contact sam.leon [at] or send us a message on twitter @TEXTUSProject check out the TEXTUS Project website.

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