I’ve just — finally — submitted my politics Masters thesis to the Victoria University of Wellington library, and I thought it might be interesting to note down a few things I did along the way. I’m really interesting in open source, so I thought it would be a good idea to walk the talk and make an open source thesis.
Using open source tools
One of the most obvious ways to make an open source thesis was is to use open source tools. I used LibreOffice Writer to write all 42,000 words of it. Using LO writer was an almost entirely pain free process, except for a couple of admittedly stressful times when the xml of the file got corrupted and I had to revert to old versions to rescue my work.
I also analysed my focus group transcripts using the open source qualitative data analysis tool RQDA. It was really easy and worked really well — I would definitely recommend it.
Add a creative commons licence
I chose to license my thesis under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 Licence. The licence basically allows anyone to share or remix my work as long as they attribute me as the creator and share their subsequent creation with the same licence (or a compatible one). While I think I’m pretty realistic about the fact that pretty much noone is ever going to look at my thesis, I think it’s cool to think that someone might come along and do something interesting with my work.
The international Creative Commons organisation has been advocating for students to license their theses since at least 2009. There must be huge numbers of theses now out there available to read, remix and build on. It’s much easier to stand on the metaphorical shoulders of giants in scholarship when everything is free to read!
Making your thesis open access
The university where I studied has a good open access repository, so I’ll be putting my thesis in the open access section so anyone can view it and download it for free. I think adding your work to the open access repository is a fantastic idea — it’s the best way to make it available so people will actually read it.
A slightly different version of this post can also be found over at the fantastic NZ Commons site. Check it out if you haven’t already!
One thing which I’ve noticed recently is that New Zealand politicians are terrible at using creative commons licences to allow use of their photos. That’s a real shame, and in this post I’ll explore why it’s in politicians’ best interest to upload good quality photos of themselves and their activities using a permissive creative commons (CC) licence.
What is creative commons?
Creative commons is a way of making it easy for people to share, build upon and remix your creative works, while retaining copyright. There are all sorts of different licences, so you can use one which matches your needs. Creative commons licences can be a confusing business, but they’re not too complicated once you get the hang of them (and understand what all the different abbreviations mean!). Continue reading “politicians and openly-licensed photography”
Wikimedia Commons is a community-run website where people from around the world upload images, which can then be used freely by others (with certain restrictions depending on licences). As the name suggests, it’s run by the Wikimedia Foundation who run the behind-the-scenes-stuff at Wikipedia, and a whole host of other related websites. The Commons is the main storage location for all the images, videos, and audio recordings etc on Wikipedia.
The Commons only accepts images which have some encyclopedic/educational value and are licenced very permissively. The default licence is CC-BY-SA, which in a few words, means you’re free to share the item as long as you say who created the image, and share your item (either simply the original item or a derivative) under the same conditions.
The conditions make it pretty difficult to upload anything unless you’ve created it yourself and you give the go-ahead, or you track down creative commons licenced media somewhere else. But the somewhat restrictive conditions on what you can upload create this amazing resource for the world: for pretty much anything you can imagine, there’s a free image available free of charge. It’s like a giant stock photo database, except free. I don’t really understand why people are still buying stock photos when there are all these freely available images sitting there. All you have to do is follow the simple creative commons conditions and you’re fine.