London Indymedia

Indymedia Needs You

23.03.2006 16:59 | Free Spaces | Indymedia | Technology | London

The global indymedia network is the work of thousands of people at many different levels, from the people who read the articles and speak to other people about what they read, the reporters who post their stories, photos or video etc, to the admins who check for breaches of open posting guidelines and the techies who maintain the servers and develop the software.

Indymedia always needs more volunteers and at the moment the IMC UK network in particular is seeking more tech help so that it can be more active in the development of the content management program used by many IMC sites. It is really important to increase the developer pool since many proposals made for improving the site are stalling at the tech bottleneck.

If you think you could help please get in touch with your local collective or email imc-uk-tech. You could also mention this to anyone else you think might be able to help.

If you'd like to develop your own tech skills, you might be interested in the various Hacklab projects around the country which host regular training and workshops. The rampART lab for example provides a useful venue for anyone wanting to become more involved in indymedia.

On Saturday 25th the London Hacklabs Collective is putting on a benefit event to help cover the cost of the broadband both at the rampART and Freedom Book Shop. You can find more details about the event from the rampART or the Hacklabs website. The event will be a workshop about IMC tech and various IMC projects.

Related Articles : IMC Needs You, Bad time for indymedia servers, rampART hacklab report, evolution and changes to IMC UK.

Outside Links : London Hacklabs Collective, Aktivix, Sheffield Hacklab, International Hacklabs.

Your Community Needs You!
Your Community Needs You!

It's not just the IMC UK suffering from a shortage of techies with time. A similar situation exists with global IMC infrastructure sites such as radio.indymedia and video.indymedia which both have very few active developers. Not only does this mean that that adoption of new technologies is slow, the shortage of techies plays a major role in server downtime too.

Earlier this month three indymedia servers fell over, taking down vital global IMC services. Repairs could have been much quicker. The bottom line is that Indymedia relies heavily on a small pool of techies and it is vital for the projects health and sustainability to ensure that this pool grows.

This is a call for increased active involvement in the technical aspects of indymedia at all levels. Even if you can't code PHP or Java applets you might still be able to do CSS style sheets and templates and free up some of the existing techies so that they have more time to work with the developers.

All the IMC UK collectives have regular face to face meetings as well as frequent online discussion on or in the many indymedia mailing lists. The best way to get involved would be to start attending the meetings of your nearest collective.

For example, the next IMC-London open meetings are on the last Wednesday of every month from 7.30pm at The Square (21 Russell Square WC1). The provision agenda for the last one included: coverage of the No Borders demo at Harmondsworth detention centre on the April 8th and the EuroMayday call focussing on issues of migration and precarity; a brainstorm of ideas relating to for a week long indymedia film festival this summer to coincide with the G8 summit in Russia; the proposal for the next IMC-UK network meeting, perhaps in Leeds; progress on the agreed changes to the London sites centre column.


Hide the following 16 comments

Mirror mirror on the wall...

23.03.2006 18:43

Another way that some people might be able to help out is by providing additional mirrors of the IMC UK site. As the site is becoming more and more popular the amount of bandwidth we use each month is increasing massively. There are usually eight mirror site and they are currently serving arounf 80 gigabytes of data each month. That's well over 600 gigabytes in total each month! During the G8 mobilisation in 2005 there were 14 mirrors operating and one mirror transfered 10G of data in one day alone.

The total diskspace require for an IMC UK mirror (including all locally hosted audio and video files) currently stands at about 20GB and that figure seems to double every year. Mirror sites need solid, well connected servers on multihomed T3 connections or better, in order to ensure high reliability and low latency. If you have some spare server and bandwidth capacity, please do get in touch.


IMC tech

IMC-UK's lack of tech help is their own choice

27.03.2006 14:29

Last time I looked at IMC-UK tech, it was written in Java, didn't run on free software (needed robber-baron Sun's Java system) and was a monolithic system with half-arsed syndication support. No self-respecting anarchist should touch such a bad collaborator. IMC-UK should migrate to something more hackable, but they didn't learn from the last migration and have locked themselves into one piece of software. Again.


Mir and Java

27.03.2006 14:57

Mir has been able to run on a free java stack for some time so this isn't an issue any more.


MIR can hardly be called non hackable

27.03.2006 15:10

Of all the code bases available that are suitable for open publishing on this scale, only MIR provided 100% static html page production suitable for mirroring without heavy server loads. Only MIR providing the ability to internationalise with translations (not used by UK but plenty of others use it).

Since migration, loads of changes have been hacked into the system and loads more will continue to be developed. The problem is lack of developers, there is nothing wrong with the code.


Who is talking about the content?

27.03.2006 16:16

As a regular reader of the Indymedia pages of various collectives, I came to ask myself the question: why is Indymedia UK so particularly dull? It seems to be only used by a few people to talk about themselves. Need to develop the journalism ie. content side of it really.


Dull because....

27.03.2006 17:07

...of you.

Indymedia is a dull as the people who post. People like you perhaps.

Instead of asking yourself why it is dull and repeating the very crime you accuse others of, perhaps you could write reports of actions, event and project you've been participating in (cause that's what indymedia is for).

You could also go an join your local IMC collective, that might be constructive.


Mir is IMC UK's biggest problem

28.03.2006 10:12

techie wrote:
"Mir has been able to run on a free java stack for some time so this isn't an issue any more."

and rm wrote:
"The problem is lack of developers, there is nothing wrong with the code."

I have to respectfully disagree.
I've dug around on the list archives, the wikis and google to see if the situation has changed with respect to Mir and the Java stack, and can find nothing new. Has Mir ever been made to run successfully using gcj, Kaffe, Classpath or similar? Is there a Mir server built out of any of these in production use anywhere on the IMC network, or is it just theoretically possible? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

As far as I can tell it still requires a proprietary Java platform to run, particularly Sun's JAI Imaging Library:

Mir's also a bastard to install and configure, and an even bigger bastard for most volunteers to debug when something breaks. It still uses the fiddly, under-documented Postgres database rather than MySQL for the backend, making it even more difficult.

So IMC UK is still locked in to a closed, megacorp platform, like Aaron said above. IMCs using PHP-based platforms like SF-Active, Oscailt, Drupal etc don't have this problem. It's not a magic wand, but it's one major problem solved.

Content on IMC UK is an important issue, but so is this. The content problem can be be solved by readers posting the content today with no training required, but the platform problem requires a pile of heavy coding, integration and testing work (and for most people, a learning curve) to fix, unless a new platform is launched and the existing Mir site retained as an archive.

Until the platform problem is solved, most volunteers will be either too timid to take on the responsibility of admin and development, or unwilling to put the required hours in on Java, so that problem will remain in the hands of a small, overworked minority.
And Indymedia UK will remain in the embarrassing position of relying on a locked-up corporate platform, for "independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage...".

This is the main reason IMC UK is so short of tech help.
Let's fix it.

The Camel

@The Camel

28.03.2006 19:45

"under-documented Postgres database" - you are joking, right? There are _alot_ of perfect documentations out there.

And your JAI-reference is outdated for months now. Mir doesn't require JAI anymore..but I guess you found no other arguments than that ;)


Mir, JAI and Postgres

28.03.2006 20:45

Well I did write "Please correct me if I'm wrong." :)

The Mir documentation still refers to JAI in the installation guides (age of youngest = 16 months):

The readme file in CVS says that "1.1 will probably use Jmagick", but the Devel/Mir wiki says "Automatic thumbnail generation using Java Advanced Imaging (JAI). (1.1 uses Jmagick too)"

So is some or all of this documentation outdated? Mir doesn't need JAI anymore? Are there IMCs running Mir using Jmagick instead of JAI, and using FOSS versions of Java? Which IMCs?

Please also point me at some of this great documentation for Postgres that you're talking about. You'll notice I was writing about ordinary volunteers who don't code or sysadmin for a living, and just need to learn enough to do basic admin on a content DB for an IMC web site. They need something they can learn adequately by reading a good book, and don't want or need to become DBAs. IMC can then have an "escalation" community for the occasionally trickier stuff, instead of the present system of a small number of admins who have to do everything server-side themselves.

The Postgres documentation for the level-1 admin audience that I've seen falls far short of the large number of good tutorials and cookbooks available for MySQL, both online and in print.

For that and a lot of other reasons, you'll get a lot more volunteers for MySQL work than you will for Postgres work, if that's your goal.

The Camel

I don't think it down to the code

28.03.2006 21:59

The IVDN is a global project based on PHP and mysql and yet has one active developer. I really don't think it would make that much difference that MIR runs under JAVA and POSTGRES. We had a volunteer on the tech list yesterday offering exactly that so clearly the skills are out there.

Personally, I know known of the above systems but can perfectly adequately admin the site without evening know what DB is running in the background. The admin front end is pretty good these days.

I am also working on documentation and admin templates for IVDN, which should take some load off the developer. I don't have to know PHP from JAVA to work on HTML templates and that's the kind of stuff that many people could be doing in order to help those with more advanced skills get to work with the things that really need their skills.

I don't think it useful to argue about which IMC code base is best. For good or bad, IMC UK uses MIR and benefits from some features not found elsewhere while not having some of the really cool anti-abuse features of the codebase used on imc ireland etc. Such is life. Personally I think the regionalisation was was a mistake and will ultimately destroy indy but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.


Mir is Free

28.03.2006 22:19

Of course the documentation is out of date! What would you expect ;-)

Mir now uses ImageMagick and not Jai and in addition there are some Indymedia servers running Mir on a free stack, Brasil is one AFAIK.

So IMC UK is not "locked in to a closed, megacorp platform"...

There have been plans for ages to get Mir to run on MySQL in addition to Postgres but the techies who are capable of doing this coding haven't yet found the time to do it...


Can people in the East End have a say via Indymedia?

29.03.2006 10:48

We've got inundated with council poropganada on everything this past month or so buit we don't see anyone complaining. Not in the local press. not as if anyone would notice tehre is any complaint. so how about lettin us have a say on the indys eite? thanks

ps my mates read a lot of the press and they say that the council wants a tunnel in our area. is that true? if so, can we have your site talk about it. thanks


Editorial concerns

29.03.2006 12:23

If you read the posting guidelines (which you should do before posting), you will see that it says that concerns about editorial policy should be directed to the imc-uk-features mailing list which is publicly archived. The East London issue you refer to is of course a potentially valid topic for articles (assuming such posts do not breach the posting guidelines of course). A google search reveals over 540 hits for crossrail related posts (although many of those will be duplicates) so you can see that the issue has been covered extensively on Indymedia UK. So, please do feel free to post GRASSROOTS NEWS REPORTS about NON-HIERARCHICAL actions and events relating to the issue (while obviously respecting the posting guidelines mentioned earlier). For example, avoid repeating the same information over and over again in different posts just to keep a post in top part of the newswire, avoid mis-categorising posts in an flawed attempt to give a post more exposure, and avoid posts which contain nothing but opinion or content that could be seen as a personal rant or advert.
Finally, if you have further editorial concerns, please remember to email the imc-uk-features list and not post them to the site since the site is intended to be a news service and not yet another discussion forum.


Indymedia London Open Meetings

30.03.2006 22:52

This is an open invitation to participate in Indymedia London in whatever aspect you think you could help out.

There are many ways and projects you could get involved with: from helping out with the technical aspect of developing the website, or helping to maintain the Open Publishing newswire, or producing features for the middle column, to a variety of offline activities such as film screenings, stalls at events, reporting from the streets and whatever else you may come up with. Possibilities are endless! :-)

The IMC London collective has regular face to face open meetings, and they currently take place on the last Wednesday of every month.

The next two planned meetings will be on:

Wednesday 26 April
Wednesday 31 May

Where:The Square Social Centre
21 Russell Square, London WC1 [Map]
Meetings start at 7.30pm.

Please feel free to come and share your ideas, knowledge and skills. The agendas for these meetings are proposed and discussed in the IMC-London email list. This is an open list that anyone can subscribe to, and where the day to day running of the project takes place. Check it out.

Any contribution to the running and development of IMC-London is always much appreciated. The same as with any other local IMC within the IMC-UK Network, IMC-London can only be as relevant and useful to the people, campaigns, initiatives, groups and networks of London as we all make it!

- Homepage:

Mir and Repression

05.04.2006 16:33

remember the ahimsa incident: the mir-sites were the first ones to be up and running again. static production has a huge advantage in such cases..


Re: Mir is IMC UK's biggest problem

01.05.2006 19:12

Sorry for continuing the tech debate here, but I wrote most of that wiki "JavaFreedomAndImcUk", quoted above.

I agree with Ben that now's not the time for IMC UK to be debating the code base.

Besides, Java may well be open sourced soon, since the corporation that owns it has just had a change of CEO:,1895,1955448,00.asp

yeah I know, rumours of Java getting open-sourced crop up a few times a year on slow news days. :)

But if it does happen soon, anyone launching on a big, worky project retooling Mir into PHP or whatever is going to feel kinda stupid.

Moving over from PostgreSQL to MySQL would be a good idea IMHO. It would probably give Mir a performance boost out-of-the-box without PostgreSQL's transactional overhead, and I personally find performance tuning and query optimization easier on MySQL. You mileage may vary though, and different DBAs have different skeelz sets. If the Mir maintainers keep the backend as loosely coupled as possible to the presentation layer, then switching databases down the road will be made easier, if it ever becomes necessary.

Besides, there are bigger fish to fry in the areas of content and resilience etc. When IMC UK has got lots of bored techs sitting around with nothing to do, that would be a good time to start thinking about migrating to MySQL. :)

end of techie rant.



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