Upper Yosemite Fall from Swinging Bridge


Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. Located in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada of California, it is a major attraction in the park, especially in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.

The total 2,425 feet (739 m) from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall qualifies Yosemite Falls as the sixth highest waterfall in the world, though with the recent discovery of Gocta Cataracts, it appears on some lists as seventh.

Upper Yosemite Fall: The 1,430-foot (440 m) plunge alone is among the twenty highest waterfalls in the world. Trails from the valley floor and down from other park areas outside the valley lead to both the top and base of Upper Yosemite Fall. The upper fall is formed by the swift waters of Yosemite Creek, which, after meandering through Eagle Creek Meadow, hurl themselves over the edge of a hanging valley in a spectacular and deafening show of force.


Photo Story

As most of my landscape photo trips, I took advantage of a business trip to extend my stay and get to take some pictures. I traveled to San Jose in California where I rented a car and got to Yosemite National Park after a circa 4-hour drive. I spent only 3 days there, mainly visiting Yosemite Valley, staying at one of the hotels right outside the park’s entrance, only a 30-min drive from the center of the valley itself.

I came pretty prepared. Having seen Ansel Adam’s pictures and favorite locations many times, I got ahold of a key resource: Michael Frye’s “The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite.” If you’re into photography and are going to Yosemite for the first time (or even if you’ve been there already, I’d say) you should get it. Maps, photo locations, tips, all is there, very well organized. Saved me lots of time, allowing me to be very effective and to make the most of my short stay.

It was May, so it was packed with tourists and the falls were at their best. In order to extend my days and get advantage of the best light, I decided not to sleep much, getting up at about 4am or earlier.

The morning I got the shot I left the hotel at about 4:30am and went straight to Cathedral Beach to get some shots of El Capitan hit by sunlight at its top. I then went to Swinging Bridge, where you can get the beautiful and quiet view of the Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced river you can see here. It was really calm and the only other person I found at the location at such time (06:58am according to the EXIF data) was another photographer trying to get the shot, too.

Developing Notes

It was hard to control the flare on the right hand side and I did my best to do so. I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out in this shot.

Although I bracketed as usual, no combination of the bracketed shows made me happy, so I only used one exposure on Lightroom. I applied the lens profile, opened up some shadows, decreased the highlights and increased clarity an vibrance. I also removed some spots from the river (leaves) to get a cleaner reflection effect.

Lake Ercina (Asturias, Spain)


The Lakes of Covadonga (el. 1134 m.) are of two glacial lakes located on the region of Asturias, Spain. These lakes, often also called Lakes of Enol or simply Los Lagos, are Lake Enol and Lake Ercina located in the Picos de Europa range and they are the original center of the Picos de Europa National Park, created in 1918.
The road ascending from Covadonga to the lakes is a popular climb in professional road bicycle racing, having been used by Vuelta a España many times in the last 25 years.


Photo Story

Getting to the Lakes of Covadonga is pretty easy. You can get there directly by car. The last few kilometers from Covadonga itself are rather narrow and twisty but not complicated in any case. Just take it easy and even stop from time to time at one of the (few) viewpoints such as Mirador de la Reina from where you can see a beautiful sea of clouds and eventually the sea.

I planned to be at the lakes some two hours before sunset. There are parking lots nearby and getting to the lakeshore itself is just a matter of a few minutes. The lakes themselves are connected by a short trail that allows you to enjoy beautiful views of any or both.

Laker Ercina from trails between both lakes

BTS: Lake Ercina from the trail between both lakes

I took quite a few shots from different locations but my goals was to get one with a nice reflection. I approached the lake from different angles. Composition was a bit difficult as there is a mountain on the right but none to fill and compensate on the left so I played a bit with the tripod location until I got what you see here, leaving the tripod as close and low as possible to the water as I could, right when the best moments of the sunset were starting.

Developing Notes

This is mainly a combination of three exposures made with a Haida ND3.0 filter on to smooth the water and clouds.
On one hand, we have three bracketed shots at -2, 0, +2. These were merged using HDR Efex Pro 2 and keeping the effects pretty subtle. Despite that, some of the colors looked a bit overdone in the end but my main goal was to recover the texture from the rocks everywhere.

The 0 exposure was developed in Lightroom 5.7 mainly opening shadows and recovering some highlights. The skies in the first case were not usable as they had too many artifacts due to ghosting and the combination of such long exposures. The sky of this one was sort of ok, but still way too blurry for my taste.

HDR sky

HDR sky

Long exposure sky

Long exposure sky

I also took an additional exposure without the ND filter for the sky.

The three resulting images of every aforementioned step were imported into layers in Pixelmator 3.3.1. I merged the first two ones by masking the HDR version a bit here and there to recover more natural colors on the LR version and finally merged this with the sky of the third image.

Counting Datasets Is Bad

I’ve just learned about next.data.gov, and at first glance it looks much more usable than the well known data.gov version. This CKAN-based deployment made me wonder about the future of the OGPL, but I digress…

When getting to the data catalog, I was greeted with this message at the top of the page:

where I found out that data.gov is now hosting 75,712 datasets. I followed the link to the site’s homepage and found this:

So apparently, the figure was not the right one as the number of datasets seems to be 152,977. So I followed the link to the catalog and got this:

Hmmm… I’m confused.

Since the new webiste announcement was part of the fourth aninversary announcements, I reminded other announcements in previous anniversaries. So, for example, as part of the third anniversary announcement, we could read: “Growing from 47 datasets in 2009 to nearly 450,000 datasets today…”

I’m even more confused. The progress and growth of data.gov has been significant. The number of agencies publishing datasets (174 at the time of writing) has grown over the last four years and in the best case scenario what I’m seeing is roughly about one third of datasets on the catalog compared to one year ago? I haven’t found the time to look in depth just yet but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case but more a matter of a usability issue on one hand and different ways of counting datasets over time on the other.

This shows something I mentioned quite a few times before and that gives title to this blog post: counting datasets is bad. And, in fact, is quite meaningless.

I understand that data catalogs need to show a total number somewhere but the issue here is the interpretations that might be derived from it. I heard people claiming that catalog X is better than catalog Y because they are publishing so many more datasets and, frankly, this is a totally questionable claim. In fact, we’re yet to determine what makes an open data catalog good and why catalog X can be considered better than catalog Y.

The bottom line to me is: the number of datasets is just a simple metric that tells very little about the usefulness of an open data catalog.

We need more research to understand these issues and the impact of open data in general, even to understand whether or not an open data central point of access (a data.gov.* website) is the best way to achieve the promised benefits of open data.

Struggling with Open? Data

A colleague of mine pointed me today at an interest resource for mobile-related statistics. The Mobile and Development Intelligence website hosts several datasets on the developing world mobile industry and beyond. Ken Bank’s blog mentions this has been done by the GSMA team, in partnership with ThoughtWorks and PwC, and investor the Omidyar Network.
The about page states that “MDI is an Open Data portal for the developing world mobile industry. We believe that open access to high quality data…”

So far, so good.

I then tried a sneak peek at the data and this is what I found, a sign in/register page:

MDI login page

No, I’m sorry, but whatever you have behind this it’s not open data.

The terms and conditions are not much open either. The licence section states that “GSMA grants You a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-assignable licence to use and/or to access the Web Site and Data therein.” So what if I want to re-publish the data, e.g. I use some of that data with data from other sources, mash it up, and want to re-publish as open data the end result? Houston, I’ve a problem!
The section on “restrictions and permissions” also worths a read.

Honestly, it’s disappointing we are still seeing this things in 2012, especially coming from such a smart set of partners. I hope this will fixed rather sooner than later.

Note: I then decided to register and also to investigate further, register and, yes, I could doownload the data in CSV format.

A more generalized issue

One I got to the data, I realized that some of it was not from MDI itself but coming from well known sources wuch as the World Bank, IMF and others, according to the sources listed there. In fact, some of the datasets looked familiar, so I decided to compare the data shown at the MDI with (supposedly) the same data as offered by some of those sources (where I can really get it as open data).

Let’s take as an example the rural population dataset, people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices:

MDI Rural Population

MDI Rural Population

WB Rural Population

WB Rural Population

The first screenshot above shows the MDI data while the second shows the WB data. Can you spot discrepancies? It’s quite easy to do so. Not big differences but they are there.

MDI list as data sources: World Bank World Developmen Indicators & GDF, while WB lists the World Development Indicators. If I track back these I start to find more sources from UN, etc.

What’s the issue here? On one hand, there’s no direct reference to the data source (ideally a URI) where I can check whether the data presented to me is accurate or not according to the source. On the other, it doesn’t look like raw data to me, more like a combination of sources in a way I cannot really know about. As another example, the Bank’s total population dataset lists the following data sources: (1) United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects, (2) United Nations Statistical Division. Population and Vital Statistics Reprot (various years), (3) Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices, (4) Eurostat: Demographic Statistics, (5) Secretariat of the Pacific Community: Statistics and Demography Programme, and (6) U.S. Census Bureau: International Database.
Again, no direct links to sources but general pointers at organizations and no mention on how the data has been mixed.

I don’t want to go into much detail in this post about these issues but I wanted to note that in these days where transparency and accountability discussions are all over the place, when I’m hearing concerns about data manipulation every other day, it wouldn’t hurt to seriously think about these and sort them out the soonest.

Fin de mi etapa en CTIC: completado el siguiente paso de la transición a Web Foundation / Leaving CTIC: next step in transitioning to Web Foundation done

[English version is below]

No me voy a extender. Ya había explicado en un post anterior mis planes para realizar la transición de CTIC a Web Foundation. Por desgracia, en esta vida las cosas no salen siempre como uno pretende e (inesperadamente) mi etapa en CTIC acaba de forma efectiva a fin de mes. A partir de entonces me voy a centrar en el trabajo global Open Data en la Web Foundation de forma más intensiva. Mis datos de contacto ya están actualizados.

I’m keeping this very brief. I already explained my plans for moving from CTIC to the Web Foundation in the previous post. Plan was to stay 50% at each until the end of the year. As you all know, not everything in life goes as planned. Unexpectedly, I’m leaving CTIC effectively as of end of this month to focus on Web Foundation global Open Data work. My contact data is updated already.

Sí, me he unido a la Web Foundation / Yes, I’ve joined the Web Foundation

Fue en Octubre de 2003 cuando me enteré de que el W3C venía a establecerse en España, más concretamente, en Asturias. Pensé que sería una gran oportunidad para mí y tuve la ocasión de unirme a lo que luego se convirtió en CTIC empezando como Responsable Técnico (en su fundación) y, muy poco después, Responsable de W3C en España durante varios años. Desde entonces, he podido estar más de siete años en una organización fantástica, en la que he tenido la oportunidad de crecer profesionalmente, la oportunidad de trabajar con gente excelente y en temas en la punta de la innovación de las tecnologías Web, de gran interés para mi.

Posiblemente me recordéis también de mi etapa como W3C eGovernment Lead, puesto en el que estuve trabajando durante un par de años gracias al apoyo de mi Fellowship por parte CTIC. Más recientemente, he tenido la oportunidad de llevar las riendas de una Unidad de Open Data en CTIC, el tema que más me interesa desde hace algunos años y que incluso se ha convertido en una pasión personal.

Como persona que aboga por el Open Data y que ha tenido la oportunidad de liderar algunas iniciativas pioneras aquí y allá, realmente creo en su potencial (aún) por descubrir, y algunos sucesos recientes me han hecho ver que es hora de que alguien como yo se movilice aún más. Vienen a la cabeza las amenazas de recortes presupuestarios a data.gov y otros sitios relacionados con la transparencia en EE.UU., la manera en que varias iniciativas Open Data están empezando, buscando un éxito inmediato y sin un plan claro y sostenible a medio y largo plazo, o las muy pocas (casi inexistentes) iniciativas que se han comenzado en el Sur (ver mapa). Una iniciativa Open Data no es un portal; es algo muy diferente, algo que puede ayudar a mejorar las vidas de las personas, aumentar la riqueza del territorio y, en definitiva, ayudar a desarrollar una mejor sociedad. Aquellos que se embarcan en iniciativas Open Data deberían tomar buena nota y pensar seriamente acerca de esto.

Había que tomar una decisión. Alguien debía llevar esto a una escala global, y ese alguien debería hacerlo cuanto antes. Decidí que ese alguien debería ser yo y que el lugar en el que esto debería suceder era la World Wide Web Foundation, así que hablamos sobre la posibilidad de que yo me uniera al staff de la Fundación para conseguir materializar una visión de Open Data a escala global. La Web Foundation estaba considerando hacer lo mismo, así que había suficientes cosas en común como para alcanzar un acuerdo. Desde el 1 de Mayo de 2011 (sólo hace unos días) soy oficialmente parte del equipo de la Web Foundation, como Program Manager, Open Data. Soy parte de otro gran grupo de personas entre los que se encuentran varios ex-compañeros en W3C con los que ya tuve el placer de trabajar en su día y con los que ahora tendré la suerte de coincidir de nuevo. La Web Foundation fue fundada por Tim Berners-Lee sobre la idea de que “La Web no es ‘tecnología’ si no ‘la humanidad conectada por la tecnología'” y cuenta actualmente entre sus Directores, además del propio Tim, con reconocidos personajes como Gordon Brown, Nigel Shadbolt o Alberto Ibargüen. Para aquellos que no conozcáis la Web Foundation, os recomiendo encarecidamente ver su maravilloso vídeo introductorio y conocer un poco más en su sitio Web.

Pero esto no quiere decir que deje CTIC. Hay varios proyectos e iniciativas que requieren de mi atención en CTIC y, para hacer una buena transición y en beneficio de todos, trabajaré hasta final de año la mitad de mi tiempo para CTIC y la otra mitad para la Web Foundation. En general, me veréis en papeles más internacionales cuando me ponga mi gorra de CTIC, pero también seguiré coordinando lo que será la nueva encarnación del catálogo nacional (España) de información del sector público. Espero dedicar todo mi tiempo a la Web Foundation desde el inicio de 2012 y también espero que CTIC y la Web Foundation sigan haciendo proyectos juntos en el futuro, como ya hicieron en los estudios de viabilidad Open Data en Chile y Ghana.

Veo el futuro con mucho optimismo. Este es un reto que tengo muchas ganas de afrontar y, como es habitual, daré lo mejor de mi para hacerlo con éxito.

– Josema

It was in October 2003 when I heard about W3C coming to Spain, more precisely, to Asturias. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me and had the chance of joining what today is CTIC to become Technical Manager (at its establishment) and, soon after, Manager of W3C in Spain for a few years. Since then, I had the chance to spend more than seven years at a fantastic organization where I had the chance to grow professionally, the opportunity to work with very smart people and also the chance of working on leading edge Web-related topics of great interest to me.

You may also remember me as W3C eGovernment Lead for a couple years thanks to the support of my Fellowship by CTIC. More recently, I had the chance to establish and lead an Open Data Unit at CTIC, the topic that interests me the most over the last couple years and that has become a passion of mine also personally.

As an Open Data advocate who has pioneered some initiatives here and there, I truly believe in its (yet) untapped potential, and some of the most recent happenings are calling someone like me for action. The budgetary threat to data.gov and other transparency-related sites in the USA, the way several are starting Open Data initiatives looking for an immediate win and without a clear mid and long term sustainable vision, or the very few (almost inexistent) number of initiatives being started in the South (see map) come to mind. An Open Data initiative is not a portal, it’s something much more different, something that could help improve people’s lives, bring more richness to the territory and, in the end, help to develop a better society. Those embarking on Open Data initiatives should take good note and think seriously about this.

It was about time to take a decision. Someone would need to take this to a global scale, and that someone should do it asap. I decided that someone should be me and that the place where this should happen would be the World Wide Web Foundation, hence I discussed with the Web Foundation me joining to work on materializing an Open Data vision at a global scale from there. The Web Foundation was considering doing essentially the same, so there was enough common ground for me to join the Web Foundation. I officially joined as of May, 1st, 2011 (only a few days ago) and are now part of another great group of people among whose there are several former colleagues at W3C I enjoyed working with already, and are looking forward to do so again. The Web Foundation was founded by Tim Berners-Lee with the idea that “the Web is not ‘technology’ but ‘humanity connected by technology'” and among its Directors, besides Tim himself, there are prominent people such as Gordon Brown, Nigel Shadbolt or Alberto Ibargüen. For those of you not familiar with the Web Foundation, I strongly encourage you to watch its wonderful introductory video and learn more at its website.

But this doesn’t mean I’m leaving CTIC just yet. Several projects and initiatives still require my attention at CTIC, so in order to make a proper transition, I’ll be spending half of my time at CTIC and the other half at the Web Foundation until the end of the year. You’ll see me in a more international role while wearing my CTIC hat from now on, but also still coordinating what it will be the new incarnation of the national (Spain) PSI catalogue. I expect to join the Web Foundation full time at the very beginning of 2012 and also expect the Web Foundation and CTIC to partner again in the future as they already did for the OGD feasibility studies in Chile and Ghana.

Future looks bright and exciting to me. This is a challenge I’m ready and eager to take on and, as usual, will try do my best to address.

– Josema

Releasing the People’s Data

a journey to the centre of the government

cross-posted from Open Data @ CTIC blog, also available in Spanish there
Note: this is the story that goes along the presentation (slides, video) gave at Personal Democracy Forum Europe, Barcelona, 21 Nov 2009.

The Earth, our mother planet, a fascinating piece of the universe for us all, including Professor Otto Lindenbrock. Journey to the Center of the Earth (by Jules Verne, 1864), follows a plot on which Professor Lindenbrock is fascinated and increasingly excited by the messages hidden in cryptograms written in a strange language (runic script) and the treasures hidden behind them. Cracking every message takes him (his nephew Alex, and his maid Martha) one step closer to center of our planet where those treasures supposedly are; but how to get there?

In order to get to the center of the Earth (the core), one has to go through several
, namely the crust and the mantle. Those are very difficult (almost impossible for them) to get through, but their interest in acquiring more knowledge and the fascinating things they could find in the center encourage them all enough to find a way to overcome every difficult

The starting point of the journey is hidden in the first message: Snæfellsjökull, a volcano in Iceland. In fact, promising points might be those such as volcanos and craters, where one can enter a few miles “withouth much of a problem”. The group has to solve several enigmas along the way in order to find the right path. Remember, they were not sure at all of what they were going to find in there. After all, they couldn’t see it from the outside. From the crust, it’s more than 6,000Km to get to the core.

Let’s go back to the “real world” for a second (after all, the book is science fiction, isn’t it?). Let’s say that the core is the data and that all the layers are the government structures that envolve the data to preserve, protect, manage and (too often) obscure it. Think of IT departments, security departments and every single organizational artifact that has anything to do with the data.

Now that we are here, what about going up a few layers? Planet Earth is just one in a galaxy and is not the only one with this structure. If one takes a look at others such as Mars, the structure is nearly the same, a core and several layers surrounding it. The same goes for Mercury, and for many others, even moons and satellites of planets seem to have a similar structure. Some have a bigger core than others, some have more layers between crust and core but, in general, the phenomenon is repeated.

Back to our government and public information context, we recognize the pattern. Some governments produce more data than others. Some structures are heavier than others depending on the government. Some governments have more departments, agencies (you name it) between the data and the crust or, more specifically, between the data and the people. Yes, the people, out there on the crust, most of them (us) not even imagining what underlays there in the core.

There have been moments in time on which the Earth and other planets have experienced important happenings, some of them quite traumatic, such as collisions of meteors. This has led to changes to their structure and also to evolution.

Fortunately, some of we, the people, are strongly encouraging governments to do the right thing: to release the people’s data. I’m not talking here about the usual opaque suspects (national security related, privacy related, and the like) but about all those other data that are hidden between too many layers for no apparent reason other than not releasing it “just in case”, what I’ve called many times “obscurity by default“. Things are interestingly changing all over the world over the last year or two, the government is starting to open its doors. The various layers are becoming more transparent, and the difficulty to “find a volcano” where to start or decipher an enigma is becoming less necessary. Volcanos and craters are all over the place, even a few paved ways to the core are appearing.

There’s still much to be done in the sense of how to improve the procedures, how to ease access to data, how to make it all linkable so people can mash it up and mix it in any way they like. Planet Earth is one among many in a galaxy, in the universe, but, as Charles Eames said: “eventually, everything connects.”

Think big and remember, releasing the people’s data means to give it back to their real owners. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to do?