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English-language version of Luistxo Fernandez's blog

Bertsolaritza, improvised poetry

Luistxo Fernandez 2008/04/22 18:10

Oral Tradition, a scholarly journal by the University of Missouri, has published an issue fully devoted to Bertsolaritza, the Basque improvised poetry phenomenon. Several Basque contributors fill most of the number, but as an introduction for foreigners, perhaps you should also read the outsider view by John Miles Foley, the director of the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition and the Center for eResearch at the University of Missouri. That article, like all the others, is available as a PDF in the journal's website.

In this video from, a site powered by Plone, one of the many versions Bertso-making can have: question and reply, in a bertso-dinner. The tall guy reads his pre-writen lines (around the topic of Streap-tease), and the bertsolari, Jexux Mari Irazu, improvises his replies immediatly.

Basque mailing-list turns 10

Luistxo Fernandez 2008/04/18 10:17

Ten years ago, in a day like today, I found a service called Makelist while surfing the web. Create and manage your own mailing lists! This needs to be tried immediatly, I thought. I needed a motive (build the list around some topic) and some email addresses to add. Ok, some friends from my hometown Eibar. And Eibartarrak (Eibarreans, or so) was thus created, with this introductory message and thread, a mailing list with very simple moderation rules (you introduce yourself with name and surname, archives are public, discussion is in Basque).
It was not the 1st Basque-language list (there was one from 1996 that later disappeared), neither the 1st Basque list of the web: Basque-L, which was mainly in English, was born in some Listserv machine of New York in 1993. I was a subscriber to that list for several years, but I have lost contact, I don't even know if Basque-L is alive and if it is, if there's any practical way to subscribe, check its archives... Other Basque-language lists have been created over the past years, but of the surviving ones, Eibartarrak is the veteran, and it's also probably the most lively and interesting one.
The Eibartarrak mailing-list has been the basis of all my Internet activities over the last ten years. My company, my everyday work of today, raised from contacts made in the list. My confidence in the Internet as a communication and social tool has its roots in this list: we the users are the agents of change in this era.

Makelist evolved into eGroups which evolved into Yahoogroups. It's a fascinating story. However, we escaped from that locked-in environement, migrated the list to a Mailman-based platform (localised in Basque), and ported the archives to Gmane., this website, was created with the effort of listmembers. The 1st Basque-language blog community of the web was born here, pushed by listmembers, in 2004. As for the future, no doubts about the direction: to infinity and beyond. There will be tools to guide us in that navigation too. Some listmembers will meet this afternoon to hack the TomTom car navigation system and record Basque voices for the devices. And that will be made public afterwards.

Wikipedia's 25000 Basque articles and Creative Commons

Luistxo Fernandez 2008/04/13 08:24

Recently, I've joined the ranks of the Wikipedians. I've come to think that this project is important. Particularly, for a minority language like Basque. So I've started to edit a little bit in Basque articles, and somehow less in Spanish. Very minor anonymous edits in English, so far. But I'm a lazy editor, that's the true. However, there's more people around, so last sunday Basque Wikipedia reached its 25,000th article. Great!

I'm still trying to understand the rules and mechanisms of the Wikipedia. Regarding the licensing of its content, I received with hope the announcement of its future compatibility with Creative Commons. I need to investigate more about that. It seems that Wikipedia content might be used elsewhere with a CC-BY-SA license, but: will content produced elsewhere with CC-BY-SA be ready for direct and legitimate insertion in Wikipedia?

The rules for images in Wikimedia Commons are strict, and uploading of Flickr content is permitted in the open CC versions. This graph above shows it clearly, and it also helps to understand that ND (non-derivative) and NC (non-commercial) licensing are incompatible with free content. I am somehow disappointed with the low understanding of the NC thing among young Basque content producers: people embrace the Non-Commercial line fullheartedly, as if that meant rejecting commercialism, explotation and the trends of savage globalization. They don't realize it's just the opposite: the non-commercial prohibition is the basis of propietary software or content as dreamt by DRM zealots. It means the exclusive right to concentrate all posible benefits of knowledge creation in one point, instead of fostering the spread of wealth among everybody, everywhere. Anyway, I wonder if that model found in Commons for images is appliable to textual information at large. Or geographic information. For instance. Tagzania, OpenStreetMap or Geonames, they all have defined their info in free terms using Creative Commons; does this make their content fit for Wikipedia reuse?

We'll see. The new label that Creative Commons launched, Approved for Free Cultural Works, related to the Wikipedia announcement, is a positive step towards sheding light on the issue of licenses.

Basques in Japan

Luistxo Fernandez 2008/04/01 10:05

I've been two weeks in Japan in holidays. What a marvelous country: it's well blogged about, so I won't bother anyone with my accounts. We didn't find any Basques in our journey, just our hosts, the Teshima-Berriozabal family, who were so extremely kind to invite us to their country, and to their own home in metro-Tokyo. Paulo Berriozabal is a Basque blogger in Tokyo, blogs in Spanish and Basque, and it's through that blog, that we happened to know each other.

Ikurriña Tokyon

While in Tokyo, we did find a Basque flag, by pure chance. It was in a bar called Vinuls just at the Ueno JR station that presented itself as a Spanish tavern. I've checked the web, and it seems Vinuls started as a Spanish or Catalan bar in the Ginza area... Now it seems it has been expanded into a chain.

Peru is a good model for pictures. So is Lili, my daughter. And the setting, Japan, is perfect to click and click and click...


Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

Ingelesen hilerria

El cementerio de los ingleses


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