The eruption of a volcano in Iceland affected the travel plans of thousands, and inspired an outpouring of Iceland- and ash-themed jokes (“Dear Iceland, we want your cash, not your ash. Thanks, Europe”) — almost enough to fill a separate post.
But I wasn’t laughing about the fact that there was no way — except for a 38-hour train expedition — to get to London this week to attend a lecture by Andy Miah, a well known Olympics scholar and professor of the University of the West of Scotland. His speech, “Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics through the Lens of Social Science,” was at the British Library, and it would have been one of the highlights of my trip. (Our Knight-funded project, SochiReporter, is closely linked with the 2014 Olympic Winter Games coming to Sochi, Russia.)
While in England, I was also planning to meet with some new media entrepreneurs who expressed interest in replicating some of the features of SochiReporter. I was open to it. But the volcano was not.
Another change in plans for me had nothing to do with the volcano: The cancellation of Moscow Drupal Camp, which was planned for April 16 and 17. It was moved to early autumn because the suburban campus where it was supposed to take place decided to give rooms to tourists instead of tech geeks. Fortunately, a Kiev Drupal Camp was announced by the same folks, and it will take place next month. SochiReporter will likely be there.
On a similar note, the local Drupal user group in Sochi recently prepared a review of the best local websites built on Drupal, and SochiReporter featured prominently on the list. That was great to hear. In fact, we were also told that the Russia’s CMS Magazine named SochiReporter as one of the best 10 Russian projects built on Drupal in 2009. (This is something I have to verify.) What I know for sure is that we were recently featured in Novosti SMI magazine, a bi-weekly magazine about the media industry that’s published in Moscow.
When my trip to England was canceled, I decided to head to Moscow and participate in the Russian Internet Forum (RIF). This is the country’s biggest annual gathering of the Internet industry workers, and I wrote about it last year. This year’s RIF was special for its focus on open source software and, especially, maps. The program was loaded with discussions around how citizen mappers can create maps at the hyper-local level.
In the same vein, last month Yandex launched a project called “a citizen map,” which is pretty similar to Wikimapia. SochiReporter will soon take steps to integrate citizen maps into what we’re doing.
Preparations for the Sochi Games
In terms of the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, the hot topic is choosing the mascot. Some Russian creative agencies also recently announced a contest to create an alternative mascot for the Olympics. At Illustrators.ru, they’re encouraging designers to create imaginary candidates to run for the Olympics. As of this writing, there were around 80 submissions. Users will vote for the best candidate. Here’s a sample:
At the same time, the town of Velikii Ustug (which is located in the Vologda region) is lobbying for Ded Moroz — the Russian version of Santa Claus — to become the mascot. Ded Moroz is popular, and he is definitely associated with winter fairy-tale magic. Supporters of his candidacy recently organized a Twitter flash mob. People started talking about how Ded Moroz was seen skiing at high speed over the streets of Moscow (apparently on his way from Vancouver to Sochi), and some folks even managed to document this on their mobile phone cameras. Others prepared a more professional video about this.