Thursday Dec 06, 2007

Yochai Benkler: The Wealth of Networks

This afternoon I attended a teleconference at the University of Sao Paulo where Yochai Benkler talked from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, about his now famous book "The Wealth of Networks" (available online) and answered questions from the audience. Yochai talked about the impact of open source and peer to peer modes of co-operative production on economics, politics, arts and education. The book has many excellent and illuminating examples on how massively parallel and distributed use of human resources can outperform large centrally organised tayloristics production methods. He does point out that this won't work in every field of endeavour, but more naturally in knowledge based ones, where the cost of reproduction is close to zero. More details in the freely available book.

The conference was organised by Imre Simon from the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Sao Paulo. A web site in portuguese is dedicated to this talk, and it was broadcast live on the web.

At the end of the talk, as the last question from the floor, I asked about what research had been done into applying Metcalf's law to networks as powerful as the Semantic Web, and so how this would affect questions on the wealth of networks. Yochai seemed to think that the Semantic Web was too much about data, and not about people. Of course Beatnik, the semantic address book I am working on right now, is going to show how this dichotomy is completely illusory, and how the distributed, decentralised world of hyperdata should fit perfectly into the central thesis of the book. :-)

Monday Oct 08, 2007

Open Data Licences

The amount of Open Data is growing fast. The idea that data may need protection in an Open Society is bizarre enough, but in Europe at least a whole set of laws have been put in place for this purpose. For those who wish to add data to the Commons, so that it may better contribute to the value of the network as predicted by Metcalf's law, current Open licences will not do it seems. This is, as I understand, because copyright licenses do not cover data well, since a set of relations can be serialized in any number of ways: order does not matter, it is easy to refactor data, or combine it with other data. (I wonder then why this was not a problem for source code?)

To help resolve these issues, Talis, a Leading Semantic Web company, helped fund research into this area which resulted in the Open Data Licence project, which is now seeking feedback on their proposals. From my quick reading of it this license seems to have a gnu feel to it, but I may be wrong.

Friday Aug 17, 2007

Open Data: Information wants to be linked

With over 2 billion relations from the great web community data projects such as Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, Music Brainz, and many more... the Linking Open Data initiative is tying together a vast pool of quality machine readable information on which one can run any of the over 500 Semantic Web tools. As the value of linked information increases much faster than the networks described by Metcalf's Law, the value of this must be tremendous.

By creating data browsing interfaces such as Tabulator, one has a very simple RESTful, Resource Oriented Architecture API to work with. With various SPARQL endpoints available or to be built, one can treat that information like a hugely powerful database.

Forget Web APIs: long live linked data!

Some of the projects listed are:

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