Data Libre

Steve Mallet has started Data Libre [now defunct], a move towards a standardized way for us to be in control of our own information. His elevator pitch is “Own your Data. Write Once, Read Everywhere.”

Currently, aggregated information about people can be found within the likes of Google or Amazon or in social networking services, like Linked-In or Spoke. In each case the individual inputs personal information, and the value of the network increases exponentially with additional members.

The digital economy has gone from hardware-centric (IBM) to software-centric (Microsoft) to service-centric (Google, eBay). Tim O’Reilly describes how the underlying software for enterprises such as Google as having little value on its own:

But even more importantly, even if these sites gave out their source code, users would not easily be able to create a full copy of the running application! The application is a dynamically updated database whose utility comes from its completeness and concurrency, and in many cases, from the network effect of its participating users.

From this web service economy, we now have the possibility of an information-centric (Data Libre) economy where we can all participate. Steve writes that the tools currently exist to own all of our data, and control who can use it. He uses the analogy of book reviews to make his point:

Now, would you rather publish your book review using Amazon’s form or the weblog you use many times a week? Would you like to write your book review on Amazon and then write again on your weblog that you wrote a review – possibly writing the review twice? How about your local bookstore? Are you going to write one for them as well?
It makes much more practical sense to do this through your weblog with a side effect that if we put your book review into an RSS-like feed it is readable through such widespread amount of aggregators that you only have to write once & be read by millions.

What does this mean? It kills redundant work. Publish once, read everywhere. This is the primary reason why publishing many different kinds of XML documents through weblogs and CMS’ is a killer combination in making a distributed semantic web possible. People hate redundant work.

Here’s my suggestion – read Steve’s essays [no longer online] and contribute to this development of a standard, because it’s your data.

We are at the beginning of another shift in opportunities on the Internet, so forget hardware and software, as they are commodities and prices are dropping. Take a look ‘up the stack’ and see what kinds of services you can offer in this new model.

It may be an aggregation service around data forms like learning portfolios, or the provision of templates and tools to help people aggregate their own data.

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