Categories: data, free software, openmovement

shaking off the doldrums?

I’m finally getting excited again about web tech. i dipped my toes in this new world in the fall of 2004, when I started reading about free software, discovered wikipedia, figured out I could write stuff on the web. Then came a couple of years of really exciting stuff … LibriVox and collectik being two results, but also figuring out podcasting and RSS etc.

But I’ve always maintained that the tools are not interesting, it’s what happens with the tools.

The past few months I’ve felt a bit blase about the whole thing: it seems like we’ve got it all figured out, OK, wikis, sure, open movement, great, blogging, video, OK OK I get it. Great. We know what it’s all about. Twitter – fun, and useful, but not going to change the world. Facebook, linked-in…OK! Leave me alone.

But lately there’s been some rippling, and it feels as if all this stuff is starting to leak into more interesting areas. Freebase, for instance, will be a hugely useful tool, I am sure. I already have a couple of ideas, but there will be many exciting things to come out of that. Think google maps for data, maybe, and hence far more useful. The Encyclopedia of Life, a wiki-style project, focused on biology, will be fantastic. Such targeted wiki-style projects will sprout all over soon, since wikipedia has convinced people of the feasibility of this mode of information organization. We need this for politics, and health, among other things. Many other things. is fantastic. So more and more is starting to roll out. Pushed not by geeks but by other people. Wonderful.

It occurred to me, as I listened [mp3] to E.O. Wilson talk about the Encyclopedia of Life that there’s still the old problem of human nature, power and the spread of info. It’s one thing to have every bit of information you could want at the tip of your fingers – another thing altogether to make sure that benefits more than just you and your buddies.

Any ideas anyone?

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