Product & Startup Builder

Filtering by Category: "apis"

Freebase - Centralized control of the distributed web?

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a buzz about the launch of Freebase by Metaweb technologies on the web at the moment.

From the New York Times:

"The idea of a centralized database storing all of the world’s digital information is a fundamental shift away from today’s World Wide Web, which is akin to a library of linked digital documents stored separately on millions of computers where search engines serve as the equivalent of a card catalog."
Is it just me or does this seem completely antithetical to the entire point of the Web in general and the Web 2.0 philosophy specifically?

Are we not trying to create a distributed, democratic and user-centric reality where the right of self-expression trumps data silos?

So why would we all be rushing to contain all data in a single database?

Wouldn't it be a more effective solution to build a search engine that could aggregate content across the web by extracting and indexing it in a structured way. Something that can look for Microformats as well as try to extract structured data from unstructured pages using semantic analysis (similar to AdaptiveBlue).

It could even offer its index/database via APIs.

The difference with this scenario, though, is that we don't all have to play nice with a single database/API - they have to play nice with us. This is about shifting power from the few, to the many after all.

It seems to me to attempt otherwise is moving in the wrong direction.

Am I missing something here? Let me know what you think...

Loosely Coupled Relationships - is there any deeper meaning anymore?

Added on by Chris Saad.
I have written before about the Disintegration of Reality.

Here's some of that original post:

"Reality is disintegrating. No wait hear me out.

Granular parts of our established systems are being dislodged from their containers and only reforming via temporary, loosely coupled connections.

Content is being disintegrated from the Page, TV and Radio via RSS and Microformats.

Functionality is being disintegrated from applications (loosely coupled mashups are starting to overshadow complete applications).

People are being disintegrated from families. Divorce is now common place and starting to lose its taboo. As a result families are forming all sorts of strange and lopsided combinations where ex’s and steps come together for special occasions and in support of ‘the children’. At all times, however, the individual seems to be achieving more freedom and importance than the ‘family unit’."
Another way to phrase this perhaps is "Loosely Coupled Relationships" much like RSS and REST are loosely coupled APIs that allow us to mash stuff up.

I have been having more thoughts on this issue recently and just now saw something that promoted me to write about it. I just saw an interview with a group of bloggers and the Nun that looks after the Vatican website (recorded by fellow Media 2.0 Workgroup member Robert Scoble).

In reference to the Internet building new types of communities she related a story of one of the first Skype calls she witnessed. In it, one of her colleagues made a call to someone in china. She went on to say (and I paraphrase).

"That exchange [the call to China with some random person], had a very personal component, an emotional component. It had something that brought out something from within that person - he gave it to that person in China, and then what happened?

We need to distinguish between creating something that builds relationship and something that is just dumping out all kinds of energy that has no place to go... It's energy that we need to integrate into something real."
I have been wondering about this for some time. It seems to me that a growing number of tools are being released that allow us to have surface style, loosley coupled relationships.

The most extreme example of this is Twitter. With Twitter I don't need to actually care enough about someone to ask how their day was. I can just have a passive overview of their activities as they release updates into the ether. If I choose to catch what they are sending I am free - but I am also equally free to ignore it. It is very non-committal.

An earlier technology also provided this level of disconnect. SMS (at least here in Australia) has in many cases started to take the place of phone calls because SMS is less confrontational and committal. You could do other things while having a 'conversation' with someone. Ignoring an incoming SMS is also (usually) perfectly fine - even more so than ignoring an IM message in some cases.

The same is true for MySpace. Look at a myspace comments section and you will see lots of fruitless and surface style interactions that seem to go nowhere.

It seems to me that these sorts of passive or group interaction mechanisms, while creating one type community, may - taken to their logical extreme - negatively affect another much deeper level of connection.

Maybe these loosely coupled relationships were never destined to be any deeper than a twitter message. Or maybe, this type of behaviour will expand to include loved ones and friends who used to require more commitment.

Personally I wonder if there isn't a way to harness this energy and capture it for good. For deeper connections. Or at least to reveal the deeper connections that are already present.

In the rush to create more democratic, social and distributed media, I'd hate to think that our one-to-one relationships will end up as nothing more than temporary mashups - like ships passing in the night.

Twitter me with your thoughts (no just kidding - comments are fine).