From open source to open services to open information

My March 21 entry about turned out to be an odd juxtaposition because, on the same day, a new events database called EVDB was announced and shown at PC Forum. It's due out shortly in public beta but I haven't seen it, so for now I only know what you can also learn from reading, among others: Dan Farber, Ross Mayfield, Om Malik, David Weinberger, and Paul Kedrosky (whose recent archive is missing this morning, yikes). The consensus seems to be that EVDB will be a Web-2.0-style, Wiki-style, RSS-friendly, thingy. Sounds promising! I'll certainly check it out when it's public.

It'll be easier to do that experiment now that, as promised, has made big changes including, most notably, the addition of RESTful APIs. Knowing that the data I put into the service could be gotten back out in a useful form, I was willing to add some more venues for my town, and attach some of the events I've seen on walls and shop windows to those venues. Will I be able to flow data into EVDB and vice versa? We'll soon see.

During my lunchtime run, while reflecting on's process -- which has improved a lot, and which I hope continues to evolve -- I listened to the interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. What a refreshingly plain-spoken fellow! In that respect he reminds me of Ward Cunningham, Wiki's inventor, which I'm sure is no coincidence. The whole 30-minute interview is worth a listen, but this 30-second clip really stuck with me:

One of the things I always emphasize is, when you first hear about, you have this idea that it's a million people adding a sentence each, and somehow this becomes an encyclopedia. But that's really not how it works. How it really works is that, behind the scenes, there's a group of several hundred people who are in constant communication, discussing standards, discussing policies, sharing information about what's going on on the site, so they end up playing much more of the traditional role of an editorial body, even though it's all informal. [Jimmy Wales]
What enables this core group to function is software that delivers deep revision control and sophisticated collaborative support. But that's not what motivates the core contributors. Their incentives are pride, shared ownership, and a sense of historic mission.

The interview also introduced me to Wikicities, a site that uses the MediaWiki to support geographically-defined communities. Dave Winer once asked: "Where's the blog for Madison, Wisconsin?" Maybe it'll be

I think there will be a place at the table for, and EVDB, and Wikicities, and, and other services as well, all of which may be competitive in some ways and complementary in others. If you want a seat at the table you just need to have good table manners, and that really comes down to one simple rule: don't lock in my data. Services that try to do that will fail because, in the final analysis, social applications are powered by the people who co-create them. We'll use online services to help us create and organize our information, but we'll use them opportunistically. Services won't own our information. We'll migrate it freely to wherever it works best for us.

This open-information model presents challenges to those who develop services, and creates opportunities for those who use them. Neither the challenges nor the opportunities are yet widely appreciated. It's exciting to watch this story unfold.

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