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A Scientist and the Web


Open Data: why I need the Open Knowledge Foundation

Typed into Arcturus

After a period of silence on this blog (but not on the Open Knowledge Foundation lists) I hope to publish a flurry of ideas on Open Data. There is no doubt that “Open Data” has arrived and there is enormous interest. (By contrast when I started to investigate it 5 years ago there was nothing). It’s desperately important, more complex than I ever imagined, and it’s critical to address it immediately, responsibly, dispassionately and inclusively. If we manage to set out the concerns now, we may manage to avoid the worst problems that were encountered by the Open Source and later Open Access movements. [They have made enormous progress and without their footsteps OpenData would fall into many of the same pitfalls. But OpenData is Difficult – a phrase I shall repeat frequently.]

I am putting my faith and energy into the Open Knowledge Foundation ( ) – its people and its infrastructure. This is because it’s an organisation which is wideranging (it deals with open content of all sorts, open metatada, services, etc.). It has great expertise in legal problems and solutions (where these are necessary) and also how to find alternative approaches. It’s neutral (apart from urging Openness and developing the infrastructure). It’s very professional, and realises that ideas without implementation have less weight. So there is an impressive range of software and information skills. I am reminded of my favourite motto (from the IETF) – “rough consensus and running code”, one the greatest productive mantras of our time.

The enthusiasm is palpable. [Today I had a breakfast Skype session with Jonathan Gray (coordinator of OKF) and it's all about how we can make things happen fast and responsibly.] The OKF works through Working Groups and discussion lists, and so when I had a concern about Open Data I brought it to the OKF and – after a great deal of work – we emerged with the Panton Principles ( ) which have now been translated into several languages by OKF members.

Simply, OKF amplifies the visions of individuals from the almost-impossible to the attainable.

So I am putting some ideas into the OKF melting pot to see what emerges. They are not “my ideas” – ideas have an independent existence and they visit people – the more people the more likely they are to get implemented. The great thing is that the infrastructure connects me with others in the same area of thought and action. The software already exists – I do not have to create it.

So the next blog posts will outline some of the ideas which will help the discussion and implementation of Open Data.

The following post shows why we need rational discussion.

2 Responses to “Open Data: why I need the Open Knowledge Foundation”

  1. [...] first is called Open Data: why I need the Open Knowledge Foundation, and in it he introduces some of the issues he wishes to discuss and gives his vision for the role [...]

  2. [...] significant, as a clearly unintended consequence of OpenData. As Peter Murray-Rust says in Open Data: why I need the Open Knowledge Foundation, OpenData is Difficult! We may even wonder “How many effective users are there likely to be [...]

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