Linked Open Data

This is one of the key issues for me at present:. Paul Miller (Talis) – who with his colleagues is constantly working towards a community license – writes (Linked Data the real Semantic Web ?):

It has been interesting to follow the rise of the ‘Linked Data‘ meme in the Semantic Web community recently, and to track it alongside longer term (but quieter) mutterings around ‘Open Data‘ from the likes of Tim O’Reilly and XTech programme committees past and present.
The recent push is due in no small part, I believe, to the sterling efforts of the Linking Open Data community, and to the support they’ve been receiving from W3C’s Semantic Web Education & Outreach (SWEO) group, of which I’m a rather quiet member.
Listening to Tim Berners-Lee’s keynote in Banff a week or so back, there was a strong steer toward ‘Linked Data’, and the opportunities presented by the relationships between resources and the aggregate of those resources. This thread came up again and again, most notably in the Linked/Open Data sessions. Thinking about it again, the whole Linked Data thrust actually comes across as a far more compelling way to describe the value of the Semantic Web to the non-geek audience. Are we seeing some formal shift in W3C’s language as we and they grapple to clearly express the value of these misunderstood ‘new’ approaches? Let’s hope so, as these Data Web/ Web of Data stories get far less bogged down in the horrors of ‘triples’, ‘ontologies’ and other concepts designed to send most audiences into an irretrievable tailspin…
If the Web of Data is the target, of course, the thorny issue of to whom the data belong, and the ways in which the data may be used, come to the fore once more. This is an area we’ve been tackling with contributions such as the Talis Community License, and it came up in Rob’s contribution in Banff [Rob’s audio here, PDF of everyone’s slides here], as well as papers from both of us at XTech last week. We’ve seen a lot of interest in some of the issues we’ve been stressing around the need to apply some licence to data, and the importance of understanding the rights that do – and don’t – apply to data as opposed to creative works, and look forward to finishing the work we started with the TCL and getting the whole thing onto some more formal footing.
One conversation from last week that has carried over onto email this week was with Rufus Pollock of the Open Knowledge Foundation. They don’t have a license, but they do usefully define a set of principles to underpin the notion of ‘open knowledge’, and they explicitly include the separate notion of data;

“The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) sets out principles to define the ‘open’ in open knowledge. The term knowledge is used broadly and it includes all forms of data, content such as music, films or books as well any other type of information.
In the simplest form the definition can be summed up in the statement that ‘A piece of knowledge is open if you are free to use, reuse, and redistribute it’.”

We’re seeing movement as a growing body of implementors, commentators and analysts recognise the potential of linking disparate data resources together, leveraging some of the more basic capabilities of RDF and other Semantic Web enabling technologies. We’re also seeing a matching awareness of the need to protect use of those data sets (and not merely to safeguard the interests of data owners, but also – and far more tellingly – to give confidence to data aggregators and users), and a refreshing willingness to engage openly and cooperatively in reaching a pragmatic solution. It’s a great time to be involved in this space, and Talis looks forward to playing our full part across the piece.
Update: Rufus Pollock has begun a Guide to Open Data Licensing on their wiki…

One of the drivers is that systems such as Freebase and Metaweb claim to be able to manage huge amounts of linked Open Data. I’m hoping so as it will revolutionise the closed minds in chemical information. I’ll be trying out some of these ideas at the Bioclipse meeting tomorrow.

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One Response to Linked Open Data

  1. Paul Miller says:

    I look forward to hearing how it goes at Bioclipse, and agree that the public profile of big open data stores such as Freebase is an important trend to watch here. Technology permitting, I’ll be recording a conversation with Freebase’s Jamie Taylor tomorrow night, and hope to delve into some of these issues from their perspective. They, and we, really do believe that a sustainable business can be built around open data; differentiating and competing around value added services atop an open pool, rather than hoarding data and ripping off those who wish to peek inside our little silo…

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