Deepak Singh highlights one of the emerging approaches to global data, Freebase. Recall that at scifoo we also heard about Google’s offer to host scientific data:
One of the sessions at Scifoo that left me a little confused was the demo by Danny Hillis and colleages on Freebase, something that I have discussed previous at bbgm. I love the concept of Freebase, the ability to create structures on top of data in a collaborative, somewhat ad hoc way.
Something that I wasn’t aware of was that the folks at Metaweb are using Freebase (the website) as a test case, and expect that the primary use will be for developers to build applications using the Freebase API. The killer application that was mentioned was people search. I wonder how people search using Freebase would get significantly better traction that something like Spock, although it’s easy to see how a proper implementation could easily leap ahead of any people search engine (and someone should develop one right now).
The somewhat disappointing aspect, at least as I understand things today was that all data had to be local to Freebase. That would mean that if I wanted to use Freebase as an annotation engine for multiple distributed data sets (e.g. at NCBI or EBI), it would not be too practical. However, I wonder if there was a way of using Freebase as a store for annotations, etc, which link out to all these data sources, e.g. a store for protein interactions based on literature data stored elsewhere.
I believe that to be applicable in the biosciences, and perhaps elsewhere, Freebase needs to be untethered. While the website can remain a source of information, and people can use it as a backend data source, an open data model, query language and API which can be run anywhere and put on top of any data source would make things very possible. Does it make sense for the folks at Freebase to do that? I don’t know and haven’t had the opportunity to quite put my head around the problem, but if all data has to be local, it’s going to be hard to use the power in a practical way. The metaweb, as it were, should not be centralized. Perhaps Freebase is just one example, a test ground for what Metaweb Technologies will make available, and we just need to wait for that.
Can you make out that I am a little confused?
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