The recent panel on open access/semantic web/web 2.0 at South by Southwest was well attended and prompted lively discussion. Also, this being South by Southwest, several of the attendees immediately blogged their notes on the panel – handy for those who couldn’t make it to Austin.
One interesting coincidence of timing was that right in the same week as this panel discussion took place, Danny Hillis’s new venture, Freebase, was being launched.
Freebase is an interesting and ambitious idea, that combines all three of the trends we discussed on the panel – open access and reuse, user-generated content, and semantic classification (i.e. structuring information on the web in order to make its meaning accessible to computers). There is a good discussion of Freebase on Tim O’Reilly’s blog – Freebase is a really nice example of the kind of innovation made possible by open licensing systems such as the Creative Commons Attribution License used for all BioMed Central’s open access articles.
A representative of Metaweb (the company behind Freebase) came along to the panel, and confirmed that they will be incorporating BioMed Central’s open access content into Freebase. I’m looking forward to seeing how Freebase works in practice – watch this space…
Freebase has quite a lot in common with the work that has been going on to add semantic support to the mediawiki software that runs Wikipedia.
Semantic mediawiki, as that project is known, is what drives the WikiProteins project recently featured in Nature.
For the technically inclined, Denny Vrandecic has posted an initial comparison of the two systems.