Posts about open-source


It’s Sunshine Week and this is the sunshine medium. I wish every blogger would file a FOIA this week or go to town hall and get the salaries and expense accounts of all their local officials to put up online or go after Congress to finally put themselves under the Freedom of Information Act like the rest of government.

Open-source polling

The Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal, shares the article he wrote for Public Opinion Quarterly on open-source polling and the impact of the internet and blogs on polling.

Back in April, I wrote an amateurish call for open-source polling here.


A few weeks ago, I suggested that publishers, associations, experts and others should vet articles in Wikipedia and in essence create blessed versions of the open-source wealth of knowledge there. At the time, Fred Wilson called it the Red Hat Wikipedia. Now David Weinberger and Wikipedian SJ Klein sing the refrain:

Anyone could certify particular versions of particular articles as reliable. I could, you could, the American Association of Pediatrics could, because this doesn’t have to happen on the Wikipedia site. Dozens (hundreds?) of other sites already take Wikipedia’s content as their own, under Wikipedia’s Creative Commons license. So, why not encourage various authorities (personal or institutional) to create their own seals of Good Wiki Keeping, publishing a virtual slice through Wikipedia….

Not to mention that it would be a perfect example for my book about how knowledge is becoming miscellanized, and reclustered using different organizational principles.


There’s regularly wringing of hands over something wrong — or worse, poisoned — at Wikipedia. Where some see a problem, I see an opportunity:

If I were a reference publisher, a library association, a university, a media company, or a foundation, I’d take Wikipedia as raw material and vet entries, perhaps even charging for the service: On demand or on the basis of traffic and links, I’d go in and vet already-written pieces and bless that version of it. Then maybe I’d publish a book from it. Subsequent changes would be unvetted until and unless I chose to or the audience asked me to review them. If a piece just simply isn’t up to snuff, I’d put it on a gray list, which I’d also make available not only as a warning (that’s seeing the problem again) but as a challenge to Wikipedians to improve the piece and make the grade (that’s the opportunity). And if the public sees a piece that is haunted by inaccuracy or, worse, is manipulated for someone’s agenda, then they can post a public warning as well. And, of course, I don’t have to do all this just with staff. I can also vet Wikipedians or others so that when they review a piece and bless it, so we can consider it blessed. And if there’s any money in this, I share it with them. In short, I’d create a superstructure of known, proven editors and researchers not to replace a single thing about Wikipedia today but to add value on top of it.

I agree with Dave Winer that “we need to determine what authority means in the age of Internet scholarship.” And I agree with Rex that Wikipedia itself must remain as open as it is today and that we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater when one error or one Wikipedian in need of meds is found. The vast — and dynamic — resource that Wikipedia has become is invaluable and the vast majority of what is in there is quite useful. What we need is mostly a pressure-relief valve for these complaints and reputed scandals that inevitably emerge.

Now that I think of it, this might have been a nice business model for the shrinking Britannica. It might still be.

: UPDATE: Fred Wilson calls this the Redhat version of Wikipedia.

A truly open ad marketplace

Fred Wilson wants a transparent ad marketplace:

But there are some things that aren’t yet right about this market.

For one, there really isn’t true price transparency. And there isn’t true performance transparency….

And as I alluded to in the previous paragraph, it is not yet possible for any publisher to run any ad as long as the price and terms are acceptable to both parties. There are a few places where this happens in the online advertising market, like affiliate networks and paid search (sort of). But there are many more places where the advertisers and publishers are contained in walled gardens.

So, I believe that right now, we have a marketplace, but it’s a nascent marketplace.

The thing that gets me so excited, though, is that is so clear where all of this is headed.

Toward massive liquidity

Toward total price and performance transparency

And toward a completely open marketplace where anyone can run anyone’s ad campaign.

And in the process, we will build something that is easily a factor of 10 and maybe a factor of 100 of where we are today.

So, let’s make it happen.

Well, Amen. This is what I was pushing for starting in March with a proposal for an open-source ad call and there is movement in some quarters on this. We need:

1. Open-source metrics — measuring not just traffic but influence and more — with open reporting.

2. An open-source ad call so any advertiser can put together an ad hoc network of the best sites, so any publisher can join the best ad campaigns, so any network can extend reach with any sites for any campaigns.

3. An auction mechanism to match buyers and sellers.

4. The ability to layer on top of this analystics and trust networks (i.e., specifically approved sites that meet advertisers’ needs).

This will be the real Google slayer: an open, transparent, virtually frictionless marketplace where buyer and seller can find and deal with each other openly and where buyers get more value because of greater efficiency and sellers get more value because they sell more than just the words on their pages: They sell their influence, authority, relationships, trust.

Yes, let’s build it.


The Customer Evangelists report that Amazon is experimenting with product-information wikis (more here) so we the customers can share and update information on products for sale. Damned smart. The evangelists also make some good suggestions.

: Rob Hof has more.


Bill Burnham has a good post about Google Base, insisting that it will change the world, or at least part of it. He says it’s all about RSS feeds into a gigantic XML data base that will extrude all kinds of neat new sausages. I await Part II.

Meanwhile, Olivier Travers says that surely Google will open up Base:

…it’s very early to make a call about Google’s intent. I’d say they want to give themselves a headstart in terms of surfacing Google Base content across their services (e.g. Local) but they’ll probably expose it to the outside world sooner or later. Not doing it seems not only at odds with their roots but more importantly it would leave them vulnerable to a more open joint effort by Microsoft and Yahoo, not to speak of countless smaller competitors.

My issue is: Why not open it up now? Why not publish the data format and API? Why not let us in on their intention? Instead, by playing the mysterious hard-to-get game, Google is mimicking Microsoft, the borg: You’ll do what we say because we say so. Once again, Google has succeeded thanks to the very openness of the internet. It should be open, in turn.

Riff raff

Well, Riffs, the new review-anything site, does one thing right that Amazon should have done from the first: You go to Riffs and write a review and it lets you get an RSS feed, which you can put on your own blog.

Still, I agree with Mike Arrington: “Do we need Riffs when everyone seems very happy writing reviews directly on their blogs?”

Fred Wilson tries out Riffs. But he has long pointed out that Gotham Gal has all kinds of reviews already on her blog. The question is: How do I find what she’s writing and find what other people are writing about the same topic so I can compare? How can I look for new restaurants in New York and find the ones she has found?

The service I’ll pay attention to is the one that lets me find the riffs and reviews (and recipes and whatever else) that people put on their own blogs. That can be a search engine or an aggregator or both that gets people to swarm around tags so they know their stuff will be found. It works inside Flickr and It can work outside, in the distributed web.

If I were a VC, I’d be investing in a company that tries to use tags and microformats and social interaction to link together the topics and opinions and information people care about on that distributed web. For that’s the company that won’t waste effort and expense trying to get people to change their behavior and reverse the natural flow of the web out to the edges — ‘come to us and give us your good stuff’ — but instead takes advantage of the essence of the web and leaves control out at those edges by saying: ‘We know you have good stuff and we’re going to help people find it.’ The consumer proposition is then clear: This is how you find the good stuff. This will be the real successor to and competitor against Google. Oh, Google could do it, too, but judging by Base, they’re not doing that. They’re taking control rather than giving it.

Remember Jarvis’ First Law: Give people control and we will use it.

: Fred Wilson and I get into a discussion starting in the comments below and continuing on his blog here.

: And Michael Arrington retorts.