Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Experimenting with Freebase

No, it's not a drug, it's the Semantic Web :P

Freebase is sort of like a structured wiki. In that, anyone can add content to the system. What's different, is that you can also add and define your own "Type" which are a collection of metadata. User generated content is quite common, and Freebase actually sucks in a ton of information from Wikipedia which gives it a huge base of content to start with, but this concept of being able to add/edit/organize higher level structures and metadata is new (tagging aside...).

I had great fun fleshing out entries for Drupal and the Drupal Association, figuring out Company, Software, and People types in the process.

OK, OK, I admit -- filling in the Beer entries for Hacker-Pschorr Weisse and the Hacker-Pschorr Brewery were actually more fun :P

A couple of pieces of feedback on Freebase:

  • A bit slow: some of the actions/dropdowns don't seem as snappy as they could be
  • URLs are ugly as sin: there is no perfect way to do this, but the URLs simply aren't "friendly" at all
  • Feature request - extend types: I couldn't figure out how to extend an existing type with extra metadata 

I can certainly understand Tim O'Reilly's great praising of Freebase (and, of course, similar concepts like my old "blog friend" Nova Spivack's company, Radar Networks) -- it's how the entire web *should* work.

So, when I link to a page, the page that I link to should show a link back to my post (it's called a referrer or trackback...except we can't use them in practice because of spam). And that "link" is a structured piece of content, that may have extra metadata and values associated with it (e.g. if it's been on Digg, how many Diggs it has, if it's a spam domain, a link to another "owner" person, etc.).

Spam aside, we still have these "static" web pages that can't fully participate in this more interactive web. Some of the smarts are migrating to individual pages themselves. I've always believed this, and have long predicted the "death of static pages".

But enough pontificating. Go experiment with Freebase, and the first person to mention Web 3.0 *will* get a slap.

Update: so, yeah, I'm sorry that I don't have any invites to give out yet. I didn't realize that Freebase was, um, as closed as it is still. Leave a note in the comments if you want an invite, and I'll hand them out as I get some. 

Update 2: OK, I've got invites. Leave a comment in this thread or email me if you want one.