Data silos everywhere
Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash

Data Commons

You look up a place or a commute on Google Maps. After a couple hours Google casually informs you that the place has an average review of 4 and that if you agree with that rating. It's right there in the notification. You don't even have to switch to the app. You don't have to think about what rating you want to assign to this place. Yes? No? 

All points to Google for making it this seamless. Maybe you agree with the question. The place was indeed worth 4 stars. And just like that Google just got some work done. From you. For free.

Of course they do offer a very valuable service. This piece of information that you've just shared would be very useful, just how the rating of the place was useful to you before you got there.

My only concern is that this very valuable data gets locked up. I wish all of this crowdsourced data belonged to the commons. See when I publicly share a review I do want to share this piece of information with the world. Yes, Google may use that information too. But I also want it to be open. To add to the collective knowledge base. And if this information is useful for someone other than Google, they should be able to leverage this to perhaps build an alternative or a better service. Unfortunately, today many internet platforms gather structured valuable information and lock it in.

All this while adding it to their terms that you give them and their affiliates a royalty free worldwide license to share this information. I think platforms should mature enough where all crowd sourced information is available under an open license and easily available for download and to be built on top of. Stackoverflow already does this. Wikipedia/Wikidata is a stellar example.

What’s the way out?

We should build easy to use software that allows people to create knowledge day in and day out. Like Google, FB, Instagram, Twitter already do. Only this time we have a way for people to retain ownership of all this data first. Then allow them to share this with whomsoever they wish to. Just friends or the whole world. Let them decide. That’s what allows standing over the shoulders of giants. That’s what drives innovation. The solid project from inrupt is a fine step in this direction.

Let’s reinstate the commons. Shall we?