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New project aims to map Open Data around the world

A broad coalition of stakeholders have launched DataCatalogs.org, a new project to keep track of open data initiatives around the world.

The alpha version of the project launched on 30 June 2011 at the Open Knowledge Foundation’s* annual conference in Berlin, with the aim to be ‘the most comprehensive list of open data catalogs in the world’. The reason for the initiative is explained in their press release as follows:
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Introducing SwiftRiver: adding context to content (and data)

I’ve mentioned the work of Ushahidi in the past, specifically the work it did in raising and using local voices in Haiti to map incidents and data after the earthquake the country experienced in 2010.

The Ushahidi platform is a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web. It was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008 and has been used since for many humanitarian and political crises, including Haiti. Watch this video for a little more background on Ushahidi’s origins:
Continue reading → Introducing SwiftRiver: adding context to content (and data)

The standard Google search result is dead: why the personalised web may undermine democracy

“The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”, says Eli Pariser.

Following up from my post on social search, and how in creating more filtered-personalised search results we get less serendipity, I thought some of you might be interested in this TED presentation from Eli Pasier.

In it, Pariser explores how the personalisation of the web – be it on Facebook, Google or elsewhere – is creating ‘filter bubbles’. Whilst the web promised us freedom from media gatekeepers, he believes that in reality there has been a passing of a torch, “From human gate keepers to algorithmic ones”.

He writes in his book:

“Most of us assume that when we google a term, we all see the same results – the ones that the company’s famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages’ links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google’s algorithm suggests is best for you in particular – and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google any more.”

Pariser outlines why this may be a problem for society and democracy, as the web feeds us what it thinks we should know, against what we are potentially really looking for, or perhaps just need to know.

“[…] you don’t choose to enter the bubble. When you turn on Fox News or read The New Statesman, you’re making a decision about what kind of filter to use to make sense of the world. It’s an active process, and like putting on a pair of tinted glasses, you can guess how the editors’ leaning shapes your perception. You don’t make the same kind of choice with personalised filters. They come to you – and because they drive up profits for the websites that use them, they’ll become harder and harder to avoid.”

These ideas take notions of like-mindedness, such as research by Cass Sunstein, a step further, and more out of our control. Whilst many of us might actively try to follow, search for and discover ideas outside of our comfort zone, unwittingly these attempts may be in vain.

Note: For a longer extract of Pasier’s book see this piece in the Guardian.

UPDATE:
Google’s Matt Cutts responds to the questions raised by personalisation of search
Financial Times book review of The Filter Bubble by Christoper Caldwell – ‘A dystopian view of online freedoms’

Calling grandma in 3D: Kinect consoles create telepresence

Ok, so they didn’t call grandma (although that would have been far cooler than a man waving a red cup which is who they did call), but these researchers at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have strung together a few Microsoft Kinect games consoles to create a 3D video telephone (conference) call – or in tech speak ‘Kinect Driven 3d Telepresence System‘.

Continue reading → Calling grandma in 3D: Kinect consoles create telepresence