On Tue, Mar 28, 2006 at 04:36:45PM +0100, M.B.Gaved wrote:
A. Your Open Guide
1. How would you describe the Open Guide to somebody who wanted to find
out about it?
The Open Guide to Boston is an attempt to create a free and open guide
to the city of Boston. It is very similar to a number of other services
that exist -- CitySearch being the most popular in and around Boston --
but instead of businesses paying for ratings, search results, and
reviews, it is something that any user can edit, and any business can
add or edit their own listing.
2. Who is the anticipated audience for your Open
Guide? Who are your
users right now?
Everyone who uses the web to look up information on their favorite
restaurants, bars, or anything else. Everyone who Googles for local
search results. Anyone who wants to look up what's near where they are,
or what's near something else.
Currently the active participating audience is a relatively small, but
growing, group of users who I have recruited via online forums about
Boston. There are also several people who have come in via Google hits,
which is the most common way that people get to the Open Guide to Boston
-- approximately 500-600 hits per day come in from users who have
googled and found the open Guide to Boston.
3. What do you see as the purpose of the open guides?
(feel free to get
philosophical!) e.g. how is it different from other wikis/city guides?
Structured metadata allows for machineprocessable resouroces to take
advbantage of knowledge that would not otherwise be available about a
city. This can be used to a great advantage in many cases: the Google
Maps example that Boston first implemented (and later was integrated
into the Open Guides software) is an example of this. There are also
numerous other applications of providing a machine-readable version of
data that can be exploited from outside the system, rather than "APIs"
needing to be built in-system.
Full data exports are always the most important aspect of any open data
project, and the OpenGuides software provides them in abundance.
4. Are there rules and regulations users must follow?
How about your
admin team (e.g. how do you make decisions)?
No rules for users. I basically do my best to maintain useful
information without it turning into a spam-filled pit. This means that I
let through everything except that which is obviously not neccesary: A
location can be described in more ways than "It's infested with
crackheads", as one editor wrote.
I'm the only admin team there is, so I make the decisions as I see fit,
on a case by case basis, when there are problems -- which thus far,
there haven't been.
B. Your role in the Open Guide
1. How did you come to be involved in the Open Guide?- can you tell me
what you do?
Originally, I was introduced to the OpenGuides project via the FOAF
project, as both are working to provide machine readable content to the
masses -- one about people, the other about places.
I took an interest in the project, and set up a Guide for Manchester,
NH, but never really did anything with it -- it languished into
obscurity. However, when I moved to Boston, I was more successful at
getting help from other editors.
I'm a developer in the project -- I've made a number of code
contributions that increase the usability of the guide. I also maintain
and am pretty much the sole admin for the Open Guide to Boston.
2. What was your goal when your Open Guide (or your
involvement in it)
started? What are the current goals?
My original Open Guide was designed to provide a data source for an RDF
tool I was working with, and to that end I populated it with the content
of a MySQL database that I had access to for businesses in Manchester,
However, with the Open Guide to Boston, I started it as a solution to
people who were looking for a "Boston Wiki" -- something that people
could edit for reviews, etc.
My current goal is to be better known than CitySearch.
3. How long do you see yourself being involved in your
For a long time. I've been doing various things with Guides for the past
18 months, and I expect this to continue into the future -- even if it's
not as a contributing developer, at least as an admin of the Boston
4. Have people used the Guide in any ways you
didn't expect? (and has
'vandalism' been a problem?)
Vandalism has not been a problem. There has, to this point, been
relatively little use of the guide outside a core group of technically
competent users with the best intentions of the Guide in mind.
C. Publicity and outreach
1. Do you publicise your Guide? How?
Not yet. Right now, I'm still working on cleaning up technical kinks
with hosting and running of the guide to allow it to be useful to all
users: Publicity, until that happens, is more than I'm looking for.
However, I do oftentimes link to the guide when I'm talking about
someplace I've been, in various communities online. This has resulted in
some users finding an interest in the guide simply from these links
(rather than from active publicity) and contributing.
I am working to establish a tool which is usable for more than just
technical users, after which I'll be having conversations with local
news organizations about what angle I could possibly use in local
publicity -- but until the Guide is generally usable by *viewers* rather
than just editors, there isn't much point.
D. Future of the Guide
1. How successful do you think the project is? Which goals have been
met? Which remain elusive?
I think that the London Guide has proved to be successful, but I think
there are other guides which have proved much less so. It's very easy to
have a Guide fail to work out -- you need a dedicated group of editors
working for a long time to create a useful resource for the public in
order to create something that is not going to be ignored. Boston is
very close to passing the tipping point where I could stop babysitting
it full time, and still have useful content. Many web visitors are now
starting to notice it, and things are definitely improving.
I think the key to the Open Guide to Boston success was the ability to
build on a dataset which populated much of the metadata for nodes.
Typing in tedius addresses and so on is no fun, and the Boston Guide
(due to copyright law in the US) was able to build upon Yellow Pages
listings to create a database that's usable even without lots of 'real'
content. But the real value comes when people start to get interested in
editing, and it's not quite there yet.
I don't know what the solution is for this -- how did Wikipedia get
started? I've never been able to figure out how you get people to rally
around a community -- but I'm pretty sure that you can't force it, no
2. How long do you see the project going on for?
Until it's done. And it's never done. :)
3. If someone told you they were planning to start an
open guide, what
advice would you give them?
Find a partner in crime. Never start an Open Guide unless you have at
least one other person to edit with you. Otherwise you'll spend all your
time working on editing, and none of your time actually enjoying the
product of your work.
It's better if you can get a whole bunch of people, of course, but I
wouldn't hold my breath for that eventuality.