QOOQ – Le premier coach culinaire tactile

Tablets and multi-touch hardware are becoming more mainstream, and the release of Windows 7 will drive yet more. There hasn’t been much in the way of product design going into the tablets I’ve seen so far, which is why so many people keep hoping for an Apple tablet.

French company Unowhy are taking a different approach though, releasing a tablet targeted at the kitchen, with the sale driven by content – recipes and training videos from top french chefs.

QOOQ - Le premier coach culinaire tactile

QOOQ – Le premier coach culinaire tactile.

The physical design looks really good, if the price is right I could see these selling well and possibly prompting a targeted linux distro for it.

Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology | Video on TED.com

At TEDIndia, Pranav Mistry demos several tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data — including a deep look at his SixthSense device and a new, paradigm-shifting paper “laptop.” In an onstage Q&A, Mistry says he’ll open-source the software behind SixthSense, to open its possibilities to all.

from Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology | Video on TED.com.

Distributed, Linked Data has significant implications for Intellectual Property Rights in Data.

What P2P networks have done for distribution of digital media is phenomenal. It is possible, easy even, to get almost any TV show, movie, track or album you can think of by searching one of the many torrent sites. As fast as the media industry take down one site through legal action another has appeared to take its place.

I don’t want to discuss the legal, moral or social implications of this, but discuss how the internet changes the nature of our relationship with media – and data. The internet is a great big copying machine, true enough, but it’s also a fabric that allows mass co-operation. It’s that mass peer-to-peer co-operation that makes so much content available for free; content that is published freely by its creator as well as infringing content.

Sharing of copyrighted content is always likely to be infringing on p2p networks, regardless of any tricks employed, but for data the situation may be different and the Linked Data web has real implications in this space.

Taking the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File as my working example, because it’s been in the news recently as a result of the work done by ErnestMarples.com, I’ll attempt to show how the Linked Data web changes the nature of data publishing and intellectual property.

First, in case you’re not familiar, a quick introduction to Linked Data. In Linked Data we use http web addresses (which we call URIs) not only to refer to documents containing data but also to refer to real-world things and abstract concepts. We then combine those URIs with properties and values to make statements about the things the URIs represent. So, I might say that my postcode is referred to by the URI http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode. Asking for that URI in the browser would then redirect you to a document containing data about my postcode, maybe sending you to http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode.rdf if you asked for data and http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode.html if you asked for a web page (that’s called content negotiation). All of that works today and organisations like the UK Government, BBC, New York Times and others are publishing data this way.

Also worth noting is the distinction between Linked Data (the technique described above) and Linked Open Data, the output of the W3C’s Linking Open Data project. An important distinction as I’m talking about how commercially owned and protected databases may be disrupted by Linked Data, whereas Linked Open Data is data that is already published on the web under an Open license.

Now, Royal Mail own the Postcode Address File, and other postcode data such as geo co-ordinates. They are covered in the UK under Copyright and Database Right (which for which bits is a different story) so we assume it is “owned”. The database contains more than 28 million postcodes, so publishing my own postcode could not be considered an infringement in any meaningful way, publishing the data for all the addresses within a single postcode would also be unlikely to infringe as it’s such a small fraction of the total data.

So I might publish some data like this (the format is Turtle, a way to write down Linked Data)

  a paf:Postcode;
  paf:correctForm "B37 7YB";
  paf:normalisedForm "b377yb";
  geo:long -1.717336;
  geo:lat 52.467971;
  paf:ordnanceSurveyCode "SP1930085600";
  paf:gridRefEast 41930;
  paf:gridRefNorth 28560;
  paf:containsAddress <http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode#1>;
  paf:googleMaps <http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&source=hp&q=B377YB&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Birmingham,+West+Midlands+B377YB,+United+Kingdom&gl=uk&ei=Zs8HS_KVNNOe4QbIpITTCw&ved=0CAgQ8gEwAA&t=h&z=16>.

  a paf:Address;
  paf:organisationName "Talis Group Ltd";
  paf:dependentThoroughfareName "Knight's Court";
  paf:thoroughfareName "Solihull Parkway";
  paf:dependentLocality "Birmingham Business Park";
  paf:postTown "Birmingham";
  paf:postcode <http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode>.

I’ve probably made some mistakes in terms of the PAF properties as it’s a long time since I worked with PAF, but it’s clear enough to make my point with. So, I publish this file on my own website as a way of describing the office where I work. That’s not an infringement of any rights in the data and perfectly legitimate thing to do with the address.

As the web of Linked Data takes off, and the same schema become commonly used for this kind of thing, we start to build a substantial copy of the original database. This time, however, the database is not on a single server as ErnestMarples.com was, but spread across the web of Linked Data. There is no single infringing organisation who can be made to take the data down again. If I were responsible for the revenue brought in from sales of PAF licenses this would be a concern, but not major as the distributed nature means it can’t be queried.

The distributed nature of the web means the web itself can’t be queried, but we already know how to address that technically – we built large aggregations of the web, index them and call them search engines. That is also already happening for the Linked Data web. As with the web of documents, some people are attempting to create general purpose search engines over the data and others specialised search engines for specific areas of interest. It’s easy to see that areas of value, such as address data, are likely to attract specialist attention.

Here though, while the individual documents do not infringe, an aggregate of many of them would start to infringe. The defence of crowd-sourcing used in other contexts (such as Open Street Map) does not apply here as the PAF is not factual data – the connection between a postcode and address can only have come from one place, PAF, and is owned by Royal Mail however it got into the database.

So, with the aggregate now infringing it can be taken down through request, negotiation or due process. The obvious answer to that might be for the aggregate to hold the URIs only, not the actual values of the data. This would leave it without a useful search mechanism, however. This could be addressed by having a well-known URI structure as I used in the example data. We might have

  owl:sameAs <http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode>

This gets around the data issue, but the full list of postcodes itself may be considered infringing and they are clearly visible in the URIs. Taking them out of the URIs would leave no mechanism to go from a known postcode to data about it and addresses within it, the main use case for PAF. It doesn’t take long to make the link with other existing technology though, an area where we want to match a short string we know with an original short string, but cannot make the original short string available in clear text… Passwords.

Password storage uses one-way hashes so that the password is not available in its original form once stored, but requests to login can be matched by putting the attempted password through the same hash. Hashes are commonplace in the P2P world for a variety of functions, so are well-known and could be applied by an aggregator, or co-operative group, to solve this problem.

If I push the correct form of “B37 7YB” through MD5, I get “bdd2a7bf68119d001ebfd7f86c13a4c7”, but there is no way to get back from that to the original postcode. So a service that uses hashed URIs would not be publishing the postcode list in a directly useable form, but could be searched easily by anyone knowing how the URIs were structured and hashed.

  owl:sameAs <http://someorg.example.com/myaddress/postcode>

Of course, a specialist address service, advertising address lookups and making money could still be considered as infringing by the courts regardless of the technical mechanisms employed, but what of more general aggregations or informal co-operative sites? sameAs, a site for sharing sameAs statements, already provides the infrastructure that would be needed for a service like this and the ease with which sites that do this can be setup and mirrored would make it hard to defend against using the law in the same way that torrent listing sites are difficult for the film and music industries to stop. Regardless of the technical approach and the degree to which that provide legal and practical defence, this is still publishing data in a way that is against the spirit of Copyright and Database Right.

The situation I describe above is one where many, many organisations and individuals are publishing data in a consistent form and that is likely to happen over the next few years for common data like business addresses and phone numbers, but much less likely for less mainstream data. The situation with addresses is one where it is clear there is a reason to publish your individual data other than to be part of the whole, in more contrived cases where the only reason to publish is to contribute to a larger aggregate the notion of fair-use for a small amount of the data may not stand up. That is, over the longer term, address data will not be crowd-sourced – people deliberately creating a dataset – but web-sourced – the data will be on the web anyway.

We can see from this small example that the kinds of data that may be vulnerable to distributed publishing in this way are wide-ranging. The Dewey Decimal Classification scheme used by libraries, Telephone directories (with lookups in both directions), Gracenote’s music database, Legal case numbering schemes, could all be published this way. The problem, of course, is that the data has to be distributed sufficiently that no individual host can be seen as infringing. For common data this will happen naturally, but the co-ordination overhead for a group trying to do this pro-actively would be significant; though that might be solved easily by someone else thinking about how to do this.

As I see it a small group of unfunded individuals would have difficulty achieving the level of distribution necessary to be defensible. Though could 1% of a database be considered infringing? Could/Would 100 people use their existing domains to publish 1% of the PAF each? Would 200 join in for ½% each? Then, of course, there are the usual problems of trust, timeliness and accuracy associated with non-authoritative publication.

These problems not withstanding, Linked Data has the potential to provide a global database at web-scale. Ways of querying that web of data will be invented, what I sketch out above is just one very basic approach. The change the web of data brings has huge implications for data owners and intellectual property rights in data.

Government Data, Openness and Making Money

Over on the UK Government Data Developers group there’s been a great discussion about openness, innovation and how Government makes money from its data; and of course if it should make money. I can’t link to the discussion as the group is closed – sign up, it’s a great group.

Philosophically there’s always the stance that Government data has already been paid for by the public through general taxation.

Tim Berners-Lee even says so in his guest piece for Times Online.

This is data that has already been collected and paid for by the taxpayer, and the internet allows it to be distributed much more cheaply than before. Governments can unlock its value by simply letting people use it.

While that’s true, the role of Government is to maximise the return we get on our taxes so if more money can be made from the assets we have then surely we should.

This is where discussion breaks of into various arguments as to where on the spectrum licensing of Government data should sit, and how open to re-use it should be.

The discussion covers notions of Copyleft licensing, attribution, commercial and non-commercial use as well as models of innovation.

What I always come back to is the notion that to make money you have to have something that is not “open”, a scarce resource. I have a blog post talking about that in the context of software and the web that’s been drafted but not finished for some time, so I’m coming at this from a point of existing thinking.

To make money something has to be closed.

In the case of creative works, the thing that is closed is the right to produce copies (closed through Copyright law). An author makes money by selling that right (or a limited subset of it) to a publisher who makes money from exploiting the right to copy. The publisher has exclusivity.

In the case of open source software companies the dominant model is support and consultancy. They make money by exploiting the specialist knowledge they have in their heads – a careful balance exists for companies doing this between making the product great and needing the support revenue. This balance leads to other monetization strategies, like using the closed nature of being the only place to go for that software to sell default slots in the software (think search boxes), or advertising.

In the case of closed-source commercial software it is the code, the product itself, that remains closed.

Commercial organisations with data assets have to keep the data closed in order to make money. The Government, however, does not. The Government can give the data away for free because it has something else that is closed – the UK economy. To be a part of the (legitimate) UK economy you have to pay taxes, giving the UK a 20% to 40% share of all profits.

If people find ways to make money using Government data those taxes dwarf any potential licensing fee – can you imagine a commercial data provider asking for up to 40% of a company’s profit as the cost of a data license?

This is why it makes sense for the Government to make data available with as few restrictions as possible – ultimately that means Public Domain.

That seems to be the direction the mailing list is heading thanks to some great contributors. If open data, government data and innovation interest you then sign up and join in.

Schneier on Security: A Taxonomy of Social Networking Data

A Taxonomy of Social Networking Data

At the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh this week, there was a conversation on social networking data. Someone made the point that there are several different types of data, and it would be useful to separate them. This is my taxonomy of social networking data.

from Schneier on Security: A Taxonomy of Social Networking Data.

Follow the link for a useful breakdown of data in any community site or service.

Bringing FRBR Down to Earth…

I’ve been looking at FRBR for some time. I’ve written about it and spoken about it. Overall I’ve found it difficult to work with and not really useful in solving the problems of resource discovery.

One of the recurring themes I see when looking at library data in 2009 is that it is centred far too often on the record – a MARC21 record usually. This record-centric view of the world pervades much of what is possible, but often it even restricts our very thinking about what might be possible. We are constrained.

I’ve also seen many conversations about FRBR go along a similar route, discussing what exactly classifies as a work or an expression. Is the movie of the book a new work or just a different expression? The answer never being the same. According to Karen Coyle (who has taught me so much about library data) the abstract concept of Work has reached the point of being a fluid and malleable set of all the things that claim to be part of the work. Reading that I got really confused. Then, a few weeks ago, reading through several mailing lists and some more old blog posts, it hit me. The answer was right there in the discussion.

Nobody talks about works, expressions and manifestations, so why describe our data that way?

We talk about books and the stories they tell, we talk about how West Side Story is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. We talk about DVDs, Blu-Ray Discs and VHS Videos (OK, not so much anymore) and the movies they contain and we talk about the stories the movies tell.

Let’s look at an example and try to reconcile what we see with FRBR.

In FRBR speak (which is probably a squeaky, slightly digital noise) we would say that Wuthering Heights is a Work produced by Emily Bronte. We might have a copy of it in our hands, maybe the Penguin Classics edition (978-0141439556). We’d call the thing in our hands an Item. Then in-between Work and Item we have two levels of abstractness, the Expression which would be the story as written down in English (nobody’s quite sure where translations fit) and the Manifestation which would be that particular paperback version from Penguin.

If we add in the terms for the relationships it gets rather prosaic.

Wuthering Heights is a work by Emily Bronte, realized in a written expression of the same name. The written expression is embodied in several different manifestations each of which is exemplified by many items, one of which I hold in my hand.

I’m being deliberately extreme, I know. Comment below if you think I’m being too harsh or if you understand the FRBR/WEMI model differently.

Here it is in diagrammatic form:


The difficulty I, and I suspect many others, have is that I don’t ever use any of those words. They’re too abstract to be useful. FRBR generalises its model and in that generalisation loses a great deal. Let’s talk about it using more natural language.

Wuthering Heights is a story by Emily Bronte. It was originally published as a novel in 1847 and has subsequently been made into a movie (several times) and re-published in many languages beyond its original English. It has been republished in many editions and as a part of many collections. It features several fictitious people including Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The author, Emily Bronte, had sisters who authored several other novels, though she authored only this one. Emily Bronte is also the subject of several biographies. I have the paperback in my hand right now.

No works, expressions and manifestations. No items. No abstraction. We can model this more clearly now, at least in my opinio.

Real 01

The structure of the model remains broadly the same, but the language allows us to see how it works and classify things more obviously. This has strong similarities to the way Bibliontology is modelled and Bibliontology is very easy to use for its intended purpose – citations.

The more specific nature of the language goes on to pay dividends when we start to add in more data. Wuthering Heights has been made into a movie (several times) and one of the problems often discussed in FRBR circles is whether or not a movie based on a book is a new work or a new expression. Of course, the argument is false as a movie that faithfully reproduces a novel is both an expression of the story told in the novel and a creative work in its own right. While the movie could not exist without the novel it is based on, the art of film-making is a creative act as well. This is a hard thing to model with the four abstract levels defined in FRBR.

Here is the FRBR model showing the movie as an expression of the original work:


This now seems to imply that the movie is somehow a lesser creative work than the original novel and I’m uncomfortable about that, but we do have the relationship between the book and the movie modelled.

The alternative is to recognise the movie as a creative work in its own right in which case the model looks like this:


Now we’ve recognised the movie as a creative work in its own right, but lost the detail that it shares something with the novel. That makes the model less useful.

Using less abstract terms, and more of them, we can model in a way that describes the real-life situation – and hopefully avoid some of the argument, though I’m sure other issues will arise. Adding in the movie using the less abstract terms gives us this:

Real 02

Now we have the movie recognised as what it is and we have the relationship with the original novel.

I’ve applied the same logic to the physical items. It doesn’t help me to know that something is simply an item – I want to know what it is. So classes of Hardback, Paperback, CD-ROM, Blu-Ray Disc and Vinyl LP would be useful, where currently RDA provides a complex combination of Encoding Format and Carrier Type. This level of detail is more than likely required for archive and preservation purposes, but for the mainstream use of the data a top-level type would be very useful.

We can add more stuff than movies, though. We can add recordings. Showing my strange taste in music I’ll start with Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush (and the title nicely gives away where this is going). I shan’t try an model this using FRBR for comparison because I can’t see how to. If you feel you can then please sketch it out and add it in the comments or email it to me.

I don’t see a practical way in which making Wuthering Heights (the song) an expression of Wuthering Heights (story) is useful; yet their still exists a relationship between them. The song tells the same story (albeit abridged to 4:29).

Real 03

Modelling with real world terminology also allowed us to separate the song from the recording and the recording from the album it features on. Perhaps not something we can get to from the data we have today, but a useful feature to have in the model.

The richness and utility of modelling comes from giving more detail, not less and from using more specific terms, not more general terms.

The introduction of more specific terms also leads us to write more specific data conversion routines; looking to identify novels, albums, tracks, stories and more. Much of the data will not be mined from our MARC records, but by looking at the specifics we get past much of the variation that is difficult when we try to treat all works, expressions and manifestations the same across all mediums and forms of artistic endeavour.

One of the potential downsides of this approach is an ontology that may explode to contain many classes. While this seems like it is adding detail it is actually just moving detail. RDA documents this as ‘Form of Work’ – ‘A class or genre to which a work belongs.’

If the work belongs to that class, why not model it as that class?

I know several folks out there have been having a hard time applying FRBR to serials and other things, if you fancy having a go at modelling it with real-world language instead I’d love to talk to you – comment below.

Six bottle of wine later and I can tell you, it's pretty good stuff.

Thanks to Documentally tipping us off on Twitter and his blog my wife and I received a gratuitous couple of FreshCases, one red, one white.

These claim to be the next generation of winebox and they are rather nicely designed. The floppy cardboard normally surrounding the tap on a wine box (and the digging around in the box for the tap with just two fingers) is replaced by a smart plastic moulding that, once pressed, releases the tap into position.

The tap for the red, a rather nice Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz, is where you’d expect it, front of the case down low. The white, a very crisp Nottage Hill Chardonnay, rather cleverly has the tap on the base, making it a perfect fit lying down in the fridge. With a little extra thought they could have made the handle asymmetric and had it hold the box at a slight angle, but they haven’t.

These cases only landed in the shop on November 1st, so it’s nice to get my hands on these so soon, and free is a great price. I’m told they hit the shelves at £19.99, making them £6.66 a bottle equivalent. That price seems high to me with so many bottles on half-price or 3 for a tenner offers. At £9.99 these would be too god to be true though – the Nottage Hill is definitely more a £7 bottle than a £3 one.

The cases themselves are a really nice design, they remind me, in proportion and style, of the boxes whisky bottle come in. That’s a bonus if you’re putting these out for a party – unlike most wine boxes these don’t look cheapskate. Of course, stripping down the box to squeeze the last glass out of the foil bag will still make you look cheap, or desperate.

Documentally went as far as to record a video showing you the FreshCase in some detail so I figured I’d just share that with you.

Hardy’s Nottage Hill FreshCase from Documentally on Vimeo.

The most obvious downside is that the size of a bottle acts as a limit to what we drink. Take away that barrier of opening (or rather not opening) the second bottle and the wine seems to run out very quickly indeed. That alone will probably keep me buying the more limiting 75cl bottles.