Freebase merges the bottom up approach of the social web, with the hierarchies of directories, and the orderliness of traditional relational databases to help ‘organize the world’s knowledge’. (If that sounds familiar, it is because that is what Google is blindly about, with algorithms that are striving to see with barely formed eyes under heavy evolutionary pressure.)
Ok. It is a long shot. Just a bunch of database fields filled by volunteers might not amount to much. But I cannot help myself, and as I read about Metaweb’s Freebase on O’Reilly Radar and in the New York Times, my mind goes to common sense knowledge base projects like the bottom up Open Mind*, and Mindpixel*, and of course the hugely ambitious, and hugely unsuccessful Cyc. Will they succeed where others haven’t? I certainly hope so. A lot of us waste our energies pampering computers, and trying to help them achieve better what we easily can. Once that is taken care of, we can go back to our gossips, love-stories, politics, and conquest. As we have been doing for a few millennia.
*It is a mind boggling and heartbreaking coincidence that both the founder of Open Mind, and that of Mindpixel died, while very young, and without seeing what their projects would become. I wrote to Chris McKinstry shortly before his death, asking him about the project, and his response was very hopeful of promise, and success. It wasn’t to happen.