Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Towards mashups based on timelines

Dan Jellinek writes about a very important point Open Data 'Must Add Context'. Context is absolutely king when it comes to interpreting public records which is why KLISS works the way it works.

Lawrence Lessig has also written about the problem of context in his Against Transparency.

We will soon, I hope, get passed the problem of data access. OGD, data.gov, law.gov, legislation.co.uk etc. will see to that.

Then we can move onto addressing the context problem. To do that, we will need to address what is, to my mind, the key missing piece of the Web today: the time dimension of information.

It does not have to be complicated. I would suggest we start with some simple "social contracts" for URI's that contain temporal information. Tim Berners Lee's Cool URI's don't change has been around for many years now and contains what is to my mind the key idea: encoding dates in URIs. e.g. this URI signals the time dimension in its elements: http://www.w3.org/1998/12/01/chairs.

The notion of URIs having structure has been a wee bit controversial (See Axioms but I think its a fine idea :-) Jon Udel is worth reading on this point too.

So, where could a few simple agreements about temporal URI patterns get us?

In two words *timeline mashups*. Today, the majority of mashups are essentially data joins using location as the join point. Imagine a Web in which we can create similar dynamic data expositions but based on time lines. That is the prize we will win if we can get agreements on encoding the temporal dimension of information.

Imagine a world in which we can automatically generate beautiful information displays like this, or this that mashup data from many disparate, independent sources?

Would it be worth the effort? In my opinion, absolutely! It would be a great place to start, yielding huge value for a relatively small effort.

Higher up the effort scale but still very worthwhile would be mechanisms for querying w.r.t. time e.g. Memento and Temporal RDF.

How wonderful would it be if we could then create temporal mashups of temporal mashups? How wonderful would it be if we could create a temporal dimension *on top* of a geo-spatial dimension to create spatial-and-temporal mashups?

As Don Heiman, CITO for the Kansas State Legislature and the visionary behind KLISS likes to say: "be still my heart"...