Sunday, August 11, 2019
How to value open data and why Wikidata won't go stale
What Wikipedia indicates is that most data is stable, not stale. A date of birth, a place of birth so much remains the same. When we bury data in text, it is always a challenge to get the data out. When we bury data in Wikidata it just takes a query to bring it back to life. Who was a member of multiple "National Young Academies, Similar Bodies and YS Networks" for instance; you do not find it in the texts of those organisations but you will increasingly find it in Wikidata. Once the data is in there, it is stable and available for query.
As GLAMS make their content available under a free license, their collections gain relevance as the collection gains an audience. Just consider that only a small part is available to the public in the GLAM itself and on Commons it is there for all to find. Commons is being wikidatified and those collections become available in any language gaining additional relevance in the process.
The best example is what the Biodiversity Heritage Library does. It is instrumental in the digitisation of books, it makes them publicly available and gains the collections they are from an audience. Volunteers prove themselves in this process and both professionals and the wider world benefit. From a data perspective the data is new because only now available.
When a publisher mocks Open data, it is self serving. It is in their interest that data is inaccessible, only there for those who pay. There are plenty of examples of great data initiatives that went to ground and obviously when the data does not pay the rent, publishers will pull the plug. It is different for the data at Wikidata. It is managed by an organisation that has as its motto "share in the sum of all knowledge". The audience the WMF has makes it a world top ten website, it is not for sale and it is not going anywhere. As long as there are people like me who care about the availability of information, the data at Wikidata may go stale in places waiting for another volunteer to pick up the slack.