tommorris.org

Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.


Everybody's Web Hack Day

I was talking to someone recently at BarCampBrighton about OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia and they said something along the lines of “why do you want to rely on something where people donate money? Surely something with a more stable business model would be better.”

And I wanted to shout “bullshit!” at the top of my lungs.

Contemplate this. I’ve been noodling around with geographical things for a few years now. In that time, I’ve seen the rise and sad fall of Dodgeball, Fire Eagle, Gowalla, Google Latitude (anyone still using that?). And in the same time, OpenStreetMap has just merrily plodded on, happily running as a non-profit on… not much money at all. OpenStreetMap probably spend about as much on keeping themselves alive as Facebook spend on alcohol for staff parties.

In the same time, we’ve seen commercial Web 2.0 sites “sunset”, “iterate”, drastically fail to back up and much more. It’s a litany of horror. When your business model is built around the premise that people will give you all their data for free, you treat it as if has no value, right? I mean, if they give it to you for free, there’s always more.

Today, on the other hand, is ten years since I started editing Wikipedia. And that still seems to be going pretty strong.

These days, when I build things like, oh, my own blogging software, my first choice is to try and build things that rely on community-produced and community-maintained software and services rather than commercial ones. The reverse geocoding system I use on my blog is Nominatim, which uses the OpenStreetMap database.

And building things on top of services, data and APIs that are community maintained is a lot of fun. You have the safety that if it gets turned off, it’s not because some prick in a suit got a message on his Blackberry telling him that the VCs want to monetize or pivot or iterate or whatever the fuck those people do. Fuck that shit. Wikipedia will only disappear when people build something better, people stop wanting to have a free encyclopedia or, well, I dunno. Same with OpenStreetMap: even more so, in fact, given there are companies reusing OSM data like Foursquare.

This is all a very long winded way of saying: let’s have a hack day to see what we can do with this data that sort of belongs to everybody, hence the title: everybody’s web.

Here’s the plan:

  • December or January
  • one day
  • as Hack Day Manifesto compliant as possible: hey, if I helped write the thing, I better abide by it
  • no idea of a venue, but open to suggestions; someone in central London that can do 50-100 people
  • super craptastic prizes: I’ll probably ask Wikimedia for some schwag, plus maybe some books or tickets to museum exhibitions. Not iPads or laptops or expensive toys.
  • all hacks use data, services, APIs etc. that are community maintained
  • “community contribution” would be a factor in scoring

Whose interested? email or tweet.

(Yeah, indieweb messaging is still under construction.)