Friday, May 30, 2008

The meanings of 'free'

I've received questions about Knewco's WikiProfessional. How free it is; and if it is free as in 'free beer' or free as in 'free speech'.

Life's never simple: it's a combination of both.

WikiProfessional's million minds approach does rely on user input. That's nothing new in science – in fact, the whole scientific knowledge edifice relies on user input. The user-generated content in WikiProfessonal is indeed free as in 'free speech'. The relationship-concept matrix (the knowlet-database, dynamic, relational, and constantly recalculated, reacting to any infusion of new knowledge) is also free to users, but free as in 'free beer'. It took considerable effort to develop and build it – and to maintain it – so it actually is (will be) paid for, by advertising and sponsorships we hope. The users 'pay' as in 'paying' a visit, and 'paying' attention, which we can then use to attract appropriate advertisers. (For some reason we haven't quite figured out yet how to survive on plain air, and we need to generate income to sustain our activities.)

It is important to distinguish the knowlet part and the wiki part in the WikiProfessional database. Knewco (the Knowledge Navigation and Expert Wiki Company) owns the first one and the knowlet is patented. In due time, there will be feeds available from the knowlet database to whoever wants to (or pays for, this might typically be a premium service).

The wiki part of the database on the other hand contains publicly as well as privately available authority and community contributions. We don't 'have' those; we just use those, as anyone else can do, at least with regard to the public ones (one has to approach the 'owners', authorities – NLM, Swissprot/Uniprot, etc. – for these authoritative databases). With respect to the community annotations and contributions, those are freely available under a CC-BY licence (Creative Commons Attribution Licence), and eventually we may have this available in a suitable form for downloading. There may be a potentially fruitful collaboration with Open Progress with regard to standardizing the download/exchange format.

Meanwhile, go to WikiProfessional, use the system, give us feedback, register and contribute, and work with us on spreading scientific knowledge via collaborative intelligence.

Jan Velterop

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