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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Danny Hillis’ Metaweb Coming Out of Stealth Mode

Posted by direwolff on March 9, 2007

Good to see the unveiling of Freebase, Metaweb Technologies’ massive database. Danny Hillis‘ accomplishments are numerous and the guy is by all accounts a big brain himself, so having aspirations to build a “global brain” as Matt Marshall describes it in the VentureBeat post, should be no surprise. I have signed up for the beta release as I’m looking forward to testing this out given both some of the early hype behind it, as well as the fact that some very very smart people contributed to Freebase’s development.

One item struck me in John Markoff’s article however, which says as follows:

For example, an entry for California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would be entered as a topic that would include a variety of attributes or “views” describing him as an actor, athlete and politician — listing them in a highly structured way in the database.

…and by golly, here’s where it looses me. What I mean here, is that databases were always about structured data. The emergence of the search engine over the past 15-20 years in my mind was somewhat analogous to a deconstructive movement, one where more formalized structured was eschewed for less structure. Database structures are notorious for being difficult to change as new structures to the data emerge. Anyway, while I’m sure much of this has been considered in Freebase, my “Spidey senses” are tingling here suggesting that I need to do further investigation before taking the glory of this system at hype and face value. Note that some of the issues arising from trying to artificially define structure are currently plaguing the Semantic Web as well.  Should be interesting to explore how Freebase deals with this.

One thing has certainly become more clear however, why the company is named Metaweb.

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