ProductDB aims to be the World’s most comprehensive and open source of product data. Not only do we want to create a page for every product in the world, we want to connect the underlying structured data together into one huge interlinked dataset. All the data is published as Linked Data.
ProductDB follows the principles of Linked Data which encourage interlinking of related datasets. ProductDB appears on the Linking Open Data cloud diagram which illustrates the connections of the Linked Data web.
The following diagram shows the Linked Datasets that ProductDB links to. These links are owl:sameAs declarations indicating that a product or resource in ProductDB can be considered the same as a resource in the target dataset. By following these links, a much more comprehesive description of the product can be obtained.
Data revolution brought with it the risk of confusion, misinterpretation and inaccessibility. How do you know where to look? What is credible or up to date? Official documents are often published as uneditable pdf files for example – useless for analysis except in ways already done by the organisation itself.
The new world will be a place of answers and no questions, because the only questions left will be answered by computers, because only computers will know what to ask. Technical skills and design needed but can be built upon. Not all data is interesting. Need to have a nose for data to learn what will be good for a data driven story. Raw data is just numbers without the design to make it beautiful.
You need to see patterns and connections that matter in the data. You need to orientate your audience, take them on a journey. Data is abstract. You need to contextualize to understand what it means. Need to make it relevant. If you make it beautiful/interesting everyone will love it. We’re saturated with data. Data is the new soil. Visualizations are the earthy blossoms!
These are early days but we can see that journalism is changing.
Many developers are used to using APIs and many sites, e.g. Twitter and Facebook support an API to extend their functionality. I don’t think Linked Data is necessarily better than an API, but it might offer a better solution in some circumstances. The data you can return is very flexible, you don’t need to look up the syntax of a new API call every time you want new information. Also if two sites support a Linked Data endpoint the way you work with them will be broadly the same, you don’t have to worry about things like downloading any extra software libraries to be able to access the API.
It would be wrong to ignore the issues around the usage of Linked Data, the learning curve involved and the difficulties in making those first steps. But anyway it’s better than learning new API for every new service.
It is still early days for the Linked Data movement so it is a great time for developers to get involved and help this idea grow and work with others to sort out difficulties along the way. The prize is ready access to lots of information about the world around us.