In step with our imminent public beta launch, BuzzData has recently been written about in VisionCloud, an EU-funded project that focuses on innovations “for the future Internet.” We met VisionCloud contributor and information architect Mirko Lorenz at the Open Knowledge Conference earlier this summer. Lorenz, a speaker at OKCon this year, has high hopes for BuzzData’s impact on data journalism. We hope we can deliver.
Below is an excerpt from Lorenz’s interview with BuzzData CTO Pete Forde. You can read the whole piece on VisionCloud.
At OKCon, the big open data gathering in Berlin at the beginning of July, we presented our ideas and concepts related to future cloud storage, data handling and data-journalism in particular.
This is how we met Pete Forde, co-founder/CTO of BuzzData.
“Do you want to see what we have been working on? I think we solved a few of the problems you where just talking about.”
The next minute, on the back of a Biergarten table, Forde briefly demo-ed BuzzData, a soon to be launched platform enabling collaborative data interrogation. The system takes the open-data approach further, overcomes limitations of platforms such as Google Docs and could spark interesting collaborations in communities around the world.
An age without end-users
BuzzData is addressing a larger theme evolving around the web, open data and new uses of all the tools that are now available: Effectively it allows to take a data set, publish it and then dig into the information concealed in the figures in public – alone or by sharing it with others. Datasets can be copied as a clone, thus opening many new ways to play with them.
The service fills a need that gaining importance. It is increasingly important to know how numbers affect our daily routines. This is not confined to a single area of life, many areas will be affected: Business, government, health, your work, your community.
Journalists and media companies are among the firsts to feel the growing pressure to make use of such new possibilities. Jeff Jarvis, journalist, professor and book author for example says that in the future media world “the article will be luxury”. Instead we will see a process in which journalists and users work together to really find out about a problem or development affecting the community.
Every user is the start of something new
On the IT side of things, an interesting article addressing another angle of this change, says: ”There are no ‘end users’ anymore. With good BI, and especially with newer business discovery or self-service tools, no user is at the ‘end’ of anything. Every user is the start of something new.” (Source: Information Management)
Interview with Pete Forde:
Can you briefly describe the benefits of BuzzData?
Forde: BuzzData treats datasets as destinations where a community of interest can form. People used to hunting for data in a vacuum will love being able to discuss and annotate datasets. They can attach articles, visualizations, apps and even source code.
Meanwhile, they see that they are getting timely, accurate, complete data with proper licensing straight from the publisher. There’s no scraped data on BuzzData. Publishers love it because they can finally see who is interested in their data, and what they are doing with it.
How did you get the idea?
Forde: I was writing a book about open data and how it should be for all people, and how we could use it to fix some of the world’s problems. I was working on a related project that got me really interested in the open data movement. Right around the time startups like InfoChimps were being announced. To me, it seemed like the data marketplaces were missing an obvious opportunity. Sure, some people want to buy datasets from a cart. However, the biggest problem in data today isn’t finding it, but connecting the communities and educating the public. There’s a BuzzData-shaped piece of the data value chain missing that’s obvious, if you’re looking.
Was it difficult to get support or funding for this?
Forde: We raised an angel round from four exceptional Toronto investors. It was exceptionally difficult! There are not many active angels in Toronto, unfortunately. We scored a major coup when I recruited Mark Opausky to be our CEO. Mark built a $50M software company before we met, and so I get to learn from the best.
If you could make a wish: Which kind of users should use BuzzData?
Forde: I think that initially it’ll be very popular with journalists, bloggers and data hackers. However, we’re working very hard to make sure that we’re solving huge problems for scientists and academics. I have a crush on all librarians (it’s the glasses) so I’m making extra sure to think like an archivist when we design our features. Ultimately, I’d love to be responsible for seeing a dataset homepage manifest in Google search results right beside Wikipedia.
Then we’d have everyone using BuzzData, regardless of their tech ability.
That’s my dream.
Read more at VisionCloud.