Data Blogging Scenarios 1 - Reviews

Following on from my earlier data blogging post, and along the lines of Jon Udell's lifebits scenarios, here's the first in a series of posts exploring some ideas about how data blogging might be interesting in today's Web 2.0 world.

Easy one first: Reviews.

When I write a review on my blog of a book I've read or a movie I've seen, it should be trivial to syndicate this as a review to multiple relevant websites. My book reviews might go to Amazon (who else does good user book review aggregation out there?), movies reviews to IMDB, Yahoo Movies, Netflix, etc.

I'm already writing prose, so I should just be able to mark it up as a microformats microformats:"hReview", add some tags to control syndication, and have that content available via one or more RSS or Atom feeds.

I should then just be able to go to my Amazon account, give it the url for the feed I want it to monitor for reviews, and - voila! - instant user-driven content syndication.

This is a win-win isn't it? Amazon gets to use my review on its website, but I get to retain a lot more control in the process:

  • I can author content using my choice of tools instead of filling out a textarea on the Amazon website

  • I can easily syndicate content to multiple sites, and/or syndicate content selectively as well

  • I can make updates and corrections according to my policies, rather than Amazon's (Amazon would of course still be able to decide what to do with such updates)

  • I should be able to revoke access to my content to specific websites if they do stupid stuff

  • I and my readers get the benefit of retaining and aggregating my content on my blog, and all your standard blogging magic (comments, trackbacks, tagclouds, etc.) still apply

It would probably also be nice if Amazon included a link back to the review on my blog which would drive additional traffic my way, and allow interested Amazon users to follow any further conversations (comments and trackbacks etc.) that have happened there.

So are there any sites out there already doing this?

Data Blogging for Fun and Profit

I've been spending some time thinking about a couple of intriguing posts by Jon Udell, in which he discusses a hypothetical "lifebits" service which would host his currently scattered "digital assets" and syndicate them out to various services.

Jon's partly interested in the storage and persistence guarantees such a service could offer, but I find myself most intrigued by the way in which he inverts the current web model, applying the publish-and-subscribe pull-model of the blogging world to traditional upload/push environments like Flickr or MySpace, email, and even health records.

The basic idea is that instead of creating your data in some online app, or uploading your data to some Web 2.0 service, you instead create it in your own space - blog it, if you like - and then syndicate it to the service you want to share it with. You retain control and authority over your content, you get to syndicate it to multiple services instead of having it tied to just one, and you still get the nice aggregation and wikipedia:"folksonomy" effects from the social networks you're part of.

I think it's a fascinating idea.

One way to think of this is as a kind of "data blogging", where we blog not ideas for consumption by human readers, but structured data of various kinds for consumption by upstream applications and services. Data blogs act as drivers of applications and transactions, rather than of conversations.

The syndication piece is presumably pretty well covered via RSS and Atom. We really just need to define some standard data formats between the producers - that's us, remember! - and the consumers - which are the applications and services - and we've got most of the necessary components ready to go.

Some of the specialised XML vocabularies out there are presumably useful on the data formats side. But perhaps the most interesting possibility is the new swag of microformats currently being put to use in adding structured data to web pages. If we can blog people and organisations, events, bookmarks, map points, tags, and social networks, we've got halfway decent coverage of a lot of the Web 2.0 landscape.

Anyone else interested in inverting the web?