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a conference management web application

XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Open Data at XTech 2005

This is the second of my introductory pieces about the new tracks in the upcoming XTech 2005 conference, to be held in 24-27 May in Amsterdam.

The call for participation is still open until January 7th, and I hope that this preview of the track will provoke more submissions. I've seen a lot of good stuff so far, and am hoping for more!

Along with browser technologies the open data track is new for the conference this year. The first thing to say about this track is that it's not just for developers. In fact, many of the really interesting issues in open data are of concern to policy makers and managers as much as techies.

So what is the open data movement? I've identified several strands that I see coming together.

  • Open government. The provision of data by government allows citizens to empower themselves, make connections in order to keep governments accountable, and to enable them to use the data in original ways to get more value from their tax payments. There are lots of examples in which this data is being used already by citizens, including most prominently mapping and electoral monitoring. For government organisations, there are many policy and technical decisions to be made around releasing data. Issues at stake for citizens include campaigning for the freedom of the data and the ways it which can be used.
  • Public web services. Companies like Amazon and Google are proof that web services can enhance commerce and create meaningful new markets. For everyone deploying public web services there are issues of business model and technology choice to face.
  • Grassroots data. Technologies such as RSS, geocoding, FOAF and annotation are giving rise to an increasing web of data, created by individuals. Is there a trend, or is the development random? What technologies should we be watching? What privacy issues are created?
  • Scientific and academic publishing. There is an increasing movement to ensure scientific data and other scholarly works is widely available, to take advantage of the connected worldwide academic communities in order to foster progress. Projects at the forefront of this include Science Commons, Open Archives Initiative and the Open Access Movement. There are issues on both sides of the divide. How can publishers who rely on expensive journals respond to the demand for access to information? How can academics successfully disseminate their work?
  • Intellectual Property. The hottest topic on the internet this year. Digital rights management. How can artists be paid for their work without removing steadily more rights from the consumer? The erosion of fair use. The rise of Creative Commons.
  • Blogging and personal content. As blogs turn from personal journals to effective means of communication in corporate and non-profit use, what are the issues? How controlled should blogs be? Are they sustainable? Which software should we use?
  • Semantic web. Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the semantic web encompasses all of the above topics, but has a hard edge too in the technologies and standards being developed to underpin the emergent web of data. Technical aspects of the semantic web will be dealt with in the Core Technologies and Applications track, but the Open Data track is the home for policy issues relating to semantic web development.

These are the main subject areas we're interested in, but it is not an exclusive list.

If you're working or thinking in any of these areas, don't hesitate to zip over and submit a proposal. There's still a few days left before the end of the CFP. If you want to know more before you submit then do send me email. Don't let that stop you submitting a proposal though. I've had several people worried that their ideas weren't technical enough: for the Open Data track especially we want a good mix between technical and higher level issues, so go for it!

We'll be announcing keynotes for the conference soon, so I won't spoil the news by leaking it here, but suffice to say we've major players from the content, browser and software industries. Oh, and they're interesting too!

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