An open, semantics-based news database and API

Here is the 256 word description of the Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab project.

Mojosaurus is an open Semantic database of news on the web. It provides a REST API that enables news organizations using the software to easily query the DB for items like related articles or photos. An RDF dump of sources and news items will be available.

That may change, of course, but it’s a good indication of where my mind is. If such a thing were already available, I’d use it in my newsroom. In fact, I’m currently using private services like Daylife and Zemanta for similar problems.

This project would enable everything those companies do, but would be open and community oriented. The Yahoo Directory couldn’t compete with DMOZ. In a similar way, we need an open version of  a news database. It’s just too important to leave to private companies.

And too dangerous. Closed algorithms are no better than closed news organizations that decided what news we got in the pre-internet era of last century. Maybe worse.

On top of this platform is where the interesting things would happen. We’ll need to provide a plugin architecture so that developers can easily build apps that leverage this data.

Imagine that the API will provide hooks that allow a plugin to rank the news. One plugin creator might use a users social network to  rank the news. Another might combine human editors or external data. Some plugins would be open source, others might be proprietary services from vendors.

Users would be able to mix and match plugins top shape their view of the data. A user would activate the New York Times “MyNews” plugin and compare it to The Washington Post or ProPublica plugin.

Another type of use would be to integrate it into Content Management Systems to provide something like a “related articles from around the web” feature.

Another usage might be an alert service that allows users to follow complex topics, rather than just keywords.

Those are just a few ideas. We’ll follow the domain model being expressed by the emerging rNews spec, making the API as open and flexible as possible.

And evangelizing rNews adoption will be a goal as well.

Well that’s it for now. More graphics and perhaps a video to come by weeks end.

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