“Factual” builds a data commons

December 2, 2009

factual_blackwhite_logo.pngQS folks who have been interested in and contributing to the creation of a new data commons: you may want to check out Factual. Factual is a Los Angeles startup whose goal is to host any kind of quantitative data in a convenient, open, and mashable architecture. It was created by Gil Elbaz, and launched about 6 weeks ago.

Here is how Factual describes itself:

Factual is a platform where anyone can share and mash open data on any subject. For example, you might find a directory of
California restaurants,
a database of
endocrinologists,
or a list of
American Idol finalists.
We
provide smart tools to help the community build and maintain a trusted
source of structured data. And this data can be used through widgets
and APIs to help application developers and content publishers be more
innovative and productive.

Often, data is difficult to find and access, inaccurate, and
sometimes expensive. Information seekers are often overwhelmed with too
many, often contradictory sources or frustrated by too few. Today,
access to clean and reliable structured data is still a headache.

Factual was founded to provide open access to better structured
data. And that means developers can build more innovative apps,
publishers can access high-quality content, and ultimately, everyone,
can make better decisions. More specifically, we offer:

  • An open data repository.
    We think a good route to low or zero cost and high quality data is
    the open data model.By making data open to access (read) so
    that developers can create valuable new applications , and by making
    the data open for opinion, comment, and debate (write) – we hope to
    catalyze support for certain data verticals.

  • Collaborative tools.
    We help communities collaborate real-time on open data projects, whether by manually adding a single value or
    uploading
    an entire dataset.

  • Data accountability.
    For each fact, we store user inputs, sources, citations — basically a fully documented (and computable) history.

  • Data sourcing and improvement.Our methods include
    capturing existing non-proprietary data, user and community
    contributions, content partnerships, and sophisticated data improvement
    tools that algorithmically discover, mine, and merge data.

Here is an excerpt of an interview with Elbaz by the Southern California news site Social Tech.


What’s your new startup all about, and why did you start the company?

Gil Elbaz: What we have been working on, and what we offer now, is a
platform where anyone can share and mash open data. It’s so much more
than that, but that crystallizes the key thing. That data can be on any
subject–we’re a horizontal platform–and a few of the examples you see
on our site are a list of restaurants, things in the health space, and
other partnerships. We see this as a community built on a trusted
repository of structured data, something which ultimately helps
everyone make decisions. Publishers can come and snap valuable data
into our website, to augment end user’s experience, and developers can
help user our data and our API to build more innovative applications,
and to be more productive because of the significant availability of
this trusted data.

It really came from seeing that–even this far along in the
evolution of the Internet–there is still a lot of ambiguous data out
there. There is a challenge around access to good, clean, and
structured data in a good format, with clarity around where it came
from, and whether it should be trusted. That makes the lives of
developers difficult. The government has terrific sources, but there
isn’t a simple place where you can find that data. We have improvement
tools, and you can either use our technology or leverage the community
to improve the data and clean that data. Our philosophy is that data
drives the best types of decisions, but if you have bad data, you have
bad data driving your decision.

If you are experimenting with Factual, please let us know what you think.

(Thanks to @jensmccabe for the tip.)

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