On Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 4:10 AM, Andreas Kolbe <jayen...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Reading between the lines of statements like "Knowledge as a service",
> "essential infrastructure", "tools for allies and partners to organize and
> exchange free knowledge beyond Wikimedia", etc., my sense is that the
> document, without saying so explicitly, is very much written from the
> perspective that the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Bing (and anyone else
> developing digital assistants and other types of knowledge delivery
> platforms) should be viewed as key partners in the exchange of free
> knowledge, and served accordingly, through the development of interfaces
> that enable them to deliver Wikimedia content to the end user.
>
> My problem with that is that those are all for-profit companies, while the
> volunteers that contribute the free content on which these companies'
> profit-making services are based are not only unpaid, but actually incur
> expenses in contributing (mostly related to source access).

This seems to be a somewhat prejudiced "reading between the lines".
For-profits like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft will extract as much
information as they can from as many sources as they can giving back
as little as they have to (which includes some activity designed to
maintain and increase goodwill, which itself has value), _regardless
of what Wikimedia does or doesn't do_. They have built knowledge
graphs without the use of Wikidata and without significant assistance
from WMF, incorporating information from countless proprietary sources
alongside free sources.

The power of an open, nonprofit approach to "knowledge as a service"
is precisely to democratize access to knowledge graph information: to
make it available to nonprofits, public institutions, communities,
individuals. This includes projects like the "Structured Data for
Wikimedia Commons" effort, which is a potential game-changer for
institutions like galleries, libraries, archives and museums.

Nor is such an approach inherently monopolistic: quite the opposite.
Wikidata is well-suited for a certain class of data-related problems
but not so much for others. Everything around Wikidata is evolving in
the direction of federation: federated queries across multiple open
datasets, federated installations of the Wikibase software, and so on.
If anything, it seems likely that a greater emphasis on "knowledge as
a service" will unavoidably decentralize influence and control, and
bring knowledge from other knowledge providers into the Wikimedia
context.

I had no involvement with this document and don't know what focusing
on "knowledge of a service" really will mean in practice. But if it
means things like improving Wikidata, building better APIs and content
formats, building better Labs^WCloud infrastructure, then the crucial
point is not that companies may benefit from such work, but that
_everybody else does, too_. And that is what distinguishes it from the
prevailing extract-and-monetize paradigm. For-profits exploting free
knowledge projects for commercial gain? That's the _current state_. To
change it, we have to make it easier to replicate what they are doing:
through open data, open APIs, open code.

Erik

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