'Groundbreaking' Factual.com Launches New Open Data Platform

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Factual, a new online platform that will provide people with
the power of open data, launched Tuesday in Los Angeles. Taking a cue from
Wikipedia, much of the information on Factual will come from users like you.

The man behind Factual is Gil Elbaz, who co-founded Applied Semantics, which he
sold to Google for more than $100 million. That company's technology was
instrumental in Google's successful advertising application AdSense. Since
leaving Google in 2007, Elbaz has been working on and self-funding Factual.

Elbaz describes Fatual as “a platform for anyone to share and mash open data.”
All information is stored within spreadsheet-like databases, in neat rows and
columns. The information comes from developers, publishers, and so-called “data
enthusiasts,” who are you, the user. In addition, users can update existing
tables if they see errors or missing information. But unlike Wikipedia, Factual
has created an algorithm that will allow all correct data to rise to the top
via “consensus.”

One of Factual's partners is OpposingViews.com, which is
hosting numerous tables on its site.

“If you look at the Prisoners on Death Row table, you can see just how powerful
Factual will be,” Opposing Views CEO Russell Fine said. “Our experts told us
they wanted this data but nobody could possibly keep it up to date because of
the considerable resources and time that were required. Thanks to Factual’s
technology, we’ve overcome this major hurdle and created what I consider a
groundbreaking resource that will eventually produce real-time information.”

Groups that have also posted the “Death Row” table include:
The American Bar Association, Death Penalty Information Center, National
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the ACLU -- Kansas/Western
Missouri affiliate.

Elbaz says the data contributed to his online database is open and free to use.
He’s also made it easy for people to create their own tables and embed any
table on their own sites. “We’ve built smart tools to help a community maintain
a large, trusted source of structured data,” he explains.

Elbaz writes on the Factual blog that the key to the system is that it is open:

We think a good route to low 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 without complex data licensing restrictions, and by
making the data open for opinion, comment, and debate (write) — we believe a
groundswell of support for certain data verticals could emerge.

There have been a number of great open structured data projects that have
positively impacted the web; ODP,
MusicBrainz
and
OpenStreetMap are just a few examples.
But we believe it’s just the beginning. Factual intends to build one of the
largest repositories of open data by providing an open, collaborative
environment where anyone can easily view, contribute, improve and share data.

We’ve been testing with several partners (see home page for list) who
understand that Factual’s open data can help websites offer better data and
tools for end users. For example, we’ve partnered with Demand Media, on a
cancer physician table on their Livestrong.com site.

Other
Factual tables on Opposing Views include:

A list of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Groups that support this project include Americans for Safe Access, the
American Alliance of Medical Cannabis and Dr. Lester Grinspoon of
Harvard Medical School.

A table of vegetarian restaurants in the U.S. This database is supported by the Animal Rights Coalition.

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