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'Groundbreaking' Factual.com Launches New Open Data Platform

| by DeepDiveAdmin

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.