Half-baked ideas: wikipedia for facts

Want more half-baked ideas? See my ideas tag

Would you like to find out about Boston USA? There’s Wikipedia for that. How about travelling there? Wikivoyage Boston.

How about the population of Boston in the years 1625-2013? Or the wages of bartenders in that fine city over the years? Or the peak summer temperature each year? Not so good.

My half-baked idea is a “wikipedia for curated facts”. These can be derived from many sources, but are presented in a uniform way (by place, time, variable, etc), with references to back them up.

This would be a great way to inject factual content into the air-headed anecdote-based nonsense that passes for opinion on the internet.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Half-baked ideas: wikipedia for facts

  1. johnlmitchell

    Wolfram Alpha provides most of this information, including a link to sources and a way to download each view of the information. It’s able to link up disparate sources of data, which when it works is incredibly awesome.

    http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=population+of+boston
    = plots back to 1820

    • rich

      Interestingly, for me, the population of Boston Lincolnshire (edit: historical data not available).

      I think my broader point would be that proprietary encyclopædias existed before Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is better because it’s an open commons, extensible by everyone. Who knows what interesting stats someone will contribute to “wikifacts”.

  2. jola

    factlink is still in beta, but is trying to achieve the same you are writing about.. https://factlink.com/

    • rich

      The first thing that jumps out is that it has not very much to do with the half-baked idea outlined in the article.

      The second thing is what is the license? I’m not interested in offering my free time to contribute to your proprietary database.

  3. Tobu

    I think that’s Freebase: A community-curated database of well-known people, places, and things. The schema is extensible. Also, Wikipedia might not have enough granularity for what you want, but its DBPedia import is the backbone most semantic web datasets are structured on.

  4. Doug Huffman

    A curated fact, is that an agreeable fact? Karl Popper differentiated Type-1 facts, Napoleon died at St. Helena, from Type-2 facts like the statement that “Napoleon died at St. Helena” that we post-moderns now disparage as mere opinion absent citations of more Type-2 opinions.

    Believe nothing heard or read without verifying it oneself unless it Weltanschauung congruent. The Wikis are fine for a skeptic. Nothing will help the credulous.

    Wolfram | Alpha is not even in beta yet.

  5. Raffael

    If I understand you correctly then you want something like Open Data [1] but not per goverment but more centralized and with a lot more content?

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_data

    • rich

      Open Data is definitely requirement no. 1 if you were going to build a database like this. On the other hand it’s rather ad hoc and disorganized because numerous govt departments publish it in a variety of different ways, formats and so on. So it would need to be curated and organized based on some principles, eg. time, person, place, …

  6. Tim Bannister

    Is this a bit like http://dbpedia.org/?

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