How do we free information?
I’ve talked about the value of freeing information, but consider a practical question: How do we do it?
Here’s a couple rough thoughts.
- Look at major information crowdsourcing initiatives and find ways to reduce friction in the contribution workflow and lower the barrier of entry. Treat it like e-commerce, and optimize, optimize, optimize.
- Find ways to gamify or incentivize the curation and collection of crowd sourced information online (like this guy does).
- Find ways to improve SEO on major information crowd sourcing projects.
- Improve the design of crowdsourcing sites.
- In technical writing classes, have students write technical tutorials, how-to’s, instructions, etc., and post all the assignments online. Do something similar for personal finance classes and other courses as appropriate. Bonus points go to people who drive traffic.
- Have journalism classes move their school newspapers and newsletters online, or publish to both physical and tangible.
- Have journalism students start blogs.
- Ask yourself if you have any personal documents that could be posted online. Old photos of people and places? Childhood memories? Family history information? Old assignments from school?
- Ask organizations if they’d be willing to make some of their information public. Maybe salary information? Employee count over time? Branch locations? Corporate culture and mythology?
- Build a wiki for your community.
- Change nagware software so that instead of reminding you to purchase with a registration pop-up or a demo timer, it makes the user solve ReCaptchas instead.
- Assign programming students to work in the issue queues of open source projects.
- Petition the Government to publicly release archived government documents like court cases, salary information, and various reports. For data already released, petition to have it released in machine readable formats, and APIs.
- Donate money to organizations like archive.org and creative commons.
- Design an open source platform for “Open Data” initiatives, allowing organizations to input data in a variety of easy formats and have that data automatically downloadable and exposed as an API.
- Find already “free” documents that are difficult to get to and make them more easily accessible. For example, make valuable PDF documents available in HTML or make valuable plain-text documents available in markdown.
- More hyperlinks.
- Set up an endowment, which pays for the hosting of a valuable website off of interest dividends alone, ensuring that the site can remain up, essentially, forever.
- Create volunteer opportunities to do things like the above.
- Create a Kickstarter campaign to fund initiatives like those listed above.
- Create organizations that provide internship opportunities to do the above.
- Start a non-profit with the goal of implementing the ideas above, so the initiatives can be backed by funding.
Many of these ideas aren’t new. There are success stories like Wikipedia Zero, Stack Overflow, ReCaptcha, and Google Summer of Code. But we need more and better implementations. Each one is step towards a future where information is evenly distributed and available to all who need it.