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What I hope to learn at the Freebase Build-A-Base meeting tomorrow

I've been thinking about how to prepare for  tomorrow's Build-A-Base tutorial at Freebase. I've already started building two bases:

For the PolDB project, I should sit down to make a schema to model American politicians, first by identifying relevant ones already in Freebase and then finding one or two that are not currently in Freebase or are woefully inadequate.    Tomorrow, I want  to hear any war stories around using Freebase WEX, crawling government databases, pushing public domain info into Freebase by users.

On the data modeling front, I'd like to learn techniques for evolving schemas and how to involve the Freebase community in helping out.   Perhaps data models for legislators might be a well understood topic; I should  ask on the openhouse list,  I should also ask about the state level and postpone municipal to the future.

On the History of Art front, I'm interested in building some sort of history of art tools and/or  website aimed at improving art history learning and teaching — both in the classroom and in informal settings.  I'm currently crafting a proposal for the NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up program , which is due on Tuesday, April 8.  My ideas are still forming but I'd like to build a "semantic" open history of arts database useful for learning/teaching the history of art — using Freebase.

I know that there's a good start in Freebase Visual Arts Commons. My working assumption is that I can build on top of that — meaning that

  1. the visual arts commons (actually, what's the difference between a "commons" and a "base" — is a commons an officially sanctioned base?) is the place to start from and contribute to
  2. that the commons is a pretty good corpus — something I have to check.  That is, is it comprehensive enough for people to start to ask meaningful questions and get reasonable answers using the data already there + maybe a bit of supplementary data entry work.

With those assumptions in mind,   I'd like to

  1. work with people who have relevant data to try to convince them to give some of it to Freebase. That might take some doing, but perhaps some museums would be willing to contribute a subset of data once they see some benefits
  2. build services and tools to help in the learning and teaching aspects of the history of art

Some possible ideas:

  • tools to help people review facts in the history of arts — maybe a slide reviewer / guessing game
  • tools to let art history instructors integrate timelines, little JavaScript widgets representing art works, artists, periods in the context of their own websites.

I'm trying to garner support for this project in the Freebase and art history community.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Scott Blomquist | March 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the definition of "base" vs. "commons", the schemas contained by a commons tend be much more general than those in bases. Also, a base can choose a commons as its parent, although I haven't noticed what effect this has on anything.

    From the freebase help pages:

    Bases are collections of topics created by users. Commons are similar to bases in that they also gather topics together under a common category, but in this case the categories are very general. If you're building a base, the Commons can provide a starting point for finding and collecting topics. In technical database terms both bases and commons would be called domains, and you'll sometimes see this term used in our documentation for application developers.

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