On Making It Easier to Publish and Maintain Small Datasets

The Magic of Small Databases

We’ve built many tools for publishing to the web – but I want to make the claim that we have underdeveloped the tools and platforms for publishing collections, indexes and small databases. It’s too hard to build these kinds of experiences, too hard to maintain them and a lack of collaborative tools.

This is a very interesting problem. And relevant to civil society organizations as well as hobbyists and collectors. How does a local nonprofit keep up a list of resources relevant to their community? How do we know what services are available in our communities? How do we discover all the forms we have to fill out and keep up to date if we need assistance getting food. How do humans find and reuse this data.

At the database of resources level, this is a problem 211 tries to solve. Open referral takes it a step further and provides an indie web like structure for marking up the resources, making it easier to remix and use them. Libraries bring it to their communities.

The now-defunct H2O from Harvard is a good starting place for thinking about this. It was made for collaboratively managing course syllabi. You could make a syllabus, clone a syllabus, fork a syllabus and rework it. It carried attribution with it. It preserved the contributors to the syllabus. I used to organize post-talk or workshop handouts.

It feels like their is a community project here to define a standards based approach that allows people to contribute resources, create lists with ability to create sections, order items, and annotate at the list, section, and item level, and publish to the web. It can borrow from the collaborative aspect of H2O so that you can remix other lists, preserving attribution.