What is KnowledgeForge
KnowledgeForge (KForge) will be a digital-based open knowledge community. The OKF’s KnowledgeForge project is intended to provide the resources and technological infrastructure to give KForge life. The KForge system itself will then be used to enable a self sustaining community to create works of intellectual and artistic value.
The era of open knowledge has arrived. Changes in technology, science and the economy mean that the issue of openness is relevant as never before. With these changes comes the need for core infrastructure to support this new paradigm. (See vision for more).
What is different about KnowledgeForge?
What distinguishes KnowledgeForge from existing academia or the plethora of essay posting sites are its focus on:
- Openness and re-use.
- Production and creation of knowledge not simply dissemination.
- Building a collaborative community
- Being strongly digitally based
Openness and Re-use
A central aspect of KnowledgeForge will be its focus on open knowledge in all three senses: legal, social and technological.
Legally all KForge projects will be licensed under a Creative Commons license with a Reuse/Copy/Sharealike license being encouraged.
Socially KForge will be open by ensuring that all work is made available not just to the rest of the KForge community but to all others on the planet. It will also encourage an open community structure that values sharing and reuse and collaborative working processes.
But most importantly KnowledgeForge promotes an ‘open source’ approach to knowledge. That is, knowledge should be made available so that access is given to the raw, underlying data and not simply through a particular, usually limiting, interface (such as a human-only-usable web form).
This parallels the distinction with software programs, emphasized by the term open source, between access to the underlying source code and access simply to the compile version. Thus Open Knowledge in this sense can stand for access to the underlying ‘source’ rather than purely access to the ‘compiled’ end product. To illustrate consider the following examples.
For data in a database the ‘source’ form means the raw data and ‘compiled’ form are the multitude of interfaces such as web query pages that can wrap that data. If you think about it this is would be a major change. Even open databases that anyone can go and search rarely provide their data in source form – the precise form it must be provided if it is to be any use to a computer.
Another example is provided by the common practice of providing a PDF version of a document rather than the original text file. This, perhaps intentionally, hinders access to the underlying text and inhibits activities such as annotation or indexing.
Technologically KForge will be open by utilizing data formats and tools that are open – meaning that a full specification is publicly available and unencumbered by legal restraints, and that access and use of the formats will not require proprietary tools or products (for more information on ‘openness’ of formats see the Information Accessibility Initiative). KForge will also encourage the necessary documentation, structuring and presentation of data so as to ensure ease of access and use not just for humans but also for computers (something that will be increasingly essential in an information age).
An Analogy with SourceForge
For those familiar with SourceForge the concept of KnowledgeForge should be familiar. Just as SourceForge has provided a community and infrastructure for open software to be maintained and developed so KnowledgeForge will serve the open knowledge/content community.
Just as SourceForge does for open software projects so KnowledgeForge aims to provide a dual role of, on the one hand, providing infrastructure that can be reused by all projects and, on the other hand, a zero cost host for those projects, primarily small ones, that do not want to host their own system.
- Where would an intelligent teenager go to ‘open source’ their coursework or essay? Currently the only answer is your own personal website – a cumbersome process that does not allow for collaboration, community or the persistence of data over time. With KnowledgeForge a home would exist not only for archiving but for active development.
- Where would you go if you wanted to start your own project on the ancient Egyptians or collaborate with others on a map of 16th century london? With a KnowledgeForge there would be a place to go
- Where would a PhD student place their data – at the end of their studies – so that it can not only be worked on but added to, improved and corrected. With KnowledgeForge there would be a place to store this information.
- ‘apt-get for knowledge’ (apt-get is an installation utility used on the Debian flavour of GNU/Linux). Imagine being able to install knowledge suites as you install software programs and where you take advantage of the componentization that computing allows. For example you could download in one simple process not only Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet itself but also a concordance, critical notes, commentaries and the comments of your best friend all linked together automatically from diverse sources.
What Specifically will the OKF’s KForge Project Provide?
- Bandwidth and hardware
- Clear legal framework utilizing Creative Commons licenses
- Repository and archive system including versioning and database systems
- Easy-to-use publication mechanism including automation of ‘compilation’ to standard output formats and packaging of ‘source’ data and text.
- Project administration system (permissions, communications etc)
- Basic toolset for KForge users (as well providing a focal point for further development of software tools for knowledge creation)
- Backup, mirroring etc
- A centralized announcement and recruitment system for open knowledge/content projects