Start a Revolution

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in the Government 2.0 conference together with our CEO, Aaron Fulkerson. This was the second government related unconference that I have participated in, and believe me when I tell you, these are exciting times; over 500 people from both government and the private sector came together to discuss transparency. The mandates for transparency passed down from the executive branch are opening up access to an amazing amount of data, and users are quickly accessing and building upon this massive amount of data.
One of the most amazing realizations that we had at the conference was how many of the attendees are already MindTouch customers, and on top of that, how many more are using the open source core of MindTouch to build upon for their own applications.
Last month, I hosted a session at Transperancy Camp to demonstrate how users can utilize MindTouch to query this data and mash it up together to create new intelligence and visualize the results. At the time, I demonstrated some very simple API interaction and how a person could easily query data into our environment, and once there, analyze that data in powerful ways. Two things became apparent during that first session; first, there is a huge demand for a unified platform upon which to analyze this data and second, MindTouch is uniquely positioned to allow users to rapidly develop applications that utilize this data.
Following my return from Transparency Camp, and with the Government 2.0 conference only 3 weeks away, we set about creating extensions to some of the more popular APIs, including the Sunlight Labs API and the Capital Words API. Over the course of just a few days, one of our engineers, Robert Mason, built these APIs into full MindTouch extensions. Now users can query this data with just a few clicks from within the page editor. Robert has also written tutorials on both the use and the creation of these extensions.
At the Government 2.0 conference, Aaron presented a several use cases for these new extensions, including a template that calls several of these extensions and displays the results using Google charts.
For those of you that have never attended an unconference, they are based on the premise that no one is a spectator; rather, everyone is a participant. Anyone is free to host a session, and many of these sessions tend to be very interactive and engaging; Aarons demonstration of these extensions spurned some fantastic interaction from the audience, including discussions with government officials regarding the best ways to package this data for release.
In the past, users were expected to digest data like this from within agency websites, through forms for queries and tables or text files for results, but now, with the rise of external data access methods, this data can become much more powerful. True intelligence comes not from looking at a single data set, but rather pulling data from many sources.
Here at MindTouch we believe that free knowledge is the cornerstone of a free society, and were excited to be a part of this data revolution. In this same spirit, all of these tools are built on the MindTouch Open Source core, and are released to the public free of charge, so visit our community, download MindTouch and start a Revolution!

Posted by Brian Hill 2009-03-31

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