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Who Cares About Raw Data?

One of the core ideas upon which Open Scriptures is based is open access to raw data.  This concept was introduced (not initially, but widely) by Tim Berners-Lee in his TED talk, “Lee on the next Web.”  The recurring phrase throughout this talk is “raw data now.” Coupled with this idea is the notion of linked data, sometimes called “Web 3.0.”  I here set out to explain why these concepts matter to Open Scriptures.

So what is open access to raw data and who really cares?  To the average user of the internet raw data is both trivial and essential.  It is trivial mainly because raw data by itself is not terribly interesting or useful.  However, raw data is absolutely essential because it is what drives the most popular websites in the world.  The key is how the raw data is linked together.

A very good analogy is that of a research paper.  When one sets out to write a detailed research paper, a first step is to collect information.  Often this is a very lengthy process, involving many hours online and in the library reading articles, books, and anything that pertains to the paper topic.  A common technique for keeping track of all of this information during this stage used to be 3 X 5 cards, but I think it is safe to say that there are computer programs that do a much better job today, e.g. Zotero.  Once this information gathering phase is finished, the writer has a formidable amount of raw data.  Yet, as mentioned above, this raw data is not particularly useful.  If the writer were to simply submit all of these separate pieces of information to the publisher/teacher/newspaper the paper would clearly be rejected.  The reason: raw data needs to be linked in meaningful ways.

This is where the second part of the writing process comes into play, actually writing.  The author takes all of the raw data that was collected and he or she sets out to tie it all together into a meaningful piece of literature.  Ideally, the finished product will contain most of the raw data but the paper will clearly demonstrate how each piece of information is related to the others and, perhaps most importantly, how each piece of information supports the writer’s thesis statement.

To the point, raw data is the essential first step in the process of presenting information in meaningful and helpful ways.  Thus, even though most web users do not seem to care about raw data, in reality, they actually care a great deal.  Content providers need to put their raw data online in a way that is accessible to developers so that they can do their job creating applications that make the data useful for the rest of the world.

Open Scriptures is committed to fostering the development of raw data on the internet so that developers will have access to the data that they need to create great web applications!  For an example of how raw data (manuscripts) may be linked together to create helpful web applications, see our Manuscript Comparator.

This only scratches the surface.  There is much more to raw data and especially to linked data than what is presented here.  For more information see and look forward to another post detailing linked data.


  1. darrell smith

    Excellent post Jesse. I look forward to learning more.

  2. Blogos - God’s Word | our words | meaning, communication, & technology | following Jesus, the Word made flesh » Blog Echoes for 2009-06-06

    […] Who Cares About Raw Data? (from Jesse at OpenScriptures): even though it may not be immediately apparent to end-users, data is the lifeblood of applications (a frequent Blogos theme), so it matters a lot. […]

  3. What Good Is Linked Data? | Open Scriptures

    […] follow up my previous post concerning raw data I thought it would be good to give a discussion to linked data.  First of all, […]

  4. Karen Griffin

    Fascinating and true, good explanation with the research paper. It’s important to do this well for the world who is looking for most of their information online.

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