Barcamp Brussels – My Freebase talk

BarCamp Brussels was interesting as always. There was a good mixture of technical and non-technical talks and the conversations were very simulating. Many thanks to Peter for all his hard work.

Freebase logo

After playing around with Freebase for a few days I’m convinced this could be big. So I thought it would make a great BarCamp talk. There was indeed a lot of interest, many developers get the idea that Freebase could be an amazing place to put any public data that you need maintained for your project.

Typical questions people asked about Freebase:

  • How can a database work if anybody can edit the types? – you can only create and edit types in your own namespace. If they become popular then they can be promoted to the main namespace
  • What mechanisms are in place for resolving the inevitable edit wars? – Right now domain administrators have final control, I imagine that with time as the community grows, a consensus will form about policies (like in the Wikipedia)
  • How many users are there? – I guess around 2000 right now.
  • Does the API support anything other than JSON? – No, but it certainly could. (And JSON is so easy to work with)
  • Where is Freebase coming out of Alpha? – No idea
  • Why isn’t the General Overview Demo video on their public site? – No idea, I think it’s a very good intro to Freebase, a screencast works so much better than text.
  • What is their business model? – The data is licensed Creative Commons Attribution so anybody can use it even commercially for free. However the Database software (by Metaweb) isn’t open source. I imagine that Freebase will be a kick-ass demo of the Metaweb software which might convince many companies to dump their inflexible nasty-UI database software and start using Metaweb’s.

And most common of all:

  • Can I get an invite for Freebase? – add a comment to this blog and I’ll send you one as soon as I get some.

28 Responses to Barcamp Brussels – My Freebase talk

  1. Elise says:

    me ! me !
    i caused ‘Brussels Sprouts’ to be added as a national dish for Belgium, and i absolutely have to set the record straight πŸ™‚

  2. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Elise, my live demo was on the Freebase sandbox which is wiped every week. So don’t worry, we didn’t pollute the database with sprouts. (Perish the thought!). You’re first on the list for invites. With a bit of luck somebody from Freebase might read this. (hint hint!)

  3. daepark says:

    Will, thank you for your ongoing write ups on freebase.
    Elise, send me an email to my name at and we’ll get you an invite asap.

  4. daepark says:

    oops i meant daepark AT

  5. Jan says:

    Hi Will,

    Thanks for the introduction to freebase yesterday. I’ve already been thinking up all sorts of uses for it, and I must say I’m very excited about the project. If you have a spare invite, is the addy to throw it to πŸ˜‰

  6. bart says:

    Hey Will,

    Enjoyed your talk and our short conversation following it. I’d love to have one of those coveted invites once you get them (send one to my name AT Very interested to see how this project will evolve and wether or not people will start using it.
    Seems like if freebase would be able to reach critical mass, it could become a wikipedia style smash hit.

  7. Filip says:

    Hi Will,

    I would welcome an invite too …


  8. Bert says:

    Hi Will,

    Nice to met you last saturday. Your freebase introduction was really good. If you have an invite left, I really would like to explore the freebase possibilities.

  9. Bert Heymans says:

    Thanks for introducing Freebase, can’t wait to have a go at it. If you can still spare an invite, I’m your man πŸ™‚

  10. Hi Will,

    I preregistered at Freebase March 14th but was less lucky than you so far…
    If you ‘d have invites, be welcom to resubmit freebase dot com at vanhecke dot info πŸ™‚

  11. […] that would be impossible with Google or the Wikipedia. As Jan commented on my BrusselsBarcamp talk, you could “Look for actors from Ghent who were born between 1970 and […]

  12. I would like to check out Freebase too, hope to get our Elisa team to add support for it when it goes public…

  13. […] the time of my BarcampBrussels talk on Freebase I didn’t have any invites to give away. Now I’ve got some. Leave a comment […]

  14. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Thomas, interesting project that you’re working on. I just sent you (and everybody else above) an invite.

  15. Jesse says:

    Would love to test it out… seems interesting.

  16. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Jesse. I just sent you one.

  17. Mike D says:

    Hi. I’m a Masters of Information Studies student at the Florida State University, and would love an opportunity to try out Freebase. Still got an invite?

    Mike D

  18. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Mike, it’s on its way.

  19. […] Moffat – “Introduction to Freebase” audio video barcamp barcampbrussels3 brussels nokia scripting […]

  20. Thomas Bonte says:

    Hi Will,

    If you happen to have another invite, can you send me one?


  21. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Thomas, I just sent you an invitation. Enjoy.

  22. Tom Deryckere says:

    Hi Will,

    Just got a nice introduction of Freebase by Thomas πŸ™‚ Can you send me an invitation too?


  23. Luc says:

    Great article!

    Freebase sounds very interesting and I would love to check it out.

    Can you send me an invite?

    Thanks so much!

  24. Will Moffat says:

    Hi Luc, I just sent you an invite. I’d be interested to hear what your first impressions are.

  25. Luc says:

    Got it. Thanks for the invite Will!

  26. Luc says:

    Just spent some time in it and was wondering about the following: The data is licensed via creative commons but the API seems to be proprietary to MetaWeb. Does that mean that in the future only MetaWeb will be able to provide access to developers to access freebase? If so, that effectively means that MetaWeb will “own” all the data since they will be the de facto gatekeeper?

    EG: Can someone download all the freebase data onto their own servers and access it locally without having to pay MetaWeb for every API call?

    How does Metaweb make money?
    Metaweb provides access to its technology through an API program. Depending on the commercial vs. non-commercial nature, and extent of services required by a developer or publisher, varying fees will apply.

  27. I don’t understand this.

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