Open Graph: A Cosy Corner Of The Web?

“With the Semantic Web, there’s been a lot of effort in building different technologies, the best ones possible. But it isn’t always the best one possible that is the most useful. You might be very happy with a small subset of things that are easier for developers to pick up and to do something useful for you.”

That was John Breslin, commenting recently on the adoption of Open Graph Protocol by Facebook in April 2010.

There has indeed been a great deal of work and effort in building the Semantic Web – a smorgasbord of technologies such as FOAF, RDFa, OWL, SPARQL, and SIOC, to name just a few. The idea was to step beyond the original Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) that was developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the late eighties.

HTML enabled pages to link to each other. The Semantic Web, or Linked Data as it is often referred to now, links data that denotes the structure of a page and the data in that page. Most pages on the Web have an implicit design or structure according to their intended purpose which enables them to be classified. Bio pages, itinerary pages, commercial display pages, blog pages, and so on can be identified as such in their own right. Also, the data on the page can be made relevant to data elsewhere by the various application of Linked Data technologies, some of which have just been mentioned.

To go from being able to handle the Web as a huge set of pages to handling the Web as a huge set of data required a massive dedication of time and resources. Work first started at informal meetups at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the turn of the millennium. The idea of a Web of Linked Data was seen very early on to be a viable idea and so funding was sought.

Sadly for everyone, everywhere, 9/11 happened and very soon the lion’s share of available research funding in the United States went to defense projects. Fortunately, the Irish Government in the form of Science Foundation Ireland came forward with an offer of funding, and the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) was founded in Galway, Ireland in 2003 with the remit of “interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society”.

By 2010, there were 140 researchers working on a variety of different Linked Data technologies at DERI.

The Open Graph Protocol as a name is derived from the social graph which is Facebook’s adopted term for describing the mapping of relationships of users on its network. Facebook has over 500 million users at the time of writing, and that is a lot of users and relationships to map.

The Open Graph Protocol provides those who are developing pages and apps for Facebook a means to align their work and make it functional with the social graph.

In the same, but highly cut-down way that Linked Data ‘enriches’ data used on the Internet, Open Graph ‘enriches information’ contained on Facebook.

Using subsets and truncated versions of Linked Data technologies, it allows Facebook – through the work of developers – to make itself more useful to its users by enabling better search (for instance) inside Facebook and better intercommunication with the Web outside the Facebook walled garden.

All well and good. What is technology for if it is not to be used?

The issue is the sheer size of Facebook. So much effort and time will be devoted by so many developers to work with and then expand the Open Graph Protocol that the development of Linked Data as a whole may end up being ramified towards just the work surrounding Facebook.

Open Graph, in the form being developed in order to meet Facebook’s present and future needs, may well commandeer so many resources and use so much talent working in the development field that Open Graph, by making Facebook more compatible with the Web, will end up being the the de-facto web of Linked Data.

Facebook, at the moment, with its three main areas of friend, group and Facebook pages, does not have the need for the full set of bells and whistles that the Semantic Web has to offer. If they stay with this simple page structure development, Linked Data could be confined to working on information handling in a limited, self-defined context.

Of course, work will still continue at <a href="DERI and at other facilities as Open Graph still very much lacks the full expressivity of the potential that Linked Data offers with its broader perspective.

While Open Graph may be a cosy solution that fits Facebook’s immediate needs, will it be of long-term benefit?

John Breslin also asks, ”Is this a passing fad? The question is at what point will people decide if it has made a difference? Will Open Graph survive the inital hype?”

Or will it be a detriment to the continuing pace of Linked Data development by diverting attention, energy, and money away from the main goal of Linked Data, which is to make the Web more useful for everybody?

Linked Data: An Introduction

I keep hearing the term Linked Data, but what does it mean?

More or less what it says. All the data on the Internet linked together.

And that is important to me because…?

Your company, like everyone else’s company has a number of separate processes going. Accounts, marketing, HR, government compliances, legal issues, transport considerations. The information that pertains to each process is stored for convenience in separate databases. These databases are associated with the various applications that are used to create them. SAP for accounts, various spreadsheet formats, and document pages.

All contain information vital to the running of your company. All contain information which is mutually inaccessible to each other.

It has worked so far because we have had the human workaround. If a report has to be written for the quarterly board meeting, then someone has to get the information from each of these ‘data silos’ separately and spend a goodly amount of time and energy on finessing the disparate contents into something understandable and useful to act as a basis for a fruitful discussion.

With Linked Data technology running on your system, you ask your system for the information you want in the format you want. The computer itself works out what is relevant and useful. Linked Data enables the various databases to talk to each other and work out what is needed.

Can you imagine if all the databases across the world were linked the sort of really interesting questions that it would be possible to ask with the expectancy of a realistic and relevant answer?

I thought it was already linked together?

The data, usually words, numbers or symbols are contained on a page, usually the webpage that we see before us in our browser. But it is these pages that are linked together. The data itself is all on its lonesome.

While we can get to the pages through searches, links or entering addresses in the location bar the same can’t be said for the data – the words, numbers and symbols represent objects.

In addition, most databases where information is stored are not linked. They are in effect separated ‘silos’ of information. Until recently, with or without the permission of the owners, it was not possible for the these data silos to ‘talk’ to each other.

The main idea of Linked Data is to develop the processes to make communication possible, by means of commonly-agreed protocols, between various datasets wherever they may be.

Isn’t what we have enough? It all seems to work well.

Well, it is a fantastic thing to be able to navigate the world of information going from page to page, but imagine how much more could be done if we could navigate the world of information using the data, the numbers and words on a given page. Imagine if we could instruct computers to combine these particles of information in such a way to produce useful and usable results from it, rather than the process we now have of finding stuff and having it presented to us but still leaving us with the requirement to do all the heavy lifting and join the dots ourselves.

But if I type a set of words into Google, I find a whole bunch of pages containing those words. So what?

Well, you have got yourself to a page with the words you were looking for is what’s so. But at present if you were say, planning a trip, you would have to visit separate sites for each stage of the journey. Airlines, ground transport, hotels, meeting points, etc. If the data was connected together you could put in a set of search terms, date, place, journey time, cost and see a number of options for the entire journey presented to you. That is a big timesaver.

How does that work?

Although Linked Data, or the original term, the Semantic Web, denotes one underlying principle of connectedness, Linked Data is in fact made up of a potpourri of technologies, each dealing with an aspect of bringing the Web of Data to life through individual but interrelated means.

For instance, we know most of the useful pages on the Web are not filled with capricious and random words and images, but are generally about something and are structured in a fairly standard way. Timetables look like timetables, blogs look like blogs, landing pages look like landing pages and so on. If they were to contain information that could help a computer distinguish one from another then that would save us all a lot of time and trouble when looking for something. Searching for events would return searches from pages structured to represent events and so on.

There is a list detailing some of the major technologies being implemented below with a brief outline of their purpose.

If this technology is so great then why isn’t it everywhere?

First of all, there is no killer application in the sense of a spreadsheet or a text document. Nor is there a single killer service like Facebook or RSS. The technology is constantly being rolled out behind the scenes.

This is primarily computer-to-computer technology. As it is becoming more widely available, new applications are and will be created to take advantage of the new ways of handling the huge amounts of data that will be liberated and it is those applications that we will see and use.

Secondly, reinventing the way the world handles data is no small thing, especially when there is so much of it. It has been estimated that the information contained in all the world’s databases has passed the three petabyte mark. A petabyte is a number with twenty-one zeroes after it. That is a lot of data to make useful and relevant.

Fortunately, increasing amounts of the new information that is being created now is being stored in databases in such a way as to make it meaningful and useful for Linked Data technologies.

Thirdly, research in and development in Linked Data processes is continually coming up with new and better ways of doing things. The technology is constantly being updated and improved so data can be stored and retrieved more efficiently.

So, it may not be everywhere at the moment but it will be one day. That will most likely be sooner rather than later.

What do you mean by meaningful and relevant and why is that important?

There are two main senses in the way we use the word meaning in everyday life. One is that if we say a thing has meaning then we are giving the thing significance, as opposed to something we don’t find significant and consequently has no meaning for us. You can see right away that this is a very individual way of looking at things. What is meaningful to one person is not necessarily meaningful to another. Two, we can also say something has meaning because we gain understanding from it. “Don’t touch the stove,” is a meaningful statement because we derive from the meaning of the statement the understanding that we may burn our fingers if we should go ahead and do so.

The use of the word meaning in the Linked Data space is very specific and refers to defining information, data, in such a way that it is understandable by computers. Up until now, words on a web page were understandable by us and findable by search engines, but they were meaningless to computers and thus rendered irrelevant.

By defining the words in such a way that they are understandable by machines, given meaning, the words become data that is relevant and useful.

Why is that important?

Because up until the advent of Linked Data technology, this page you are reading now on your screen needed you to make it meaningful and relevant. The words, numbers or symbols meant nothing at all to the massive processing power in the computer that is sending the information to your screen nor to all the servers around the world.

But now it does. Computers can now understand data instead of simply just recognising data. They understand that the data has meaning and because it has meaning they can link meaning with meaning in a meaningful way.

Say again?

Since data now has meaning, computers can understand the meaning of the information that is contained in their own databases. Moreover, and this is the neat bit, they can now understand what is contained on every other database in the world. This is the true significance of liberated data.

So I can compile the world’s information in any way that suits my requirements. Great, so what are my takeaways. What do I say to my colleagues and customers and any others that may be interested?

Linked Data is going to change the Web, and is going to be as much of a seismic shift in how we use the Internet as the original introduction of HTML.

It will happen over a longer of period of time as there is so much more information to be processed.

Linked Data makes it very easy for computers to communicate with each other. Words, numbers and symbols will mean something to a computer.

Linked Data creates the possibility of a Web of Data. A Web where plans can be found in the pattern of links and the retrieved. A Web where projects can be mined and and pulled from the mass of information fully-formed. A Web with the possibility to find crucial patterns and connections that hitherto have lain undiscovered, which in turn can lead to new breakthroughs in how we ourselves see and interact with the world:

  • To be able to work together seamlessly with greater efficiency and mutual understanding.
  • To be able to collaborate and share information more effectively regardless of the scale of any project.
  • To be able to see the world better because we can join the dots better.

Background Material

Probably the best place to start is with this presentation by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on Linked Data given at a conference. It is short and to the point and but gives a great overview of the field.

Technologies

We have listed some of the major contributing technologies and sources of development for Linked Data here.

There is no need to learn them all as most of this has been designed so computers are better able to understand each other and avoid the need for human intervention. But looking through them should give you an idea of the scope and scale of the Linked Data project.

RDF http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-primer/ – “The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a language for representing information about resources in the World Wide Web.” A lingua franca for inter- and intra-computer communication. It describes what kind of information a piece of data is in such a way that another computer can understand it. Instead of data being a series of 1s and 0s, it now has the added idea of being a graph of interconnected objects with some meaning attached to these objects and the relationships between them.

URI http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Resource_Identifier – “Uniform Resource Identifier.” A labeler for data somewhat like the way your page is labelled in the URL(Universal Resource Locator) that you see at the top of the browser. But different in that it also indicates within itself how the data should be acted upon. Things that are described in two or more different places can be linked together using common identifiers

OWL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_Ontology_Language – “Web Ontology Language.” (OWL sounds better that WOL.) This project works how to define words for computers to understand. The same word in English can have the same meaning and humans are really good at working out what the correct interpretation should be. Interestingly, it is not that a computer can’t find a correct meaning for a given piece of date, the challenge is to overcome the wasteful time and energy in having to do the whole thing over and over again. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_representation

SPARQL http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-sparql-query – “Simple Protocol and RDF Query Language.” This is the tool that is used to find and manipulate the RDF data. Something has to do it and it might as well sound glamorous.

SIOC http://www.w3.org/Submission/sioc-applications/ – “SIOC is designed to export information about the content and structure of online community websites in a machine-readable form.” Social media is about people reaching out to each other on the Web. This inevitably results in the creation of communities. This tool enables the convergence between organised communities and the Web.

DBpedia http://wiki.dbpedia.org/FacetedSearch?v=17jm Uses the little boxes of data that are featured on almost every wikipedia page and makes them more ‘askable’ friendly. That is, you can form a search question that would sound natural to human ears. Try out the samples on the page and ask a few questions of your own. It’s really quite cool and raises the question, why can’t all searches be like this?

The New Pepsi Challenge: Social Media Strategies Versus Superbowl Advertising

Back at the end of last year, Pepsi decided that they would use the $20 million they had originally budgeted for Superbowl advertising and invest that money in the social media space instead. Advertising during the Superbowl is the major opportunity of the year to get one’s brand in front of at least 100 million viewers at a cost of $3 million dollars for a 30 second slot. For the major companies that can afford the rates, it is the ultimate chest-thumping alpha-male king-of-the-jungle announcement to the world that we are big because we are here and we are here because we are big.

This is not without foundation. Few would argue that Apple’s 1984 advert for the Macintosh had anything less than a profound affect on the sales of the computer. It also helped that the ad was a world-class piece of production as well. Interestingly it was Steve Jobs and not Ridley Scott (as I had long assumed) that came up with the concept.

For a company like Pepsi to make the leap into the social media field was a major break with tradition, but also with the way things had worked up until then. Unfortunately, I was unable to interview anyone from Pepsi to ascertain what their thinking was about the worth of conventional advertising against the relatively untried and unexplored social media space. So I have no insight into the decision-making process to offer. But the fact they put their entire $20 million dollar budget and moved it from the safe and known into the uncertain and unsure shows a commitment to the new that we rarely see with large-scale corporations.

The strategy that they settled on was to build up on the already running Pepsi Refresh Everything project and infuse it with social media capability. HUGE were tasked with this and you can read more details of how they went about it here. Essentially, the most powerful force in the social media world – engagement – was harnessed by having participants nominate and vote for that $20 million dollar spend to good causes which come from the community that surrounds the brand.

The results for Pepsi can only be seen as an unqualified success. In the first month, the site had 2.5 million visitors. In the following months, each of the 1,000 monthly slots allotted for projects had filled within minutes: an indication of keen engagement. Also, their number of Facebook fans grew by half a million.

One of the great mysteries of investing in social media is how to measure return on investment (ROI). In the social media world, there is no single metric that can safely account for a given action producing a given result. One has to assume that all results are corollary in nature and are intrinsically subjective. What you have to do is weigh the results with common sense, experience and a pinch of salt.

However, by measuring engagement and monitoring what is being said about a given brand, product or person, we can certainly come to have a good idea about the state of the reputation of a given enterprise. And through this assessment of how the brand, person or product is being perceived, we can attach some idea of value.

Pepsi’s massive leap from lying 16th in the Forbes table of America’s most reputable companies in 2009 to 5th this year can in a very large degree be attributed to their move to a more committed social media strategy.

On that level, Pepsi’s bold decision to break into pastures new seems to have paid off very well and will surely give other blue chip companies pause for thought. But social media is more than a buzzword and it is not a technology. It is a world, like the everyday world, made up of human beings all with their own preferences, agendas and opinions. Once you start objectifying the space in the sense that it is a thing to be managed and manipulated (like objects in real life), you can run into trouble.

Pepsi also tried to rent a page at ScienceBlogs to provide nutritional information. Carl Zimmer describes the debacle very nicely in this post at Discover Magazine. Bloggers abandoned ScienceBlogs because many believed in some way that credibility cannot be purchased or even granted by association. To have independent analysis alongside sponsored analysis – no matter how open and transparent the sponsor’s position – was always going to be a problem.

A philosophical view from the Pepsi position could be that you win some, you lose some. But the lessons to be learned are important. It is possible to benefit from being present in the social media space. While it may seem and feel nebulous and amorphous, contained within are distinct spaces in which people have their own methods of engaging with each other. The fund-raising, community-involving space of the Refresh Everything project is not the same space as the pedagogical and data-centered space of ScienceBlogs.

With Pepsi having led the way, we can expect to see more of the bigger companies taking up larger and larger positions in the social media space. Looks like there is going to be some interesting times ahead.

Corporations Must Embrace The Principles Of The Social Media Revolution To Evolve And Survive

Image via Best Design Options by Vector Portal.

We don’t build the tools first. We build with what we have, and out of that which is constructed, new tools become possible. The technologies enabled by the industrial revolution led to the creation of the technological age, which in turn led on to the information revolution, which segued into the digital age. We now have the social media revolution. Like the preceding ages and revolutions, social media is going to affect every aspect, if it is not already, of our lives – including the way we do business.

Corporations are instruments of commerce. For the times when they came to the fore, they were necessary entities which were needed to source, manufacture and distribute goods and commodities, and they did it very effectively. I say “for the times” because as the times will change, so will corporations. The will have to – if they want to survive.

Although existing as legal entities from the late 19th century, they came to the fore in the post-WW2 boom. This was because of the immense cadre of (pretty much all) men who came back from the war. Before the war, the US had a standing army of less than 140,000 personnel which expanded dramatically at the outbreak of hostilities. The educated new recruits were given the task as officers and NCOs to manage this huge expansion which took place in the framework of the ultimate command-and-control environment – the military.

Peace came and suddenly American big business was blessed with tens and tens of thousands of highly trained men extremely well versed in the system of top-down management. Their talents and skills were immediately put to work, and because of who they were, the circumstances of their learning and the lessons they derived, the modern corporation came into being. It worked well in contrast to what was before and it worked well for fifty or sixty odd years.

Since most of us have grown up in a world of corporations, we tend to think of the corporate entity as a permanent fixture in our lives. In fact, it is a very recent addition to the field of human activity and there is no reason at all to assume that it will last another fifty years. And it won’t, because with the advent of social media, everything is going to change and is in fact already doing so. Consider the following principles – transparency, trust and engagement – these are the three foundations of the social media world.

  • Transparency: Companies can no longer close their glass doors on the world. Even without access to privileged information, one can have a very good sense of what a company is about just from its online presence – but just as importantly, from the online presence of its customers and those with a passing interest.
  • Trust: One of the major features of a command-and-control mentality is that communication flows in only one constricted way – downwards through channels. Any variance from this narrow path brings up permission issues: who can talk to who about what. It may have worked from a structural point of view, but the cost in alienation, isolation and disempowerment of the individuals in the ‘chain’ doesn’t compensate for the gains anymore. The ensuing culture of micro-management is the exact opposite of trust creation.
  • Engagement: The great joy of social media is the immense ability it gives you to engage with people and groups as you please to whatever level you please. Again a corporation with one monolithic image or brand with which it portrays itself to the world is automatically demanding that a person should subsume their own ideas and thoughts to the company message. With such an inauthentic starting point it is going to be impossible for people to make genuine connections with other people.

A young person growing up now in a social media environment and who knows nothing else is going to take one look at the corporate world and genuinely wonder: “Is this for me?” A very accurate observation they will be entitled to make is: “I can’t be open, because I am not trusted to engage with people as I see fit.” Corporations are not going to get the best talent from the next generation because – as they stand at the moment with an opaque, paranoid, control freak style of human transaction – they are clearly a very unappealing proposition.

If corporations want to survive they will have to change nearly everything about the way they deal with the people who work for them and because it will be a social media world that we are coming into – everybody else too. They will have to trust their employees more to make all sorts of decisions. If a person on one team is needed on another team and he or she okays it with the folks in their present team, then what is to stop them from walking down the corridor to be where they are most needed. This doesn’t happen now, but imagine the savings in energy and time by foregoing all the meetings and paperwork and politicking just to make this one decision which goes on now. We all know it does. That’s just one example.

The irony is that if corporations do choose survival, they will survive as something entirely different from what they are today.

The Collective Brain App

It was interesting to learn that all those little icons that you keep on your desktop, ready for rapid access should you need them, really load the CPU down. Apparently, the computer’s processors treats them all as little windows in their own right. I had thought they were like buttons with nothing going on until you press them. Thus in one sentence I have established my technical expertise (lack of it anyway).

I learned very soon after that the brain sees words as little pictures. Words are not scanned as a series of letters and definitely not processed as ASCII or any other coded series of ones and zeroes. But like the icons on my desktop, they may look passive but they still require processing by the brain.

It is this processing, this active transformation from one set of symbols to another, that makes reading a really good book so enthralling in that by creating pictures for words, these series of pictures come together in such a way that we are taken wholly to another reality.

That good writers can not only conjure up entire universes of experience and take us there as well is some sort of miracle. Especially, as most of us have forgotten, that reading is a hard thing to learn to do.

How we as humans came to be readers and, of course, writers is a story worth telling, but our ability to turn marks on paper or a screen through this process of virtualisation into virtual worlds in our heads could have some very fundamental applications to the next stages of online technology.

We know that virtualisation takes up a huge amount of the brain’s resources. It is why it is so very unsafe to drive while talking on the phone. Apart from being dangerous there is little benefit to be had from cell-phone conversations held while driving. Our brain creates the space for the conversation and it fills in as best it can all the non-verbal cues we would normally assimilate at an unconscious level when in the presence of someone. It is not the same as listening to a good story on the radio: our social interactions are so vital to us that they take up far more brain power then just simply reading or listening. Hands-free systems make no difference in case anyone was wondering.

For the foreseeable future, we are going to be limited by the two-dimensional screen of the computer. And the really big bottleneck has been the browsers available. One immediate question concerning the is why after so long are there only four serious browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer? They are all much of a muchness, and they only really seem to differ in what you can add on to them and consequently slow them down. It is an application area that seems to be going nowhere.

I suggest the way forward will be in something like the apps interface on the iPhone, iPad and various Android apps as well are the start of a profoundly new direction of interacting with the Web. Apps allow you to access the specific part of the Web that you are interested in directly: no transiting via a browser. Each of them is a direct channel to the activity you wish to engage in or the subject you wish to know more about. This is powerful time-saving stuff.

It can’t be long until all our desktops and laptops will greet us with an array of wormholes to our favourite part of the web. They will exist before us as an ever evolving eco-system of interests and obligations. Fashion and sports news alongside exercise and scheduling software. These icons, together and separately, will tell the story of our relationship to the vast virtual world out there on the other side of our screens.

With this added dimensionality of expression we have the possibility of a greater conversational space. A conversational space perfectly suited for the dynamics of the social media experience that we now have to expand in to.

If these app icons were constructed and channeled in way that we could connect them to our friends apps – much like cells connecting to each other in the brain – we can then connect all the information that is contained in the channel the icons represent.

  • A set of photos as we have specifically arranged them
  • Files and documents that belong together
  • A selection of music and video to share and enthuse upon

No browser, no URLs, no annoying logins, no more having to endure what some third party thinks how you should present your work or your ideas. No constraints on how you define yourself in the world.

Information in this virtual universe is no longer just merely accessible – it is in a state of potential exchange.

Going back to using the example of using the telephone: we will no longer have to create in our brains a virtual world to help us understand a conversation with another person not present with us. We will be able to clearly and unambiguously share what we mean by being able to share exactly what we want in as complete a form as possible.

Pipes would be the wrong visual metaphor for what is going on here. These apps would be hooked up each other very much like the dendrites in our brains that connect and communicate from brain cell to brain cell.

And maybe if enough of these connections are made then one day in the near future we could really be looking at a world brain.

“Galway Is A Mini San Francisco”: 091 Labs Nurtures Creativity In Another Bay Area

We have become used to the idea of innovation coming from corporate R&D divisions and university research departments. We seem to have forgotten that some of the key life-enhancing breakthroughs have come from the grassroots level. Particularly in technology.

Apple came about through the participation of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the Homebrew Club back in the mid-seventies. Hewlett Packard was formed in a garage (picture above) in Palo Alto. Not only did the work in this garage give birth to the large well-known company that is HP today, but in its immediate environs it created the greatest testbed and launch pad for innovation that the world has ever known. The work that was done in this shed led to the creation of Silicon Valley. Not bad for a couple of guys with soldering irons.

Every Tuesday night, except for the one evening a month reserved for a guest speaker, ten to twelve people get together at the Galway Bakery Company to share ideas, tinker with equipment and software, and create the possibility of a new, exciting future.

This community of innovators and experimenters goes by the name of 091 Labs (091 is the area code for Galway). It was instigated by Declan Elliott after being inspired by a newspaper article about TOG, a Dublin-based facility created to give “shared space where members have a place to be creative and work on their projects”.

The growth of these facilitation spaces has skyrocketed over the last eighteen months, from roughly 40 such places to over 400 now. Noisebridge in San Francisco and NYC Resistor (“we learn, we share, we make things”) in New York are probably the most recognizable names in this movement, and a movement is very much what it seems it is.

“The future is all about geeks with soldering irons,” says Declan, who is actively looking for a 50-square metre site in Galway City to cater for expanded interest. “091 Labs is like a garden where we plant the seed and nature will do the rest.”

But 091 Labs is not confined to the technorati. Anyone with a creative project, the need for space and the willingness to work with and alongside others is welcome. This creates new possibilities for the cross-fertilization of ideas.

While motives for coming along to 091 Labs may vary – some need space that they can’t get at home, some may need to bounce ideas off other people, others may want to give their ideas a reality check – there is a singular philosophy under-pinning all this activity: DoOcracy.

With the right attitude, Declan says “you can get started with nothing.” All that is required is that you simply do it. It is this thought that drives the creativity in this environment. People gather, share and work in an “ecosystem of the arts, tech and science community.” As Declan points out “Galway is a mini San Francisco in many ways given its rich and diverse creative communities, so all the ingredients are here.”

Anyone can participate every Tuesday night at the Galway Bakery Company, or in any other place in Ireland or the world where you can grab some space and organize some folks to come along.