Work Hard. Be Nice.
Today we relaunched an old site. It’s called Pmarchive, and it was one of the first things we did as Fictive Kin back when it was just me, Evan, & Tyler. ‘Twas a mini-project that we did for kicks.
At the time, Marc Andreessen was writing at a steady clip about startups and business in general. I was a huge fan of his articles, and I referred back to them often. One day when I went back, the articles were gone. I thought it a shame, so I went to the ever-trusty Internet Archive and tracked down those articles that pertained to startup / business-related issues. We organized them into groups, came up with a cutesy name, and voila!
One day recently, the old Pmarchive went down without us knowing. A few folks alerted us to this change in altitude, and we decided that rather than just re-post what we’d originally done, we’d take the opportunity to give the site a refresh. We wanted it to be easier to navigate and easier to read on mobile. The result is nothing especially special, but we like it, and we think it does the job.
As a side note, given the recent business with Open Recipes and the work we’ve done with Gimme Bar, it’s been interesting to reflect on the early origins of our love of content preservation. I don’t think we fully realized how continuous that thread has actually been.
The biggest April Fools’ joke this year isn’t actually a joke. It’s a true story of needlessly wasted content, frustrated users, and a less-than-graceful exit.
Yesterday, on the heels of its acquisition, popular recipe site Punchfork closed its doors. This kind of acquisition / shutdown combo is increasingly common these days, but there were some things about the way Punchfork bowed out that caught our eye:
The fairly callous exit post
The ominous shutdown banner
The complete lack of any communication about what would happen to user data
Taken together, the message came across a little like:
“We’re excited to share the news that we’re gonna be rich! To celebrate, we’re shutting down the site and taking all your data down with it. So long, suckers!”
It’s a frustrating message and a sign that — as a community — we should be trying to set and communicate our expectations for a more graceful exit, including some accountability for the way users are treated.
When you talk about graceful exits, you quickly find yourself talking about content ownership, and that’s where things get murky. This is because digital content — which can be infinitely copied, shaped, and organized — is rarely a case of “mine” versus “yours.” Instead it falls into the nuanced land of “ours.”
Punchfork actually has two kinds of “ours” data.
First, it has the data that belongs to them and their users. The best example of this is a user’s “like” of a recipe. A like is both Punchfork content (as metadata on a user account and a recipe) and user content (the decision and action that creates the like).
Second, it has data that belongs to them and the publishers whose sites they scraped. The best example of this is the recipe content. There’s the source content from the publisher and then there’s all the sugar that Punchfork added to make that content more usable and more searchable.
This all gets extremely complicated and deserves its own article. The gist is that when there is dual ownership of content, we believe it’s not okay for one party to just unilaterally take it down. With this in mind, we decided to intervene on behalf of Punchfork users.
Our initial plan was to put up a searchable index of the existing Punchfork recipe bookmarks and a simple backup tool for users who wanted to save their likes. We called it Hugspoon. (Amirite?) As we were working, we heard that Jeff Miller, CEO of Punchfork, might be building his own tool, so we reached out to see if maybe we could just skip the whole thing or work together in some way. He declined to speak to us, so we put up the Hugspoon archiver and its corresponding /purpose.
Then, we heard from Jeff.
Ultimately, Jeff made good on his unannounced user archive tool. However, the “archive” is actually just a list of links. It bears no resemblance to the content (structured recipe bookmarks) that users actually liked. No ingredients. No images. No metadata.
We asked Jeff if he’d consider just leaving the existing content up, but he said no. He put an admittedly large amount of work into scraping those sites and isn’t feeling especially generous with those scrapings. He did, however, offer some words of encouragement:
“If you think it is easy to build, feel free to replicate it yourself.”
We were super inspired by Jeff’s “teach a man to fish” attitude and have decided to do just that. It’s called Open Recipes. We are no longer going to use any Punchfork data, but we could sure use your help to recreate parts of it. If you’re interested, please check our GitHub page and volunteer to help parse one of the existing publishers, or suggest a new great publisher for us to tackle.
We want to build an open database of great recipe bookmarks. This includes structured data for the recipe ingredients and a link to the publisher for preparation. In doing so, we hope to help drive traffic to recipe publishers, tell a story about open data on the Web, and make deliciousness available to everyone in a clear and structured (schema.org) way.
That’s pretty much it. We’re not trying to save the world. We’re just trying to save some recipes.
The dust has settled from Brooklyn Beta 2012, and things in Fictive Town are a little less hectic. We’re back to building Rushmore and Done Not Done, and we’re helping our beloved Summer Campers take the next step and raise funding to pursue their work. This relative calm has been a great time to reflect on just how wonderful our summer was.
A few weeks ago, we (as Brooklyn Beta) co-organized the Reinvent Green hackathon alongside the City of New York and some other fine organizations.
Just a quick little post to let you know that I know that you know that I know.