Nulpunt to Give Freedom of Information Some Digital Grunt
Every good design project starts with a problem, and one of the biggest is how to find the key facts in a sea of data.
A design studio in Amsterdam called Metahaven is developing a product called Nulpunt to do two things: Firstly, it tells journalists and activists when their government has published a document holding information they care about, and secondly it lets users highlight, annotate and share the important sections.
Metahaven say that Nulpunt will integrate with the new Freedom of Information Laws The Netherlands is drafting. The new legislation will demand the publication of vastly more documents produced by government, the public service or private companies working on publicly funded projects.
It’s great for transparency in theory, but assuming the laws pass and aren’t hobbled on the way through, it’ll mean that the FOI “problem” won’t be about scarcity any more, it’ll be about abundance; how to organize and sift through a vast sea of data. And that’s the problem that Metahaven is aiming to solve with Nulpunt; using key digital characteristics; personalization and socialization.
They’re not the only people to be attacking the problem space: If you’ve got youself a huge document dump you can use Document Cloud to automatically ‘read’ the files for key facts, subjects and dates, or turn to The Overview Project to get a kind of visual table of contents.
The point of difference for Nulpunt, assuming it gets a release, seems to be that it’s designed to integrate with a specific source of information; namely the Dutch government. Metahaven are keen to launch Nulpunt in more countries, although they have also said Nulpunt will not always be non-profit and commercial free, which is a tough business model to scale.