The Open Web Index

I sent an email to some friends the other day, describing an idea I'd had.  I thought I'd blog about it, too, since you, dear reader, will likely have ways to improve it.  My idea is this: an index, like the DOW or S&P 500 that provides a bellwether for the health, participation, volume, ... of the open web.

The idea comes from a number of places.  First, I've been thinking a lot about David Ascher's prescient post, "Am I reading these trends right?"  His use of the word 'trend' has really stuck with me, and I heard its echo all week in the daily financial reports of the Canadian and US economies.

The arcs of the trends David describes are quite long, and the difficulty I have with them is that they will be difficult to correct if left alone for too long.  One desires a more granular, more frequent, more accurate way to describe (and perhaps forecast) the health of the open web.

To talk of 'the open web' implies that we understand what the term means, and to measure it that we know exactly what and where it is.  I don't think this is true, nor that it is necessary.  Rather, I believe (and want to confirm), that there are key indicators of the health of the thing we commonly mean when we discuss the open web.

Imagine a number derived daily from a variety of sources, one that changes over time, one that can be plotted, compared, discussed.  Imagine a trend line--is it currently going up or down?  Imagine a number that is arrived at through analysis of various factors; where the S&P 500 looks at top performing stocks and companies in the US, this number might be derived from:

  • Number of commits to the most significant open source projects
  • Number of commits to all open source projects on github
  • Level of participation on Wikipedia, maybe edits done today
  • Number of photos, music, movies, etc. posted with a CC license
  • Number of blog posts written on various sites
  • ...
    The creation of that list is part of the exercise, as it begins to frame the view we share of the open web.  I'm most interested to know, at any given point, what the level of participation in the system might be overall.  Not so much "is project X the best" since those developers might move around in the system and still participate at similar levels.

What would you measure here?  What's in an Open Web Index?