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Google Data Liberation Group Seeks To Unlock Data

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the people's-front-of-liberation dept.

Google 167

Several sources are reporting that The Data Liberation Front, a new engineering group within Google, is trying make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products. They have already "liberated" about half of Google's offerings (including Blogger and Gmail) and have plans to liberate Google Sites and Google Docs in the near future. "In a blog post this morning, Data Liberation engineering manager Brian Fitzpatrick, uses a good analogy to explain why the company sees this is an important step: 'Imagine you want to move out of your apartment. When you ask your landlord about the terms of your previous lease, he says that you are free to leave at any time; however, you cannot take all of your things with you - not your photos, your keepsakes, or your clothing. If you're like most people, a restriction like this may cause you to rethink moving altogether. Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all. Although this may seem like a strange analogy, this pretty accurately describes the situation my team, Google's Data Liberation Front, is working hard to combat from an engineering perspective.'"

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OK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418023)

But could you please lock up the niggers?

They are really annoying.

So... (4, Funny)

Drunken Buddhist (467947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418031)

So the idea is that making it easier to leave google makes you more likely to stay with google?

I need to try this on my girlfriend!

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418169)

You should. If you are not jealous and trust her, she'll feel more "free" in the relationship and stay with you. On the other hand, if you keep watching her and always remind her that she's yours, she'll get away.

Re:So... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418693)

Ask Sting: "... If you love somebody, set her free... "

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

l3prador (700532) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419257)

This is a good strategy if and only you are confident that you are the best option available. In Google's case, this is probably true, but I can't speak for the GP's case. (Although the fact that confidence is attractive to most women might help in this case.)

Re:So... (3, Funny)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419293)

Hmmm.... my mind goes back to a girl I left long years ago, who told me, "I, for one, welcome my new, liberating overlord."

Gah! Meme conflict... or... hey....

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418205)

Doesn't the saying goes something like "The harder you squeeze, the more will slip through your fingers..."?

So yes, in theory is will make people more likely to stay with Google. No fear of being locked means you don't look for a way out, which is a problem for Microsoft right now.

Re:So... (5, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418329)

This is Slashdot. The appropriate version of this plattitude goes:"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers".

At the suggestive notion of Princess Leia, and the salacious interpretation of "Slip through your fingers", many of the regular posters will now compulsively grasp their crotch, as the OggTheora of "Slave Leia's Supplication" is summoned from Portable VNC on the USB key, once again...

Re:So... (4, Funny)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418405)

Must....not....fap....

Re:So... (1)

tekproxy2 (1386447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419079)

It's like your in my brain.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419085)

Or rather, "The more you tighten your grid, Ellison, the more Sun Microsystems (engineers) will slip through your fingers."

Re:So... (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419561)

You know, I've never got the Leia in the Gold Bikini thing, and to be honest, I don't know anyone who does. Yes, she's wearing a bikini, but it's nothing that wasn't in every second 80's film and even BayWatch.

I think it's a generational thing. I must watched that film at the age of 9 or 10, whereas older people saw it first in their late teens or twenties. First time I even remembered Leia had worn it was when an almost 40 year old cast playing late twentysomethings brought it up on a show called "Friends". Turns out the bikini is now a sex fantasy fetish for a lot of older nerds. In retrospect, it's obvious to me now, but I still regard it as a low point of nerd-dom in general.

It's just a bikini.

Re:So... (3, Insightful)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418789)

On the other hand (no pun intended), if you completely open your hands, the butterfly will simply fly away.

As always, the solution lies in the middle: you should neither squeeze nor open your hands, but simply hold it gently :-P

Coming back to the topic. Being possible do leave will make more people willing to get-in in the first place

Re:So... (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419025)

On the other hand (no pun intended), if you completely open your hands, the butterfly will simply fly away.

Why? It landed there for a reason, didn't it?

Re:So... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419425)

The point is that it's a selling point as much as anything. I'm more than a little hesitant in general to sign up with a service or use a product that prevents me from taking my business elsewhere if I don't like it. The movement being allowed by Google with their engineers is a pretty firm demonstration of their confidence in their ability to provide people with products they want to use.

This is also the reason why I asked for a refund from Intuit a couple years back. I've never done that before or since, but with the general pain they made it to get my data into their program and the hostage fees they wanted to charge the institutions I did business with, it just wasn't worth the absurd effort.

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418665)

So the idea is that making it easier to leave google makes you more likely to stay with google?

This is an excellent idea on google's part. It's like that old IT truism whereby the more necessary a programmer becomes, the sooner you should get rid of him.

It could help small businesses and organizations decide to go with google, if they have guarantee of local backups as well. Nothing is more annoying than being able to put data in, but not getting it out in any timely, consistent fashion - which is the failure of many web-based solutions. Especially as Google is aiming to have all the productivity tools on the web - email, web, documents, etc.

Re:So... (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418735)

So the idea is that making it easier to leave google makes you more likely to stay with google?

No, the idea is that making it easier to leave particular Google services makes it more likely that people will use those services in the first place, not that it makes them more likely to stay with them once they start using them.

Re:So... (1)

ashtophoenix (929197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419337)

I tried it with mine...and here I am now...on Slashdot.

Do No Evil? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418033)

This is an even-numbered, "Do No Evil" week.

Watch out next week though.

Your world delivered... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418055)

to the NSA!

The Anti-AOL (5, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418073)

This is one of THE major complaints about AOL. Easy to get data in, impossible to get out.

Just last month I was asked to assist someone to get all their contacts (1,500 or so) out of AOL's mail system. There is no export feature, nor any third-party tool to do it. AOL's official answer is to print it out for a backup.

I called AOL's support, and after several rounds of phone-tree hell, got a tech who told me flat out "We don't do that. Good luck!"

I ended up writing a script that parsed the XML-like output of their "print" function. Print to screen, save to file, parse with Perl. It hoses up the contact lists, which are included and just end up creating duplicates. They don't output as lists at all.

Still, it was marginally better than hiring someone to retype it all by hand.

Re:The Anti-AOL (1)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418257)

Sorry to hear the export was so painful, Chill. Just wait until you decide to cancel the service altogether... it's going to make this experience seem like a walk in the park. >br>
PS: When that time comes, save the headaches of contesting the unauthorized charges every month and cancel the credit card they have on file.

Re:The Anti-AOL (4, Funny)

imunfair (877689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418653)

AOL is actually free now, but back when they charged it was more of a feature than a problem that they wanted to retain customers. As long as you were willing to call them every month or two you could obtain completely free service. Sign up for a trial and when it was about to expire just call and say you wanted to cancel - they would usually help you find an excuse to extend your trial by a month or two more. Once the extension was nearly up - call again. As far as I could tell you could do that forever - I tried it for about a year.

Story bonus: They also had little surveys you could fill out for discounts off your subscription fee ... but if you were on a trial account they would actually mail you a check for the amount you 'earned'. It was only a few dollars but I found it amusing to get paid to have an AOL account.

Re:The Anti-AOL (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418891)

It was only a few dollars but I found it amusing to get paid to have an AOL account.

Not even close to enough.

-Peter

Re:The Anti-AOL (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418839)

If I had mod points I would mod you up just for the use of Perl.

Re:The Anti-AOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418909)

This has worked for me:
http://www.mozilla.org/support/thunderbird/faq#aol

I have also successfully used third party tools to import old mail messages to Thunderbird. YMMV

Re:The Anti-AOL (2, Interesting)

Jay L (74152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418963)

I left AOL in 2001, but my roommate wrote the original Personal Filing Cabinet, and I can confirm that there's no known official way of exporting any of it, or at least there wasn't last I checked. There are some third-party tools that do a so-so job of the mail itself, but they are very picky about which AOL client version you have, and I don't know if they export the address book itself... and it looks like they've all been abandoned anyway (there was ForMorph, PFCViewer, and FvonGordon's PFC Converter).

And yes, it's cool to see Google doing this of their own (apparent) volition. It's tempting, when you're the 800-pound gorilla, to view your user base as a captive audience, and to make it as difficult as possible to switch away (we used to call that "flypaper"). But in the long term, it encourages competition, which fosters innovation, which benefits everyone.

Re:The Anti-AOL (1)

Wierdy1024 (902573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419545)

The export tools they use are never going to export ALL the data - for example, my email program keeps track of my recently used contacts and puts them at the top of the list. If I were to export my contact list and re-import into another app, the order of the list would be reset.

In a similar way, if I export all my email from one mail service to another, I might loose any labels or flags\stars I had put on the messages, even if my new service supported labels/stars/flags, simply because the export format, being generic, doesn't contain that data.

Interesting atitude, "Anti-lockin"... (5, Interesting)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418077)

This is both the big advantage (for providers) and disadvantage (for customers) with SaaS-type "cloud" services: data lock-in. Its interesting that Google believes that they can compete enough on quality that lock-in is no longer an advantage to them because it scares away more potential customers than it traps.

Re:Interesting atitude, "Anti-lockin"... (5, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418287)

They have a HUGE upside to helping people move their data out of Exchange servers (emails, contacts, appointments, etc) into the paid Google Apps service.. Last time I looked, their tools for doing just this were coming along nicely. That was one of the biggest complaints, getting the email and archives out. This same thing was a big pain, when MS wanted people to migrate from Groupwise and Lotus Notes to Exchange. MS made a nice little importer, but they didn't make their data easy to Export.

That can lead to very tempting sales pitches, give us 6 months, (or a year, or whatever) and if you don't like our service, we'll help you go right back to what you had before.

Re:Interesting atitude, "Anti-lockin"... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418759)

This is both the big advantage (for providers) and disadvantage (for customers) with SaaS-type "cloud" services: data lock-in. Its interesting that Google believes that they can compete enough on quality that lock-in is no longer an advantage to them because it scares away more potential customers than it traps.

Actually, I think Google thinks that avoiding lock-in itself is a competitive advantage that is bigger than lock-in itself would be. If people are afraid to use your product for critical uses because of fear of lock-in, it doesn't help you that they can't leave once they start.

Re:Interesting atitude, "Anti-lockin"... (2, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418935)

That's why we give our customers 5 methods of export: PDF, Word, Excel, CSV, and XML. Every order, customer, report, and product can be exported for back up or to take elsewhere. The only thing they can't get to is credit card details. And we won't release those for obvious reasons. So that might be a headache if they switched to another service, but...

Bad analogy (1, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418103)

Data Liberation engineering manager Brian Fitzpatrick, uses a good analogy ... you cannot take all of your things with you

This a bad analogy. When you move your stuff out of your apartment, you are actually removing the stuff - not making copies. With Google The Evil (tm), you have no guarantee that they haven't stashed a "backup" somewhere in their dark recesses. You don't really take your stuff, you just make a copy.

Re:Bad analogy (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418231)

No way dude, they wouldn't do something evil like that. I really take my stuff and they keep the low-quality copy!

Isn't it kinda ironic ... (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418349)

... that Google is trying to liberate it's own data?

Re:Isn't it kinda ironic ... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418933)

... that Google is trying to liberate it's own data?

Not really. The project is to ease exporting data from and importing data to Google's offerings. Its essentially a product to improve the functionality and documentation of a set of features that are important to users in a way which crosses products. I don't think its "ironic" that company would do that.

Re:Isn't it kinda ironic ... (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419237)

... but ideally google would have designed their products to cross like that in the first place ... instead of pinning their data into an inescapable hole ... and then having to "liberate their data" after the fact ... right?

Re:Isn't it kinda ironic ... (1)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419525)

Maybe so, but better late than never. Does Hotmail let you export everything? Does Yahoo?

Re:Bad analogy (5, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418463)

The analogy, as with most analogies, is useful for precisely the things it was designed to be useful for, and is misleading when extended.

There is a legitimate fear of Google's tools that you can't apply any other tools to your data. These guys are trying to fix that problem.

There is another legitimate fear that you can't delete your data for certain and ever. That's Somebody Else's Problem, and also not covered by the analogy.

Analogies can be useful to explain things, but they're rarely valid for actually proving things. They're useful for proofs only when the analogy is so precise that it's no easier to understand or manipulate than the original thing.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419533)

There is another legitimate fear that you can't delete your data for certain and ever. That's Somebody Else's Problem, and also not covered by the analogy.

And that's just an example of why a data retention legislation can be useful.

Re:Bad analogy (2, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418489)

Dude, did you know the government puts fluoride in the drinking water? It's true!

Re:Bad analogy (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418607)

But how awesome would it be if your landlord said "don't worry about paying for renters insurance when your with us. if you lose something, due to fire, theft, or whatever, we'll just replace it, whether its the couch, TV, whatever...

Re:Bad analogy (1)

tamird (1283132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418615)

You're right, it's a bad analogy, but you're also missing the point. This isn't about privacy, it's about lock-in. This group is trying to make sure Google customers are able to pack up and take their business elsewhere. While Gooogle's privacy practices are questionable, there's nothing evil about them giving you freedom to abandon them.

Re:Bad analogy (5, Insightful)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418645)

No. The reason it's a bad analogy is because it misses the key and only crucial point: the fundamental disconnect between "your things" and "cannot take" when the latter is arbitrarily imposed on you by a party that has no legitimate claim on the former. The landlord has no claim on "your things" unless you have breached contract somehow, like not paying rent. Otherwise taking "your things" with you when moving out is an activity not to be questioned at all. A better analogy might be that the mere act of moving in resulted in the landlord claiming "your things" were now "his things" without any justification supported by law or common cultural practice. The Google Data Liberation Group is (belatedly, IMHO) expending energy to rectify a situation that should never have existed in the first place. A laudable effort, to be sure, but one that should not have been necessary.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418847)

No. The reason it's a bad analogy is because it misses the key and only crucial point: the fundamental disconnect between "your things" and "cannot take" when the latter is arbitrarily imposed on you by a party that has no legitimate claim on the former. The landlord has no claim on "your things" unless you have breached contract somehow, like not paying rent. Otherwise taking "your things" with you when moving out is an activity not to be questioned at all. A better analogy might be that the mere act of moving in resulted in the landlord claiming "your things" were now "his things" without any justification supported by law or common cultural practice. The Google Data Liberation Group is (belatedly, IMHO) expending energy to rectify a situation that should never have existed in the first place. A laudable effort, to be sure, but one that should not have been necessary.

What if the landlord assisted you in acquiring (legally) the items in question (i.e. Google Docs helps you make documents, you don't make them all on your own, though you contribute all of the actual creativity)? If e.g. he helped pay for them, on the assumption that doing so would raise the rent and help him re-rent it to someone else later (once you're gone/moved-out), then it might be reasonable for him to at least request compensation for the items. Depending on the contract, he might be able to force such compensation. IANAL.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418877)

The landlord has no claim on "your things" unless you have breached contract somehow, like not paying rent.

I don't think that's true. Even if you haven't paid rent, the landlord can't hold your stuff hostage. What he CAN do is sue you in a court of law, but he doesn't get to take your stuff because you owe him money. AFAIK, only secured loans actually set that up, but its done so by contract. I haven't seen a lease yet that gives a landlord the right to hold your stuff for none payment... and I'm not sure that's legal, since if you're not paying rent you lose your right to be there (including your stuffs right to be there), but the landlord isn't out anything except your back rent (i.e., he still has the building).

Re:Bad analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419191)

Thanks. This is a much better response than the previous post which concocted a bogus scenario in an awkward attempt to be contrary. You're right. There are few situations imaginable where the landlord could hold one's property. Thus the position held by many providers of online services seem all the more ridiculous.

It's a *perferct* analogy (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418827)

With Google The Evil (tm), you have no guarantee that they haven't stashed a "backup" somewhere in their dark recesses. You don't really take your stuff, you just make a copy.

No, you take out your stuff, they may keep a copy.

The leased apartment is a perfect analogy in this respect. No one can be sure that the landlord didn't use his master key when you were away and took pictures of all your stuff. Maybe he has his own apartment decorated exactly like yours.

But why should he? Unless you are a world-famous interior decorator, what reason would anyone have to copy your layout? Likewise, what incentive does Google have to keep copies of your data? They may keep information about you, for statistics, just like a marketing researcher may look into your trash can to see what products you buy, but that's not such a big deal.

I think people are too nervous about the assumed value of their on-line data. Think of how much data about you was public long before home computers existed. Your phone number and address are written in a book that's given for free to everyone who has a telephone. You carry a plate with a unique id code on the outside of your car. Every cheque you use to pay something has your signature and bank account number. All these items can and *have* been used by fraudsters in the past. Why should we get more nervous just because the data is in a digital format?

Re:Bad analogy (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419013)

It is a bad analogy, and has little to do with real situation. Reminds me of the reel world and the real world they did on MST3k.

In the reel world people with no visible income can afford luxurious apartments. In the real world people must often compromise on their accommodations to eat. In the reel world people can afford any arbitrary level of privacy. In the real world we make compromises on privacy to minimize opportunity costs. In the reel world every person can manage their own computers and server and has redundant backups. In the reel world, people have cheap PCS and all they understand is how to work the web browser.

I think what google is doing is dangerous, and I would prefer that users understood the implications. OTOH, I understand, to use the analogy, that given a free room and board that some might compromise on privacy. Obviously, being a for profit company, one must assume that value of the privacy in some way exceeds that value of the service provided, but that point is often not relevant for people who have a choice of having or not having.

Look at credit cards and short terms loans. People seem perfectly happy to pay double to have something today instead of tomorrow. So why would they not do the same with google? As the previous weekend shows, you can get all sort of response when you tell people their free stuff is going to be taken away, even if it is only an illusion.

The Life of Google (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418149)

Guy 1: Are you with the Data Liberation Front?
Guy 2: No, we're with the Liberation Front for Data!
Guy 1: Oh, well at least you aren't with the Front for Data Liberation!

Re:The Life of Google (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418613)

SPLITTERS!

so, aside from free search, email, blogging, maps, docs, apps - what has Google ever done for us?

Re:The Life of Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418967)

Mod parent and GP up for being awesome.
For those who don't get it, these are references from Monty Python's "The Life of Brian".

If Microsoft did this... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418157)

... the members of that data liberation group would quickly be "liberated" from their jobs!

(I'm basing this on experiences trying to get data out of Outlook and over to another client)

Re:If Microsoft did this... (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418707)

Are you unaware of their export-to-CSV capabilities..?

So to escape from Google Docs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418175)

I need to use the esoterically named called "Export to" command, and save the document in another format on my computer? Thanks Google Liberation Front for this helpful information!

I think that getting data out of proprietary document formats with no export functions is a bigger concern for me at the moment.

Google Pervasiveness Front (1)

2phar (137027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418183)

The easier it is to move data in and out of Google, the more data Google get to monitor.

Re:Google Pervasiveness Front (2, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419351)

While this is a valid concern, you can take it too far. As a private citizen, it doesn't really bother me that Google crawls my email and my contacts' email and uses keywords to target ads. As a business, it would be more concerning, but even then only for certain types of data.

At the end of the day, they provide a service and need to be paid. They get paid through targeted ads - so if you don't want to see targeted ads, you're not "paying" Google, and why should they do things for you then?

It would be "evil" if they weren't up front about it or denied it - but data mining is Google's primary business, and they aren't hiding it. I've yet to see any instance of them declaring data sacred and then parsing it for their own purposes, either.

In short, I see no evidence that Google is "evil" - merely that they aren't doing things the way that a lot of F/OSS folks would prefer. They aren't making their money off support though, so that's expected.

MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (4, Interesting)

stvn (674703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418199)

I'm very curious how they are going to liberate the user added data in Google Maps/Mapmaker. Right now the 'community' adds raw data like streets & locations but 'only' get back PNGs with colors representing streets and locations. Granted this is enough for most people. But Openstreetmap has been doing similar work and allows users access to the raw data, resulting in totally different uses than just simple PNG-maps. It would be awesome to tap into the raw mapmaker data and combine it with raw openstreetmap data for for instance routing, vector based maps for mobiles (smaller!) etc

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418727)

Moral of the story for me (but I've already learned this in the past): before you even start spending time accumulating data in some format or with some service, be sure you can easily migrate that data out of said format or service. As a last resort you can almost always manually look at each piece of data and re-enter it in some other format, but the time and energy required to do that often exceeds the value of the data, effectively resulting in the data being unusable if you need to change formats/services.

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418887)

I'm very curious how they are going to liberate the user added data in Google Maps/Mapmaker.

I'm not sure if this covers the "user added data" you are concerned about, but -- from the Data Liberation Front page linked in TFA -- the main mechanism for getting your data (either "My Maps" or "Saved Locations") out of Google Maps is via KML export [dataliberation.org] .

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419329)

I'm very curious how they are going to liberate the user added data in Google Maps/Mapmaker.

I'm not sure if this covers the "user added data" you are concerned about, but -- from the Data Liberation Front page linked in TFA -- the main mechanism for getting your data (either "My Maps" or "Saved Locations") out of Google Maps is via KML export [dataliberation.org] .

These are legal problems, not technical problems, retard.

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (3, Informative)

Richard Fairhurst (900015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419345)

But there's not a lot point exporting the data if you don't have the rights to use it.
That's what the top-ranked Data Liberation suggestion [appspot.com] is talking about - great that we can get the data out; but now allow us to use it elsewhere without fear of being sued for breach of copyrighted.

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (2, Interesting)

stvn (674703) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419411)

I'm very curious how they are going to liberate the user added data in Google Maps/Mapmaker.

I'm not sure if this covers the "user added data" you are concerned about, but -- from the Data Liberation Front page linked in TFA -- the main mechanism for getting your data (either "My Maps" or "Saved Locations") out of Google Maps is via KML export [dataliberation.org] .

There are some caveats on this KML export, for instance you're not allowed to bulk export data: "Also, you may not use Google Maps in a manner which gives you or any other person access to mass downloads or bulk feeds of numerical latitude and longitude coordinates."
This is a vague limitation; can I get all my tens of bicycle paths back and what about the tens or hundreds friends of me did etc.
I do understand that entering 'public' data (where roads are) is different from private data (gmail). So the DLF is doing a good job on the latter, but I'm curious about the former: user contributed public data. I can see the result of an added road by user X, so why can I not access the raw data?
There is an interesting discussion going on on Ed Parsons (google) blog http://www.edparsons.com/2009/09/liberating-your-my-maps-data/ [edparsons.com]

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418937)

A cursory look at openstreetmap shows that it lacks the ability to plan a route, pretty much the onyl reason I stop by Google maps. Is there a viable alternative for that?

Re:MapMaker vs. openstreetmap (1)

Richard Fairhurst (900015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419103)

Try maps.cloudmade.com [cloudmade.com] - there are numerous others. The point of OpenStreetMap is to make the data free so anyone can build a routing site, custom map or whatever - and not so much, in itself, to be an all-singing all-dancing alternative to Google Maps.

OMG (3, Funny)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418235)

I am SO sick of Google. They are giving every corporation a bad name by being so unevil.

interesting analogy (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418275)

I was initially going to comment that this analogy is a bit off:

Not only is this a bad situation for you as the tenant, but it's also detrimental to the housing industry as a whole, which no longer has incentive to build better apartments at all.

The obvious problem is that no particular landlord is interested in "the housing industry as a whole": they're interested in their own corner of it. And so it's not clear why the landlord would want to do something to make it easier for tenants to move out, just because the end result is good for "the industry as a whole", unless they're altruists.

But in this case, I think the analogy might actually work well. What if the landlord controlled, say, more than half of the housing industry? Then they might well want to do what's good for the housing industry as a whole, because they'll gain more customers from increasing the size of the industry as a whole than they'll lose to competitors within the industry. Google plausibly controls such a large proportion of "the cloud" that that's their interest.

It does reduce the competitive moat, though. It may make it easier to grow by doing something like this, but it also makes it easier for some future competitor to much more quickly poach Google's customers. It looks like that's a risk they're willing to take, but many companies aren't. I think that's because many companies realize they are where they are at least partly due to luck, and can't count on staying there without taking active measures to cling to that position.

Re:interesting analogy (2, Interesting)

andymadigan (792996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418429)

Even for a minority member of the market it is to their advantage. Advertising that it is easier to move (and scaring consumers that other vendors/landlords "lock you in") gets you customers. This either means you end up with more customers, or you force everyone in the industry to add the ability to move. If they choose the latter, then you can compete on features and be able to easily pull customers from other vendors.

Re:interesting analogy (4, Insightful)

volsung (378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418509)

I think often people confuse "altruism" with "long term self-interest," and that may be the issue Google is considering here. In the short term, you can make it hard for tenants to move out, and maybe gain a little bit of rent that you would not have otherwise gotten. However, people talk and, in the long term, behavior like that can lose you potential customers. You will be forced to drop your rent in order to keep your units full.

(This relates to the best description of "business ethics" I've heard: Ethical business requires that you balance the needs of and try to act in the best interest of your owners, employees and customers. Otherwise, in the long run, you will find yourself without capital, labor, or revenue. Thus, business ethics is about long term self-interest, not some kind of abstract altruism. Sometimes the "long run" takes a really long time, encouraging people to risk unethical behavior, of course.)

Making it easier to leave Google applications helps grow your potential customer base in the future (such as those who are wary of lock in), at the risk of losing current customers who are unhappy with your service. That is a motivation well-rooted in self-interest, as long as you think your product is better than everyone else's.

Re:interesting analogy (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418555)

It raises risks, though: not only do you have to think your product is better than everyone else's, but that it'll stay that way indefinitely. I think a lot of companies aren't that confident that, sometime in the future, someone else won't come along with a better---maybe even much better---product. Then they're suddenly out of business, unless they've made it harder for people to quickly switch. If they did make it hard to switch, though, they'll have residual business for years after being obsoleted, from locked-in "legacy" customers.

Depending on how you value risks, it might not be irrational to accept slower growth (scare off customers due to lock-in) in return for diminished chance of rapid, large-scale customer desertion (they can't easily leave, due to lock-in).

Re:interesting analogy (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418681)

(This relates to the best description of "business ethics" I've heard: Ethical business requires that you balance the needs of and try to act in the best interest of your owners, employees and customers. Otherwise, in the long run, you will find yourself without capital, labor, or revenue. Thus, business ethics is about long term self-interest, not some kind of abstract altruism.

So something sort of like this [google.com] then? (See graph on page four of the presentation.)

Re:interesting analogy (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419393)

Exactly. I'm an Objectivist, but I'm offering some products online for free for limited use, and I contribute to F/OSS. The idea is that in the first case, my customers will gain confidence in my products and purchase more expensive services in times, and in the second case, that F/OSS will not only become better, but will better fit my own needs in the future.

One doesn't have to be altruistic to benefit others. There are no conflicts of interest amongst rational actors.

Re:interesting analogy (2)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418539)

The obvious problem is that no particular landlord is interested in "the housing industry as a whole": they're interested in their own corner of it. And so it's not clear why the landlord would want to do something to make it easier for tenants to move out, just because the end result is good for "the industry as a whole", unless they're altruists.

Landlords would want to make it easier for tenants to move out because then it's easier to get tenants to move in. You'd get more people interested in being tenants, if they knew they wouldn't have to leave all their stuff behind when they left. This increased demand for rental spaces means that existing capacity is more likely to be filled, and new capacity built as demand makes it profitable.

But it's a little much to expect people to follow a clumsy tenant/landlord analogy when a perfectly good car analogy can be made.

This is like you rent a truck for a big shopping trip, but when you return the truck you also have to hand over all the stuff you bought. The Google Data Liberation Group is working to ensure that you get to keep all the stuff you bought on your excursion, and you'll even be able to put it in the back of a competitor's truck if you decide to rent another one.

Except Google has old-tymey magickal replicator technology, and they kept a copy of all your stuff, and detailed records of how and where you bought it, so that they can make sure that you're bombarded with ads for products and services related to what you bought.

Re:interesting analogy (2, Insightful)

sukotto (122876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418587)

It reduces the competitive moat yes. BUT it also give people more incentive to try your product. "Hey, if it doesn't work out you're not locked in. so why not START with us and if you're ever unhappy then you can move on.". The best next step for them is to make it really easy to get your data into their product line from their competitors. Like that guy upthread who was trying to extract 1.5k contact cards from AOL, for example.

This is good press for them on multiple levels.

Data Liberation ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418295)

As in... The Data Liberation Front ?...
Oh well...
never mind...

hippies (4, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418339)

Damn capitalist hippies!

It's getting where an evil mega-corp can't make a bazillion bucks anymore.

Useful email backup tool (3, Interesting)

imunfair (877689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418341)

I've been looking for a good way to get a bunch of old email out of my yahoo account for a while without paying for a premium account... this actually looks like a good option! Judging from the screenshots I can import my email into gmail and then grab it via POP/IMAP.. now off to try it :)

Smart move (0, Troll)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418365)

A very smart move, if they really implement it as described.

But remember that there will be a price to pay : google may easily provide you with an export of all the information you gave them, but they will certainly keep a copy.

Re:Smart move (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419417)

-and that's where the house analogy breaks down: Of course the landlord wants you take your stuff: he gets to keep it, too.

I have yet to see any company really come out and say "we'll get rid of your data when you leave".

Genius! Releasing it in international waters! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418383)

Animal Liberation Front!!!

Save the whales!!!!

Here is an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418401)

Why don't they start by allowing people to close their accounts on Blogger after they moved away their data?

In Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418419)

Data unlock liberation group!

Yours In Murmansk,
Kilgore T.

Mistaken analogy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418439)

Doesn't he mean, "You wouldn't choose to enter into that lease in the first place."

I.e. people won't use Google products until they can avoid lock-in.

First change the Terms of Service (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418451)

Google's Terms of Service suck. Clause 11 needs to become much narrower, and preferabbly have some permission process in it. Until they fix that, the whole effort is just bla bla.

my favorite essay on who has your data (2, Interesting)

NewToNix (668737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418475)

One of the best essay's about where you keep your data I've ever read:

http://linuxmafia.com/faq/Essays/winolj.html/ [linuxmafia.com]

Rick Moen . . .

INOLJ-OOW2.0C (Is Not On LiveJournal Or Other Web 2.0 Cults)

It's worth the read.

Most important use case missing (3, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418485)

So you can get your data out when you want to move to different sites/applications.
What about getting your data out if Google decides to stop the site/app, decides to stop the "Liberation Group", decides to delete your data from it's systems or somehow has to stop business.
This "Liberation Group" thing simply ensures you can get your data only when you least need to.

Re:Most important use case missing (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418979)

What about getting your data out if Google decides to stop the site/app, decides to stop the "Liberation Group", decides to delete your data from it's systems or somehow has to stop business.

If Google gives you the tools to export your data on demand (which is what most of this amounts to, on the export side), then you can decide how frequently you want to archive it to protect against that kind of eventuality, just as you would with local storage. Yes, you run some risk of catastrophic, no-warning failure/cancelation of Google as a whole or the particular service, but you do that with most forms of storage under your own control as well, and, in either case, you can backup your data to mitigate the risk.

This "Liberation Group" thing simply ensures you can get your data only when you least need to.

That seems to require accepting a particularly odd definition of "when you least need to".

Obligatory car analogy (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418687)

Imagine you've been driving your car for years, and have accumulated lots of map notes, music, and playlists in your car's navigation and music systems. When you decide you want to buy a new car from a different manufacturer, you're free to do so, but you can't simply transfer all your settings to the new vehicle, even though it has similar systems. The only way to move it all over is to manually re-enter/recopy each item, which would take many hours.

Data Liberation Front? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418717)

- Splitters! Splitters!
- We're Data Liberation Front...
- Oh. I thought we were Data Front of Liberation.

Names (3, Funny)

dazjorz (1312303) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418815)

Google More Obvious Name Group Seeks To Make Names More Obvious

Easy export, easier import (1)

tetsukaze (1635797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29418819)

Google is pretty keen on staying on the good side of the industry, but there is another aspect to consider. By focusing on making the data mobile you can go both ways. A modular and standardized method of storing data makes it easier for people to move over to google as well as move out. I could even see some sort of service for migrating data between different services come out of this group.

Re:Easy export, easier import (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419011)

Google is pretty keen on staying on the good side of the industry, but there is another aspect to consider. By focusing on making the data mobile you can go both ways.

That's not really "another aspect to consider", its right there in the announcement. "The Data Liberation Front is an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products." (emphasis added)

The only reason the discussion focusses on the "out" portion is that a company trying to make it easier for people to move onto their platform is nothing special.

The Liberation Front of Data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29418925)

Was I the only one who wondered if these guys were affiliated with the Judean People's Front? ...or perhaps it was the People's Front of Judea?

Re:The Liberation Front of Data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419137)

SPLITTER!

Exporting the data is only half the battle. (5, Interesting)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419059)

The highest rated suggestion - over a thousand votes - on the data liberation site is about Google Maps.

Specifically - the rather loose definition of what we can and can't do with the data.

http://moderator.appspot.com/#15/e=43649&t=4364a [appspot.com]

You can extract a kml from a my-maps thing you've drawn on top of googles satellite imagery easily.

But what can you do with this?

Google have made vague and unclear statements that 'bulk' use is not allowed - without saying what this is.

Yahoos terms and conditions allow uses like this, and much of OpenStreetMap has been helped by this for example - people able to trace streets, streams, and ...

But the license for data derived from maps is still unclear - can I for example take a list of 3000 river crossings from google, crowdsource how easy they are to get across with a 4x4 or a donkey, and then publish this list?

And if I sell the list, or publish a book of maps using this data combined with openstreetmap data?

Re:Exporting the data is only half the battle. (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419125)

All your mashups are belong to us!

Seriously, trace all you like on google maps (in your geography lessons, at work, in your council meetings) because we're going to take all your data and put adverts on it.

regards, Ed. [blogspot.com]

and the street photos? (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419067)

so how about doing something useful with all those aerial/street photos (like letting openstreetmap trace them, rather than have them sitting unused hoping someone at googleplex will find a way to paste ads on the pics before they become out-of-date)

what about my search data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419081)

What about my search data? Will Google let me take all they've learned about me through my searching the last 5 years and carry that to a new search provider?

Dear Google: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29419203)

Please unlock the files for the criminal prosecution of the world's most dangerous person [whitehouse.org] .

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours In Novy Urengoy,
Philboyd Studge

With Apologies to The Eagles (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29419253)

On the information super highway, mousemat underhand
Pages choc full of banners, sites filled up with spam
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
Plain simple front page, with a clean white design
I surfed down to the site
There they stood in the doorway;
Names were Page and Brin
And I was thinking that this site
could be made out of fail or made out of win
Then I clicked on the search link, and they showed me the way
There were posts all over the interwebs,
I thought I read them say...

Welcome to the hotel googleplexia
Such a lovely page (Such a lovely page)
Such a lovely cage
Plenty of hits at the hotel googleplexia
Be it far or near(Be it far or near)
You can find it here

They got web search and Youtube, they got scholar and trends
They got gchat and email, and know all your friends
Click about and see websites, can't see a threat
You might not remember, but they never forget

I called Larry and Sergey
Asked, "why put this online?"
They said, we know everything you've done since, 1999
And still I click web search results by night and day
Seems wrong but the results are so right
Can almost hear them say...

Welcome to the hotel googleplexia
Such a lovely page (Such a lovely page)
Such a lovely cage
Livin' your life at the hotel googleplexia
Looks like a paradise (Looks like a paradise),
if you're a private eye....

Then a got a bad feeling
what if they stop being nice
They said; "Your just a customer here, and we know your price"
And in the marketers chambers,
They gathered for the feast
Troll all the data on people's lives
And they will never cease

Last thing I remember,
I had said I'd take no more
Need to get private data back
To the way it was before
Relax said the G-man
We have programmed to deceive
You can checkout any time you like,
But your data can never leave!

Welcome to the hotel googleplexia
Such a lovely page (Such a lovely page)
Such a lovely cage
Plenty of hits at the hotel googleplexia
Be it far or near(Be it far or near)
You can find it here

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