An interview with Byron Miller of Mozdex Open Search
Libervis: - Could you tell us something about yourself and your projects?
Byron Miller: My wife tends to believe I have too many projects. I could write a book on the open source projects I participate in but Iï¿½m most proud of my personal accomplishments; my wife, my daughter, continual restoration/preservation of my 150 year old home and being active in my community.
Iï¿½m a dreamer; the list of challenges, projects, hobbies and past times of mine is too long to list here. All I can end this answer with is itï¿½s my goal to provide for ones dream just as those before me have provided for mine.
Personally I am somewhat of an introverted person, I tend to over analyze and think about things more than I should.
Politically I would be considered a liberal in the sense I believe in nurturing and fostering ones ideas and beliefs. I don't know the answer to everything but if I can raise a good family, do a good job, start a good business then maybe that is the difference I was put here to make and I think that says a lot for me and my ambitions as ambitious as they are!
However, to tell some of my story I have always been intrigued with gadgets, technology and science. I started running a BBS when I was a teen which eventually led to working at some early ISPs back in the days of BSDi shell servers and some SCO shell systems (yuck!). After a few years in the Internet Services industry I moved into the database systems and eventually combined that knowledge with the financial applications systems where I am continuing to work today. I'm active in the Open source community, active in the local political community and constantly busy with my friends and family.
Iï¿½m an outdoors person, canï¿½t get enough of seeing the world. I enjoy mountain biking, aviation, fishing, skiing, hiking, astronomy and photography. All of which I wish I had more time to do!
Libervis: - What are the differences between mozdex and other search engines?
Byron Miller: The biggest difference between mozdex and other search engines is the fact we can do what others canï¿½t. We arenï¿½t tied by proprietary systems to give us advantage, we arenï¿½t building up to be a media empire, we arenï¿½t focused on non search related services or technologies and we are firmly building our business on the exchange of information and creating an open, free market for this information. While we plan to embrace much of the same technologies that thrive today our vision is to market what others canï¿½t do. We hope you will take notice to these as theyï¿½re rolled out over the next year and we encourage community participation.
Libervis: - Why do we need an open search engine?
Byron Miller: I hope you could pull some of my thoughts on an open search engine from my above response but Iï¿½ll dive further to my aspirations of an open source/free software solution.
The Internet is a mass of unsorted information and resources. Current search systems provide a proprietary interface into this world that people either have to believe or accept. Surely not everyone cares about the math of how/why they are seeing what they are seeing but in a world where information is king and he who controls that information is the emperor that is what we are trying to avoid. By building an open search system that exposes our processes, our source code and our search results as usable and understandable components we can build a search that no other commercial search engine can afford to do. I think of mozdex as a search engine project that creates a revolution and democratization of the worldï¿½s resources with freedom to all.
Instead of being the one and only we will be the tool for all and many.
Libervis: - What made you understand this need and how did you get the idea?
Byron Miller: When I was about 8 years old I got interested in what was then called shareware. That software and the freedom that came with it gave me the abilities to do things that would have been impossible just days before. I was able to start a BBS, connect to Fidonet, build a hub of information, services and solutions to solve community needs, network and build dreams upon.
Today the goal of the search market is to protect distribution, protect ones control and create value from being different and proprietary. That market isnï¿½t what drove my ambitions when I was 8 years old and it still wasnï¿½t what drives me to this day. I was given a dream because someone gave me the capacity to realize that dream. I think that is important in the service industry as it is the software industry and I believe it is something one can make a successful business on. Open source is an enabler, it is the ultimate face of free market and it provides for economical needs just as much as it does for personal and inspirational needs. The internet grows and flourishes because of its free flow of information, resources and its inspiration and ability to empower people. Open Search is a way to democratize the worlds information and creates a symposium where everyone can participate in the process by which is it searched, sorted, processed and portrayed. I found the need through my own questioning of the integrity and usefulness of existing systems. While Google and others are extremely capable in themselves, only Google has the key to how it operates. No matter how much they revolutionize search youï¿½re only getting what they create for you with limited abilities to create for yourself. Yet alone understand how any of it works.
Libervis: - The BBC ran a poll to see who the people thought ran the UK.
Google came 8th in the list. If Mozdex were in the same position as Google (in the number of users and popularity), do you think it would be in the top 10 at all? Since Mozdex is free the system of listing is open, thus agenda's a kept out, so would the people judge Mozdex as free enough not to think it runs the UK?
Byron Miller: He who controls information asserts power, he who exposes information creates power. I think the citizens of the UK would be at number one.
Libervis: - How long do you think it will be until mozDex is as useful and widely used as Google, to the point of mozDex becoming an everyday verb?
Byron Miller: That all depends on you, the community as to the success of this project; Mozdex will need more than I as an individual can give it and I certainly hope to see more community involvement to make it a reality. Let there be no misgivings that mozdex is created as a business venture and through that business it is created to give people jobs, pay people salaries and make money. That combination of proving freedom, providing monetary value and giving a usable service is when mozdex will be an everyday verb. We exist to serve you, integrate with you and provide value to you. We are open to how we can do that and seek your input on how to make that possible.
As far as our growth strategy goes we are working hard to expand by ~15million pages a day to reach our 4 billion page goal by years end. An index alone wonï¿½t make us compete, so we are looking at integration social processing in conjunction with computer processing of results, integration with partners, creating new search components, interfaces and data visualizations and work on creating an industry on search as a service.
As always it boils down to support and money. Right now community feedback and participation is priority number one; with that we can raise the money.
Libervis: - How was the community involvement in the development of Mozdex open search so far?
Byron Miller: It has been difficult to gauge to say the least. It's hard to break in to get your name out when people put up artificial barriers in doing so, by that I mean I can't really discuss what we are about without that being considered spamming or self publicizing which a lot of community sites prohibit these days. In todayï¿½s reality of Internet marketing unless you offer monetary value people just won't do anything for you like they did before. Today people pay for links that years ago when Google et all started they didn't have to. So getting through the barriers of being trusted, getting through to being understood and getting the word out has been a challenge to say the least. Iï¿½ve been able to make some great inroads over the past few weeks that have beat everything over the past few years, perhaps itï¿½s a matter of just meeting the right people or saying the right words and that is what we are working on.
Community involvement is imperative and we look forward to the feedback. As we grow our index and broaden our reach perhaps a lot of this will fall in place when people are comfortable recommending us and discussing us and perhaps that is the key to growing strong. Time will tell, but are all ears!
Libervis: - Why does mozdex link to the proprietary simpy? You could link to the free de.lirio.us or even set up your own social bookmarks service with the same code as de.lirio.us, and add urls bookmarked by users to the database of mozdex.
Byron Miller: Good question and Iï¿½m happy to answer. Without mentioning the fact that the founder of Simpy is an open source genius of sorts and looking beyond the cover of the website and realizing its built heavily on open source projects that he develops, supports and contributes to the power of simpy is the integration it offers. When we can work with existing community members to enrich ourselves and provide a better service that is the value I see in being open. Itï¿½s about freedom of choice and we will work to extend this freedom on our side so you can choose how you want to manage your search results as well. Because we are open you we want to create interfaces you can plug in your own choice of bookmark/tagging/linking system as well as tell your favorite website to integrate with the open search interfaces we expose. Simpy is quick, exposed through APIï¿½s and easy to integrate to.
My idea is a search platform, search integration and a search industry. Certain pieces as they come about may better serve as full integration into the ï¿½coreï¿½ search technology and possibly as social engineering and computer generated indexing merge that may be more true but for now we pride ourselves on being able to link and partner rather than consume and destroy.
Again, we are working hard to create interfaces so you can customize within mozdex but the real power is you can implement our data outside of mozdex as well.
Libervis: - What kind of things do you imagine will others build on top of mozdex? What does mozdex provide to make these possible?
Byron Miller: Immediately I can see services launching to plot growth, track trends and analyze websites based off the scoring/anchor/linking data we have. Imagine being able to watch your site grow/shrink and do competitive analysis on a link per link basis. Marketing companies could have data to do real analysis that only people have dreamed of having before. Perhaps we could expose data that Web trends and other log processing programs could use to score, rank and show the exposure of URLï¿½s as compared to your competition.
I also imagine people could do clustering, stemming, plotting, graphical representation of the query and other post-processing methodologies that may drive search well beyond its current means today.
Because XML/RSS is so portable you could use RSS aggregators to track your favorite queries on 3rd party sites, you could integrate them with your mail reader, you could exchange links with your friends, you could save these as local bookmarks and apply style sheets to them to do with the results as you wish.
I also ask you and the community what your vision for the data we expose is. How would you use an OpenSearch or RSS search result? What would you develop from this data? What other features would you benefit from and find useful? If you have any suggestions donï¿½t hesitate to contact us and we will see what we can do for you.
Libervis: - What will you do for F/L/OSS and other free culture if you get into congress?
Byron Miller: I would speak of the value of empowering people, creating ideas, fostering growth and the agility that comes with being open. Our government isnï¿½t about controlling out institutions but protecting our institutions. Itï¿½s time we look at the advantages not only economically, but socially in providing to the open exchange of information and ideas. We canï¿½t do this if we are locked into proprietary systems, closed solutions and non connected systems. When people, businesses, industry and government can openly connect, interact and exchange ideas and services we have created a system that is truly for the people. How could you ever support such a revolution/democratization of services if it wasnï¿½t open to all?
Libervis: - What is your position in free vs open source software?
Byron Miller: They both create value in freedom. I donï¿½t think there is an absolute freedom that one and only one method can provide. Through the balance of all freely available solutions, licensing methods and technologies we can have the choice that is needed to suffice our own needs. Just like the free market certain pieces will prevail but that is what the market is designed to do. I just donï¿½t believe in actively locking myself into specific beliefs when there is value to be found in all.
Libervis: - Do you think software running a website (e.g. a search engine) of which the code has not been published is proprietary (distributed but not free)?
Byron Miller: I believe there is a HUGE market for a search that can expose the how and why. I chose to deliver this on open source technologies because that is the interface in which you can prove the how and why. Search is a well studied topic and many of the methods are well known; even pagerank has a white paper to describe it. The technology as it is today is generally proprietary though to answer that part.
My vision is to create market share instead of control it. My vision is to be a trusted foundation instead of the complete solution (After all, how could I limit you to what I think you want??). I want to do one thing good and do it darn good! I think the other players have lost sight of what the internet is about and are trying to make it way to much of a consumption service rather than an interactive exchange of ideas, resources and information. I believe Open source is the right tool for me to accomplish these goals and Iï¿½m not sure defining what is or isnï¿½t proprietary helps me solve them but Iï¿½ll leave that up for you to decide.
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This interview has been done cooperatively at Libervis.com by some of the members of the Libervis community (dylunio, a_thing, Taco Buitenhuis and Danijel Orsolic). We thank Byron for his time. While you are obviously late to propose questions to be included in this interview, you are welcome to join us and participate in our next interviews.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
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