The idea of developing free unique identifiers got started at Reboot 7 in Copenhagen, where Jyri and I hooked up with our friends Adam Wern and Eric Wahlforss. On Saturday when the Reboot crowd went out for the evening, we met Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia in a bar and started talking. Together with Jimbo we came up with the idea of a Long Tail Identification Number, a unique free product code for long tail producers, such as micro-entrepreneurs, designers, and crafters. A couple of days later I wrote to Jimbo:
The idea of an open, wiki-based system for naming & coding "long tail products" has stayed in our minds since last Saturday. On Sunday, we had a very inspiring discussion about the possibility of LTIN with Eric Wahlforss and Adam Wern, the two extremely bright Swedish guys that you also met at the party. We got to the point where we actually decided to make a small practical exploration on how a wiki-based product identification system for long tail products would work. Would you or perhaps some of your colleagues like to join the discussion?
The first thing we discussed about was the structure of the code. If it is an url-address, how should it be composed?
First of all, we thought that the address should be readable by both humans and machines. An example of such address would be one, wherethere is first the general page reference (for example www.LTIN.org or wikid.org – although those domains seem to be already taken), then a user name (to reference who has identified a certain product), and finally, the identification for a certain item (such as a name "MUKAVA-bag", or in numeric form 00123)
Another option could be, as Eric and Adam suggested, that there is a domain just for registering id:s. Quoting Eric’s words: “These id:s could then be used on another site, e.g. quismo.com, where product information could be shown (e.g. quismo.com/company/product ). Quismo.com could then be either non-commercial or commercial; there could even be several competing sites. I believe it could be good to make a distinction between the registered id:s (that are objective, permanent, non-changeable) and the wikipedia-like content (that is changing, NPOV, and ‘open’).”
Also, we could think that there was a global id, which could be a unique string (e.g. md5), like on musicbrainz.org or del.icio.us.
Anyway, we thought that once the structure of the id will be solved, we could ask some interested designers and crafters to test it with their products. Their use experiences could be documented for developing the system further.
There are also many other topics to be discussed, such as the link between LTIN and creative commons, but at least now we are stuck with the question of the LTIN structure. We also thought about blogging this question out and making it a public project with a semi-open project wiki, like for atom. Do you think it would be a good idea?