Prisoner of Conscience Microformat

One message that came across loud & clear to me at the excellent netsquared session on mashups last year was that you need to expose your structured data in the most granular way you can i.e. break it down & make it small, and there's more chance of people putting it together with other stuff in an interesting way. Unfortunately it seems to me that human rights organisations have a tendency to focus on unstructured information (facts & figures, yes, but in a narrative form), which makes it hard to envisage ways to mash it up. For me, that's a problem, because i think mashups have a lot of campaigning & engagement potential.

There's also the frustrating experience of seeing related cases spread over different websites without an easy way to draw them together (e.g. for a campaigning microsite).

So, without claiming to be an expert on the technical details, I'd like to propose the development of a Prisoner of Conscience Microformat. What I'm looking for is semantic markup that captures key details about a prisoner & their case at a useful level of detail. From what I understand, this would be classed as a compound microformat and could possibly be based on the widely used hCard microformat, which is "a simple, open, distributed contact information microformat for people, organizations and venues". I'd like to be able to share details such as

  • date of arrest
  • charges
  • current legal situation
  • relevant rights (e.g. articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under which the person should have been protected)
  • thematic areas (e.g. land rights, cyberdissident)

as well as biographical information that could help people to relate to the case (such as their age, profession, country of origin and so on).

One aspect which I don't think is part of simple microformats like hCard would be a way to express relationships e.g. the fact that they were arrested in the same incident as other individuals. For example, the cyberdissident Truong Quoc Huy who I referred to in a previous post was arrested with two other young Vietnamese chatroom users, Truong Quoc Tuan and Pham Ngoc Anh Dao, for taking part in an online chat about political reform. I suspect that the FOAF (Friend of a Friend) project for modelling social networks could help here.

prisoner The whole point of this somewhat geeky exercise is something very non-technical; to make it easier to construct online communities around prisoners of conscience, and to have ways of visualising and connecting that stir peoples' affinity and will to act. The Prisoner of Conscience Microformat idea is a statement of faith - that if we make the data available, other people will do creative and contructive things with that information that we wouldn't have thought of.

p.s. Of course, there are organisations working in human rights that have a very structured approach to data (because their change model depends on cumulative analysis) - so allow me to big up the Human Rights Data Analysis Group and the Martus software project (even if they're not very web 2.0 smiley).