For some time I've been collecting project ideas to help my overall goal of "computing in the service of humanity" (a phrase I recently picked up). While I definitely want to find consulting work in this area, starting up a personal project in the meantime is important to me. Out of a bunch of ideas I've decided to start with an online skeptical toolbox.
What finally kicked me in the butt were two things: 1) The publishing of Google's paper Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources (which got a good bit of coverage), and 2) the recent Committee for Skeptical Inquiry article Online Tools for Skeptical Fact Checking by Tamar Wilner. To that end I've created a GitHub project that at the moment has two files: the proposal itself and a somewhat-organized XMind mind map file skeptical-toolbox.xmind that lists some detail.
As I said in the Implementation section, the tools cover a range of complexity, which affords our quickly rolling out something useful using the simpler ones, and progressively introduce more sophisticated tools as the toolbox develops. I plan on using Python + Flask to write it in (same as I used for PeepWeather), but I'm quite open to other languages and frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails if someone steps up and convinces me. One thing in Python's favor is the popular Natural Language Toolkit with its information extraction tools, especially around entity recogition.
What do you think? It is very early days (day zero, I suppose) but I hope that sharing this will generate some thoughts. If you're interested in helping build this - awesome! Just comment here or send me a line.
(Image: Memory Belt)