Call for Contributors: Announcing the Open Data Userbase
Open data fuels many thousands of products and services. However, unlike the branding on laptops that forces owners to rest their hands on “Intel Inside” placards, most retail solutions don’t advertise that they use open data. This is generally a great thing because the license requirements encourage the widest possible use. Unfortunately, it also means that most people – even those active within the technology innovation ecosystem – don’t have a clear idea of how open data is actually being used.
To address this problem, Socrata is launching a new crowd-sourcing project: the Open Data Userbase. The userbase will evolve over time, but for now, it is simply a public Google spreadsheet. The objective is to establish a collaborative database for businesses, non-profits, and other organizations that consume open data. Although governments and academics both produce and consume open data, the purpose of this list is to prioritize businesses that are actually making money with open data.
Socrata often advises its partners that it’s better to release “dirty data” sooner rather than to clean the data and release it later. We’re following our own advice in this instance: the working version of the spreadsheet – which currently lists over 150 company and project names – is full of holes. But, we also see inspiration from the Wikipedia model and the USAID experience in engaging technology innovators that shared a common goal.
Those already active in the open data community may be familiar with an “Open Data 500” project sponsored by New York University’s GovLab. Socrata has been in communication with GovLab and applauds their project. However, we believe their restrictions that prevent international participation and the concentration on Federal data do not adequately cover the open data ecosystem. The Open Data Userbase is also taking a “breadth before depth” approach. It would be great from a data custodian’s perspective to somehow certify how an open dataset is being used. But at this stage, we believe the community would benefit from a global survey of what is even being done.
All Hands on Deck
If you’re reading this, you probably know of at least three companies that are using open data today. We would like your help to transform our collective understanding from a few often-repeated examples to the comprehensive network that actually exists in the real world. We hope you contribute to the Open Data Userbase and that it ultimately supports the overall marketplace.