Tag Archives: Databases

Nick Black – Common Enterprise: Building a Business on Free Data [reboot10 notes]

Mr. ZIP promoted the use of ZIP codes for the USPS during the 1960s and 1970s.

Image via Wikipedia

Nick Black, Common Enterprise: Building a Business on Free Data, is involved with OpenStreet made and his company Cloudmade, that is trying to figure out if it’s possible to build business on top of it.

He starts with a point – nothing is free. Most free data has a cost, there are costs associated. Even though I write article for Wikipedia for free, I probably value this time more then the money I could get for it. There also some architectural costs, bandwidth, hardware etc.

Example: OpenStreet map server network card broke, even though it costs only 20 pounds, it costs about 5 hours of someone’s time.

Different free models:

Most projects distribution are free.

it’s also possible to get free at point of collection or creation, like Wikipedia.

There is also lots of data, collection is paid by tax payers, and then it’s given into Public domain, like US ZIP codes.


  • Free to reuse
  • Free to re-mix
  • Free to re-sell
  • Free to alter and transform

Example: taking oranges, and making orange juice at a convenient time for me, creates a great value for me and this way massively increases the amount I can make in the process.

Example: Choosing Zimbra vs. Exchange. Zimbra – 3.5 pound/month, Exchange 4.0 pound/month. Even though Zimbra is free, there is a lot of added value, and licensing at the end of the day represents only 0.5 pound/month in costs.

When the data is free, delivery becomes everything. P2P (Bit-torrent etc.) are examples of how the value changes. It’s not anymore about the money for the CD, but is it worth to me to click and download and listen to it.

Free data as valuable as an alternative hedge against proprietary data. It serves as a way to prevent vendor-lock in because I have commons alternative so I can either help myself or go to some other provider.

Examples of companies that got bit by that are Yahoo and Google maps that have problems in relation to their map providers.

When you are building a business that is available as a data in the commons, it gives you a great advantages.

But, there’s a more interesting answer to this question:

Data alone is not that useful, it needs to be augmented to add value.

Data itself is not really useful, but when it’s combined with software and communities, it gets really powerful. In addition, you want to create a circle that feeds itself and gets better and better with time.

Some comments on distributing free data

Once I distribute something I can’t stop it being redistributed. And we don’t want to stop you, since it’s a fundamental part of data redistribution. You have to make sure that data redistribution is an integral part of your business.

Creative-Commons is your friend. Links are currency on the Internet. Using linking back as an Attribution requirement and this at the end of the day drives back traffic, SEO, etc.

Can I pay people to collect free data?

The reason this is significant, it takes a long time to build communities.

Coase’s Penguin (Yochai Benkler)

Commons-based Peer production:

  • Non-monetary motivation (people have fun, and instead of obsessing over why, lets give them more ways to have fun doing this stuff)
  • Discrete multisize peices (it should be low cost integration, it’s got to be easy to do)
  • Low cost integration

Communities give you so much more.


Aggregate and Organize (Geo-Commons)

Create a Market place (A Flickr market place; Weogeo – ebay for data)

Suppose all maps are free:

  • Value can be created by end product
  • Customize
  • Personalize

.. at the end of the day it’s all about the communities: they greatly enhance the value of data. Need needs to be loved.

If you want to use the community, you have to respect the community. Remember the CDDB? Bits of freedom was taken from the community, until it broke apart. No matter how big you get, the community that built it can turn back and destroy it if you don’t treat them kindly back.

Free data is fine, but communities make it way better.

Zemanta Pixie

WebCamp break out session #1 – Adoption challenges (for social network portability) and ways for solving them

Source: dsevilla @ Flickr

Adoption challenges (for social network portability) and ways for solving them;

source: WebCamp wiki

Disclaimer: this is a partly cleared transcript of discussion; I didn’t follow the authors of comments in order to be able to catch as much as I can. Correct me if I quoted someone incorrectly and please don’t be angry with me.

Present at the discussion:

  • Stephanie Booth, 8 years blogging, Freelance social media consultant, interested in blogging, and everything that’s online
  • Gerry Shanahan, boards.ie, social media things, side of things
  • Sven Latham, IT consultant, used to run blog directory, semantic web and social networking is definitly as one of the interests
  • Paddy Holahan, Mobile blogging, NewBay founder and CEO; looking at this through the eyes of the operator, integrating with all the social operators
  • Jure Cuhalev, Zemanta, wishing to integrate with others
  • Smitashree Choudhury, doing a Ph.D. in Social media, working with media stuff
  • Justin Tomboulian, Microsoft, lives in Kyoto, Japan – responsible for solutions delivery; part of the network that takes care of 80k users ecosystem; trying to solve big-company illness problems; internal private social network and return the learnings to the community
  • John Breslin, DERI, interested in porting of data, SIOC, data portability initiative

The topic is: “Adoption issues”; what prevents people from using new technologies? The discussion turns to the question, why the big guys (FaceBook, etc.) are not adopting these solutions. Can we show that if we have portability, we will have more users.

40% of pictures on MySpace were referenced through PhotoBucket, so this was their biggest weakness when being acquired. So MySpace bought them, but the question is – was this a good thing for users? It means that MySpace killed the data portability of PhotoBucket. If you are looking at the photo that is sitting in photo-bucket, but is embedded into MySpace -> is this real portability or just “view-ability?”

So what portability really is? Should we copy the objects, or just reference it? It embedding YouTube portability of the video?

Quick explanation of aggregation vs. federation. News reader is aggregation -> data is on the web site, and I’m using special glasses to take a look at the data; it’s an aggregated view. Federation Is actually about “moving” data around. “Aggregation does not mean portability”; Reflection from a startup point of view: API’s are part of the discussion about portability, and the question was – why would we let others user precious data that users gave us. “It’s ours”. The point that Stephanie tried to get across: if you make your data available to other services, then this data is more valuable to users since then it will be available as parts of other sites.

The discussion turns into the fact weather FaceBook keeps a copy of your data and if you can get it removed. The right to delete the data is fundamental part of data portability. “Who’s data is this blog post? Just authors or of everyone that was there”. It is also hard from technical perspective. It’s also noted that web pages are cached and it is hard to quickly remove it from Google cache. It can be months, or days. Is it your right to delete your comments on a forum and disrupt the community. There is also a question of deleting blogs and the comments with them. The content becomes “part of community”, and with the deleting of the blog you are also removing other peoples original contribution. Users bill of right is mentioned – http://opensocialweb.org/2007/09/05/bill-of-rights/.

What is the business model of “all these services”? “The because effect” – you do not make money with your blog, but because of it. The business models should turn more into that, instead of locking down the data to their islands.
What can you “bring” with you? Do you “move” -> delete original after copying; making a copy and having two copies; or are you existing in kind of a shared space that gets synced back and forth. Is business model – we are making money “with” the users content, not “because” of it.
If this content is great, then there must be money in that? Is that a good way of thinking about business models? The value of FaceBook is monetized eyeballs; they make money with branding ads since they actually charge according on time users spend on their site. They can’t make money from AdWords, they have to brand. These big sites do not have interest to open up their data until the competition comes. Using other big players in industry is possible for them to leverage their interest to make the data a bit more open.
What users want – is freedom of data; and companies want more face time, so there is no real interest for them to open data. “Is this similar to FOSS vs. proprietary debates”.

Data portability is a lot about business models. As long as business model issues are not solved, you can offer as much technical solutions as you want, you will not get adoption. “Users can vote with their feet”. Amnesty App – enabling users to migrate in one hop to another service. Static data formats are a problem, because we can’t know what will matter in a few years.

Ideal thing is that I have a store somewhere where I have all the information that I can allow others to read it. Who’s going to build it and the fact is that you can not design it correctly for the future. You could turn around it around and charge it to providers or the users, depending on the point of view on your data. What kind of business model is behind that?