Free the Content, Maybe Not.


Stairs to nowhere

During the two conferences I attended recently, Web Directions South and OZ-IA there was a distinct theme in some the sessions on opening up the corporate knowledge based.

You know the score, you have bound to have heard this before.   Don’t lock the corporate information up, allow those statistics and figures, you are already presenting to the public to be readily accessed via some type of API.  Allow people to remix, mashup and represent the information.  The concept goes that it’s better to allow this via a controlled API then have people scrape and represent or misrepresent the information.  Hence you maintain control of your information using the API than the traditional scrape method.

Just to be clear I’m not talking of community building and customer relations in an online social environment, that’s a completely different story.

Now this is all well and good. The concept works for large corporates and government (at all levels).

Sure Not for Profits can be involved in this type of Open Data as well, spreading their various reports etc as base API, allowing better visualisation and mashups with their data by themselves or a third party.

Small Business?

But what of medium to small business.  Is this model of Open Data applicable to them as well.

Consider a small business, is there any information that can really be published outside of the sales catalogue that can be truly released to the public without damaging the longer term viability of the business.  Open Data seems in a way in direct conflict with the core of any small business’s operation.  You don’t really want to display and hand over your corporate data to your competitors do you.

So is the idea a waste of time for this segment of the business community.   Well no not really;  you don’t want to put all your information out there granted.  But you can take advantage of the information from other sources that have an open API and mashup that with say your product catalogue.

For example if you are selling or renting properties, Google maps is a good example of centralised visualisation point.  You display your properties on the Google maps, fine that bit is easy, we have all seen this.   Next you could also display the nearby bus stops, schools, pizza shops, local geo tagged photos, and so on.   Thinking about this example aren’t we just bringing the old GIS maps with their multiple layers of spacial informaiton to the web.

Stepping it up

But it doesn’t stop there, a cluey small business could leverage these open data sources with their APIs to mashup the data to present a new slant on existing information, now I’m not saying that this representation should in turn be made public, no far from it. But it will present a new way of looking at a target market for sure. The pivotal point here is the availability of the Open Data via an API.

So is this yet another way that small business can cheaply get the drop on the big corporates?

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