"Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance."
What is it?
Control over information is a societal danger similar to control over economic resources or political power. Representative government will not survive without the information to help us create meaningful policies. Otherwise, advocates will too easily lead us to the conclusion they want us to support.
How does one get access to this data?
Right now, it is not easy to get access to authoritative data. If you have money you search for it, purchase it, or do the research to obtain it. Often, you have to negotiate licensing and payment terms. Why can’t we shop for data the same way we find food, clothing, shelter, or leisure activities? None of these activities requires extensive searches or complex legal negotiations.
Why can’t we have a marketplace for data?
Microsoft Dallas is a marketplace for data. It provides a standard way to purchase, license, and download data. Currently it is a CTP, and no doubt will undergo a name change, but the idea will not.
The data providers could be commercial or private. Right now, they range from government agencies such as NASA or the UN to private concerns such as Info USA and NAVTEQ. You can easily find out their reputations so you know how authoritative they are.
As a CTP there is no charge, but the product offering will have either transaction/query or subscription based pricing. Microsoft has promised “easy to understand licensing”.
What are the opportunities?
There is one billing relationship in the marketplace because Microsoft will handle the payment mechanisms. Content Providers will not have to bill individual users. They will not have to write a licensing agreement for each user. Large provider organizations can deal with businesses or individuals that in other circumstances would not have provided a reasonable economic return. Small data providers can offer their data where it would have previously been economically unfeasible. Content Users would then be able to easily find data that would have been difficult to find or otherwise unavailable. The licensing terms will be very clear, avoiding another potential legal headache. Small businesses can create new business opportunities.
The marketplace itself is scalable because it runs on Microsoft Azure.
For application developers, Dallas is about your imagination. What kind of business combinations can you imagine?
How do you access the data?
Dallas will use the standard OData API. Hence Dallas data can be used from Java, PHP, or on an IPhone. The data itself can be structured or unstructured.
An example of unstructured data is the Mars rover pictures. The Associated Press uses both structured and unstructured data. The news articles are just text, but there are relationships between various story categories.
Dallas can integrate with the Azure AppFabric Access Control Service.
Your imagination is the limit.
The standard API is very simple. The only real limit is your imagining the possibilities for combining data together.
What kind of combinations can you think of?