The Wikipedia Wars – what does it mean for geodata?

You may have picked up on the debate bouncing around the net on the problems Wikipedia is suffering. Wikipedia, for those back from the desert island is the community based encyclopaedia that has been seen as one of the great success stories of the web.

The problems which hit the news last week have focused on the fact that because anybody can contribute content, there is no accountability for the accuracy of content, and the critics argue this means the content may be manipulated by special interest groups.

So this got me thinking about the open geodata projects flowering around the web, and in particular projects like openstreetmap, a really interesting attempt to create a copyright free street map in the UK. It seems from what is happening around wikipedia, that after a while, there becomes a growing demand for “authoritative” information, data which has been checked and quality assured.

From the perspective of geographic information, this in no way means that the only authoritative information must come from commercial providers, but it does mean that there needs to be a clear understanding of how the information was collected, how and by whom it was verified and to what purposes it can be used.

The commercial data providers have always been fully aware of these issues and I think the opengeodata movement needs to address these now rather than later, so that the growth of open geodata is not upset by claims of poor quality due to misunderstanding, or inappropriate use.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

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