Zillow move should allow other small scale experiments

Last weeks announcement on the Zillow blog that is was releasing its neighbourhood boundary data to the community in Shapefile format is the story of the year so far… (ok so we are only a few weeks in… but this is important)

Zillow.com

Zillow is the US Real Estate web site that uses much web 2.0 goodness to actually carry out simple analysis of the housing market, a largely geographical phenomena of course, and allows the user to produce simple hotspot maps of the relative activities in house prices in different neighbourhoods, amongst other things.

This is where the Open Source boundary data comes in… the best people to help define and keep the neighbour boundary data “up to date” are the people themselves, and as the OpenStreetMap guys have found there is a growing community of people willing to do so.

I would be really interested to see how peoples perception of their neighbourhood compares with the “official” data, there is of course much folk-law as to the practices of Estates Agents in London calling Battersea an a rough area when I grew up “South Chelsea”, of course it is gentrified now…

We are only just developing the tools which allow users to express their own sense of place, this is an exciting first step in many ways, and will no doubt point the way to more collaborative mapping applications.

Again ,of course, this raises the question as to other data sets which could be maintained by the community in such a manner, the completeness of OpenStreetMap in the UK (shields up) could be improved overnight if data could be open sourced in this way as it has in the Netherlands for example.

The OS spends relatively little keeping its small scale business geographics data products such as strategi maintained, and it returns similarly modest revenues… worth a small-scale experiment perhaps ?

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

2 comments

  1. John McKerrell

    As far as the UK is concerned, now that we’ve got so far I’d be happy enough if OS didn’t get involved. When it happens, to have mapped the entire country using only the resources of the community will be a great thing.

    In general though I definitely support the idea of companies opening up their data. This move by Zillow, and the similar moves by AND have really helped OSM to gain in credibility (and coverage!)

    If only other companies would be so forthcoming, I believe Google own some map data of India that they got people to collect, for instance. Surely submitting it to OSM would be a good thing? The benefits for OSM are obvious but Google would also benefit as it would be an ideal way to keep the data up to date.

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