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Open data is perceived as being free. One argument against open data I often hear is that by making data open, you might lose your advantage over the competion. This way of thinking also keeps some scientists from releasing their data as open data, until it might lead to a publication.

Unless you have moral obligation to release your data as open data (e.g. being funded with public money), are there other reasons making open data beneficial and worth doing?

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    I'm not sure this is an answerable question. Is there a more targeted version? – fgregg Oct 11 '13 at 11:14
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    Not an answer, but an example: I only know of the company Cloudmade because they provide (a now outdated, but fine at the time) download portal of ready-to-use shapefiles derived from OSM data. Though this service might have helped its competitors, they probably earned much more in terms of visibility. – ojdo Oct 13 '13 at 12:56
  • @ojdo, why don't you offer that as an answer, open data can be a form of marketing. – fgregg Oct 14 '13 at 0:47
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Example: I only know of the company Cloudmade because they provide (a now outdated, but fine at the time) download portal of ready-to-use shapefiles derived from OSM data. Though this service might have helped its competitors, they probably earned much more in terms of visibility, which might spawn e.g. development contracts for custom-made solutions.

This argument is more verbosely given for open source software in the excellent blog post Yes, You Can Make Money with Open Source. Just replace OSS with open data, and the argument stays valid.

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    Just in case someone looks for a still working link with ready-to-use shapefiles derived from OSM data: Geofabrik.de has them. – ojdo Oct 9 '14 at 15:56
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One reason to open your data is that the people who may be using the data may not be your competitors; by putting it out there for other people to use, there may be people who are able to find interesting uses for your data that you might not have considered.

In the case of science data, the ultimate goal should not be to make a profit, but to make a contribution to science and our understanding of the world.

In those cases, if you have a science team that is good at producing data that's useful for others, they should get proper credit, so that they can get funding to continue their data collection, or for new collection, as appropriate.

  • the key is less barriers to access...i think you get the jist of it, but essentially, the easier the data can be consumed, the more opportunities there will be for it to be mashed up/remixed/etc; but i like your answer the best – albert Oct 10 '14 at 13:46
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So if you compare Open Data to Open Source, than Open* seems to be a good strategy to survive in a small market segment. Some typical advantages can be

  1. in case of collaborative work - open is much easier in many dimensions
  2. in case of collecting additional data from your customers - the enhance of your data quality. Thats maybe valuable to you?
  3. in case of provide valuable data to others - earn goodwill, hold competitors down, easily find partners and employees ...

But your right, you should always ask yourself, why you are opening your data, which data and how you can do this in a valuable manner. It's all about your cost-benefit ratio, because there will be costs. Publishing just data blindfold is like throwing some books out on the street - your neighbors will complain about. To generate a value add, will cost some work not only one time - to provide your data enduring you should not count only on your altruism:

  1. know your reason and integrate this reason in to your business model,
  2. monitor the value add for your data consumer and
  3. monitor your benefit.

Publishing data is real work - but there are also real advantages - so think about and act courageously :-)

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    Your answer made me think of something -- if you're the first to release a given type of data, your structures can become the defacto standard in the field. – Joe Oct 9 '14 at 15:00
  • why would you ask why you are opening your data? – albert Oct 10 '14 at 13:46
  • tried the answer above - in short - it's all about your cost-benefit ratio, because there will be costs – jerger Oct 11 '14 at 16:13
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People asked more or less the same question about websites a bit more than a decade ago. I think it's mostly the same. Just as you expect your business partners to have a website so that you don't have to call them for every little piece of information you need, it will soon become the norm to directly access their data.

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As others have mentioned the visibility is important.

It also gives you a chance to benefit from the work of the crowd.

If you are a large company, then your competitive advantage is probably one of a few market disciplines: operational excellence, customer intimacy, or product innovation.

Of course you should look at 5 forces, porters generic strategies, and a whole host of other things, but it always comes down to execution.

If you aren't going to release everything, then at least release parts of your data to test if it erodes your competitive advantage

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