Thursday, May 29, 2014

Aereo, ABC and Parcel Data

In late April the Supreme Court heard arguments on if Aereo, a company with thousands of small (tiny actually) digital antennas, could collect programs broadcasted over the air, package them and distribute the freely collected information over the internet, for a price.  The data is compiled onto cloud storage and can be consumed for a price on any screen. 

Several news articles called this a disruptive business model  ( The issue at hand was could Aereo take the freely broadcasted signals and sell them through cloud services.  The problem being that ABC and other broadcasters sell those same signals to cable and dish networks for a fairly significant amount.

In my opinion there are many elements of this case that are similar to parcel data, of course.  Many states and counties and cities produce parcel data for their internal use and then “broadcast” or provide the data freely.  As we have seen time and time again, commercial vendors assemble that free data, repackage it, and sell it.

Most recently for example, a firm sent out a notice that users could purchase high-resolution aerial photography for southeastern Ohio (  This is the part of Ohio with the Utica Oil Shale fracking activities.  But this very same product is freely available through the State of Ohio OGROP program

So why is capturing freely broadcast programming and reselling it disruptive and taking freely available GIS data and reselling it not disruptive?  Maybe neither are disruptive, maybe it’s just the American free market. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Geospatial Metadata and ITunes

Listening to the remembrances of Pete Seeger this week and being reminded again of how he used music to build communities and reach across ages gave me an idea.

What if we used music to date our geospatial data and standards?  We could link to ITunes songs and it would universally convey not only the time period of the data set but also would relate the data or standards to other things going on at the time.

For example, what if I told you the Cadastral Data Content Standards were published when Pearl Jam’s Better Man and Daughter, Madonna’s Secret, and Melissa Etheridge’s Come to My Window were getting a lot airplay.  Does that convey a sense of what was going on, what you were working on at the same time, and how much time has passed?

Or what if you thought about when we first explored statewide parcel data sets in the modern GIS era Jon Bon Jovi’s Miracle, Phil Collins’ Do You Remember and Another Day in Paradise, and Vanilla Ice with Ice Ice Baby were on everyone’s walkman or car radio probably more like it. 

Maybe Baha Men and Who Let the Dogs Out would be a good tune for the 2000 Census, one of those benchmark data sets.  What if Who Let the Dogs Out played on your computer when you opened a 2000 Census data set?  Would that be sufficient warning about the data vintage?

We should give some thought to adding an ITune link that would open with the data set to our metadata.  It might make it easier to date it, easier to relate its vintage to other data sets, and maybe even make the metadata memorable.  You could scroll through a play list instead of clicking the metadata links.  It would definitely make geospatial metadata and dating our standards more interesting.

Next time you publish a data set think about what your are listening to, what's your data set's tune?