Posts on Open Data



February 22, 2007

Massive OpenID Adoption
Category: Open Data

Simon Willison openID fowa
Simon Willison, openID founder evangelist, gave an exciting presentation at the Future of Web Apps yesterday. OpenID is an open source login standard that is getting viral adoption. Simon expressed surprise at the number of services taking openID in the last three weeks; AOL, Symantec and Microsoft. That is a hundred million subscribers just there. Bill Gates' endorsement must be any viral marketers dream influencer. Specially with Bill Gates' strong pro-identity (senderID) work in the anti-spam community.

I find the openID whitelisting for spam elimination the most exciting. Finally, a viable mechanism to eliminate email and comment spam. OpenID finally adds one of the key pieces to the online reputation mechanism. This in turn fills a big hole in building communities online.

There remains Google's endorsement

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January 23, 2007

Wikipedia Renages on Attribution by Using the "nofollow" Tag in Outbound Links
Category: Open Data

Wikipedia is the online public domain encyclopedia, which has recently surpassed all commercial Encyclopedia services, like Encyclopedia Brittanica. In an effort to combat spammers who edit encyclopedia entries with external links in order to gain Google´s PageRank favour, has implemented the "nofollow" tag on all external links.

Wikipedia has succumbed to this controversial measure, just like all blog services, the blog search engine technorati, and the social filtering site del.icio.us. The measure was originally proposed by Google to remove the incentive for spammers to add bogus comments to blogs in an effort to increase banklinks to their spam site.

The "nofollow" tag disables the link in question from Google's algorithm, basically announcing to search engines that "this-is-not-a-good-link"; the tag removes any PageRank assignment for that link. Google first proposed the "nofollow" for fighting spam on blog comments and trackbacks. Spammers cannot leach pagerank from high PR blogs with automated comment generators.

The measure is a double edged sword for Google though. Google relies on counting links to a website to judge its importance. If webmasters use "nofollow" links widely, Google will have no links to count. The concept behind their algorithm looses power.

The "nofollow" tag also goes against the central principle of attribution, which plays the role of currency in the creative commons and open source ecologies. Given that wikipedia lives because of the sharing economy, the decision could be critical.

Linking out of wikipedia provides full attribution to its sources and providers of information; short changing on attribution is a dangerous move.

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October 21, 2006

Shopping Feeds Standards Fight is On

association for retail technology standards

The Association of Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) has issued its first proposal for a data feeds standards. The standard is aimed squarely at Comparison Shopping Engines, like shopping.com, kelkoo.com and enclick.com. The goal of the standard is to allow ecommerce merchants to generate a single data feed valid for all affiliate networks and shopping sites, instead of the dozen odd data feeds which are necessary at present.

Jay Heavilon of MARS, who chairs the committee for the standard states

"The current situation is a digital tower-of-Babel, where different online shopping search and shopping engines take SKU [Stock Keeping Unit] data in different formats. These specs allow advertisers, engines, and agencies to exchange product data more efficiently,”

[National Retail Federation Press Release]

Google, w3c.org (world wide web consortium) and ARTs have competing standards for ecommece data feeds. Google has published the GData API which is a simple focused standard, concentrating exclusively on getting merchant's products into Google Base. With Google Checkout interface adding the transaction backend interface.

The ARTS standards is a more comprehensive definition of vocabulary which ties into ART's other standards for the communication along entire retail value chain. The W3C's RDF schema is also comprehensive, but the retail category XML schema is still not complete.

There Can be Only One

The three data feed standards clearly overlap in scope. Which one attains critical mass first is still very much an open question. Each standard has pros and cons.

ARTS has buy-in from Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, and other major players in the online retail sector.

Google Data is now the way for merchants to get their products into Google Search Results. Since Google dominates the retail clickthrough market, its search is typically the origin of 25% of all ecommerce related clickthrough. If Google keeps this lock on retail related traffic, Google Data will be an obligatory data feed for all online shops.

The W3C's XML standards have the advantage of having public domain licences. W3C waives the right to demand fees for the use of its schemas. Contrary to ARTS and Google, who reserve all rights on the use of their standard; either organization has a right to demand fees and royalties on the use of their standard in the future. All W3C's standards use forms of creative commons licences, and are therefore truely for the benefit of the retail community.

Public Licence Standards

The public licence issue over the standard is central here. Viral marketing tenets for mass adoption recommend zero fees and minimum friction on use of the schemas. But Already Google has attracted strong criticism from internet leaders over their commercial lock-in tactics of the Google Data standard. Similarly, ARTS already levies fees for use of some of their standard; a disaster in viral marketing terms.

Meanwhile retail merchants observe in hope, as they are forced to produce half a dozen data feeds for submitting their product list to price comparison engines.

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July 25, 2006

Data Feed Standards Conflict Looming Between Google, Amazon and Shopping.com
Category: Open Data

The National Association of Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) has embarked on the Unified Data Feed Standard Project. The standard aims to unify the data feed templates used by all the shopping comparator sites.

froogle

yahoo Shopping

shopping.com

kelkoo

The problem is that merchants looking to be included in these engines need to handcraft a data feed of product information and price for each shopping portal. The work adds a considerable overhead since each of the shopping portals has a widely different template for the data feeds.

But an overview of the data feed standards at Amazon and Google Base shows each has considerable investment in disparate systems. Unifying data feed standards will require considerable investment, and disruption of current partners and affiliate networks for all shopping portals, and price comparators.

In the mean time, many merchants are currently opting to outsource generation, optimisation and submissions of data feeds for their ecommerce site to specialist players like Enclick Online Solutions.

[Disclosure: EUCAP Partners is invested in Enclick Ltd - data feed provider and its shopping portal]

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About Eucap

Open Data

Interactions between aggregates of data and mashups require two things; structured data, and permission to use the data. The semantic web standards and microformat standards provide the structure, the metadata. Creative Commons, DRM, Open Source licensing provide the framework for legal permission. Much work is needed on both fronts for this phase of internet to evolve.

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