The previous post was all about an open data / open source strategy.
There’s plenty of data available from public sites that can be turned into useful tools, and one of the sources we’ve focused on recently is police response data.
Winston-Salem Police Department publishes a simple text file daily, containing information about all the responses from the previous day: report number, address, time of day, and the type of issue (for example, vandalism, motor vehicle theft, arson, etc.).
But the interface isn’t very useful: no aggregation, no filtering, no visualization, nothing but daily text files.
WSPD does contract with crimemapping.com to display individual responses on a map, which can be filtered going back several months, and users can even receive email alerts for activity within a specified radius of any address.
That’s great! But of course we wondered if an open-source tool would be possible.
So we’ve released a minimal version of a Shiny dashboard as an example:
And we’ve also released the source code here:
Continue reading “Winston-Salem Police Response Data”
We’ve started offering clients open data and open source strategy consulting, and hope to have some case studies in the coming months.
Releasing data and software (or even both) to the public seems counterproductive to good business – how could it do anything but feed the competition, or draw attention to mistakes?
It’s worth thinking one step deeper:
- Releasing code and data can be a conspicuous demonstration of competence, a great way to draw incoming leads and even recruit to your organization.
- It also signals that your value is greater than the contents of files – you’re not worried about giving away the data, because where you really shine is customization and customer service, which is much harder to copy.
- In a world where a million companies are selling software and services for a monthly subscription, there’s a sharp discontinuity in user acquisition at $0. Start them for free, then offer upgrades in the form of additional features or support.
- Competitors may learn from your data and/or your code, but that’s a short-term effect – if the overall market grows, that’s good for you, even if your competitor gets a chunk of that market.
- If you have mistakes in your code or your data, you want to know as soon as possible, and what better way than to increase use by offering it for free – it’s almost like outsourced testing, and in our experience, fixing a publicly known bug or inaccuracy with grace and polite thanks to the finder does no harm to your reputation.
We talk about #4 a lot – if we’re unable to fit a project into our schedule, we don’t hesitate to refer to competitors. If there are more groups delivering successful projects in our field, that’s great!
Continue reading “Open Data and Cool Maps”