The Data Commons Co-op is a quirky start-up that I’ve been helping out with. Its job is to maximize the impact of the data held by its members, and reduce costs in managing it. Its members are “alternative economy” organizations of all types. Dan Nordley calls it “perhaps the geekiest of all cooperative organizations on the planet!”
The infrastructure for collaborative data projects could be a lot more fun than it is now. Open Data initiatives are pushing things forward quite a bit, primarily with government data in mind. That is sort of a top-down direction of data flow. We’re looking at bottom-up, grass-roots economic organizing. Worker co-ops, buying clubs, community gardens, time banks, and so on. There’s a lot of overlap in communities, and potential for network effects. The Data Commons Co-op is a way to pay for the infrastructure that every one needs and no-one can make happen alone. So far we’ve produced a simple diff format for tables documented on the Data Protocols site (some background in an Open Knowledge Labs post), along with two programs called daff and coopy for comparing and merging table versions. Beyond the technology, we’re also figuring out how to a culture of sharing can work in the economy. There’s a lot of reflexive data-hoarding and hiding that goes on, which is totally understandable. For individual organizations, the cost of thinking about all the issues around sharing data can outweigh by far any potential benefit. Hopefully the DCC can tilt that equation!