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What does opening up your data really mean?

OPEN!

There’s plenty of discussion about things like APIs (application programming interfaces) and concepts of opening up data, but to the non-initiated this can all seem rather confusing and overly technical.

However, as those who have created digital projects continue to look for new ways to expose their content to the widest possible audience, APIs offer a way to give access to whole of your collection so that others can come up with new ways of exploiting it. Often, it’s people outside your organisation who can come up with imaginative ways of using your content in ways you had never imagined.

This could include other parties

  • using your subject metadata to build a harvesting search engine over a number of collections related to a specific theme
  • using all your metadata related to dates and time to build a timeline
  • analysing your descriptive metadata to build a tag cloud

And once an API is set up, you spend a lot less time responding to queries from people who wonder if they can hold of your data for their own projects. They just go straight to the interface and question the data they need. They then build interfaces around this data, that will drive more users to your website.

There are two really helpful blog articles that help describe this better.

  1. Mike Ellis’ interview with the Brooklyn Museum, who have just published their API
  2. The interview with the DigitalNZ (New Zealand) team, who have done some radically innovative ideas in how to get their nation’s content used.

(Thanks to Mag3737 for the Flickr photo)

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