05 December 2006

Mashup 2.0 and a New Data Commons

One of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 is the ability to combine data from various sources - the mashup. And yet, in a sense, mashups so far have been purely additive: you take something and add it to something else to create a third. The two sources rarely meet in any deep way to forge some truly new information or insight, other than ones born of clever data representation (not to be sneezed at, either).

That's what makes the new Swivel service important. The Web site reveals nothing currently, but TechCrunch has some tantalising details:

the site allows users to upload data - any data - and display it to other users visually. The number of page views your website generates. Or a stock price over time. Weather data. Commodity prices. The number of Bald Eagles in Washington state. Whatever. Uploaded data can be rated, commented and bookmared by other users, helping to sort the interesting (and accurate) wheat from the chaff. And graphs of data can be embedded into websites. So it is in fact a bit like a YouTube for Data.

But then the real fun begins. You and other users can then compare that data to other data sets to find possible correlation (or lack thereof). Compare gas prices to presidential approval ratings or UFO sightings to iPod sales. Track your page views against weather reports in Silicon Valley. See if something interesting occurs.

And better yet, Swivel will be automatically comparing your data to other data sets in the background, suggesting possible correlations to you that you may never have noticed.

This is really heavy stuff, and will allow truly new information, and new kinds of information, to emerge from the comparison of other data - something that gets stronger the more data that is uploaded. And what makes me think it's going to be hugely successful is that it has a viable business model attached:

Not all data will be public. The companies business model is to provide the service for free for public data, and charge a fee for data that is kept private. Private data can still be compared by the owner to public data sets.

Which is exactly what you want: all the benefit of the public data, but none of the issues of sharing your own. Essentially, this allows limited private grazing of a new data commons, whose overall creation and care is paid for in part by that grazing. Brilliant.

Update: Swivel is now up, in beta at least. Inevitably, there's not much to see yet.


brian said...

Hi Glyn,

Thanks for the kind words about Swivel. We hope we're on to something as valuable as you see it. As you said, we want to help create new kinds of information and insights. And we want it to be fun.

Once we open Swivel up, please fire away on feedback and criticism. I'l be checking back

Brian Mulloy
CEO & Cofounder

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the comment.

You're obviously already pretty hot on keeping up with the information in the blogosphere....