October 10, 2010
Although I may be biased, I think Locationary is doing something valuable. The need for an open database of places was something TechCrunch identified in April 2010 and since then many others (like GigaOm) have agreed. Although the concept of an open place database is not new, it seems to be gaining momentum lately. No doubt because the need for it has grown. Mobile consumption of local data is taking off and the need for an accurate and comprehensive database of local data is something the industry, app developers, consumers and local businesses desperately need.
What is not clear yet in everyone’s mind is how best to do it. Current industry players have little incentive to work together, and everyone seems to be building their own database. However, with an estimated 15% of local business data changing in the course of a year’s time, it’s clear that there is real value in maintaining accurate data.
That’s where Locationary seems to be focusing, and why I believe their solution is an essential component in the local data ecosystem. When it all comes down to it, someone (or something?) has to verify that the data is correct. Up until now, companies have tried everything getting 3rd world data entry clerks to copy Yellow Pages books, to call center staff in Omaha dialing up 15 million businesses to verify it’s unchaged. However, Locationary’s approach is based on crowd-sourcing, and in particular, tapping users for their local knowledge. This is not dissimilar from how Wikipedia works, and that’s likely why others like Mathew Ingram have drawn comparisons between Locationary and Wikipedia. There are many advantages to crowd-sourcing this information, the main ones being lower costs and fresher data. After all, when a business opens or closes, the first ones to know about it are locals on the ground. So, it’s easy to see why they are in the best position to be the local data authorities when it comes to their neighborhood.
Locationary’s unique approach rewards users for contributing data (no doubt one of the factors behind their tremendous growth). While wiki’s and crowd-sourced directories (including Wikipedia) are vulnerable to data vandals and the like, Locationary’s sophisticated system of incentives motivates its community to keep each other honest and ensures that only accurate information prevails.
Here’s an example (from my neighborhood) of the type of data Locationary is collecting: