Proprietary Views Of Your Taxonomy

I’ve been investing a lot more energy into open data and APIs involved with city government, something I’ve dabbled in as long as I’ve been doing API Evangelist, but is something I’ve ratcheted up pretty significantly over the last couple of years. As part of this work, I’ve increasingly come across some pretty proprietary stances when it comes to data that is part of city operations–this stuff has been seen as gold, long before Silicon Valley came along, with long lines of folks looking to lock it up and control it.

Helping civic data stakeholders separate the licensing layers around their open data and APIs is something I do as the API Evangelist. Another layer I will be adding to this discussion is around taxonomy. How city data folks are categorizing, organizing, and classifying the valuable data needed to make our cities work. I’ve been coming across more vendors in the city open data world who feel their taxonomy is their secret sauce and falls under intellectual property protection. I don’t have any wisdom regarding why this is a bad idea, but I will keep writing about as part of my wider API licensing work to help flesh out my ideas, and create a more coherent and precise argument.

I understand that some companies put a lot of work into taxonomies, and the description behind how they organize things, but like API definitions and schema, these are aspects of your open data and API operations you want to be a widely understood, shared, and reusable knowledge within your systems, as well as the 3rd party integration of your partners and customers. Making your taxonomy proprietary isn’t going to help your brand, or get you ahead in the game. I recommend focusing on other aspects of the value you bring to the table and keep your taxonomy as openly licensed as you possibly can, encouraging adoption by others. I’ll work on a more robust argument as I work through a variety of projects that will potentially be hurt by the proprietary views on taxonomy I’m seeing.