I spoke with a CEO yesterday for well over an hour, following up on a suggestion of a mutual friend that it would be useful for us to get to know each other.
His company provides a web site that provides some information that may be of interest to open-source folks. Moreover, their IT infrastructure is largely built using open-source. They have also developed proprietary technology to crawl the web and extract information.
He said they were looking for ways to grow the business, among them whether it made sense to share that data in a more open fashion.
Such data-sharing is not new, of course. It can be found in the rankings and user comments you find at Amazon and the many features provided by one of my favorite companies, Newegg. See for example On Buying and Building Hardware: Break a Leg with Newegg.
(Here’s an example of how Newegg could help me share some of my own data. Newegg keeps a list of all my orders, going back to 2003. I would be happy to share most of that information, as it shows what I decided to buy, and the price I paid when I bought it; yet it would be tedious indeed to manually copy over that information from the many invoice entries. Why not make it easy to do so?)
Though they publish some data now, they are thinking of taking it to the next level; for example, by possibly open-sourcing some of their currently proprietary code and also providing an application programing interface (API) so that any interested party could write their own applications to analyze and present the data.
Simply put, they are exploring how to turn their current asset — the data –into a much more valuable asset — a community built around that data.
I think they are on the right track, and wish them well in their endeavors.
The discussion was great fun — we found ourselves to be kindred spirits — and I plan a few more posts to expand on some of the the thoughts that came out of our talk.
The call also led to my sending a note to Redmonk’s Steve O’Grady:
I had a fascinating 90+ minute phone call with A CEO today about open-source.
The call was so much fun that when I thought about it again later in the day I realized you and he would have as much fun if you two had a similar call.
I also offered to arrange a virtual introduction — to help them build their networks, just as the mutual friend who suggested that the CEO and I talk had helped us build out our networks.
Open-source: fun, networks, collaboration, community.
That’s what it’s all about. 
1. Daughter Jennifer once had a great T-shirt:
What if the Hokey-Pokey is what it’s all about?