Private sector companies can be amazing partners to open data projects and company resources are key to help open data communities grow. I just presented how we have been thinking about our involvement in the OpenStreetMap community at the Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva. Specifically I shared some of our experience working with the OpenStreetMap community for more than 7 years (and many folks on the team have been working with the project on their own time for much longer). I hope some of our experiences help motivate other companies to see how they can be good community partners, and specifically invest resources in the great OpenStreetMap community. Below are notes from my talk, and the live recording. If this gets you fired up hit me or Alex up on twitter (@ericg, @lxbarth).

Good morning, and thank you. Specifically let me thank the Open Knowledge Foundation - this is one of the most important actors in the open data space. The team that Rufus has pulled together is doing a lot more than just talking “open” - The team at OKN are builders and engineers, they get things done.

It’s an honor to be together this morning with such an amazing group of open data leaders.

And it’s a privilege to be here to speak to private sector interests in the open data space.

Let me be very clear. There is no contradiction of being a for-profit company and being an open data leader. Quite the opposite. For-profit companies have been some of the greatest leaders in the open source movement and now stand to be the partners to take open data to scale.

I want to talk about scale. How are you going to take this open data work to scale to truly have as much impact as possible?

The open data movement is not about directly reaching out to people on the street. I’ve been in so many meetings where I heard “we need to design this portal for low-end cell phones in Africa”. No. You need to open up your data and get other key intermediaries, NGOs, journalists, power users, and companies - using your open data. As companies start using open data it starts having this multiplier effect - the data becomes part of what people on the street use.

There are a few key parts to opening up data. One part is cleaning up the data, another part is opening up the data in an open format. The third part is making the data social - I really love how now Github, what was first a site to do code version management, is turning out to be the future open data portal by making open data really social, by letting people edit the data directly and then share back the edits to make it cleaner.

What underlines all of this is making data open - truly open. And that comes down to licensing. Let me make this very concrete, fist adding perspective to how I work with open data at MapBox. (Here I winged the MapBox pitch, but for the sake of this blog post feel free to look at

Last week VK went MapBox, often called the Facebook of Russia - or more concretely the second most popular social media site in Europe. They have 47 million daily users - looking at our maps - that are powered by OpenStreetMap data. And this is where it starts getting interesting, and where we can really start talking scale.

Last month foursquare added an edit button - so as you are adding a bar you can fix the street name too. These edit shows up on our maps in minutes. People see their contribution live - the feedback loop is closed. People are incentivized to use open data, without knowing they are using open data.

What we are starting to see here are communities talking to communities. And this clearly starts having a huge network effect.

In short, we have never given back to OpenStreetMap or ANY open source project because of the license - we are so active in these communities because it makes smart business sense.

So if you are opening up data make it really open. Go public domain or something as close as possible with no strings attaches so people start using your data.

To all the people in the room helping to establish open data policy - thank you for your incredible work.