Are you ‘scraping’ data?

No. The Ohana project is primarily working with data provided by the San Mateo County Human Services Agency, and developing open source software for other communities. The Open Referral initiative is working with data freely contributed by its stakeholders, which includes 2-1-1 systems across the country.

However, we also don’t find validity in claims that community resource data should be treated like private property. It is public information, and organizations that do business with it should be sustaining themselves through services that add value to it, rather than by trading it as a commodity.

We do recognize that there are some community resource directory projects out there that are scraping 2-1-1s data. (Some of these projects are non-profit, or all-volunteer, or even for-profit.) Scraping this data from websites is usually technically easy, and it’s more or less legally okay too.

We disapprove of this, mostly because it makes it harder to have constructive conversations about the real problem — which is that this data is not currently “open” for machine-readable re-use.

We also believe that if community resource directory data were openly accessible in a machine-readable format, ‘scraping’ would be pointless. Instead, people would use such data from its source, in ways that could presumably benefit the source.

That may at first seem counter-intuitive. But there are business models for open data — and we believe that information-and-referral providers will benefit by discovering and adopting them. Meanwhile, we have not seen any viable long-term strategies involving the production of resource data that is not open.


Posted in: About Open Referral