It's the Data, Stupid

Capturing and leveraging user contributed data (voluntarily or inadvertently produced) is the new business of the Web, enterprise computing, and Mobile.  The idea is that if user data can be harnessed and made sense of through backend analysis, then whoever has the most of it gains the strategic and competitive advantage by growing smarter through collective wisdom generated by millions of people unknowingly amassed into one monster publishing organism.  This is of course just a theory though because anything generated unknowingly, organically, and in chaos is by definition constantly mutating and without predictability, constancy, or deliberate decision making intelligence.  Ok Darwin.  

While the Web, and to a lesser extent mobile, have clearly evolved towards crowd-smart hyperspaces of information based on mass contribution, it's hard to draw a similar parallel for GIS mapping and maps.  Aside from OpenStreetMap, which is nothing more than a social experiment aimed at challenging authority and reducing expert-edited premium goods to a commodity, there really aren't any sources of real map data (sorry chumps, dots don't count).  The real stuff of choropleth regions, complex networks, and continuous fields of environmental phenomenon are part of a school of GIS professionalism where cartography and geostatistical interpretation is science, and the skills of geographical interpretation are rooted in mathematics and other scholarly pursuits requiring people to take time to study and learn.  

To argue for this favor of discipline, I leave you with an example map from Google with a piece of user-created geodata, devoid of any expert-edited oceanic basemap information such as bathymetry, buoys, passages, channel restrictions, etc.  Do you see the value?  No. It's the data, stupid, that is missing - the expert-edited variety. 

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