An abundance of data requires an abundance of context

Gary Vaynerchuk said it best – “If content is king, then context is God”. Of course Gary was mostly referring to marketing and advertising content. However, the same holds true for location based data as content. Data, content, big data, whatever you want to call it, is becoming more readily available. This is in part due to the great work of Code for America and the open If content is king, then context is God-data movement. The problem is we have more data than we know what to do with – unless we add context to the data. There are lots of opportunities to take all of this content and add context by making it extremely relevant for very specific purposes.

Foursquare provides a great example. If you’ve read my other posts you know I’m a big fan of Foursquare and that’s in part due to being a big fan of location based data. You may think of Foursquare as an app company. Actually, they are a data company. They have one of the best location based platforms on the market with 65 million venues, billions of check-ins, and 70 million tips tied to those locations. That’s the reason more than 85,000 developers have built products using Foursquare’s data. When you open the Foursquare app, you’re not overwhelmed by the massive amount of data that powers the app because the data is made contextually relevant for a single purpose – location based search and discovery of venues.

We’re currently seeing a trend whereas apps are becoming more focused on the context of very specific actions. Just look at all of the single purpose apps popping up.

Foursquare with Swarm

Instagram with Hyperlapse and Layout

Facebook with Messenger and Groups

LinkedIN with LinkedIN Connected, LinkedIN Job Search, LinkedIN Recruiter, and LinkedIN Slideshare

Parcel, or property data, is another location based layer that’s quickly “opening up” and becoming more readily available. Many companies, mine included, sell that content in bulk format. However, as the data flood gates open, content will give way to context. You’ll see less of a need for selling the data and more of a need for selling very specific and contextually relevant solutions tailored to a variety of industries.

I’m excited to see all of the solutions that will come out of the open parcel data movement. By the way if you have any ideas for one of those contextually relevant solutions for your industry using property data – email me at We are on the lookout for partners / developers that want to build solutions for an industry using nationwide parcel data.

**Update to post**

Since writing this post I received some great feedback from Dennis Crowley, Co-founder of Foursquare. He was nice enough to send me this data visualization to further drive home the point about Foursquare’s data:

Mapping the pulse of NYC, Tokyo, Istanbul, & London from Foursquare on Vimeo.

I have to say Dennis is one of those founders that “gets it” and works to stay engaged with users, fans, and skeptics. I’ve seen that he truly wants to hear what users are experiencing – both the good and the bad in order to improve the user experience. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you should -> I’m honored he takes the time to read my post and stay engaged with me.

Also, just a side note, my background music today is a collaboration of Doctor Who soundtracks and watching this visualization with Doctor Who theme music in the background was pretty cool!


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