Building a Better Database: Getting Harder All the Time

No surprise that a takeaway from the “Building a Better Database” panel at DDC2007 was that it is getting harder and harder to acquire good listing data — fragmentation, latency issues and disparate data are just the tip of the iceberg.

Building a Better Database Panelists

Jeff Beard, President and General Manager, Localeze
Matthew Berk, Lead Search Architect, Marchex
Jon Cohn, Product Leader, Acxiom
Erron Silverstein, CEO and Founder, YellowBot

Erron Silverstein asserted that “the sales force is the real hero,” referring to the notion that local salespeople are key to collecting up-to-date content that can be passed on to consumers through various directory and database solutions.

However, as Jeff Beard, president of Localeze, pointed out, there is still no national industry clearinghouse to help standardize listing data and the task of correcting data, updating data, organizing data and finding new sources of data. This is still left up to individual aggregators like his company and others like Acxiom, which was represented on the panel by Jon Cohn.

Some of the most interesting discussion from the panel resulted in the friendly disagreement over the use of a strict taxonomy for organizing listing data versus the much newer philosophy of tagging content as a user sees fit. YellowBot, which has been in beta for the past few months, is embracing a tagging method, similar to a del.icio.us or YouTube approach, where a user who comes to its site to log a review of a local business or correct a business listing can tag the listing he is reviewing or updating with the tags he sees appropriate, not having to limit himself to predetermined bucket of keywords or categories.

Of course, while user-generated content gathered either directly by a business or through the use of reviews is a great addition to updating a listing database, the fact remains that a very small percentage of both of these groups will ever go online to one (or many) sources to update their listing or post a business review.

Marchex’s Matthew Berk is not convinced that a “loose” taxonomy works for local search and that a more defined or predetermined taxonomy is the ticket to organizing this growing listing mess — which continues to mushroom as companies such as those on the panel find new vertical sources to acquire content, and as Marchex and others look to wrangle unstructured data sources on the Web.

Looks like the listing mess will continue to get worse before it gets better …

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