Saturday, December 04, 2004


I finally decided to try my hand at a datafed web site. The project shows the Worldstock Collection.

I chose to experiment with this collection because I agree with the basic premise of worldstock. Worldstock purchases traditional handmade crafts from artisans around the world, then sells the products at reasonable prices on the Internet. By supporting world artisans, Overstock is directly helping support cultural traditions of indigenous people. They provide fair labor employment in disadvantaged areas of the globe. Worldstock is similar to Ten Thousand Villages stores run by the Mennonite Central Committee. Worldstock sells through the web.

Since I like the foundational premises of worldstock, I find I can get over the stigma associated with datafed websites.

Datafeeds are a controversial area of web development. Basically what happens is a merchant makes their product line available to web sites in the form of a datafeed. Using simple database programming, the affiliate creates web sites from the datafeed.

Those familiar with database programming know that displaying data is easy (collecting quality data is hard.)

The process is controversial in that datafeeds quickly create large numbers of essentially identical web sites. Search engines see datafeeds as a nuisance. A large merchant might have 100,000 items in inventory. A thousand webmasters creating datafeed sites from the same data will create 100,000,000 web pages. This is all largely redundant white noise.

Often the people creating datafed web sites have very little concern about data integrity. All they care about is getting a click through to the merchant. Some web sites do really nasty things like join a datafeed with the FIPS database to intentionally create large web sites full of misinformation.

On the plus side. I think datafeeds provide a great tool that allow individuals like myself to hone database skills and work on different ideas for displaying data.

To avoid the white noise problem, I exclude all but the index to the datafeed from the search engines. (You can exclude pages from the webcrawls with the robots.txt file).

As I am interested in learning about different cultures, I've included with the Overstock data quick write ups on different countries represented in the Worldstock collection. So far, I have written up articles on Ghana, The Dominican Republic, Egypt and Afghanistan.

It is my hope to dilute the crass commercialism of the datafeed with links to quality reference sources about the area.

Oddly, the people who get up in arms about datafeeds really don't seem to mind people copying sections from Wikipedia or DMOZ. Blogs, for the most part, are white noise as well. I accept that there is zero educational value to this blog I am keeping. It is simply just expressive white noise.

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