Blog post

Mashup Contests Are Either Too Late Or Too Early

By Andrea Di Maio | November 18, 2009 | 2 Comments

web 2.0 in government

Last month I expressed my reservations about the usefulness of mashup contests, i.e. those initiatives where people are invited to submit applications that use public data available on government web sites to create new view of that data. After the various AppsForDemocracy, AppsForAmerica, INCA and others, it is now the Australian mashup contest to capture my attention.

I am in Sydney at the Gartner Symposium and I just met a client from a federal government organization, who seems to get web 2.0 right and expressed his doubts about the kind of response met by the Australian mashup contest. I have not reviewed it in any detail, but it seems to mimic, both in quantity and in quality, what we have seen in previous contests.

I am not really surprised. In fact, for how widespread web 2.0 use is, those who are able and have time available to write an app and submit it are still in a minority. “Citizen developers” will be a reality in a few years time, but are still an exception today. Yet, citizen do use social media to gather together and discuss issues that matter to them. These communities are the best place to socialize data and make people think about mashups. So the real question is how to get their ideas as opposed to the usual geeks’ and web 2.0 enthusiasts’ ones.

What are government 2.0 strategic planners doing to bridge that gap? In my humble opinion, not much. The only way to bridge the gap is to empower government employees to reach out to those communities and socialize data. But, again, how many government organizations have any such plan?

Comments are closed


  • Jo Deeker says:

    Hi Andre,

    Who cares if the mashup competition is early or late – what do we lose by holding it or entering it? When would a perfect time be?

    I do agree that the primary participants in mashup comps are geeks and web 2.0 enthusiasts. But so what?

    I’ve reviewed the applications in the Australian competition and although I didn’t see a “killer app”, I did see some visualisations that are interesting, some new technology in place, and I got to have a go at doing what I’ve been talking about for two years now – actually trying to mash up data which as we all know, is a bit trickier than you at first .

    For me, I do not mind the time I spent on our mashup competition because I learned a lot from it, and I shared that learning with the community. When our government 2.0 taskforce makes recommendations to government, and when our government departments release more data, I’m hoping that we learn to make the data more mashable (or more shareable), rather than randomly releasing 100 data sets to the public and finding that they can’t do anything with the data once they get it. It’s a learning experience for now.




  • John Crupi says:

    I kinda agree with your assessment and the prior comment. There isn’t great harm in trying. I would like to see rules and objectives like the recent Space Elevator Contest. You have to climb a certain height at a certain rate and use external power. Mashup contest sponsors should likewise set rules and objectives. Even if it was as simple as “build a mashup app that does this…”