I was reading A blog entry about airport entries on Wikipedia and COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association), and reflecting on how thousands of volunteers, people with too much time on their hands mostly, have made Wikipedia such a comprehensive resource. And it struck me that if we could harness the same sort of dedication and talent from pilots around the world, the vast number of us who rely on DAFIF (Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File) data for our flight planning, flight simulation, moving map navigators and other applications won’t be left out in the cold when DAFIF goes away.
I was envisioning something based on the Wikipedia source, but instead of a free form text entry you’d have a structured form for entering the data, and it would be pre-filled with the data already available from DAFIF, FAA and other databases. Then interested people could regularly check that against their local Aeronautical Information Publication and update it as necessary. The resultant database would be available free to any person or program who currently uses FAA and DAFIF data, such as my own waypoint database generators.
Since I posted a variation of this idea on Usenet last night, I have been informed that one DAFIF using program has already attempting the volunteer approach. The problem with that is that while they will only target users of their one individual program and only make the results available to the users of their one individual program. I think it would be better to make one system that draws volunteers from users of all programs that use DAFIF, and which makes its results available to all users of DAFIF.
My experience trying to recruit volunteers for entering data for my navaid.com systems is that people express interest, but there are very few people who follow through, and most of them lose interest after a few update cycles. The only solution is to make it as easy as possible for people to contribute, and to draw from the largest possible pool of volunteers.
Update: I contacted the people doing the volunteer project for their own product, and they have no interest in doing something for the benefit of the entire aviation community because they can’t make money off of it, and made disparaging remarks about the types of volunteers that this project would attract. Since they’re being assholes, I took the link to their site off this posting.