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I know this is a dumb question and it might not be "conceptual" but, as a self-starter I really want to know how to get connected to some sort of "commercial database"?

I'm designing a local gas station utility app for iphone and ipad. I have absolutely no clue how to find a relevant database. For example, if I want to make an app for pizza ordering in the great Chicago area. How do I get info (price, menu, location, etc.) of those pizza stores scattered all over Chicago?

Can any one shed some light on this for me?

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3 Answers

I have absolutely no clue how to find a relevant database.

There are three ways you could go:

1. Find an existing data source. Sometimes you can use data that other people/companies make available, either for free or by licensing it. The government is a great source for some kinds of data -- various agencies like the National Weather Service, NOAA, USGS, and many others provide lots of free and easily accessible information. I'm not aware of a National Pizza Price Registry, so the government probably won't help much in your example. You might need to look for a proprietary database that you can license.

2. Develop your own data source. I'm sure there are quite a few pizza joints in Chicago, and calling them all up periodically to gather their prices will be a lot of work. Many of those places will have web sites, though, so maybe you can automate part of that data collection, and the work to fill in the holes may be worth the effort to you.

3. Get other people to build your database for you. Crowd sourcing data to improve your database is a popular way to go, especially among small developers, because it lets you cover lots of ground at zero cost to you. It works best for sites like Twitter, Facebook, and StackOverflow where the data is naturally provided by the users. But it can also work for gathering other kinds of data, especially if helping to update the data has some benefit to the users. For example, your pizza app might let users review their pie consuming experiences, and your review submission process might include questions like 'what kind of pizza did you order?' and 'how much did your pizza cost?'. Users get to express their opinions, and you get the pizza price data you're looking for.

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I'd say that it depends on exactly what type of data you're trying to get access to. Using the example you provided (pizza), I'd say that using something like the Yelp APIs would prolly be up your alley, but I could be mistaken.

Long story short, consider the type of information you're considering, find well-established apps/companies that already dabble in that, and then search " APIs" or something similar.

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Thank you Terrance, I'll try it out –  David Liu Oct 18 '12 at 18:26
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Ok, Here is the secret Truth about It...

The Data in your app in worth more than the App it self!

The reason you can't find that data is because it has value, more value than any set of code accessing it, it would be cheaper to buy the Code base to seamless web than to buy it's database of restaurant, menus and pricing.

You will just have to build your DB the old fashion way, sorry.

Ps : I am not Drunk as i write this..

PPS: Please pardon Typos, I am Drunk while typing this

PPPS: It's ok that i am Drunk, I am at home, on My Couch watching Big Bang Theory, not at work.

PPPS: Sorry forgiving away a well kept industry secret.

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+1 for sage advice about data. +1 for including 3 of my favorite things... alcohol, programmers.se, big bang theory. –  Walter Oct 7 '12 at 15:19
    
Thank you for your advice Mr...uh..., well, +1 for 3 of my fav things too alcohol+programmers+TBBT = awesome! –  David Liu Oct 18 '12 at 18:24
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