Thanks @Primodi these are great questions.
This sounds like you’re the only one supporting and developing this service?
Yes, I am the only person developing the software/tools/imports/app and organising the website/community etc. I do it as a hobby, less so nowadays. The actual data is refined by the community of users themselves, I don’t do any of that (or try not to). This discussion forum here is the only interaction I have with the community, so if there is any other organizing going on elsewhere, I don’t know about it.
What are the differences between Open Charge Map and PlugShare? Am I correct in saying PlugShare is a “pay for API key” service only?
Yes, plugshare requires a commercial agreement to use their data (or rather, that data users have submitted). OCM makes the data available for free under a combination of open data licenses (imports have other licenses, so there’s a mix). Our API is currently free for everyone, some people abuse this terribly, other’s are good about it.
How does the data volume for Open Charge Map compare with PlugShare?
I think we have less than 10% of the active direct (app.wesbites) userbase that PlugShare has, possibly even 5%. We have probably about 80% of the charging locations (or more). Hard to tell. We have a high number of API consumers spread across a few hundred different apps/services.
What are your thoughts on a paid for service and a basic limited free service? Or are you effectively becoming another PlugShare?
When talking about our API, that’s a service where we query our data and return the data to the app/service that’s requesting it. That in turn costs us money to do. User can just clone the data from github though
How about establishing a foundation? Is there possibility for donation from bigger companies in the EV world. (I’d balk on saying investment - that’s a headache you probably don’t want)
I’d be open to it, I just don’t want to have to organise it. It may be personality type but I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than ‘jump on a call’ all the time.
Do you leverage the fact this is not for profit - free resources here and there?
We have had some help, MapBox in particular gave us a period of free credit on their map tile platform after Google Maps got very expensive. Currently though we have nothing from anyone.
Would you be open to rewriting the .Net code so you could at least move away from Windows, licensing etc.?
Over the long term I don’t really care what technology is used but despite how it might appear on the surface we do have a lot of code and a lot of technology. Any developer can make an API, database etc in a weekend, rewriting all of OCM would be a minimum 4-month project, if done properly (new unit testing, CI/CD for everything, re-engineering and data migrations, QA/testing ) then closer to 6-8 months.
Our current costs are about 25% Windows and the rest is Linux based. Our API/Website runs on .net core (.net 5) with MongoDB as a caching layer, which is all cross platform. Our actual data store is SQL Server Express (free) which we try to minimise and is technically available on Linux. Porting to MySQL was tried a few years ago but I didn’t have the reason/motivation to really see that through to production. .Net was originally chosen because it was the technology I used for my commercial work, so it was my strongest skill.
How much effort is there in integrating with OCPI? Have you had a lot of demand for OCPI?
We have a very slight gap in our data model which would ideally be addressed (grouping of connectors into logical EVSE) but overall taking an OCPI data feed is a few days works, maybe a week or so to get it to production quality, so not super massive but still substantial. Exporting is OCPI roughly the same. The broader issue is how/when to perform de-duplication (crowdsourced vs imported locations etc) and data licensing.
Does the app bring in much revenue, or at all? Would it be worth pausing that to get some breathing space?
The app itself is simply a means for end user to consume and contribute to the data, it is not intended to be a serious competitor to commercial apps like PlugShare. Our hope has always been that many competing apps would appear and to some extent that has happened in some areas but they usually don’t feed any data back in. We/I technically could produce an app which closely matches any of the other EV apps, that has not been a goal and it’s not time I personally wanted to spend and I think it de-incentivizes other apps to build their products.
We had an Open Collective for about a year and that had one regular contributor who was donating $20 per month, that was great in itself but to make something even a part time endeavor you really need to pay someone’s salary, and that person has to wear all the hats for the entire organisation. To run as a multiple person organisation would run into hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, so that’s not likely without a sudden and mysterious benefactor.
Is there benefit on open sourcing the entire codebase?
The entire codebase is already open sourced. We have had very few code contributions. Often this is because people don’t know the technology but realistically at the level we’re pitching it we don’t need people who struggle to code, we (generally) need full-on career software developers which usually means people who can code in multiple languages, or show are prepared to learn anything required.
What would it take for you to be able to work on this full time?
I already have a moderately successful software business (selling https://certifytheweb.com) which ironically grew out of the need to manage multiple SSL certificates for OCM which I didn’t want to have to pay for, so I think I’m beyond the point of myself working on OCM full time. Possibly part time (or someone else full time) and possibly via putting a subscription/fees on the OCM API. I’d budget $100K USD per annum for one staff developer with a few years experience (salary is less but all payroll has tax overheads). This could happen via my company (Webprofusion Pty Ltd) but only if the project was funded.
We did briefly offer companies a hosted API mirror solution (for $199 per month) but this was both too expensive for those that said they wanted it and too cheap to make it a viable business (because you’d need lots of subscribing companies to pay a single salary, at least around 45-50 subscribers at that rate).