This U.S. presidential election season, The Washington Post, NPR and the Sunlight Foundation are inviting developers to delve into their APIs* and show off some of the wild things they can do with data during a weekend-long Election Hackathon.
The challenge is open to any developer who lives in the United States and will be in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. from October 6-7, 2012. Participants are expected to build unique web or mobile applications that illuminate aspects of the presidential race using data from The Washington Post’s newly available APIs, as well as those of NPR, the Sunlight Foundation (a transparency non-profit) and any other sources they can find.
The free hackathon will apparently include six meals and 26 hours of frenzied app building, which can be undertaken either solitarily or in a team of up to five people. Programmers are welcome to explore the APIs in advance, but cannot start on their apps until after registration and bagels on Saturday morning.
The weekend will culminate in a competition: apps are due at noon on Sunday, and judges from The Washington Post and NPR will award Amazon Gift Cards ranging from $500 to $1,500 to the winners later that afternoon. There will be three “Overall Winners” (“based on originality, quality, relevance to the 2012 election and skill in execution”), as well as prizes for “Best Data Visualization” (for the top infographic about the election built from data found in the APIs) and “Best Mashup” (for the most creative amalgamation of a Washington Post API and at least one other).
We love the idea of bringing together talented developers to network, compete and collaborate,” said Dave Goldberg, Director of API Products at The Washington Post, in a statement announcing the hackathon yesterday.
The Post concurrently declared the launch of a web portal called “Powered by the Post,” through which the newspaper has opened its APIs to external programmers for the first time.
“Launching an API portal allows developers outside of The Post to create new, interesting ways to understand and present the data we’ve collected, including creating mashups with all the other interesting data that exists on the web,” said Shailesh Prakash, the Post’s Vice President of Digital Product Development and Chief Information Officer.
There are three Washington Post APIs available so far: the “Issue Engine API” which includes statements and transcripts from Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the “White House Visitors Log API” which contains information on more than 2.2 million visits to the White House since January 2009, and the “Campaign Finance API.”
Meanwhile, NPR describes its open content API as providing “a structured way for other computer applications to get NPR stories in a predictable, flexible and powerful way.” Its archive comprises 250,000 stories, including audio from NPR programmes dating from 1995.
The third official participant in the hackathon, the Sunlight Foundation, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to making as much government information available on the Internet as possible, as part of its mission to use 21st century technology to promote political openness and transparency. Last week, the Foundation set the bar high for future hackathon participants by releasing an iPhone and Android app called Ad Hawk that acts as the Shazam of political advertising, listening to campaign and super PAC ads and identifying who paid for them. Watch the launch video here:
*FYI: API stands for application programming interface; an API lets two computer applications to communicate in a common language that each is able to understand.