The Guardian's Open Platform launch

 by Martin Belam, 11 March 2009

Yesterday morning I mingled in the Scott Room at Kings Place for the launch of The Guardian's Open Platform. There has been plenty of coverage of it elsewhere, so I don't think I need to re-iterate much beyond the fact that it is a step-change in the way that The Guardian makes content available for re-use on the Internet.

Last year I was around for The Guardian's Hack Day, where a rudimentary implementation of the API was available to power a lot of the hacks, and some of the potential was exposed. During the course of the presentation yesterday Matt McAlister promised there would be another Hack Day soon.

Welcome to Guardian Hack Day

The buzz phrase has been about 'weaving The Guardian into the fabric of the web', and I thought there were some really nice things about the launch yesterday. Not least of which was the fact that rather than the announcement being simply a parade of senior managers and marketing people, The Guardian actually put up some of the real technical architects and developers of the system to show it off.

And despite the fears of Tom Marsh, nearly every single live tech demo on the big screen came off.

At the moment the API is a limited 'beta' test. You need to apply for a key before you can access it.

Now that I'm working at The Guardian, I got a bit of 'sneak preview' last week. I used it to conclusively prove that my information architecture and product development skills far exceed my coding skills. I have resolutely failed to build anything yet, despite tinkering over the weekend. Hopefully some of the first public 'hacks' to come out of the API will be some easy-to-implement frameworks that the coding-challenged like myself can play with to better effect. In fact, when davorg gets his Perl libraries built I'll be laughing!

The real highlights for me:

  • Stephen Dunn showing a quick-fire visual history of The Guardian on the web including some screenshots from the mid-90s.
  • Simon Willison pointing out that using the API you can build a prototype in less man hours than it takes to have the meeting to decide if you want to build the prototype - even if the idea is generating a timeline of the frequency of stories about otters.
  • Jon Slattery asking if The Guardian would mind other media organisations ripping off utilising The Guardian's journalism via the API, and Emily Bell replying that frankly they do already because it is 'undoubtedly better' than theirs.
  • Mat Wall showing a slide that explained the raw Information Architecture of The Guardian's content platform, and using the phrase 'Information Architecture'
Guardian Open Platform launch

The other big thing for me was the data store component of the announcement. I'd been across how the API was going to be implemented to give access to finished content - but I hadn't really fully grasped the intention to share raw journalistic data in this way. The Datablog looks like a promising read.

1 Comment

In fact, when davorg gets his Perl libraries built I'll be laughing!

I expect to get a first release on CPAN this evening. It would have been sooner, but an important pub quiz got in the way last night.

Keep up to date on my new blog