> root / 2011 / October / 21st

Latertodayguardian appspot com(screenshot from: http://latertodayguardian.appspot.com/)

Dan Roberts has been running an experiment over on the Guardian for the past two weeks, and it's an experiment I wholely approve of, the Open News Lists. The idea being that we have our Open Platform API which pushes out the news we've already posted to the website, but this is displaying what stories the Guardian is thinking about and publishing soon.

I like to think of it as open sourcing the Guardian, even if not technically correct its a good philosophical standpoint.

The idea of seeing what a newspaper is planning (along with the chance to get involved) is I think, pretty exciting. It's also a position that's been made more understandable by the explosion in Twitter. You often see the comment that people saw the news on Twitter first and somehow this means that news orginisations are too slow or don't respond quickly enough. The obvious truth is more along the lines of checking facts & trying to explain the background for context more than 140 characters will allow, which of course takes time.

An Open News List is an interesting hybrid, it's an acknowledgement that we know something has happened or are aware of it coming up and encouraging a discussion to take place on twitter while the editors and reports put the piece together, including that feedback and those tips from twitter.

The experiment was quickly put together using the tools at hand, trying things out at it's best! Google Spreadsheets and it looks like this...

Open newslist | News | The Guardian

Which is great'n'all for the raw data-ness of it, but possible not that easy to read or more importantly engage with. I figured it's be good to have the data presented in a more approachable fashion. But being busy I did what any good developer does, build a JSON endpoint for the data and hope that someone else does all the hard work ;)

A couple hours later with Google AppEngine and an endpoint is born:


The output looks roughly like this...

Opennewstracker appspot com api gu get newslist

…the same data from the spreadsheet but turned into a format that's really easy for computer programming languages to understand and handle. In short, it's still not pretty or good for humans to read, but a really useful mid-point between the source spreadsheets and data that can more easily be turned into something human readable.

Chris Thorpe took the JSON endpoint, worked a bunch of coding magic and turned it into the later today guardian, from which the top screenshot is taken...

"It hauls in the newslists using the very nice JSON feed created by Dan Catt and it then makes a column layout. One thing is it gives you a chance to interact with the journalists. If the story is in the "help" phase you can send a tweet tagged with #opennews to the journalist using a Twitter web intent"

This is now the part where I wrap up with comments about how this reflects the distributed network of ideas, journalists, editors, developers & users and an example of small pieces loosely joined. Along with the stressing of the "It's all very experimental" part, Dan Roberts is experimenting with open news lists in the simplest quickest form possible, I created an experimental scraper to convert it to JSON and Chris created an experimental version 0.1 webpage that formats the JSON.

But all those rough experimental bits put together is pretty good, none of us had to do the whole thing from start to finish and no-one was in-charge & orchestrating the whole thing.

More about the Open News Lists:

## Table of Contents: October

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This is what used to be a blog, but is now an online diary/archive sort of thing. As I'm laying off the twitter a bit and currently reclaiming all my Flickr photos this is the main place to find me, (subscribing via RSS) should still work.

I also have a podcast, with more audio experiments on SoundCloud. A smaller "scrapblog" is over on tumblr. If you need to get hold of me email hello@revdancatt.com

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