Building a local news mashup


Adrian Short, of Sutton, UK, takes several news sources, Twitter, and various API’s to mash them together and create a one stop local news portal.  The advice is applicable for anyone interested in using technology or media to build someting greater than a blog or generic news website.

If you run a website, it’s time to start thinking of mashability with the same degree of seriousness as you treat human visitors. Your website needs to serve up feeds and APIs so that other programs can connect to your content and deliver it to people in ways and contexts that they find useful. Some of these may have an audience of thousands or even millions. Others may have an audience of one. Regardless, by providing an API to your content you enable others to build things that you haven’t imagined, don’t have the resources or desire to build yourself, and won’t have to maintain. Businesses like newspapers that survive by selling their content (or selling advertising around their content) are thinking very carefully about the challenges and opportunities for the future of their industries. For government and voluntary organisations, it’s time to start thinking more like evangelists than economists. Spread the word like the free Bibles in hotel bedrooms and take every opportunity to get your message out there. […]

Lastly, mashability is about every conceivable kind of content and content type. It’s not just about news and text. Every stream of information should have its own machine-readable feed. Every system that can accept data from human input should implement an inbound API to do likewise. To take one example, FixMyStreet is a website for people to report street faults to local authorities and currently takes around 1000 reports a week. It even has its own iPhone application so people can report faults complete with GPS locations and photos directly from the street. Only a single local authority in over 400 has implemented an inbound API to receive these reports. The rest get them by email, which must be manually copied into their own databases with all the effort, expense, possibility for error and opportunity costs that represents. Third-parties building extensions to other people’s systems is no longer unusual, so organisations need to embrace the possibilities rather than fighting against it or standing around looking bemused.

It’s time to open the doors and windows and get the web joined up, mashed up and moving.

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