API lets developers tap feds' social media feeds
I’m sure we all know by now the important role application programming interfaces (APIs) play in mobile app development. Not to understate it, but they are the basic building blocks that make implementation on multiple platforms not only easier, but in some cases possible.
Government agencies create APIs to open their data to private app developers to meet the goals of the Digital Government Strategy -- ensuring that people can access government information anywhere, anytime, on any device.
In keeping up with this practice, USA.gov, the federal government’s official Web portal, has announced the release of APIs for its Social Media Registry, a shared service that contains the official inventory of all agency social media accounts from over 20 different platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
By making the list readily available for developers to integrate into their apps, USA.gov helps ensure that mobile users know they are interfacing with a genuine government account when using Twitter, Facebook or other social media. And developers can be sure they are pulling info from every social media outlet an agency uses, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr (hint: there are many more social media accounts than you'd expect).
According to Justin Herman, the lead for social media in the General Services Administration’s Center for Excellence in Digital Government, the API makes information from government social media accounts, "searchable by agency, topic or language — regardless of the source, and without navigating individual federal websites or social media platforms." Content, Herman wrote in the DigitalGov blog, can be mashed up by agency, topic or language.
"The potential of this verified API source is especially underscored by crisis situations like Superstorm Sandy, where accurate, real-time information can accelerate and assist preparation and response efforts, and dispel rumors," Herman wrote.
The code for the Social Media Registry is open source and available on GitHub and is written in Ruby, according to GSA's announcement.
Like GSA, more and more government information clearinghouses are making it easier for developers and other users to get at their data through the creation of APIs. Of course, USA.gov is not a newcomer to this – this new API is actually the 10th it has offered.
If you are thinking of developing apps that make use of the government’s Social Media Registry, first you should take a look at the specs for the API.
By the way, since I’m not likely to put out my own Social Media API any time soon, I’ll just mention that is really my Twitter handle below.
Posted by Greg Crowe on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:39 AM