Guardian plans to expand open data tools

[I’m at the Mesh conference in Toronto]

The Guardian was the first news organization to really harness the power of crowdsourced data with its MP expenses database.

Now it has the lofty goal of distributing its technology worldwide to expose wrongdoing.

The man who has the job of opening up The Guardian‘s data technology told an audience at the Mesh technology conference in Toronto this morning: “The plan is to make the API (Application Programming Interface) open source.”

“We’re also exploring the possibility of making it a data clearinghouse,” in essence, allowing other people to upload their own data.

Chris Thorpe, The Guardian’s Developer Advocate for its Open Platform, set out the grand goal of  helping the oppressed and the impoverished worldwide. “We want to heal the world,” he said. “Openness is the friend of good.”

In June 2009, The Guardian hired a programmer for a week and built a portal to distribute more than 400,000 government documents of MPs’ expenses. The project prompted thousands of people to join The Guardian’s reporting team in pouring through claims and highlighting ones for further investigation. It was a huge step forward in newsgathering.

The Guardian API aims “to shine light on corruption,” Thorpe said. “Let’s be a world liberal voice.”

The audience pressed Thorpe to state The Guardian’s stance on the current trend toward news paywalls. To that, he said, “The people putting up paywalls will really reduce their influence in the world.”

“We’re seeing good advertising revenue from being open,” he added, but refused to talk numbers.

He said The Guardian is starting to realize “We have to behave more like a newspaper” by increasing audience engagement with more in-depth content.

“What we’re finding is the more pages people view, the more people are likely to click on adverts,” he said.

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