I Wish USA Facts Had A More Sophisticated API Embeddable And Sharing Strategy
I love what the folks over at USAFacts have done with their effort to educate everyone regarding how the US works (or doesn’t). I commend Steve Ballmer for the money he’s put into the project and the obviously huge amount of work they have put into making some pretty complex things understandable. However, I just have one critique: I wish they had an API, accompanied with a more sophisticated sharing and embeddable approach to publishing the wealth of valuable information contained within the site.
You can share links to specific sections of USAFacts, but it is just a generic image with a link to each area of the site. The site is exactly what we need in a Trump era, and is full of valuable factoids about how things work, but we need more eye candy for sharing, and the ability to share more granular level details about what is contained within the project. Journalists should be able to craft stories around finance and population via a graph, chart, or other detail that links back to the site. In the current state, you have to be pretty motivated and truly care about this stuff to visit the site and get involved–this represents a pretty light portion of the US population (maybe we could get a chart ;-).
All it would take to accomplish this is a pretty simple JSON API with some D3.js or other API visualization magic. With an API, data-savvy journalists, and other 3rd party developers could help carry the load when it comes to developing storytelling tooling that could help USAFacts make a bigger impact. Think about the impact that Facebook and Twitter cards had on the election when it came to sharing news (or fake news) with the public–we need USAFacts to be richly embedded in everyone’s timeline, with meaningful storytelling behind when a user is looking to know more. The facts have to be portable, shareable, visual, and tell a story–this is something an API excels at being an engine for.
I understand that USAFacts is just getting started, and maybe they are working on, but without any sort of road map, I have no way of knowing. If the folks behind the important project want to ensure the site lives on beyond the last wave of press releases they need to invest heavily in an API, as well as an embeddable and social sharing strategy that will help spread the valuable facts across the web where they need to be.