Can We Depend On Federal Government APIs?

The federal government shutdown today. At the Department of Veterans Affairs we are still working through next monday, so it was business as usual today for me.

One of my projects is preparing a list of APIs and data assets for a hackathon in NYC that is focusing on developing apps for veterans, called The Feast. My goal is to aggregate a list of as many usable assets as possible so developers don't have to go to multiple locations to locate them.

Many of the assets are available at VA.Gov, but there are others that I knew were on Data.Gov. As soon as the page loaded at Data.Gov, I got a friendly message:

Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.

Basically, no data for me. No datasets for download, no APIs allowing me access information. Which leaves me questioning the entire reason I'm in government. I came here to open up data and build APIs, then convince you to use them in your applications, widgets, visualizations and other innovation projects.

It is my way to find a way around ANY obstacle. There is nothing that will stop me. I will keep working no matter what. However, this is a pretty big obstacle, something that makes me question my faith in APIs in government. I can deal with just about anything, but if I evangelize APIs, that can be turned off at any point, for an unknown amount of time? Ummm…WTF? Unnacceptable!!

There is always a work-around. I will find a solution that will work for me(and you), but it leaves me questioning quite a bit about this API evangelism from within the federal government.