We can't talk about We the People without getting into the numbers — more than 8 million users, more than 200,000 petitions, more than 13 million signatures. The sheer volume of participation is, to us, a sign of success.
And there's a lot we can learn from a set of data that rich and complex, but we shouldn't be the only people drawing from its lessons.
So starting today, we're making it easier for anyone to do their own analysis or build their own apps on top of the We the People platform. We're introducing the first version of our API, and we're inviting you to use it.
Get started here: petitions.whitehouse.gov/developers
This API provides read-only access to data on all petitions that passed the 150 signature threshold required to become publicly-available on the We the People site. For those who don't need real-time data, we plan to add the option of a bulk data download in the near future. Until that's ready, an incomplete sample data set is available for download here.
A couple months ago, we invited a group of developers and tech experts to the White House for a hackathon to kick the tires on an early version of the API, and we've also published a gallery of some of those projects — including links to live examples and GitHub repositories. You'll see maps that show the geographic support for a range of petitions, a time-lapse visualization of zip codes where petitions are being signed, an embeddable thermometer that shows progress toward crossing the signature threshold for any given petition, and a range of data analysis.
Coming up on June 1, as part of the National Civic Day of Hacking, we'll host another hackathon here at the White House. Today we're also making the GitHub repo open to the public — where participants will be collaborating with each other and the White House development team.
This first version of the API is just the start, by the way. Now, we're turning our efforts to a Write API that will allow individuals to collect and submit signatures from their own platforms without directly sending users to We the People. After that, we'll work to decouple the presentation and data layers of the application and begin building a new, streamlined signature process. We hope you'll follow the process and continue offering your thoughts and feedback.
At its most basic, We the People is a conversation. Individuals ask questions of the White House, and the Obama administration responds. What this API allows us to do is broaden the discussion — make it as flexible, open, and transparent as possible. And if you take the time to build a tool that leverages the API, you'll be making it easier for others to take part in this national dialogue.
So we hope you'll check it out.
To learn more about open data and open source projects at the White House, visit WhiteHouse.gov/Developers. Also, please feel free to contact us via the WhiteHouse.gov developers feedback form or to follow our tech team on Twitter @WHWeb.
Update: Go here to download the full We the People bulk dataset.
Leigh Heyman is the Director of New Media Technologies for the Executive Office of the President.