Times Open: Developers Gather to Discuss The New York Times APIs

Here at ReadWriteWeb, we’re big fans of the Times Open strategy, the program that focuses on making the data of The New York Times more accessible to the developer community. We heralded the launch of the program, covered the first available API, and marveled at the access to content the APIs have begun to provide. Now the Times has taken another momentous step forward: bringing developers together for Times Open, the publication’s inaugural API seminar.

While we weren’t able to attend the gathering, we did manage to track down a few attendees who blogged about the experience, found a number of people who posted messages to Twitter, and flipped through the Times Open Flickr account. Thanks to all of this, we can at least pretend we had the chance to participate – even though we don’t have the Nerd Merit Badge to show for it.

So how was the event received? In our estimation, it seems like another positive step forward for the NYT.

“The message is clear,” wrote Times Open attendee Taylor Barstow. “The New York Times is, suddenly, a platform company.”

He also offers:

“The New York Times recognizes the need for a news platform, and wants to fill that void. Their developers understand that Web 2.0 is about openness, and are committed to opening up The Times data to outsiders (whether or not the suits–and they do wear ridiculously nice suits–agree remains to be seen). They want to create a community of hackers around their APIs, and invite community feedback to drive future innovation. The Times executives should be supremely grateful for having employees with such vision at their organization.”

Attendee Daniel Tunkelang sees promise in the Times Open strategy but still questions how far the NYT is willing to go:

“But there’s a big catch: the New York Times is paranoid of diluting its brand equity by mixing up user contributions with their carefully vetted writing. As a result, all comments are moderated, and their aggregation of blogs linking to articles is a limited, proprietary system (Blogrunner). The New York Times wants to have its cake and eat it – all the benefits from users’ active engagement without the costs of diluting their brand.

“I think their APIs make this possible, at least in theory.”

But the big news coming out of the gathering – according to Allen Stern of CenterNetworks – is the release of a new API called TimesNewswire, which will “give developers access to live headlines. Attendee Kellan called this new API a New York Times firehose and noted, ‘NewsWire API is the paper’s stream of consciousness.'”

We definitely appreciate the direction that the NYT is taking. They seem genuinely dedicated to embracing openness and have created some momentum in that regard. We’re especially looking forward to getting a chance to review the new API – which sounds like it may increase that momentum exponentially.

So where does the NYT get the motivation for all of this openness? For more on the thinking behind Times Open, watch the Yahoo Developer Network’s interview with NYT’s Derek Gottfrid, Senior Software Architect – the man behind the Times Open gathering. He offers some additional insight into the theory behind Times Open and hints at some of the development in the future – like how NYT will continue to leverage Hadoop.

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