At the Chicago Tribune, we had a simple goal: to automatically tweet contributions to Illinois politicians of $1,000 or more, which campaigns are required to report within five business days. To see, in something approximating real time, which campaigns are bringing in the big bucks and who those big-buck-bearers are. The Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) has helpfully published exactly this data for years online, in a format that appears to have changed very little since at least the mid-2000s. There’s no API for this data, but the stability of the format is encouraging. A scraper is hardly an ideal tool for anything intended to last for a while and produce public-facing data, but if we can count on the format of the page not to change much over at least the next several months, it’s probably worth it.
Journalists gather in Italy this week, while Hacks/Hackers chapters hold meetups on balloon mapping and HTML 5, plus a cryptoparty.