Trace the Dollars Behind the Story with Poligraft

Matthew Casperson, August 27th, 2010

PoligraftIt seems that news pieces are rarely written from a neutral point of view these days, and political news can be especially prone to bias. But how can the average reader, who probably has no idea of the political ties between those mentioned in a news piece, see the larger picture? Sunlight labs, who are dedicated to creating tools that make government data more accessible, have a new service that helps you see the story behind the story.

Poligraft gives you a breakdown of the money donated and received by those mentioned in a web page or block of text. It both consumes APIs and provides one itself.

The Sunlight labs blog has a nice writeup of how Poligraft was created:

Using the people, companies, and organizations that Calais detected, Poligraft then uses the Transparency Data API in three steps. First, the Transparency Data entity search is called on each Calais entity. This will usually weed out the majority of entities detected by Calais, because we’re only focusing on entities that have something to do with campaign contributions. Second, on that subset of entities, Poligraft uses the Transparency Data aggregate endpoints to draw the graphs you see on the sidebar. Third, the “Aggregated Contributions” section in the sidebar is filled out using a pairwise aggregation endpoint that is not yet described in the official Transparency Data API documentation.

Poligraft also has its own API:

Specify a URL or text to be processed, and get back the results in JSON format. In fact, every result page in Poligraft has a corresponding JSON representation. Just append a .json to the unique slug, like so.

To process an article, use the http://poligraft.com/poligraft endpoint in conjunction with a POST or GET request:

http://poligraft.com/poligraft?url=ARTICLE-URL-HERE&json=1

The Poligraft source code has been made freely available on Github.

Poligraft is a great example of how multiple third party APIs can be combined, while the Poligraft API itself is a useful resource for any developer who needs a way to connect the dots between politicians and businesses.

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