Monthly Archives August 2011

Getting Started with the Geo API: Sample Queries

31536 Lenox world globe Getting Started with the Geo API: Sample QueriesYesterday, we launched our new Geo API, creating easy access to millions of geographic data points, organized into one consistent, unified schema.  This new API allows you to ask questions of geo data the way you want; you can query by latitude/longitude/radius, zoom level, bounding box, quadkey and more!

Sounds great, but how do you get started?  We’ve pulled together some Example Queries to help our developers get started with the Geo API.  These sample queries are meant to help developers quickly and easily understand the structure of our API calls, so they can get to the fun part – getting answers to tough questions, building awesome visualizations & applications and having fun with our data!

Here are two examples of how to query our Geo API.  For more, please check out Example Queries and sign up for a free API key today!

Wikipedia articles

I’m building a day-tripper’s travel application. What are good sightseeing locales (based on places with Wikipedia articles) within a one hour drive (approximately 100km) of 105 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78701?[YOUR API KEY HERE]

For my aforementioned day-tripper travel application, I’m also interested in creating a kid’s section and the first thing I’d like to include are amusement parks near the Infochimps office in downtown Austin. (This example uses zoom level instead of radius.)[YOUR API KEY HERE]

We’ll continually improving our API documentation.  Please let us know in the comments if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see next.  Maybe it’s a quadkey calculator or code examples for Ruby and PHP or inclusion of specific data set.  We’re happy to get you what you want – just let us know what we can do!

Making a World of Data More Fun With the Geo API

We’ve been working on a brand new API that will rock your world.  It’s our Geo API, which allows developers to access disparate geo-related data sources through one API with a unified schema.  It’s pretty sweet, if we do say so ourselves.

geo api chart Making a World of Data More Fun With the Geo APIOur geo data comes from open sources like Geonames, the National Climatic Data Center, and the American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau as well as licensed sources like Locationary and Foursquare. Also, because we recognized that geo data need not be constrained by the traditional notions of geo data, we’ve also included geo-located Wikipedia articles amongst the sources. In fact, any data set that can be tied to a location can ultimately be added to the Infochimps Geo API. We will continue to add additional data sources in the near future and are totally happy to hear your suggestions if you’ve got ‘em!

With this API, we’ve tried to address some of the biggest developer pain points in working with geo data:

  1. Difficulty in integrating several different APIs into one unified app
  2. Lack of ability to display all results when zoomed out to a large radius
  3. Limitation of only being able to use lat/long

We’ve addressed each of the above issues with our new Geo API using the Infochimps Simple Schema, Summarizer and multiple Geolocator options.


The Networked World And What It Can Teach Us

I was browsing one of my favorite blogs, Flowing Data, this morning, when I stumbled upon Derek Watkins.  Derek is a graduate student in Geography at the University of Oregon who recently started a blog about his current research, which explores some ways that US borderlands extend into cyberspace, and how online representations might affect people’s thoughts about the region.  What I find most compelling is the simplicity and universality of the questions that Derek attempts to answer through publicly available geo-tagged data.

For example, in the below visualization, Watkins addresses the question of perception of a place.  Why do we think of Detroit as an icon of urban decay and stagnation when so many of us have never even visited the city?  Our perception of the world is deeply influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others, particularly when they are widely shared and therefore, reinforced in the collective consciousness.

dwatkins picturingurbandecay The Networked World And What It Can Teach Us

As Watkins points out in his original post, the relationship between perception and reality is complex and perhaps a map of geo-tagged Flickr photos may not tell the whole story of a place.  But, oh, the beauty of adjacent data.  In a very useful update, Watkins links to a post from Data Pointed, that maps population shifts over the past 10 years.  The one below is of the Detroit  metro area.

In urban areas, deep blue indicates that the population doubled (or more), pure red means that everyone left, grey denotes no change, and the intermediate tones represent the spectrum of increases and decreases in-between. Below 5000 residents per square mile, these colors fade with the square root of density towards white, where no people lived in either year.

detroit ann arbor small The Networked World And What It Can Teach Us

So while it’s true that Detroit is experiencing huge population decline, it does not tell the whole story about this troubled city.  The outlying areas and even some spots in downtown Detroit are experiencing surprisingly high growth.  Why would the suburbs and the urban heart of a city in decline be experiencing such a boom?  Perhaps we just need more data.

API Hackday ATX Coming Soon

2008325957 2 API Hackday ATX Coming Soon

Can you believe it’s just 17 days until API Hackday ATX?  We’re busily pulling together all the details of this event with our amazing co-sponsors and would love to see a whole big slew of Austin developers come out to build amazing apps on the fly.

There are a limited number of spots due to space limitations, so sign up today (it’s free!) via Eventbrite. All you have to do is let us know your name, email address and whether you’re a bit shifter (developer) or pixel master (designer). (Note: you can select both “bit shifter” and “pixel master” if you consider yourself both. We’ll only count your registration as being for one person!)

 API Hackday ATX Coming Soon
You can tweet about this event using hashtag: #apihackday.

This event is brought to you by Infochimps, Twilio, SendGrid, Cloudera, Mashery, Hoovers, and Conjunctured.


standards Standards

Ah, XKCD – always on point.

Which competing standards do you find the most frustrating to navigate?

Back to School Data Pop Quiz

With a record setting heat wave still raging through the United States, it’s hard to believe that it’s nearly back to school season.  Many students will be returning to classrooms as early as Monday of next week and we’ve rounded up some of our most interesting education-related data sets.  In the spirit of our fine institutions of learning, we’ve decided to have a little two question pop quiz!

Be the first person to leave correct answers to the following questions in comments and we’ll send you a sweet Infochimps belt buckle.  Yee-haw!

book monkey web Back to School Data Pop Quiz Enrollment in Public and Private Schools: 1960 to 2005
Between which years did total enrollment in public and private schools remain flat? (Hint: there may be more than one instance of this.)

Most Dangerous Colleges 2010 – The Daily Beast Ranking
Which school ranks #1 in most instances of arson? (Bonus points if you can come up with a reasonable reason why)

And this one isn’t on the test, but a good data set to check out anyway…

US Colleges and Universities

Want to build a university finder app?  It would probably help to have a database of all US college and universities, as of 2010 (9,350 total).

We’ve got over 15,100 more where that came from.  Visit our site today and search for the data you want.  Can’t find what you need? Let us know on UserVoice!

Find Aliens Near You

tinfoil hat shazam Find Aliens Near You

You can bust out your tin foil hats without fear of judgement, folks, because you are not alone. Even Stephen Hawking believes in them (and that we should probably be afraid of them).

You may have heard of our infamous 60,000+ Documented UFO Sightings with Text Descriptions.  This humble 78 MB dataset (also available as an API) has spawned several fun visualizations and apps that we’ve rounded up to share with you today.  Everything we’re featuring here was build in a matter of hours – so we encourage you to play around with the thousands of data sets and APIs on our site and come up with something cool on the fly!

header Find Aliens Near You

UFOS Walk Amidst Us
Created by Tom Britton, this simple app uses our IP to Geo API to figure out where you are, then tell you what UFO sightings have happened near you. You can also search by different cities in the upper right.

ufolibs Find Aliens Near You

We’ve written a post about UFOLibs before, you can check out here.

Built over a 3 Day Startup weekend, UFOLibs uses web framework, Sinatra and Infochimps API for 60,000+ Documented UFO Sightings. The resulting app allows you to enter your other worldly experience, Mad-Libs style, to compare against the recorded experiences of thousands of others. Not only is the end result produce a delightful diversion, but it showcases that with our API and Sinatra, “even our Biz Dev guy (Dick Hall) can make a web application”.

ufo map annotated Find Aliens Near You

Where the Aliens Fly Their UFOs
Our friend, Nathan Yau of Flowing Data came across our UFO data set and used it as an excuse to mess with R and create this cool “globular” heat map of UFO sightings across the US. He also compares this to the locations of major US airports and finds some interesting connections.

May the truth be with you!

Friday Nights Are For Hacking!

DL2 9327 Friday Nights Are For Hacking!
Photo Credit: Dan Lien

Sleep is the cousin of Death!
– Jay Z

Last Friday night, we joined a room packed with dozens of Austin’s brightest developers and designers “with more respect for making things than sleep!”  Dhruv Bansal, CSO and I went over to Cospace, a coworking space in North Austin to present at the very first, Friday Night Hacks.  Organized by Damon Clinkscales, founder of Austin on Rails, the event brought together about 30 of Austin’s finest app hackers to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to build innovative apps on the fly.  Fueled by coffee, pizza, beer, Red Bull, cupcakes and breakfast tacos, this group produced several interesting projects including one very useful one built on our Social Network Identity Mapping API.

Contact Genius (coincidentally made by organizer, Damon C himself) allows you to use someone’s email address to find them elsewhere on the web.  You can find and check on the progress of other great projects started during the event.

Thanks to our co-sponsors –  Twilio, Houndstooth Coffee, Nola Stowe, and Cospace for pitching in to make Friday Night Hacks so awesome.  We hope that we’ll have lots of opportunities in the future to make things like this happen again.

Missed the first Friday Night Hacks and want to make sure you’re on the list for the next one?  You can sign up here to attend the next event!

Release the Hackin’ – API Hackday ATX

2008325957 2 Release the Hackin   API Hackday ATX

Calling all hackers, developers, code monkeys, and data junkies!

On Saturday, September 10th, to cap off the very first Austin Startup Week, we are bringing you – API Hackday ATX. We’ll gather in the offices of Conjunctured in hip East Austin for an all-day coding fest focused on building apps with APIs. Developers of all experience levels can share ideas, collaborate on existing projects, start new ventures, and find out about new APIs to play with.

There are a limited number of spots due to space limitations, so sign up today (it’s free!) via Eventbrite.  All you have to do is let us know your name, email address and whether you’re a bit shifter (developer) or pixel master (designer).  (Note: you can select both “bit shifter” and “pixel master” if you consider yourself both.  We’ll only count your registration as being for one person!)

 Release the Hackin   API Hackday ATX
You can tweet about this event using hashtag: #apihackday.

This event is brought to you by InfochimpsTwilioSendGridClouderaMashery and Conjunctured.

Gigantopithecus & Other Huge (Data) Apes

Gigantopithecus.7834526 std Gigantopithecus & Other Huge (Data) ApesMeet Gigantopithecus.

… or at least a life-like, artist rendering of the now 100,000 year extinct* giant ape. Based on the few fossils that have been unearthed, our best guess is that Gigantopithecus stood at about 10 feet tall and weighed in at 1200 lbs.  Fossils come few and far between and much about this creature remains unknown due to lack of complete data.

What does this have to do with huge data sets?

Once upon a time, huge data sets were hard to find and even harder to download, cleanup and analyze.  Mythical beasts, such as historical records of Twitter users & conversations or the mapping of the Human Genome, proved difficult to locate, let alone interact with in the wild.

We receive tons of emails from folks looking for large data sets.  Whether they’re looking to test a new algorithm or storage solution or simply want to try some new tools, requests for 100+ MB data sets are common and we’ve pulled together a list of our biggest and best.

Check out our huge data sets, including one that’s 150 TB!

* Yes, this means that we likely cohabited the Earth with these guys… and still may according to some cryptozoologists.