Are you a developer who wants to get your news immediately? The New York Times NewsWire API, which provides links and metadata for Times articles the moment they are published, might solve your problem. But what if your news alert mashup doesn't quite get every bit of your undivided attention? Jer Thorp's NewsAlarm (our Mashup of the Day), combines the NewsWire API and an 85 decibel smoke detector into what might be the loudest mashup on the planet.
NewsAlarm sounds off when user-determined phrases are detected in recently published New York Times articles. Fortunately for his neighbors, Thorp has added features to prevent common news terms, such as "Barack Obama," from setting off the alarm too often.
NewsAlarm's software is written using the Processing development environment and interfaces with the Arduino computing platform, both of which are open-source projects popular with electronic hobbyists.
Jer Thorp writes:
"I wrote a simple set of Classes in Processing which connect to the New York Times NewsWire API. The NewsWire has been described by the NYT R&D guys as a 'firehose' - it send out a live stream of articles as (or before) they are posted or published by the Times. The Processing Classes allow you to hook up to the feed, and to set up alerts that are triggered when stories with specific keywords or descriptors are published."
Is it a good idea to appropriate an important safety device for news alerts? Thorp's response:
"Quite frankly, you'd have to be insane to want an 85 dB alarm telling you when news has arrived... News agencies work very hard to foster anxiety surrounding the news - it's a way for them to increase readership and advertising revenue. I wanted to embody this in a device which is quite literally alarming..."
While Thorp's NewsAlarm is more of an art project than a pragmatic invention, the repurposed smoke detector illustrates just how easy it can be for API data to trigger alerts in physical devices.