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Posted at 02:59 PM ET, 02/06/2013

White House hosting a hackathon for We The People 2.0


The White House is hosting a hackathon, giving a select group of users access to a new version of its We The People petitions platform. (Ron Edmonds - AP)

This post has been corrected to accurately reflect the number of users of The We the People platform.

The White House is hosting a hackathon around its We The People petition platform, which has attracted more than 2 million users over the last two months of 2012, and roughly 6 million log-ins and more than 10 million signatures since its inception.

The platform, perhaps best known for a popular petition calling on the federal government to build a Death Star (Uncle Sam nixed that in a popular rejection letter), runs on a program called Petitions 1.0. According to a blog post by Peter Welsch, the Office of Digital Strategy’s Deputy Director of Online Platform, the work on Petitions 2.0 is under way and will be based on an application programming interface, or API.

The White House will release the first of two API methods sets, Read API, in March. Read API will allow users to collect and use petitions, signatures and responses data however they like. The second methods set, Write API, will empower users to sign petitions from Web sites other than WhiteHouse.gov. Write API will be released to the public shortly after Read API.

But before Petitions 2.0 is released to the public, the White House is opening its doors to a small group of individuals to work with the platform during an Open Data Day Hackathon. The hackathon will be hosted at The White House on Feb. 22 and open to individuals on an application basis. The application is open to anyone. But if you’re wondering whether you have what it takes, Macon Phillips, the White House’s director of digital strategy, recommends looking at Christoph Berendes’s work independently using We the People data as an example of the type of person the team is hoping will apply. Those selected to attend will be notified on or before Feb. 8.

The event is “an opportunity for those motivated people to come, sit down with our team, go through the data we’re providing,” and put together some basic projects and offer ways to help improve it, said Philips during a phone call Wednesday. “We’re really excited to open up the data.”

While this is not the White House’s first hackathon, it is, according to Phillips, the first of its kind — one where the White House is looking to improve on an API. And this effort, says Phillips, is “preliminary.”

As for the snacks, “We may be able to wrangle up some White House M&M’s,” said Philips.

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