I have always been a huge fan of the data visualization graphics that the New York Times have been doing over the past few years, such as the 2012 election. A collection of it can be seen here: NYT's 2012 data visualization
Apologies for the genuinely awful sketch, but fist I thought it could be fun to have the text scroll through across something like a movie screen:
But I wanted to be more ambitious. I wanted to do something using the APIs that NYT have made available, especially the movie reviews API. I had an idea of using the API to search for a number of films (the entire archive is online), and I thought about the idea of searching through the archive and pull reviews from a specific time frame, and see how many films are made by directed by men and how many by women. The simple idea is sketched out (very poorly) below: but basically, there will be a GUI with buttons that I can press to extract that information in possibly a graph form. Though that was something I intended to experiment with AFTER I managed to pull the data.
My basic game-plan is to figure out how to get the information I need, then figure out a way to code it in processing to ensure it is analyzing the data, then I would use the codes to make visual drawings...be it graphs, or different circles for different sizes like the NYT...but it would be a sketch that provides a graphical representation of such data.
So I spent the weekend trying to really understand how an API works. The NYT documentation is great but for someone who kinda has no idea, it was tricky. I had to really understand the different formats I can pull out (XML, json), and to understand how to make the API query. It took me a few hours, but I can now figure out how to pull search using the API.
Then I realized the major problem: the API doesn't actually give me the information I need. I had thought about pulling data from the reviews, then building a string document that will search the director name by gender to divide them into male and female results, but the NYT search results doesn't actually give us the review. I would receive a link to the review, but I can't actually pull the full review. Even if I just try and search for all the records in a same time, the API, naturally, limits the results I can access at one time.
Here's a screenshot of me using the API to search 'war', it returns 115 results but not all are listed in the page:
So the valuable lesson learned is: APIs actually doesn't mean a free for all and there are a lot of limitations as to what I can do. I am not sure I am a good enough programmer to hack it to do more than I do. But, I still want to use the API to do something with my sketch, so I just need to work out what I can do within the limitations.