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At The J-Lab: ChangeTracker

Propublica’s ChangeTracker received a $1,000 Special Distinction award for keeping an eye on every change made on WhiteHouse.gov.
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The backend construction of this thing is really interesting: Scott Klein, editor of online deveploment at Propublica, said he’d wanted to do something like this for a long time, but the coding was too daunting. Then along comes an intern (Brian Boyer, now the news applications editor at the Chicago Tribune) who said they could just hack it together using sites that already exist.

Feeding whitehouse.gov through a change tracker called Versionista, then feeding that output through Yahoo Pipes, and then spitting that output to Feedburner creates a way for you to receive an e-mail or Tweet every time the page is changed. We’re boggling here. So simple. You can also create your own ChangeTracker for any site anywhere.

Propublica is using this tool in their own reporting, but other media are picking up on ChangeTracker too. Klein mentioned that at one point, the Obama administration changed its wording on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell late in the evening. The change was broadcast out on Twitter and picked up by bloggers. “By the time we got up in the morning, the White House had already issued a statement,” Klein says.

Do you use ChangeTracker (or a ChangeTracker)? Let us know.

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