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The ProPublica Nerd Blog

A New Way to ‘Check In’ on Education Inequality

Starting today if you connect your Foursquare account to "The Opportunity Gap," we'll send you stats about schools whenever you check into one. If you've checked into a school we've associated with a Foursquare "venue," we'll show you some details and give you a link to that school's profile.

You can also tap the ProPublica section of your checkin (see screenshot to right) to bring up that school's profile and compare it to nearby schools right from your smartphone.

A year ago when we launched the first version of our "Opportunity Gap" news application, we tightly integrated Facebook in order to make it easy for readers to compare schools and share their school comparisons. Today's relaunch adds Foursquare, along with adding a slew of new data to the app as well as algorithmically generate narratives by Narrative Science.

To accomplish the Foursquare integration, we're taking advantage of their new Real-Time API which lets us send push notifications in response to checkins. In order to associate schools with Foursquare venues, we used Foursquare's search API with its "match" intent -- a specially-designed endpoint for "venue harmonization" between apps. We ran our database of over 50,000 schools through Foursquare's API to store the venue IDs. If you check into a school that we haven't matched to a venue in our database, we'll use your location and the school name to show you a number of guesses as to what school you're at (we don't store your checkins or location data in our database at all). Once you pick one, we'll use your checkin data to link the school venue, so the next user that checks into that school will immediately see school stats.

Many news applications are location-based, and we're excited to start experimenting with bringing our apps to users where they are.

Sol Villasana

Jan. 24, 2013, 4:23 p.m.

Great idea. The more transparency the better.

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