The Occupy Wall Street API

Crowds at the OWS Day of Action, November 17, 2011, in New York City. © C.S. Muncy/

You'll want to read this essay on OWS as API by Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal—and then you'll want to share it with friends who don't totally get OWS yet:

The most fascinating thing about Occupy Wall Street is the way that the protests have spread from Zuccotti Park to real and virtual spaces across the globe. Metastatic, the protests have an organizational coherence that's surprising for a movement with few actual leaders and almost no official institutions.

Much of that can be traced to how Occupy Wall Street has functioned in catalyzing other protests. Local organizers can choose from the menu of options modeled in Zuccotti, and adapt them for local use. Occupy Wall Street was designed to be mined and recombined, not simply copied.

This idea crystallized for me yesterday when Jonathan Glick, a long-time digital journalist, tweeted, "I think #OWS was working better as an API than a destination site anyway." If you get the idea, go ahead and skip ahead to the documentation below. If you don't get, let me explain why it might be the most useful way of thinking about #Occupy.

Read the rest. Alexis is on Twitter and G+.


  1. Dear Mayor McGinn,

    Did you see were the retired Police Chief of Philadelphia got arrested at occupy NY? He called the NY City police; “‘obnoxious, arrogant and ignorant’”. Now the NYC Police and the Seattle Police have something in common! Please get your officers to respect people and knock off the pepper spay free for all. This occupation movement has just begun, and if the City of Seattle and their police treat them as they have, you are setting up a terrible mess.


    Dear Mr. President,There is a very large demonstration being planned for January 20th, 2012 at the Federal Courthouse at 700 Stewart street in Seattle, – and at every Federal Courthouse in the United States.. There are many groups organizing and “gearing up” for this demonstration. I will be promoting and advertising it. This “occupy movement” has only just begun.  I suggest you figure out your plan of action and response;  The rules of engagement;  –  Need a way better understanding of what is going on;  –  than during WTO in Seattle.    Treat the people like they are the enemy, and they will become it.

    January 20, 2012 – Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!
    Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark this date — Occupy the Courts — a one day occupation on Friday January 20, 2012, of the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States and as many of the 89 U.S. District Court Buildings as we can.  (I am inspired by Doctor Martin Luther King who said; “a true revolution of values”, …  “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”.,  “people are not gonna be silenced”.).   Move to Amend will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

    Please Sign the petition to amend the Constitution for revoking corporate personhood

  2. I would argue that OWS does not define an API. I think API is too specific. 

    Both are  examples of the same fundamental Adapter Design Pattern, which is basically a set of unchanging operational contracts between the consumer and any number of disparate and opaque implementations whose basic underlying operation is immaterial so long the operational contracts are maintained.

  3. I always see “API” and think of the Latin “apis”, or bee.  That this has now come full circle, and is now referring to some sort of hivemind activity tickles my language brain.

  4. This is one of the best breakdowns I’ve seen of the strategies and tactics of the Occupy movement, but the HTTP verbs don’t appear to map in any sensible or realistic way to reality. I can’t actually figure out what you mean by POST and GET. What entities correspond to client and server are totally unclear.

Comments are closed.