What Does URI Stand For?

I get a lot of complaints about an API that I maintain (http://api.joind.in) which is "missing" the ID field. This ID field is the database's primary key; if the user doesn't have access to the database (they don't), then it seems to me that the primary key probably isn't all that useful.

Instead, the API publishes each record with a unique uri field. If this record is referred to by another record, then this full identifier will be used in every case. If this record should be included in a collection, this exact same identifier will be used there, too. You can reach the resource directly by requesting its URI. In the same way that we might refer to a website by its URL, we refer to records in RESTful systems by their URI*. If you need to store these somewhere for your own use, you can use whatever key you like with the local storage, you may even choose to use the uri field as it is unique.

* URI stands for Unique Resource Identifier

Doing Google Custom Search via API

I'm working on a project that uses a search engine to show images on a particular topic ... but I need my search to be localised since I'm in the UK and so "football" doesn't mean what a generic search engine thinks it means. Getting this working was MUCH harder than I expected, so here's a quick post on what I did so that I can remember for next time - and if this helps you as well, then great :)

Google Custom Search Engine

It's possible to set up and configure a custom search engine in Google, so you can configure some settings and the search will always use those settings. To begin, go to http://www.google.com/cse. Here you can create a search engine, give it a name and description, and then set some options. You can choose whether to search for images, or not, or images only. You can include or exclude certain sites, or search everywhere and just prefer certain sites. Continue reading

Joind.in at the PHPNW Hackathon

It's that time of year again, the PHP North West conference is almost upon us, and this year they are once again running a hackathon. These events are a great way either to carve out some time to get your head down and hack on an idea that's been in the back of your mind for a while, but they're also a fabulous way to get involved in collaborating on projects. At PHPNW, you'll find there are quite a lot of open source projects at the hackathon, standing by to take on anyone interested in getting involved, either just for the evening or beyond. I'll be there, representing joind.in, a tool which is used by the conference itself. So what kinds of things will there be to do and how can you get involved? Continue reading

Twitter Search API Using PHP and Guzzle

In case you missed it, Twitter updated their APIs recently, so that you have to authenticate to use even their search APIs to return publicly-available results. This is an increasing trend for API providers, to provide either very limited or nonexistent access for unauthenticated users, I think so they can rate limit consumers that swamp them. To cut a long story short, that meant I needed to update my dashboards that keep an eye on twitter searches to do more than just call file_get_contents in the general direction of the right URL. Continue reading

Are Subqueries RESTful?

Twitter is great for one-liners, but it's very difficult to carry on any kind of advanced conversation there. Therefore when I saw this tweet yesterday, I knew I'd be picking a different medium to reply:

The blog seems like a good place, as I can put examples and all kinds other things here, and waffle at length (which is really why I like it!). Because when condensed to tweet form, the answer is really "it depends".

The Problem(s)

REST is all about representations of resources. They might come in different formats, and they might appear at their own URI as well as in one or more collections, but essentially you just get a representation of a thing. This is great, apart from when it isn't.

  • What if you want a smaller result set with only a limited number of fields?
  • What if you want related data? For every resource in a collection?

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Endpoints for HTTP Testing

While working on a book ("PHP Web Services" from O'Reilly, not out yet but soon!) recently, I was looking for some place I could make HTTP requests to, to show off how to make different kinds of requests with different tools. On my own machine, I have a couple of scripts that chatter back giving debug information about the requests that were made, but I wanted to get the tools examples going without any additional dependencies at all. I hadn't used anything like these tools before, but I found quite a few alternatives, so I thought I'd share what I came up with. Continue reading

How NOT to Design Your API

Recently I tweeted as a #linktuesday link the 10 Worst API Practices post from ProgrammableWeb. Today, in search of some concrete examples of APIs implementing unhelpful antipatterns, I sent out a tweet for help:

What's the most frustrating inconsistent/misleading bit of API you've seen? Looking for cautionary tales! Please RT
@lornajane
Lorna Mitchell

In the raft of responses (and thankyou all, this was fabulous, helpful and entertaining in equal parts!), there were some definite patterns that I'd like to share with you, in no particular order. Continue reading

Datapoint: Weather API from the MetOffice

I'm working on a little hobby project which needs to know what the weather is going to be. I had a look around and noticed that the MetOffice had released a new API called DataPoint. They have a selection of APIs, including some map overlays and some actual weather data (more on that another day) but I was especially charmed by their text APIs - this is basically the basis of weather forecasts used everywhere :)
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Github API Access Tokens via Curl

I'm working on some demos for a tutorial I'm giving next month and since I'd like to show off Github's API, I needed an access token for it. They have the usual web flow but I'm cutting as many corners as I can to keep the demos nice and quick, so I looked into the support Github has for generating an API key programmatically. Continue reading

API Documentation with IODocs

I write a lot of APIs, and I also preach that your API isn't finished until it has excellent documentation. Which is great, but that means I therefore have to lead by example and document my APIs :) Enter iodocs from the talented folk at Mashery.

Iodocs is a node.js application (which is fun for a PHP developer. Most developers write a bit of JS, but this one hasn't). You describe your API and all its methods in JSON, and then iodocs presents an interface for you to enter API keys, add parameters to each request and press the "try it!" button. This makes your API call and shows you the results on screen, which seems like a great way to demonstrate what all the various parameters do!

iodocs screenshot
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