Posts Tagged ‘api’

4 ways to connect your data & your web apps

A wise tech-guy once said, “It all comes down to data and how it is exchanged”. Spot on we’d say! Laptops, hand-held devices, smart TVs, all send and receive data. Apps, websites, and software programs, all function on data. Needless to say, there’s an obvious connection there. The invisible thread between devices and software programs / apps, is the data binding them. It is ‘data’ which enables apps to control devices. Each and every device operates according to the hardware interfaces and software programs running behind it, which in turn communicate by exchanging data. And with almost every modern device working the ‘smart’ way over the Internet, data and its constant exchange across channels, devices, and apps has become the new reality of tech world.

Apps and Data go hand-in-hand

Almost all of us use one or more web apps in our personal and professional lives on a daily basis. And if you’re in the habit of working with multiple websites, your data footprint is probably more than others. Every web app directly or indirectly collects or generates different data on different assets. “Assets” here include people and the devices they use every day.

When we say “web apps generate and collect data”, the kind of data we’re referring to includes everything from general signup information like name, age, gender, address, contact number, etc. to more personal information like habits, preferences, messages from social media interactions, food choices, to-do tasks, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Whether you realize it or not (or want it or not), you have an online identity which can give any arbitrary tech guy every single detail about your personal and professional life at any point of time. And that is made possible by the data you willingly punch into the various web apps you use. The calendar reservations you make, the task lists you create, the kind of communities you subscribe to on social platforms, every bit of data comes together at the end to create an online version of you.

Guess there’s no point in wanting to keep things private anymore!

But jokes aside, when you’re going to use web apps to that kind of extent, why not use them in a way that you know exactly how much information you divulge over the Internet and through which web apps and websites? If you can centralize the information you reveal across web apps, you can control and manage it more effectively.

You access and disperse more data than you know

Apart from the personal information we give out willingly, there’s a lot of other external data we make use of every day. Articles, blog and social media posts, weather data, currency exchange rates, etc. are all things which aren’t directly personal but still accessed by us to a great deal and thus contributing to our online habits. And then there are the everyday electronics and appliances we use. Smart light bulbs, smart door locks, smart air conditioners, air purifiers, wear-able devices (IoT), etc. are all little technical wonders that can adapt to our preferences and surroundings to deliver a more personalized experience. And no points for guessing how they do it.

When we use so many devices and mechanisms to disperse data and information across different networks, wouldn’t things be a lot simpler if the common data could be summarized at one place, non-critical data filtered out, and relevant data shared among web apps that use it? Whether personal or external, if there was a way for users to view what data they’ve supplied to which web app while enabling web apps to collaborate through common data, things would become quite organized. Plus, users would be able to monitor and manage what chunk of their identity and preferences crosses over the Internet making their online presence much safer.

You can get hold of all that functionality if you connect the various web apps you use through some kind of collaborative bridge. Fortunately, there are not one or two, but multiple entities available which can play the part of that bridge for your web apps.

Connecting web apps through a common platform is a wise plan

One of the brightest ways to centralize your data is to connect your web apps through a common platform, like a dashboard. You might not be aware about this but there are a lot of vendors out there who are developing platforms and tools to help people with this very task – organizing their data by establishing connections between the web apps they use. Typically, such platforms include a ton of inbuilt features like one time sign-in, report and analytics, and much more which can help you streamline your information exchange over the Internet.

Connecting your web apps achieves multiple goals.

  • A common platform with single sign-in facility will reduce the number of web apps you need to log in to everyday, thus simplifying stuff
  • It saves time
  • It boosts your productivity

Now that that’s settled, you’d obviously like to know about some great ways to connect your web apps right? Well, let’s start with something you already know about and probably use frequently without realizing its worth. APIs – heard of them, haven’t you?

APIs and other tricks to connect web apps and data

Among the best ways to connect data and web apps are APIs. Quite a few web apps and data sources out there include inbuilt mechanisms allowing them to “integrate” with other websites and applications through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). APIs are in fact a set of functions enabling other applications to connect with and communicate across channels to share, search, download, and upload data. This allows connection between web apps (data exchange and executing functions) and aggregating / gathering data from multiple sources in specialized software.

Apart from APIs, here’s a list of 4 other great ways in which you can connect your data and your web apps:

1. Built-in integrations

“Integration” is just another fancy word for the communication (information exchange) that takes between web apps. When visiting the website for a new appealing tool, one of the things most people tend to look for is built-in integrations. This feature allows the new tool you’re researching to easily collaborate with a number of popular technologies or tools that other people generally use in conjunction with the tool you’re researching. For example if you’re looking out for a new email marketing application to promote your business, you’d probably want to look for an application that has built-in integration with CRMs since marketing and customer relationship management are quite closely related.

In fact, some app connections are so natural that developers include integrations as prebuilt features in their apps in order to attract more users into buying their apps. All the user needs to do is copy the app credentials (usually API Key) from one application and paste in another to make the communication happen.

2. Plugins, modules and extensions

A common issue many tech-impaired self-hosted bloggers face is, wanting to implement a particular feature like a layout or widget on their blog that can display only specific data on particular webpages. This requirement basically needs them to extract some data from their existing blog posts and display it on a particular section of their website. Again, major data exchange needed. Enter – plug-ins, extensions, and modules built to act as bridges that can extract data from the required places and serve them at the desired places in the format of choice. Everyone’s happy!

There are quite a few CMS platforms like WordPress, Magento, and Drupal that are so popular that they have their own ecosystems for integrations. Currently, there exist 60,000+ plugins for WordPress, 40,000+ Drupal modules and more than 10,000 Magento extensions. These ecosystems were originally created to enable external developers to add new functions to the platforms, but over the years they’ve evolved into great ways to connect external web apps. If you spend a lot of time on such platforms, they can be your control center where you integrate many other apps.

3. Dashboards

Remember we mentioned that your tryst with web apps would be much simpler and safer if there was a way to connect data from many different sources and display it on a single, clear platform for centralized access? Well, customized dashboards are “it”. There are many specialized web applications which act as brilliant dashboards to combine the data you share through other web apps and display it to you in a concise manner for better control and management. Some of the best examples include:

  • Google Data Studio – With the number of Google web apps that exist and the kind of customer base they have, rolling out a dashboard application for user convenience that could consolidate all their data dispersed across various Google apps was just inevitable. Data Studio is free and not just taps into Google data (Analytics, Ad-Words, YouTube, Search Console, and Google Spreadsheets) but also popular database formats (MySQL, PostgreSQL) and numerous analytic data available through 3rd party connectors. Report generation, data source management, and centralized information, are just a few of the key features.
  • Klipfolio – Probably the most versatile application with hundreds of data sources available, Klipfolio offers an online platform for building real-time business dashboards allowing business users to connect to many data services, automate data retrieval, and then manipulate and visualize the data. With features like built-in formula editing, combining and slicing data, and easy cross-device access, this platform is a great way to manage your business web app data.
  • Cyfe – Great-looking cloud based business intelligence application with a ton of features (like TV-mode), Cyfe is all-in-one business dashboard designed to analyze, transform and report data from different integrated sources of business intelligence. The freemium platform enables business users track and monitor all business metrics in one single place by assembling current information from multiple sources into a single, consistent, and a coherent presentation format.

Other dashboard applications deserving a mention include Geckoboard, Dash, Databox, and Zoho Reports.

4. Automation tools

Some web applications offer closed lists of integrations, other enable great APIs. You don’t have to be a developer or spend time writing API clients to use data from different sources in a smart way. You can use one of the incredible tools that can integrate with hundreds of APIs (for downloading and uploading data) and just tweak them a bit by adding some automation. “Connectors” as they are often called are these code snippets which make communication between different web apps possible. You may develop your own connectors or pick one from the huge array of readymade ones available online. A lot of budding developers out there keep experimenting with their programming skills and design connectors for many popular apps for nominal prices. The simple visual interfaces of such connectors let you easily configure “recipes” and connect applications in pairs with different rules. If you’re wondering what we’re talking about, do IFTTT (“If This Then That”) and Zapier ring any bells?

Wrapping things up

Hope the above list of options will enlighten you on ways to connect your web apps through centralized data management platforms. So go ahead and try it out by skimming through your subscribed web apps and checking their integration options. You can also search for them on IFTTT and Zapier integration lists. Don’t forget to share other popular, ready to use “recipes” you’ve tried out.

DevDocs – a slick API documentation browser

No matter how talented or gifted a developer is, at some point and for some tasks, he might need a little help, if not from a peer then from an online source. Any technology expert can vouch for the fact that unless you have photographic memory (literally) you simply cannot remember each and every library, syntax or API related to a particular programming language at any given point of time. Thus, each tech-guru keeps monitoring the Internet to find out and keep handy some really useful websites or online tools that he can access as and when needed to come up with a perfectly working code snippet.

devdocs

However, at max you can remember a handful of dedicated websites or URLs. What if there could be a way for a whole bunch of code development related documents to be present at one place for easy access? Moreover, what if this library (of sorts) could be customized on choice and updated with the latest changes? If you’re a programmer, you’re probably quite intrigued about what it is we’re getting at. Well, we’re talking about none other than DevDocs – the online super interface that combines multiple API documentations in a fast, organized and searchable manner.

DevDocs – a programmer’s heaven!

And we mean that! The guys behind DevDocs modestly call it an API documentation browser when it actually is a lot more than that. It is in fact, a hub for quick-access reference manuals of just about every popular programming language and library that is used to create frond-ends. It specifically lists all APIs of these languages with their official documentation in such a manner that makes using the tool seem like child’s play. There is no learning curve required for using the tool; you can read through it or search for a particular API just like you would with an e-book. Remember the help and guide that are installed on your computer when you install a programming language’s editor? Imagine the guide of every front-end language you know combined into one omnipresent online tool – yep! That’s DevDocs for you.

The awesomeness of the tool doesn’t end there. The languages whose manuals are present have an arrow displayed before their name on which you can click to expand the manual contents. The most interesting part is that as any other tool, there might be a few languages whose reference manuals you might not find on first access (meaning they’re disabled by default). But before you say ‘aha!’ let us tell you that the tool allows you to instantly download the manual for those languages from various online sources with a few clicks.

Now if you’re wondering what happens to those manuals if you don’t have an Internet connection – well, DevDocs has a solution for that too. It gives you the option to download the documentation for any language onto your system and use it in ‘Offline’ mode. Could it gain any more points in user-friendliness?

How to use the tool

As mentioned earlier, there is practically no learning curve involved and you can verify that by visiting the tool’s website. As soon as you land there, you’ll see different front-end programming languages listed in a tree-view manner in the left hand side of the screen. Click on the arrow adjacent to the language name to expand its contents. Then click on any item to view its associated material on the right hand side.

By default, you’ll be able to view the manuals for 5 – 6 most used languages with the others listed under a ‘DISABLED’ marker. To view the documentation for any language that’s disabled, ‘Enable’ it first. For this you can either click on the enable link that flashes on hovering over the language name or go to ‘Select Documentation’ setting at the bottom of the left hand panel. Then select the language and version you wish to enable and see the associated content downloaded into the tool within seconds.

Convenient options on the upper right corner of the screen allow you to:

  • Offline: download manuals to your computer to refer offline
  • About: find out who created the tool, about the associated licenses, about plugins and extensions and answers to frequently asked questions
  • News: browse notifications about new documentations added to the tool
  • Tips: view the guide to using the tool

The tool is open source and it invites users to submit their ideas, any bugs they find and their suggestions to improve the code. It’s hosted on GitHub and can be deployed easily to run or host user versions.

devdocs1

Pros VS Cons

You mean more benefits that the obvious ones mentioned above? Actually, there are a few worth mentioning:

  • The DevDocs interface is highly responsive, powered by Fuzzy search algorithms that makes searching for keywords in documentations superfast
  • The tool is fully optimized for mobile devices
  • You can install the tool as any other search engine (like Google or Bing) since it supports OpenSearch
  • A number of easy keyboard shortcuts make working with the tool very simple

Trying to find faults in a tool that’s as helpful and as simple-to-the-point-of-cuteness is just wrong. Its open source so free, it combines so many documentations at one place, is self-updating and is easy to use. There’s simply nothing wrong with it.

  • Reference manuals for 50+ front-end languages within one simple tool: devdocs.io/ @DevDocs via @supermonitoring

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Concluding Lines

If you haven’t used it yet or don’t plan to use it, at least cast a cursory glance at it. You won’t be able to move over it if you even remotely have anything to do with coding.

Find an API for anything with Mashape

The online world is moving to the cloud. From emails to storage and management, you name it and there’s a portal to take it to the cloud. And if one doesn’t keep up with the flow, one tends to drown out too soon. In the times of the Industrial Revolution, building a product from scratch after gathering requirements, monitoring production and testing quality was a challenging task; equally tedious was the marketer and seller’s job. Things changed when modern machines and techniques arrived. If we map the same trend to modern software development, cloud computing has changed things much the same way.

Today whether large or small, all businesses are going the cloud computing way to develop, test as well as sell software. While people starting afresh might have the edge, old players might need a hand with shifting existing methods to the cloud. It is in such a scenario that the need for a sort of a bridge arises. And cloud APIs serve as that bridge. If you have an application, website or product under development and you need to take it to the cloud, the simplest and ideal way to do it would be to have APIs for everything.

mashape0

The next question would be where to get such cool APIs and how. The answer lies with Mashape.

Mashape – Building the API Economy

Mashape aims to create a revolution in software production by serving as the backbone of the distribution and consumption of data and services through APIs. It can be thought of as an online marketplace where you can buy APIs suiting to your different needs. Mashape makes it easy to distribute, monetize, manage and consume cloud APIs. And where exactly do they get such a huge storehouse of APIs? They’re contributed by a passionate community of developers from all over the world. With public APIs like Twilio, bitcoin and 23andMe under its belt, Mashape is swiftly capturing a large portion of the cloud API online marketplace sector.

mashape1

Mashape plays a unique role of bringing API providers and consumers in sync. As a provider, you can contribute APIs for free or for remuneration. As a consumer you can browse through thousands of APIs for different purposes and buy the ones you want – simple and awesome!

In short – need an API? Get it from Mashape!

This is how it works

If you’re an API consumer, visit Mashape and click on the green button in the center that says “Explore APIs”. You will then be directed to a page that lists all APIs available for consumption. You can customize the APIs you wish to see through the sorting filters Relevant, Recent, Popular and My APIs (for existing customers) or through Price filters All, Free, Premium and Paid. There are numerous categories that define the APIs at the left hand side of the screen and you may choose to browse only a particular category there. But it would be advisable to look through the entire collection of APIs to be absolutely sure of the one you need.

Once you find an API that interests you, click on it and you’ll see a page displaying details about it and instructions for consuming it. In addition to basic formalities like applying for authentication keys etc, here you’ll be asked to sign up if you wish to consume the API.

Once you’ve signed up, the button prompting you to sign up will change to a drop down having the options – ‘Default Application’ and ‘+ Create New Application’. Select the appropriate option and click on Test Endpoint’ to kick off. On clicking this button a push-out menu will appear displaying the API code from Mashape that you can download or copy and use wherever you want.

Mashape also offers you the opportunity to see the number of developers behind the API and number of people following it. Moreover, you can also report the API as broken if it doesn’t work for you. In this aspect, Mashape makes dealing with APIs extremely easy and crystal clear.

mashape2

If you’re an API developer, you can contribute your API by clicking on the “Add your API” button on the main screen. On clicking the button you’ll be directed to a page where you have the option to straightaway import (upload) your API documentation or supply the Base URL if your API is already up and running elsewhere. Accompany that with a cool name for the API and click on the “Add new API” button. That’s it, you’re good to go!

Pros Vs Cons

Mashape is an online tool that comes with many plus points.

  • For starters, if you have a website or portal that you wish to bring at par with other portals, you needn’t look further that Mashape for readymade APIs of some of the most popular supplementing applications (Spotify, ESPN, Bitcoin, BestBuy, Imgur and many more).
  • Consuming APIs is child’s play (literally); all you need to do is sign-up.
  • It is an extremely attractive tool for both API developers and consumers alike.
  • It serves as one of the best online marketplaces for APIs.
  • It’s a boon for API developers where they can showcase their talent and earn popularity or money or both.
  • Online means easy access and omnipresence.
  • It offers features like application monitoring, API analytics and alert, quota and invoice management, and security.

And the biggest advantage of this tool is that you can use it for free for a large number of free APIs. Of course you need to pay for premium APIs but with a collection as huge as Mashape has, if you don’t have your heart set on a particular API, you can easily find a great replacement of a premium API in the free section.

We still have to figure out a con with Mashape! It’s so downright useful that finding a loophole in it is proving to be quite challenging.

  • Need an #API? Get it from @mashape.com! Explore one of the largest marketplaces for cloud APIs mashape.com/ via @supermonitoring

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Final Verdict

Mashape is a win-win tool for people who’re in love with APIs. So if you’ve never checked it out before, do it NOW! There’s literally so much packed in there that you’ll find it to be a world in itself.

Automatically generate user data with Random User Generator

There’s no end to a creative mind’s errands. Each new day we come across a unique tool which is so novel in its concept that it makes you wonder, “Man, there’s a tool for even this?” The first time we heard of the tool being discussed here, that’s the exact thought that crossed our minds. For people who make use of random user data for their application development or testing, this article will turn out to be especially interesting.

During the course of an application’s development a lot of dummy data is required primarily to test the functions and reach of the application. Often collecting such dummy data can prove to be a pain. Coming up with a thousand random user names, filling in their hypothetical data and searching for appropriate user images can take a deathly time and effort toll. It would be so much better if there was a quicker and easier way to do this.

By now you would have guessed where we’re headed, so let’s get straight to the point; introducing, RandomUser.me.

randomusergenerator

RandomUser.Me – Random user data with a few clicks!

Most websites and tools that play around with text documents (creation, formatting or simple display), make use of a sample text paragraph that is known by its two initial words “Lorem Ipsum”. It is like the de facto standard dummy paragraph text we come across on quite a few applications. RamdomUser.me works on the same concept. It brings the ideology behind “Lorem Ipsum” to user data. With this one-of-a-kind tool, you can instantly generate random user data consisting of a user image, user name, an email address, a date of birth, an address, a phone number and even a sample password. Neat huh!

So if you have an application for say a contact synchronizer, you don’t have to spend any time in coming up with hundreds of users and their related information. You can concentrate on your core programming while RandomUser.me does the user data generation for you. The tool offers a free API (AJAX code) that you can paste into your JQuery code body to generate random users instantly. If you’re using a different set of languages, you can contact the development team at RandomUser and ask for a randomly generated user. The application will provide you with a JSON, SQL, CSV, or YAML object that you can parse and apply to your application. Simple!

How the tool works

On visiting the tool website you’ll see a randomly generated user photo and name in the center of the screen. Hover over the option icons below the image to see random data associated with the user.

randomusergenerator1

Once you’re through that, you might feel a little lost for a couple of seconds; that’s because there is no link to sign-up or see examples etc on the homepage. So what you need to do is, click on the “More Options” button on the top right corner of the screen.

On clicking on this button you’ll see a host of things that you can do:

  1. Home: To get to the home page.
  2. User Photos: To browse the gallery of photos (faces) of random users. This page contains three sections of photos: Gentlemen, Ladies and Lego. This dedicated photos page comes in handy when you don’t want any user data and just need a friendly user face, for example for a dummy testimonial on your website. To pick an image just click on it and a larger version of the image will open on your computer screen; right-click and select the usual “Save Image As” option to save the photo.
  3. Documentation: This is the worthiest page of all. It contains various self-explanatory links that offer help and instructions for using the tool.
  4. Change Log: This option is informational and is more suited for experts of the field. It contains revisions and change logs to the tool and APIs.
  5. Stats & Graphs: This links boasts of the tool’s popularity. Graphical statistics show how many people visit the tool on a daily basis. Number of users generated every day, downloads and API uptime etc. are also shown on this page.
  6. Donate: After all, hard work yielding in such awesome results deserves some credit. You can donate to this otherwise free tool through an easy link given on this page. The makers have even gone to lengths justifying why they deserve a donation (even if as low as $1) from you. Sweet!
  7. Copyright: This page claims to show the “fun legal stuff”. It contains copyright notices and lists out what you can and cannot do with the content on RandomUser.me and under what terms.
  8. Photoshop Extension: This one is interesting. A randomly generated user photo and name will greet you in the center of the screen with options to download the installer for Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC. Instructions below point out how to easily use the Photoshop extension of the tool after downloading it.

randomusergenerator2

Pros Vs Cons

RandomUser.me bags some very crucial points in its favor.
Point 1 – the entire look and feel of the tool is quite classy. Its simplicity and the to-the-point approach are very appealing.
Point 2 – the innovative concept behind the tool instantly grabs your imagination and makes you want to try it out.
Point 3 – the database of user photos is very attractive.
Point 4 – The tool taps a territory that’s been limited to boring code generators hitherto and makes it pretty.
Point 5 – Photoshop extension that makes using random user data as easy as drag-and-drop.
Point 6 – Free tool with no sign-up required!

It’s actually pretty hard to find a drawback with this tool. It is simple, easy to use and achieves what it claims to do. For the sake of pointing out one, the only glitch is the slight loading time each consecutive enlarged user photo takes after having visited one before.

  • Don’t waste your time on creating dummy user data, automate it with @randomapi randomuser.me/ via @supermonitoring

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Final Words

Don’t waste any more time in coming up with random user data for your application. Visit RandomUser.me and automate one of the toughest parts of application testing today!

LinkedIn – Facts and Figures (infographic)

8000 pixel long infographic with tons of interesting numbers on LinkedIn.

Scroll down for Twitter TAKEAWAYS (or click here)

linkedin-facts-and-figures

Feel free to use this infographic on your blog or website,
but please don’t forget to link to www.website-monitoring.com.

TWITTER TAKEAWAYS

 
 
LinkedIn has 187 Million members from 200 countries and territories and more than 1 Million groups. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic tweet this

LinkedIn members are on track to make 5.3 Billion searches on the platform in 2012. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

LinkedIn counts executives from ALL 2012 Fortune 500 companies as members. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

LinkedIn corporate talent solutions are used by 85 of the Fortune 100 companies. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

More than 2.6 Million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

More than 1.3 Million unique publishers are using the LinkedIn Share Button on their sites. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic tweet this

LinkedIn has over 3 Thousand full-time employees located around the world. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

More than 75,000 developers are using LinkedIn APIs. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

42% of LinkedIn users update their profile information regularly. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

61% of LinkedIn users don’t pay for a premium LinkedIn account. http://uwzg.gu.ma/ #infographic by @monitoringblog tweet this

Data sources:
linkedin.com, prdaily.com, quantcast.com, slideshare.net, socialbakers.com, thesocialskinny.com, Wikipedia

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