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This Fortnight in APIs, Release IV

By Ashley Waxman on .

This post is the fourth in a series that collects news stories from the previous two weeks and is curated lovingly by the Runscope Developer Relations team. The topics span APIs, microservices, developer tools, best practices, funny observations and more.

For when the web we weave is pretty tangled:

The rise in popularity of APIs naturally comes with a rise in API services, like API design, API management and API monitoring, to name a few. Many of these providers offer their own APIs as well, but to have longevity as an API service, Kin Lane says you’d better be offering an API that provides at least as much functionality as your core offering does. In Bringing API Building Blocks to Life as the APIs of Service Providers, Lane explores the history of API service providers and how the relationship between API providers and consumers is becoming increasingly intertwined.

For when you want more than emoji in your messaging app:

On the heels of its IPO filing last month, Atlassian is putting more juice behind its popular messaging platform HipChat in what is now a highly competitive marketplace. The company announced the beta version of HipChat Connect, which lets external apps run inside the HipChat app in the right-hand pane so users no longer have to exit out to another app window. For developers, this launch gives a lot of freedom, allowing them to build apps in their own language and framework that can interact with HipChat rooms and various views, integrating through RESTful APIs, OAuth and JWT. HipChat already integrates with external apps, but those only provide a quick glimpse or notification. HipChat Connect will allow for form embeds and linking custom actions to other services as well.

For when you can’t seem to catch those pesky failed API calls:

It’s safe to say that most of the apps we know and love are powered by multiple APIs: a maps API, social sharing API, payments API, etc. While we have the tools to proactively monitor many of the APIs we rely on, not all of the API calls critical to our business can be simulated. For instance, if you’re a retailer and a customer attempts to make a purchase within your app but the payment API fails with that API call, you couldn’t have faked a real payment to monitor it in the first place. Enter Live Traffic Alerts, the latest product feature from Runscope and the first real-time API monitoring solution to catch exceptional and failed API calls as they happen. You can learn more about the difference between proactive and real-time API monitoring in our free upcoming webinar.

For when you found a niche in the market and it turns out to be a goldmine:

Checkr, which automates professional background checking with a powerful API, is raising Series B funding of more than $30 million. The company provides background check services for the likes of Uber, Instacart and Handy, and is filling a growing need for quickly vetting contractors as more and more companies are staffing people to provide on-demand services like driving, grocery shopping and erranding, to name a few. What’s exciting about this news is that Checkr is led by a well designed and documented RESTful API, further supporting the value of API-powered businesses.

For when a picture is worth a thousand characters:

If you’re a developer, the need for optical character recognition (OCR) tools have likely popped up for you at least a few times in your career. While there are a few open source solutions out there like GOCR and Google Tesseract, you can now you can file this problem under the “there’s an API for that” category. The free OCR API is a handy tool that lets you take images and extract their text. The API gives results in JSON and works on any image or PDF.

For when you want to lighten your load:

Open-source load balancer HAproxy released some significant upgrades last week with its latest version 1.6.0. Many companies use this high performance load balancer, including us at Runscope for our microservices architecture. This new version offers several performance improvements through server connection multiplexing and more efficient HTTP compression. Perhaps the biggest new features are the integration of Lua, a scripting language, and support for variables and captures, which allow you to store session data in a more straightforward way.

For when you need to play tour guide for your customers:

Even the most well designed app can be difficult to follow for a newbie who stumbles upon it. However, the helicopter parent approach that some companies take to give new users a tour of the app can backfire by being too invasive, overwhelming or poorly targeted. At Cushion, the team has taken these pains into consideration to optimize its app’s onboarding checklistThis article walks you through great and not-so-great ways to guide a user through your app, and provides a few best practices, like stay out of the user’s way and let them skip any and all steps.

For when a little birdie brings you a giant olive branch:

One of the major headlines of the week was CEO-again of Twitter Jack Dorsey apologizing for the company turning its back on the open developer community several years ago, vowing to “reset” their relationship. At Flight, Twitter’s Developer Conference, the company brought out two developer advocates who discussed providing tooolkits to help developers build great apps and further extend Dorsey’s olive branch. Twitter is certainly putting a lot of effort around mending its relationship with the developer community, though some wonder if it’s going to be enough. In our last post, we talked about Twitter turning off its public API and putting it behind a paywall, and the company also just had a controversial launch of its new polling feature. With these changes, it will be interesting to see how the company positions its APIs if it wants developers to not only use them, but want to use them. The company’s overall message at Flight puts the end-user first and is attempting to reposition Twitter as a supporting player in the app world, as opposed to the star. One thing we can all learn from the ever-evolving relationship between Twitter and developers is that companies need to be very clear and think long-term about what their contract is with the developer community, including the business model behind those contracts and how to manage communication when changes need to be made.

Notice something we missed? Put your favorite stories of the past fortnight in the comments below, or email us your feedback!

Categories: apis, api ecosystem, this fortnight in apis

This Fortnight in APIs, Release II

By Ashley Waxman on .

This post is the second in a series that collects news stories from the previous two weeks and is curated lovingly by the Runscope Developer Relations team. The topics span APIs, microservices, developer tools, best practices, funny observations and more.

For when you need a macro view of microservices:

We talk a lot about microservices at Runscope, but what does it really mean? In Microservices 101, Emiliano Mancuso explains the what, when, how and who of microservices, along with pros and cons lists for using microservices and ways to get started. If you currently have a monolithic architecture and are toying with making the move to microservices, this article has the graphs and diagrams to help you get started on the right foot.  

For when you want to go old school:

Everything old is new again. As computers and technology have evolved over the past few decades, so have our ways of building things, with more developer tools available than ever. However, Fred Wilson is seeing a resurgence of the command line interface. With the increased reliance on short bursts of communication thanks to Twitter and text messages, we could soon be ordering coffee with just a quick line of code. There is already a growing list of telegram bots that have been created in just a few weeks.

For when your APIs do a better job than you do:

It’s no secret that businesses today are leveraging APIs to power infrastructure, apps and partnerships, but what if they could also employ APIs instead of hiring an engineer? In the article APIs Are the New FTEs, Guarav Jain evaluates how engineering roles are beginning to be replaced with front-end frameworks or other tools, eliminating the need for, and cost of, human capital. APIs are a big part of this shift, as noted in the company Smyte, which was formed by a few ex-Facebook anti-fraud engineers who made “the knowledge of the world’s leading experts available as an API for a fraction of their former salaries”.

For when you find yourself alone with your containers:

At this month’s AutomaCon, the Infrastructure as Code Conference, the Runscope team was on the ground with some of the most innovative and influential minds in DevOps. While we never found one standard definition for “infrastructure as code”, we did make some interesting observations on just how many people really use containers in production and ways DevOps engineers are incorporating security measures into their practices.  

For when you like it so you want to put a price on it:

Setting a price on your product can make or break your business: too high and you lose customers, too low and you can’t cover expenses. Plus finding the right pricing model can be a challenge. Last week, industry heavyweight Michael Dearing, founder of Harrison Metal and investor in Heavybit, PagerDuty and CircleCI, discussed pricing strategies for companies whose main audience is the developer community. This article dives into his five top tips, including understanding perceived value and diversifying your offerings.  

For when you’re shopping around for ecommerce APIs:

The number of opportunities for retailers to sell to consumers has in many ways outpaced the technology to make those experiences streamlined and efficient, until now. Stripe, which already offers one of the most popular payments APIs, has branched out and released Relay, a set of APIs that “makes it easier for developers to build great ecommerce experiences and for stores to participate in them”. With Relay, Stripe aims to solve some of the pains that both consumers and retailers feel when shopping on mobile—pains that lead to shopping sites making up only 15% of purchases on mobile devices. With Stripe’s history of providing excellent developer tools, plus a partnership with Twitter for the release, Relay could be a win-win for the ecommerce market.

For when the ATM isn’t enough fintech for you:

Fintech has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and APIs are fueling big changes and concerns within the finance industry. If you need some fintech 101, Bill Doerrfeld takes you through the history of fintech starting with companies like Kickstarter and Bitcoin, what “making the bank programmable” really means, and explains how the numerous regulations in finance necessitate that fintech companies agree on standardized APIs and self-serving adoption processes. Once you’ve brushed up on the big picture, check out how people in fintech can learn from companies like Uber and Netflix and their “full stack approach” to building a complete, end-to-end product. In Full Stack Banking: How Fintech Will Fuel API-Based Competition, Ron Shevlin notes that APIs are becoming central to the competitive dynamics of the finance industry and fintech companies need to reassess their hierarchy of needs if they want to thrive in the today's technology landscape.

For when you want to easily manage your crypto certificates:

The last time you needed to generate a public/private key pair, you likely searched Google to recall those OpenSSL keygen and certificate request commands. After generating the keypair, how did you manage and protect those keys to the kingdom? Netflix is solving those pains by open-sourcing Lemur, a certificate management framework built for developers. Lemur helps by generating the keys, creating and submitting the CSR, deploying the certificate and securely storing the secret key. Lemur features a nice web-based UI as well as an API, and you can find the source code on GitHub.

For when you like to geek out on dashboards:

Dashboards are a useful tool to communicate raw data in a visually compelling and organized way, but building the right dashboards for your audience can be challenging. Accela, a civic platform for government agencies, created a real-time dashboard for civic data from customers like local government organizations, using the scalable analytics from Connect API and API monitoring and testing from Runscope. Whether you’re looking to leverage government data in your next project or you just want to see how other people are successfully building effective dashboards, this article walks you through each step of the building process and includes a tutorial video.


Notice something we missed? Put your favorite stories of the past fortnight in the comments below, or email us your feedback!

Categories: this fortnight in apis, api ecosystem

This Fortnight in APIs, Release I

By Ashley Waxman on .

This post is the first in a series that collects news stories from the previous two weeks and is curated lovingly by the Runscope Developer Relations team. The topics span APIs, microservices, developer tools, best practices and more.

For when you’re pricing your API:

Google just opened the Google Maps Web Service APIs to pay-as-you-go pricing, “a simple and flexible option for developers to instantly and easily scale” with these APIs. Google Maps APIs always cost money, but a pay-as-you-go pricing plan is an interesting evolution of how providers price their APIs. As pricing models have shifted drastically over the years from free, to paid, to freemium, and everything in between, it will be interesting to see how a pay-as-you-go model is adopted by developers who sometimes use an API for a short period and don’t want to pay long-term. This article explains why Google went this route in its API pricing model for arguably one of the most popular and trafficked APIs in the world, and could be informative for anyone looking to develop a pricing model around their own API.

For when you’re thinking about using microservices:

Implementing microservices can have significant payoffs in the long run, but if you’re transitioning from a monolithic to microservices architecture, you need to consider the added dimension of complexity that microservices introduce. Dynatrace adopted microservices and compiled a deep-dive into the key metrics you need to track when implementing them. This article offers a peek behind the curtains of Dynatrace’s backend, along with interesting tools and tips to detect problematic patterns and make the microservices implementation much smoother.

For when you’re scaling your business:

API-led company Clearbit scaled to 2 million API requests a day and shows you the evolution of their stack. From infrastructure to monitoring services, Clearbit gives you an in-depth look at the practices and tools that helped the small company grow. If your company is built from the ground-up on microservices, Clearbit provides a helpful example for how to organize your team, what services to use and how to plan for growth.

For when you’re curious how to use webhooks:

If you’re designing a webhook implementation for your API or looking to incorporate webhooks into your infrastructure, you can look to email delivery service Mailgun for some webhooks 101. The company answered questions from the community on how to effectively use webhooks, covering best practices, testing, polling, use cases and more.

For when your release notes make your team laugh:

Release notes are a necessary part of the deployment process, and some companies are having fun with it by incorporating humor to entertain the consumer. Often overlooked from a marketing perspective, release notes can have wide viewership among your community. Mailcloud compiled the most entertaining release notes from companies like Medium and Tumblr, which have found a way to leverage them to entertain their users and also humanize the brand.

For when you want to go fully automated:

With today’s dev tools, you shouldn’t have to do any piece by hand. We recently released our newly updated Runscope API that gives you our entire suite of API monitoring and testing tools at your disposal without ever having to traverse our UI. The Runscope API provides test management and automation capabilities and allows you to programmatically create and modify large numbers of API tests. We created a sample apps repo to help you get started. All Runscope users have access to the API, and you can sign up for free.

For when you want to switch languages:

Text analytics company Repustate recently migrated its entire stack from Python to Go and is seeing measurable success, like reducing the mean API call response time from 100 ms to 10 ms. This article walks you through Repustate’s entire journey, getting into the details of their experience with Django, Falcon, Python and go, with pros and cons, best practices and data to back it. We’ve migrated a few of our services over to Go from Python, and this article hits several key benefits that we’ve also seen in our infrastructure.

For creating scalable apps in new ways:

Cloud proud enterprise CRM company Salesforce has launched a new unified cloud platform, Salesforce App Cloud—the same platform that powers their very own apps Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud. Additionally, nearly five years after acquiring Heroku, Salesforce appears to be putting Heroku Enterprise in the spotlight, with Heroku Private Spaces (private PaaS) and tighter integration with Salesforce (identity for permissions and role-based access control).

For the Slack lover in all of us:

Slack has catapulted to popularity, and for us, integrations are a key part of its appeal. If you’re a big fan of integrations too, you’ll like this list of 20 useful Slack integrations from the team at Large. The list covers tools from support to development to food and more that could streamline your day-to-day.

Notice something we missed? Put your favorite stories of the past fortnight in the comments below, or email us your feedback!

Categories: this fortnight in apis, api ecosystem, apis

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