18 Mar

Web Services and APIs Need to Advertise Their Health Status

Because everything is now being turned into an off-the-cloud service, StatusPage.io launched last year to let companies outsource their availability dashboards. They already have lined up a nice customer roster, with a monthly runrate now above $30K. It is rewarding to see best practices become so obvious and prevalent that they turn into products in their own right, though it always take a bit longer than you might first expect.

This entry started with a 2004 post, and spans more than a decade since I started ranting about the need for API and web service providers to provide transparency into their operations. Check out how things propagated:

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05 Mar

Publishers Contributing to Open Source Projects, Maintaining APIs

I’ve put together lists of teams and people working at the intersection of news publishing, data, visualization, and online/mobile/software development to get a better sense of who talks the talk and who walks the walk. There’s a strong UK presence, while some organizations are missing that you’d expect might want to show up.

This would deserve some analysis (anyone up to datamine Open Source Report Card?), maybe later.

1. Github repositories from news orgs Read More

10 May

Zapier Devs Read My Mind, Among Other Feats

This API status meta dashboard is great, as it scratches an itch I’ve had for almost a decade. I meant to suggest to the Zapier folks that they develop exactly that, but didn’t end up sharing that thought, and here they are! Brilliant team, excellent product. Now they need to customize the datatable and RSS feed so that they can be filtered based on APIs you actually use as a Zapier customer.

11 Jan

Payment Sandboxes: Not Quite for Grown Ups

We’ve been working in the Paypal sandbox and Authorize.net test account lately and neither really feel like the real thing. Paypal’s sandbox is slow as molasses, among other very irritating foibles. Testers need to login separately in the sandbox, while this really should be done through code and be transparent to the users testing the frontend of a web application. The fake credit card numbers provided with the sandbox also most often don’t work properly. It feels like pulling teeth to test an end-to-end transaction.
At the end of the day we decided Paypal was too amateurish in lots of ways. Their Payflow gateway has a dismal service reputation since they acquired it from Verisign so we’re going with the whole Authorize.net + merchant account shebang instead. Our tests there look better though, here again, you don’t get the feeling the test account behaves fully like the real thing. Also, despite being one of the leading payment gateways, Authorize.net doesn’t seem to have a health status page a la trust.salesforce.com.
Web service vendors and API providers, if you’re providing a sandbox, please, make it work like your full-fledged product, and don’t run it off an old Pentium in your basement.

21 May

While Yahoo Smokes Its Pipe, Others Do Real Work

I haven’t heard back from Yahoo about their intent with Pipes so I’ll assume they’re just screwing around and having fun (which I guess is a somewhat valid statement about Yahoo as a whole – can Semel close the door after him when he leaves?). To see applications that actually show some business potential, read From Web 2.0 to Work 2.0 and look at this RSSBus+Proto demo.
The problem with business mashups is to find data sources that are clean and specific enough. We manage lead generation in SFDC (did I mention how much I love Salesforce.com since we started using it six months ago?) and use data from sources such as Hoover’s, LinkedIn or Google queries, but that stuff is too unstructured or imprecise to support automation. Short of human oversight, you’ll often end up with Garbage In Garbage Out. Garbage leads means your reps will ignore your SFA and you don’t want that. So we have custom links in SFDC that pop up queries from various sources, and the rest is grunt work.
Proto’s expense demo works because the data is already structured and it’s part of any corporate workflow to tag and review expenses one entry at a time (aka “stop entertaining your girlfriends at the company’s expense”). Expense management was one of the first applications on the intranets emerging a decade ago. I’d like to set up mashups based on things like keyword density to support editorial workflow or competitive research, but so far I haven’t seen very convincing tools so far. From an automation perspective, screen-scraping is not going away anytime soon, and again, there’s only so much you can automate without actual AI semantic understanding
Here’s something that business web app providers should do that would be a boon right here right now: enable web queries directly from Excel as opposed to forcing users to do time-consuming manual export jobs. Excel has been a hybrid web/desktop client for years but we’re still stuck downloading CSV files which, if you think about it, is a pretty sad thing to do in this day and age. I have to spend way too much time shuffling and massaging data around to get the information I need.
A broader point is that relying solely on browser-based authentication to grant access to online apps is a huge lock-in. It’s shutting out desktop apps that don’t know how to navigate within HTML interfaces to get to the data, just like it’s shutting out, say, WiFi phones from making Skype calls from the local Starbucks. I’m all for paid online services, but please don’t serve them within a web ghetto.

09 Feb

Yahoo Pipe Promising, But What’s the End Goal?

Like many people, I find Yahoo Pipes to be a bold and exciting move. What I don’t quite get is what audience Yahoo is eventually planning to go after. I guess I don’t see how you make money out of this as a free service. This stuff is middleware, how do you slap ads around it? I wish Yahoo and Google had the same maturity Amazon displays with S3. I need to see a clear intent and pricing before I’m going to consider embedding such tools in our business processes.
I hope my post will get an answer:

“Is this a souped up RSS reader for power users? Or is this a middleware platform offering that companies will be able to rely on to pipe in data from partners? In other words, is Yahoo Pipes meant to be a Bloglines or an Amazon S3? Is Pipes going to come with an SLA, scheduled downtimes and all the stuff you come to expect from SaaS?
In the first case it’s just a nice toy to play with. In the second case it might be a tool we want to use in my company to integrate data from third-parties with our own and deliver it to our readers. Right now we have to write custom php code to parse feeds and pump third-party content into our CMS templates. I wonder whether Pipes could empower “business analyst” types who don’t know how to code php but know what kind of data they want to put together for a specific audience.”

15 Mar

Amazon S3 – Simple Storage Service

Amazon S3 is storage for the Internet:

"Amazon S3 provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, inexpensive data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers. […]
Pricing:

  • Pay only for what you use. There is no minimum fee, and no start-up cost.
  • $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used.
  • $0.20 per GB of data transferred."
08 Dec

Swivel Too Little, Too Late, or Just Small Enough?

Enterprise software is so 2001 downturn, witness the Grand Central/Swivel story. These things work in funny, cyclical ways. Expect enterprise software to make a comeback sometime in 2007 when people realize than online advertising/publishing, personal/amateur boom or not, is not a $500B business. Please find me someone excited by podcasting who is not involved in producing or selling them in some way, or the related shovels and picks. (I needed to get my total lack of interest for podcasting out of my system — I try and I try and I try, and I only get suckage in return, so unlike my instant love for blogs 6 years ago).
In the meantime, Swivel might be interesting but it needs to integrate with way more data sources and services to be valuable. Think CJ, Linkshare, Kanoodle, Blogads, Google Analytics, Clicktracks, WordPress, Bronto, Mailman, and probably a dozen others. The problem with integration hubs is that their value proposition collapses when they do only 80% of the job. Data junkies will end up doing everything manually in Excel anyway, and those are the only ones who need such a service in the first place.

03 Nov

Amazon Historical Pricing Service Released

From the AWS blog:

"The Amazon Historical Pricing web service gives developers direct, programmatic access to over three years of actual sales data for books, music, videos, and DVDs sold by third-party sellers on Amazon.com. Third-party sellers can use this data to make pricing decisions based on historical prices and market trends.
Access to this data costs $499 per month for up to 20,000 requests, and $999 per month for up to 60,000 requests. All billing and service usage data is accessible through the “Your Web Services Account” button in the AWS Developer Portal."