Google AdWords API

Friday, January 28, 2005
Sometimes other folks can say it better than I can so I'll let Olivier tell you what's up with Google's new AdWords API and what it means.

"Some possibilities might include:
  • Generating automatic keyword, ad text, URL, and custom reports

  • Integrating AdWords data with databases, such as inventory systems

  • Developing additional tools and applications to help you manage accounts"


Code samples are provided in Java, C#, XML, PHP and Perl, with more emphasis on the last one. There's a discussion group for developers and a blog, though they're obviously not very busy places yet. They use an interesting quota system to throttle API calls based on ad spending.

API Evolution

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Sometimes you have to step back and look at the past in order to fully understand the present. That's what I'm doing with this post. Here's a brief history on the evolution of web services apis. API's allow business owners to get feedback from their users which isn't that much different from a few other areas on the net. I call them...

Open Source Contribution Mechanisms For User Generated Content
Okay, Okay, I admit, I just made up that really long title to make a relatively simple idea seem deep and mysterious. You've seen these mechanisms all over the place and chances are you've used them as well. A few of the more well known examples include forums, wikis, and blogs. But there are more that are less obvious. Let's discuss a few of these more well known apps first.

What is a Forum?
If you're reading my blog I shouldn't have to explain this one but I will for grins. A forum is a public meeting or assembly for open discussion on a given subject or topic. Forums rely on users to generate content and feedback on whatever topic the forum moderators decide to talk about. There's a pecking order and usually a qualitative indicator of each member of a forum that's derived from their number of posts and or the amount of quality they add when they post.

Forums have helped many a web site owner in solving the age old question of "How do I get my site to the first page of Google for my keywords?".

They usually center around a certain vertical market or subject area and draw all sorts of responses. The most trafficked forums are usually the most controversial and if the noise coming out of a particular form rises high enough then the big dogs in a given industry will respond but these responses are few and far between. Forums have typically had a bad rap, especially in the seo business, because of the amount of hearsay and misinformation that has come out of them. The general rule of thumb is "for every truth you learn in a forum you have to weed out 9 mistruths".

What is a Wiki?
Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Perhaps the most well-known example of a public wiki is Wikipedia. The free encyclopedia where everyone and anyone can contribute to a subject area. David Weinberger pointed out to the Library of Congress that even though one would naturally think this type of openness would encourage disinformation but quite the opposite is true. Users are contributing well formed meaningful information and the results are shockingly qualitative.

Wikis rely on user input and collaboration. They provide a mechanism for users to give their 2 cents on any subject and are increasing productivity for organizations and corporations around the world. They're simple, easily maintainable and highly dynamic, fitting today's business needs to a "T".

What is a Blog?
Blogs are all the craze, all the kids have 'em.

Blog: A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in cronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominantly.

Blogs are what got Dan Rather to resign, got Maza to remove a blog because its sole putpose was to promote a car, and they're now helping Tsunami victims in South-East Asia. Blogs are changing the face of journalism and marketing alike. Marketers are finding that the most important factor in marketing, word of mouth, is now attainable via key bloggers. But getting those key bloggers to buy into what these marketers want them to push is a challenging proposition.

Forums, Wikis and Blogs have laid some of the groundwork (even though they've grown in parallel) for much of today's development in apis. The idea of users giving feedback in the form of applications isn't that much different than users giving feedback in the form of posts or threads. The main difference is that developers of applications that implement apis are in essence conducting research & development for the api owners and the cost of the R&D is the cost of maintining the api. Not a bad price to pay for conducting R&D and user test cases while building brand loyalty all at the same time.

FoundStone SiteDigger Security Scanner

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
FoundStone [a division of McAffee] recently released a free tool called SiteDigger. The tool uses the Google API to scan cached pages of a web site and then performs security checks on those chached pages. One of the things it will look for is open security webcams. The ability to find unsecured webcams was a major issue a week ago and I'm surprised FoundStone has already incorporated some functionality for this in their new tool, talk about fast response time.

In order to use the free SiteDigger security tool you'll need the following
A Google API key
The Windows .Net Framework Installed
Free Time

CodeCon2005: Open Source Feedparser API Session

Monday, January 10, 2005
CodeCon 2005 has a session led by Kevin Burton that discusses the Jakarta Feedparser open source api for parsing rss/atom feeds. Here's a breakdown of the Feedparser API from Apache's web site.

Jakarta FeedParser is a Java RSS/Atom parser designed to elegantly support all versions of RSS (0.9, 0.91, 0.92, 1.0, and 2.0), Atom 0.3 (and future versions) as well as easy ad hoc extension and RSS 1.0 modules capability.

FeedParser was the parser API designed from NewsMonster and has been donated to the ASF in order to continue development.

FeedParser differs from most other RSS/Atom parsers in that it is not DOM based but event based (similar to SAX). Instead of the low level startElement() API present in SAX, we provide high level events based on RSS parsing information.

Events are also given to the caller independent of the underlying format. This is accomplished by a Feed Event Model that isolates your application from the underlying feed format. This enables your applications to transparently support all RSS versions and Atom. We also hide format specific implementation such as dates (RFC 822 in RSS 2.0 and 0.9x and ISO 8601 in RSS 1.0 and Atom).

Here's an example of the FeedParser API implementation
FeedParser parser = FeedParserFactory.newFeedParser();

FeedParserListener listener = new DefaultFeedParserListener() {

public void onItem( FeedParserState state,
String title,
String link,
String description,
String permalink ) throws FeedParserException {

System.out.println( "Found a new published article: " + permalink );

}

};
parser.parse( listener, new URL( "http://peerfear.org/rss/index.rss").openStream() );


The session at CodeCon 2005 will discuss...
"...design criteria for FeedParser and provide code samples for getting up to speed fast. We will also discuss the requirements for following Postel's Law and building a flexible parser which is able to parse most real-world feeds even when in a somewhat broken state."
Looks pretty interesting, I'd love to see some examples from the conference.

Technorati Winners Announced

Dave announces the winners of the Technorati API contest.

"Grand Prize goes to Josh Tauberer, a Penn graduate student. He built govtrack.us, which uses the Technorati API to track bills through Congress."
A description of Josh's app from the contest winners page on Technorati.
"Want to know the status of a bill on the floor of Congress, who misses the most votes, or who gets the most bills passed? GovTrack.us is like School House Rock on steroids for adults (oh, and children). Govtrack.us uses the Technorati API to show what bloggers are saying about bills as they work their way through Congress."
Josh got some kudos from the Technorati team and $2,500 to boot. Not bad for having fun with free data.

NewsMap Visual Representation of Google News

Friday, January 07, 2005
This isn't the first time the NewsMap application has been mentioned in the news but its the first time its been mentioned on a site that focuses soley on api's. It visually represents hidden patterns in the news in a pretty cool way. Stories that are being talked about the most will have the largest font and take up the most amount of space on the map while the smaller stories will take up less space and have a smaller font. Below is an image of today's technology headlines.

NewsMap visually represents hidden patterns in data in an easy to understand way.


The person responsible for this application is Marcos Weskamp and this isn't his first flash based application that visualizes seemingly inherent relationships between data. He also built a sweet app that visualizes relationships between email. I found out that Sean Corfield is the biggest contributor to the cf-talk mailing list. Las time I was on that mailing list Dave Watts was the biggest contributor so there's a new top dog and this nifty tool showed me in an easy to understand manner.

An explanation of the newsmap service is found on their site.

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe. Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. It's objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

More information on the algorithms used to create the visual representations called treemaps can be found here.

Prediction Of Search Engine API's

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Okay, so far this year I've already had one of my predictions regarding blogs fulfilled and now I'm making one about API's. I predict that when Yahoo and MSN launch their search API's (web services), they'll increase the amount of requests a single account can have to 5,000 requests a day. This will in-turn cause Google to out do them and raise their daily quota to 10,000 requests a day from its current 1,000 query a day quota.

I don't believe we'll see anyone completely open up their api without restricting the amount of queries because that's bad business and opens up a can of worms from a business impact perspective. However, I do believe we'll see a larger amount of baseline requests allowed by Yahoo and MSN which will be followed by a similar announcement the day after from Google. Who knows, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Google Suggests Copycat

A great tool that mimics the functionality of Google Suggests and explains how it works as well. Biggest difference is it's running on a much smaller dictionairy that Google and requires calls to a new query on every key up event.

Capture The Map Game: Uses The Google API

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
I came across another cool site utilizing the Google API in a neat way. The game is Capture the Map and pits you against a competitor or computer. I was unable to get it to work properly but who knows, maybe I'm doing it wrong. It's utilizing geotargeting of search results returned to place pins on a map and the first person to capture 3 pins wins the game.

Technorati Allocates Resources for APIBlog

Monday, January 03, 2005
Dave Sifry has answered the first call to contribute to APIBlog.com. He's super busy but is going to allocate a senior developer from Technorati to contribute to the blog. On occasion you'll probably see Dave posting here as well but that will be few and far between.

Now that we've got an expert from Technorati aboard its time to send out a few more invites.