Organic Free-Range API Development - Making Web Services That You Will Actually Want to Consume

Steve Meyer and Karen Coombs, OCLC

Building web services can have great benefits by providing reusability of data and functionality. Underpinning your applications with a web service will allow you to write code once and support multiple environments: your library's web app, mobile applications, the embedded widget in your campus portal. However, building a web service is its own kind of artful programming. Doing it well requires attention to many of the same techniques and requirements as building web applications, though with different outcomes.

So what are the usability principles for web services? How do you build a web service that you (and others) will actually want to use? In this talk, we’ll share some of the lessons learned - the good, the bad, and the ugly - through OCLC's work on the WorldCat Metadata API. This web service is a sophisticated API that provides external clients with read and write access to WorldCat data. It provides a model to help aspiring API creators navigate the potential complications of crafting a web service. We'll cover:

  • Loose coupling of data assets and resource-oriented data modeling at the core
  • Coding to standards vs. exposure of an internal data model
  • Authentication and security for web services: API Keys, Digital Signing, OAuth Flows
  • Building web services that behave as a suite so it looks like the left hand knows what the right hand is doing

So at the end of the day, your team will know your API is a very good egg after all.

The presenters intend to produce and share a Quick Guide for building a web service that will reflect content presented in the talk.