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APIs 101: What are they? What do they have to do with genealogy?

APIs are a hot topic at RootsTech, and have opened up a whole new world of data sharing in genealogy. In this introductory session, you will learn the basic concepts behind APIs, web services, and mashups, and also gain an understanding of how these can be used in genealogy.

For the regular family historian or genealogy librarian, no programming experience required!

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APIs 101: What are they? What do they have to do with genealogy?

  1. 1. What are they? What do they have to do with genealogy? Colleen Greene, MLIS RootsTech Conference | Salt Lake City, Utah | February 13, 2015 This work is licensed by Colleen Greene under a CreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
  2. 2.  Librarian: Systems,Academic, Newsroom, Public  Web Developer:Wordpress, OU Campus, Omeka, HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, XML, XSL  Content Strategist: Information Architecture, Marketing, Public Relations, SEO, Social Media  Genealogist & Historian  API & Mashups Nerd @colleengreene
  3. 3.  Tech-interested non-coders  Code-dabblers (no heavy lifting required)  Programmers & coders who want to learn how to explain APIs to real people  Those who want to try out API sessions at future RootsTech conferences  Those who want to learn how real people would like to be able to use APIs
  4. 4.  MyWebsite &Tutorials:  Updated syllabus & slides: rootstech2015  Practice “Sandbox” Facebook Group (through March): 15/  New REAL Facebook Group: New “APIs for Genealogy” Facebook Group (permanent):  Your IFTTT account
  5. 5. Learning how to confidently talk like a web nerd
  6. 6.  How many of you use APIs?  How many are confident you use APIs?  How many aren’t sure if you use APIs?  How often do you use APIs?  A few times a year?  Monthly? A few times a month?  Daily?Throughout the day?
  7. 7.  Application Programming Interface  Allows systems to talk to each other  Allows systems to open and share data  Allows systems to open & share functionality  Allows 3rd party applications to be built upon a particular system
  8. 8. Source:API Academy
  9. 9.  Web Service: A method of communication between two electronic devices over a network (Wikipedia)  Mashup: A web page or a web application that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface (Wikipedia)  CRUD: In computer programming, create, read, update and delete (Wikipedia) [think in terms of actions on records]  Protocols: How data is packaged and exchanged between systems, SOAP+XML vs. REST+JSON [think in terms of different formats of Gedcom]
  10. 10.  Breaks down data silos  Real-time* interoperability  “Easy” data exchange > sharing & syncing  Vs. Database export/import (think Gedcom)  Everyone doesn’t have to keep reinventing the wheel  Fun cool multimedia mashups  Mobile, mobile, mobile  Apps, apps, apps *Not necessarily instantaneous; can set limits.
  11. 11. Can you guess the most popular API?
  12. 12.  NEVER just “set it and forget it”  ALWAYS changing > can break your site or workflow  Can disappear at ANY time  Terms of Use can change at ANY time  Can be limits placed on the number of records or transactions over time  NEVER make my examples your sole backup solution (one tool in toolbox)
  13. 13.  YES, unless want data to remain in silos  YES, if want your data-driven product to remain relevant in the market  YES, for the same reasons that FREE tools like Wordpress, Blogger, Facebook, Google Drive, etc. are worth it  YES, if like me, you like to get your nerd on
  14. 14. Remixing and repurposing content and functionality
  15. 15. Facebook social sharing button uses Facebook’sGraph API, which ensures that that my blog post’s featured image, title, and crafted excerpt are displayed on Facebook.
  16. 16. Custom Google Map embedded in a post on my family history blog. Any changes I make to the map automatically get updated on my blog. Must be a public map.
  17. 17. Data entered in Darren Lythgoe’sTNG site dynamically populates a custom Google Map for each of his ancestors. Data is not entered via the map itself.
  18. 18. YouTube video embedded into a post on my family history blog.
  19. 19. Flickr photo slideshow embedded into a post on my family history blog.
  20. 20. FAQs from my library’s LibAnswers knowledge base are fed to related pages on our library website, and are dynamically updated by GoogleAnalytics.
  21. 21.
  22. 22. View Live Map
  23. 23. Exploration & fun, preservation & access, productivity, storytelling
  24. 24.  IfThis,ThenThat  Runs completely off APIs  Learn and visualize the concepts of APIs, without having to know how to code  Will provide you with some practical everyday productivity applications for doing, sharing, and preserving your genealogy  Sign up for a free account
  25. 25. Source: IFTTT
  26. 26. 160+ channels available Source: IFTTT
  27. 27. Source: IFTTT Browse Recipes
  28. 28. TIP: Create this in a folder or notebook that is shared with your board members, conference team, or marketing team. #FGS2015
  29. 29. View My public Dropbox file
  30. 30. View my RecipeTemplate (Uses Dropbox)
  31. 31.  Make your own blog posts part of your research or how- to notes system, you put a lot of work and time into those posts!  Ever deleted an old blog, and then wish you hadn’t?  Want to delete an old long-neglected blog, but don’t want to lose the information in those old posts?
  32. 32. It isn’t perfectly formatted, but it does the job! • Adds in extra blank lines between paragraphs • Forces all images to left-align View my Evernote file Each new Blogger post creates a new Evernote note
  33. 33. View my Evernote file Self-hostedWordpress blog post to new Evernote note It isn’t perfectly formatted, but it does the job! • Note that my blog RSS feed is displaying theWordpress Featured Image twice. • Adds in extra blank lines between paragraphs • Forces all images to left-align
  34. 34.  Surname categories/labels or to surname Groups  Place categories/labels to place-basedGroups  Interest group categories/labels to interest Groups
  35. 35. What to notice: • No blog images • Different Recipes link in different manners to the original blog post Testing two different Recipes
  36. 36. You are welcome to play along!
  37. 37.  Must be authenticated in IFTTT with Instagram and Facebook  Please post photos to Instagram using #RootsTech Group:
  38. 38.  Must be authenticated in IFTTT with Facebook  Might need to be made a Group admin  Must be authenticated into your Evernote/Dropbox/Drive  Post more #RootsTech Instagram photos or post in the Facebook Group Group:
  39. 39.  Some channels only allow one account to be linked (i.e., Facebook,Twitter, Instagram,Wordpress, Blogger)  Not all channels support 2-way exchanges (i.e., can only post to Evernote)  A recipe can only include 1 trigger, but can set up sequential recipes (i.e., iOS Photos > Dropbox, Dropbox > Evernote)  Many recipes do the same thing or with just a slight variation > test several at a time until you find your favorite (set up sandbox sites or folders)
  40. 40. So, where do you go from here?
  41. 41.  Interested in a hands-on computer lab next year at RootsTech, or a hands-on workshop at another conference?  Interested in a facilitated Q&A session at RootsTech next year for regular genealogists and the vendor API developers present, to share your ideas, questions, or frustrations?  Interested in a series of Google Hangouts?  Give this feedback to RootsTech and FGS, email me , or share your interests in the new “APIs for Genealogy” Facebook Group.
  42. 42.  Email:  Twitter: @colleengreene  New Facebook Group:
  43. 43.  New “APIs for Genealogy” Facebook Group:  Colleen’s website / blog / tutorials:  (see syllabus for specific courses)  MOOCs & web tutorials (see syllabus for specific links)  ProgrammableWeb (blogging about all things APIs)