Getting started with APIs: using the Twitter API

API is one of those abbreviations that’s thrown around a lot but can seem a bit abstract.  Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) basically define a way for you to interact with a particular application (All clear now? No?). The best way to get your head around what this actually means is to use an API for something.

The Nerdary has a clear introductory guide to APIs, using the Twitter API. And the Twitter API really is a great place to start.

While Twitter may have bumped RSS off the homepage, you can still subscribe to Twitter using the API and, using Yahoo Pipes, combine and filter these feeds (and even clean up the data a little). This is a particularly handy way of monitoring feedback and mentions on Twitter and combining these into a super social media feed.

The Twitter API documentation will provide generic URLs as a guide which you can then use as RSS feeds in Yahoo Pipes (for example).

For starters to subscribe to a Twitter user’s lists:

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=NAMEGOESHERE

(If you have any problems, there are always cheats available).

You can also subscribe to a Twitter search using the following format
http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=searchterm

There’s also a Basic Twitter Scraper available on ScraperWiki which you can fork to use as the basis of more advanced Twitter searches – but that might be a story for another time.

Continue reading “Getting started with APIs: using the Twitter API”

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Getting started with Yahoo Pipes

Some rights reserved by alto maltés on Flickr

Using Yahoo Pipes has fast become a cornerstone of mashups in the library world. This popularity is largely down to just how accessible it makes the process of mashing data. It provides a nice, visual interface for remixing and reusing information from multiple sources.

At its simplest, Yahoo Pipes lets you combine multiple RSS feeds into a single, comprehensive news or information source. The introductory video seems to have disappeared from the website, but there are some great guides and pretty extensive documentation available in other places. We’ve also put together a walk-through for creating a basic pipe from multiple feeds. This is available as a word document which you’re welcome to modify and/or reuse.

Another way to get to know Yahoo Pipes is by viewing the source and cloning existing pipes to see how they were constructed. And in that spirit, I’ve listed a few that demonstrate some of the main uses of Yahoo Pipes. Click on ‘Edit Source’ to see what’s happening behind the scenes or clone the pipe to use it as a starting point for your own creation.

Starter pipe: A very simple pipe to combine RSS feeds and sort items by publication date.

Library Technology: A Different Version– Combines multiple feeds and returns results for these that match particular keywords.

UK Academic Library Blogs – Combines multiple feeds, sorts into ascending order and limits the feed to 5 items at a time.

This is hopefully enough to get started and, like most things, the best way to learn about something like this is by trying it out yourself.

In a future post, we’ll take a look at some of the more advanced features such as geocoding.