Thursday, January 29, 2009

Okay, so what *is* an API?

This is an excellent question, and one I get asked a fair amount. The not-very-useful answer is "it's an Application Programming Interface," which tells you what it's an acronym for but not what that means. If you're not familiar with the term, the words are just a different kind of meaningless noise. 

If you want to read the Wikipedia entry on APIs, knock yourself out. You might also find the entry on Web Services interesting. I'll wait here. 

Done? Okay, welcome back. There's a lot of really dense information over there, and I find it useful to fasten on two key concepts: One, an API is a way for computers to talk to one another, and two, a web service is (kind of) a web site with the skin taken off. 

Remix, for example (hey, what other example am I going to use?), replicates pretty much what you can get from on the "product detail page" for a given item. Here's an Insignia TV at
And here's the same TV in the Remix API:

Notice that pretty much all of the information that is in the pretty version is also in the texty Remix version? That's because Remix is more or less just with the skin off. 

So why do you care? What's the point of taking the skin off a web site? Well, when you do that, it becomes possible to put a different skin on. For example, in the sidebar of this blog is a list of games, showing names, images and prices. All of that information is coming from Remix; I just put the list of SKU IDs into a control panel and it created a chunk of javascript that does the work. 

So what you're seeing is information from, but not at When prices change on, they'll change in that sidebar gadget. 

What do we hope to get out of this? Something cool that we can't imagine. Yellow Tag Productions, our internal video production team, did a great video that summarizes the thinking behind this and the potential we see, called "Open for Business." It's worth 4:50 of your day, I think. Of course, I would, since I'm in it. Give it a try. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Affiliating myself

Had an excellent meeting at work early this week and discovered Things From Another World (, which looks like a most excellent place to buy some of things I find fascinating. Yeah, I'm talking about comic books. 

Turns out they have an affiliate program, which is nice. I am not sure if they are targeting the long tail, which is where this tiny little self-indulgence belongs. Their process seems to assume that I own the domain where my site is located. Since I'm on Blogger, that is very much not the case. 

They do offer me an alternative method of demonstrating my ownership of this blog, though. I cam put this into a post:
Confirmation Code: GNDFMCN16321763

There you go, guys. Sign me up!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bridges to the Future

Hey, my article is live, and I didn't blog about it. Never has the subtitle of my blog been so eerily accurate. 

It's aimed at non-technical people working in businesses that use technology, in particular those that are dependent on technology for their success. If you're working for a company that needs to do technology projects, it's worth reading. And then printing out and showing to your senior management. :)