Twitter API: Up and Running – book review PDF Print E-mail
Twitter has become one of the most popular social networking sites in the world, and is still striving to grow its online services. One reason for its massive growth is the ability to programmatically hook into the platform through their hefty Application Programming Interface (API) – and statistics show that most of the Twitter-centric data is actually travelling along the API rather than interfacing with the Twitter Web site. Twitter API: Up and Running was written with the mindset that almost anyone (even people without hardcore programming skills) can understand and interact with the Twitter API.

As the blurb on the back of the book states "Perfect for new and casual programmers intrigued by the world of microblogging, Twitter API: Up and Running carefully explains how each part of Twitter's API works." The book highlights the uses of Twitter, and then goes into the creation of several applications that work through the Twitter API.

While for some the book may dwell little too long on the background and potential uses Twitter (we only delve into the API around the fourth chapter, 133 pages into the 391 page book) I found the first three chapters to be constructive in that it gave me a clear idea on how Twitter is being used, leading me to my own idea’s on how I too could capitalise on the API (yes, I even came up with an idea after reading a couple of pages of the book!). Coming from a near-pure web development background, I found this opened up my imagination - and provided me with a deep insight into how people are using Twitter to make money - or loose it.

Chapter three covers some of the web programming basics, and this is really recommended reading for new programmers who may not have a complete understanding of how each component ordinarily fits together. It explains the Linux Apache MySQL PHP (LAMP) architecture that is the most common setup of web hosting services, and provides background information into how you're actually going to get your new platform up and running.

My first issue with the book comes with the authentication methods when invoking Twitter API calls - I felt the author, Kevin Makice could have spent a bit more time talking about how it all fits in together, especially now that Twitter recommends using the OAuth protocol over basic authentication (even though Oauth is still in it’s infancy). Security is a top concern with software development these days, and I just felt he could have expanded this section more.

I also felt that they didn't provide too many alternatives to interface with the API, relying on a developers ability to make use of cURL. For most people this problem is simple: most hosted solutions don't come pre-bundled with cURL extensions enabled. What does this mean for you? If you can't use cURL, you can't use the samples in the book!

However, most intermediate-advanced PHP programmers should understand the complexity of the HTTP protocol, and should find it fairly easy to write their own HTTP header handler as well as the ability to post data to the server (but perhaps I am getting too complicated in my complaint here). The crux of the complaint is: if it's meant to be for new developers, then surely it should explain how to post data to the server rather than rely on the (probably inaccurate) expectation that the user will have cURL extensions installed, or be able to actually install them?

Once we get to the basic programming though, the code is fairly easy to follow, and I found I was able to get the samples up and running with the bare minimum of effort. The book explains what is happening in a step-by-step approach and in a fairly simple manner, and is within the grasps of any developer. Heck, even without much programming experience, you should be able to hack away at the Twitter API in relatively no time at all.

At the end of the book is the appendix, which is a lexicon of information about the API, providing an overview of each of the API calls, and detailed information about them. Definitely useful for quick-reference material!

Overall I found the book to be very good, and think it would appeal to people interested in Twitter, and more specifically in the Twitter API. While a large portion of the book is designed for developers, I also feel that the first three hefty chapters are worth a read by those wanting to explore how other companies have used Twitter to “make or break it”, and will hopefully use it to gain some idea’s into how they themselves could potentially use Twitter to make a service worth monetising.

Book Content

Foreward

1. Hello Twitter
2. Twitter Applications
3. Web Programming Basics
4. Meet the Twitter API
5. Meet the Output
6. Application Setup
7. Sample Applications
8. Automated Tasks

Available on www.intersoft.co.za
Price: R300.97
Buy now

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