A Request / Random Thoughts

As with many of my posts, this is basically an unedited brain dump – apologies. Hopefully this will encourage some interesting comments / discussion though. . .

A Standard for Developer APIs
Facebook, Twitter, Worpress (and I’m sure Google+ will) offer APIs to developers allowing them to pull data out of their applications and manipulate it as they like. Most of these services offer similar functions; authentication, get the last x posts, pull back a grid of contacts, etc. All do this in their own way.
What would be great is some unification – either a library over the top of the existing APIs to pull them all in line, or for some set of social standards to be formed in the same way Netscape, IE, Mozilla and more came up with ECMAScript as a way to allow javascript to become portable. What I’m hoping for is something like this:

//this is entirely made up code - not (yet) some awesome new Google thing 
var application = GetApplication('Google+'); //creates a new object with an "application interface" for Google+
if (application.authenticate('Developer42','DemoCodePassword') //authenticate a user against the web app
    var identity =; //pull back an object which represents me
    var allFriends = me.ListContacts(); //by default pull back all contacts
    var colleagues = me.ListContacts('colleagues'); //or filter by group
    var posts = identity.GetPosts(20); //get my last 20 posts
    var friendsPosts = allFriends.GetPosts(100); //Get the last 100 posts by my friends/contacts

A Service for Services
This is probably what the guys who came up with UDDI were thinking:

If two companies offer a service to give out exchange rate information, and both use the same standard, when I want to get back exchange rate info why can’t I just post a request to the web saying “give me the exchange rate from USD to GBP” and have it chuck back .67 without all the hassle of searching for a suitable service.

There’s a whole bunch of data which we often need, but have to trawl the web for. Search engines began to make this better, WolframAlpha got a bit closer, but no one’s yet cracked it. What I’d like is a single web site containing a catalogue of services and their schemas. I pick a service, write code to its schema, then use the service url to pull back this data. From my point of view I’m just pulling data from, but in the background that could be talking to any (approved) provider. I guess the reason this doesn’t yet exist is the issue around monetisation; but surely there’s a way. . . ?
Below’s my wish list of services:

- Exchange Rates
- Share Prices
- National Holidays
- Daylight Savings Dates
- Post Code / Geo (long & lat) Conversion
- Credit Checks
- Product Prices
- Companies House Info


My First Python Plugin

Filed under: Technology, WordPress — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Developer42 @ 22:51

I’ve read a lot about Python in the past, but have been so inundated with things to learn recently that it had always fallen to the bottom of the pile. However, recently I requested a feature for my favourite text editor, Programmers’ Notepad, and heard back from its developer, Simon, within moments of submitting my request. He’d provided a solution and instructions on how to implement it, which introduced me to a powerful set of features I’d previously been unaware of (namely that you could run apps which output to the command line straight from the tools menu, and have their output returned into the current document). After realising I’d been missing out on some of this potential, I spent a bit of time going over the site, seeing what else I’d missed. This is where I come back to Python. PNotepad allows you to write custom scripts in Python, put them into pn’s \scripts directory, and run them from the scripts toolbar the next time you start up the editor. I figured any time spent learning python would easily be offset by the hours saved by having scripts take care of laborious tasks for me, so promptly downloaded and installed Python and PyPN (which enables Python scripts in PN), had a look at a script from the script repository, and a browse through the python manual, and then wrote my first script in a few minutes. For anyone wanting to see it, my script is a simple tool for replacing < > and & characters with their HTML codes, and inserting the PRE and CODE tags required to publish code to wordpress. I’ve uploaded it to the script share, here.

First Impressions
My first impressions of Python, after having coded for all of 20 mins or so, are that it’s a really simple language to learn, which anyone (including non developers) should be able to pick up pretty quickly. There are a few bits I’m not so keen on; select statements don’t exist, using instead piles of else-if (elif) statements, and not having curly brackets and semi-colons, but instead relying on indentation leaves me feeling a little out of my comfort zone, but all this is just a familiarity thing, which I’m sure I’ll soon get over. I’m hoping to write a few more scripts over the next few weeks (assuming I can find interesting and required things to write), and to learn a bit more about Python outside of PN, after which I’ll report back on my experiences for anyone else interested in heading in that direction.

Steps Taken to Run Python in PN
If you’d also like to get into Python for PN, here’s a step by step set of instructions on what to do (skipping a few steps to avoid typing “click next” too many times).
Download & install/extract the following, in the order listed below:

Once installed, go to the command line (windows key + r, cmd, enter), navigate to the programmer’s notepad directory (cd %programfiles%\programmer*), then type the following “pn –findexts”. It looks like nothing’s happened, but that’s good; it hasn’t errorred.
Next, load up programmer’s notepad, click view, windows, scripts (or press alt+F10), and you should see a list of available scripts.
Get an existing script from the script share site: and save the file to your …\Programmer’s Notepad\scripts\ directory.
Close and reopen PN. You should now see a new script (or several) listed in the scripts toolbar.
From here on, it’s pretty easy to figure out what to do to create your own scripts by looking at existing scripts and python code, and playing.
Good luck.


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