Geeky APIs: Why They're Important With Examples Published 2006-09-19 under

Another "Future of Web Apps" post...

In my last post, I borrowed a phrase from Tom Coates' to describe the future of the Web: "an aggregate of connected data sources and services".  This begs the question how? - how do all of these individual websites communicate and share information.  The answer is the geeky term API (application programming interface).  Sounds complicated, but many of you are already familiar with one very popular way sites share content, RSS.  Bloglines is an example of a site that is an aggregate of data sources using RSS as the mechanism for capturing the data from other sites.

Another way to expose data on the web is something called microformats - "fastest and simplest way to provide an API to your website".  Tantek Çelik from Technorati discussed microformats at the conference and you can view his presentation here.  In essence, microformats are a markups that you add to your standard HTML so that applications can access the data on your site.  There are several microformats in use today with more in development.  The more common (current) uses include identifying calendar events and contact information.  By adding some additional markup code to your site, you can allow users to import events into their Outlook, iCal, or other calendaring application.  Just think if every school and organization exposed their calendar events using microformats and RSS.  A parent with students a several different schools each doing multiple different activities would be able to create a master calendar with all of her children's events, updated automatically.  The idea of a printed calendar of events is passé.

For more information on the specifics of microformats, you should take a look at  Tantek's presentation or for even more detail, look at the hCalendar and hCard specifications from

The question that comes to my mind is what does the learning API look like?  How can students, teachers, schools, districts, etc. expose learning data so that we all can benefit from an aggregate of connected learning sources - "the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts"?  Are there microformats that can be used or established that will make classroom blogs easier to share? 

One technique that we are using is tagging our content.  The rel-tag microformat describes an author-designated "tag" for the current page.  Which tags you select becomes important.  What are some other ways we can create the learning API?

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