How I made a writable API for Union Square Ventures in an hour
I hadn’t really thought that we are all about shrinking the minimal viable publishing object, but that may well be true in hindsight.
I wanted to illustrate Fluidinfo as doing both: providing a minimal viable way to publish data (with an API), and also giving everyone a voice. So I decided to build Union Square Ventures a minimal API, and to then add my voice. In an hour.
A minimal viable API for USV
USV currently has 30 investments. If you want to get a list of the 30 company URLs, how would you do it? A non-programmer would have no choice but to go to the USV portfolio page, and click on each company in turn, then right-click on the link to each company’s home page and copy the link address, and then add that URL to your list. That process is boring and error prone.
If you’re a programmer though, you’d find this ridiculously manual. You’d much rather do that in one command, for example if you’re collecting information on VC company portfolios, perhaps for research or to get funded. Or if you were building an application, perhaps to do what Jason Calacanis is doing as part of the collecting who’s funding whom on Twitter and Facebook. You want your application to be able to fetch the list of USV company URLs in one simple call.
So I made a unionsquareventures.com user in Fluidinfo (sign up here), did the repetitive but one-time work of getting their portfolio companies’ URLs out of their HTML (so you wouldn’t have to), and added it to Fluidinfo. I put a unionsquareventures.com/portfolio tag onto the Fluidinfo object about each of those URLs. In other words, because Fluidinfo has an object for everything (including all URLs), I asked it to tag that object.
from fom.session import Fluid
fdb = Fluid()
urls = [i[:-1] for i in sys.stdin.readlines()] # Read portfolio URLs from stdin
for url in urls:
jsongrep.py results . . fluiddb/about value | sort
There you have it, a sorted list of all Union Square Ventures portfolio companies’ URLs, from the command line. I can do it, you can do it, and any application can do it.
The jsongrep.py program can also be used to pull out selective pieces of the output. For example, which of the companies have “ee” in their URL?
jsongrep.py results . . fluiddb/about value ‘.*ee’ | sort
So maybe, in order to be funded by USV, it helps to have “ee” in your URL?
What about USV companies that don’t have “.com” URLs?
jsongrep.py results . . fluiddb/about value ‘.*(?<!\.com)$’
OK, these things are geeky, but that’s part of the point of an API: to enable applications to do things. We’ve made the portfolio available programmatically, and you can immediately see how to do fun things with it that you couldn’t easily do before. In fact, it’s quite a bit more interesting than that. As a result of doing this work, I can tell you that there was a company listed a couple of months ago on the portfolio page that is no longer there. And there’s a company that’s been invested in that’s not yet listed. That’s a different subject, but it does illustrate the power of doing things programmatically.
This is a minimal viable API for USV because there’s only one piece of information being made available (so far). But an API it is, and it’s already useful.
It’s also writable.
Giving everyone a voice
In a sense we’ve just seen that everyone has a voice. USV put a tag onto the Fluidinfo objects that correspond to the URLs of their portfolio companies and they didn’t have to ask permission to do so.
But what about me? I’m a person too. I’ve met the founders of some of those companies, so I’m going to put a terrycojones/met-a-founder-of tag onto the same objects. Fluidinfo lets me do that because its objects don’t have owners, its permission system is instead based at the level of the tags on the objects.
So I wrote another 7 line program, like the one above, and added those tags. I also added another USV tag, called unionsquareventures.com/company-name. Let’s pull back just the names of the companies whose founders I’ve met:
jsongrep.py results . . . value | sort
Isn’t that cool? I do indeed have a voice!
You have one too. If you sign up for a Fluidinfo account you can add your own tags and values to anything in Fludinfo. And you can use Fluidinfo, just as I’ve illustrated above, to make your own writable API. See also: our post from yesterday, What is a writable API?