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APIs: Ambassadors of the Tech Industry

OK I'll admit it:  I'm an API-oholic.  I'm addicted to APIs.  In the nerdy tech world, APIs are old news, but to most regular folks, the term APIs is just a confusing acronym.  It is my goal to de-mystify the API a bit in this post, and explain how APIs are changing the world in very real, tangible ways that will matter to you.

First, a definition and a bit of history.  API stands for Application Programming Interface.  That's also a pretty incomprehensible set of words to most people.   So let's simplify:  For the purpose of this blog post, think of an API as a key that opens a door to a room you really want to get into.

Let's take this fantasy analogy a bit further.  Let's imagine that there are rumors that there's an island in the Pacific ocean that's inhabited by a previously unknown group of humans which have never before had contact with the modern world.  They don't speak English, but it just so happens that their little island is known to have a tremendous stockpile of diamonds and gold.  There's a mad rush by many people to figure out where this island is located so they can lay claim to its natural resources.

But the inhabitants of this Secret Island are smart.  They know how valuable their gold and diamonds are, and they know that by allowing the modern world to find them, they'll be in danger.  So they send an ambassador to strike a compromise, and that ambassador happens to find you (imagine the odds -- it's your lucky day!) The ambassador tells you that the entire modern world can communicate with their island through a special interface they've set up.  And they will answer, but only if the communication happens on very specific terms -- their terms.  They won't answer to any random requests.

This interface he gives you happens to be through a computer terminal.  Well, that's convenient, they know how to use computers. This ambassador gives you a special URL through which you can contact his people.  It looks something like this: http://thedataweb.rm.SecretIsland.gov/data/2010/acs5?key=b48301d897146e8f8efd9bef3c6eb1fcb864cf&get=B02001_001E,NAME&for=state:06,36

Learn to Code

On Imported Blog

Let's talk about programming. Everyone says you need it these days. Even I do. But, how should you learn to code? Codecademy, KhanAcademy, or other pseudo-learning techniques? Maybe a book, like Learn Code The Hard Way. What language should you learn, and what software should you code in? The questions are endless!

I'm here to give you a solution for you (and myself). Here's an 8-step guide for learning to code.

Everyone knows that goals are pointless if they're not specific. If you don't define your success, you're just flailing around randomly. Therefore, have something you want to build.

Think of coding like woodworking. You want to learn how to manipulate wood to make beautiful objects. Would you start hacking away randomly? No. Then why would you do that with code?

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