You and web APIs: zero to getting somewhere in 45 min

Short Form


I went from asking "web APIs are another way to interact with a website, right?" to finishing up a proposal to evaluate and improve MediaWiki web API client libraries in just over a week. Learn from my experience! I'll tell you why you might want to use web APIs, bring you over the stumbling blocks and thickets of documentation that frustrated me, and tell you what makes a good web API client library and why you want to use one. After this talk, you'll know enough about web APIs to ask good questions about them and explore them on your own.


Ever wanted to write bots, fetch web data without loading a hundred pages individually, or just wanted the computer to talk to a website for you, but not been sure where to start? Maybe you figured out that you needed a web API client, but you got lost in documentation for the available libraries before you could get your program running.

This talk will introduce the concept of RESTful web APIs and how you communicate with them, take you past common stumbling blocks (including documentation pitfalls), and introduce web API client libraries as a higher-level tool that lets you take advantage of the site structure. By the end, you’ll be set to explore on your own and to ask questions that get you the answers you want.


web apis, API client libraries, MediaWiki, API documentation

Speaking experience

At Foolscap 2014 I spoke on a panel about more inclusive approaches to the hacker/maker movement and facilitated a discussion on creating welcoming communities. Previously, I taught organic chemistry and introductory materials science for two years and presented my research results to my lab group each quarter.


  • Hocutt  frances march 2015


    Frances Hocutt has taken part in the science-to-tech branch of the great STEM reshuffling. In the process, she’s written, spoken, mentored, and co-founded Seattle’s first feminist hackerspace/makerspace. She prefers elegance in her science and effectiveness in her art and is happiest when drawing on as many disciplines as she can. Hocutt jumped into F/OSS development with work on the Dreamwidth journaling platform and the MediaWiki web API and expanded into work on MediaWiki and associated Wikimedia-ecosystem contributor tools. Her current interest is applying tools from one discipline to another area entirely, with an eye to offering others the space, tools, and community that they need to change and live in this world.

    Photo used under CC-BY-SA-3.0. “Hocutt, Frances March 2015”, by Myleen Hollero.