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Author Topic: Forum user API, please. This cannot wait for the "new software".  (Read 2991 times)
eldentyrell
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January 04, 2012, 07:51:07 AM
 #1

Dear forum operators,

>>> Please provide an API for the current bitcointalk.org forum <<<

It doesn't have to be much: just fetching the discussion-subdiscussion-thread tree (in a sane format), getting a list of posts in a thread, fetching a post by id number, and making posts would be plenty.  Four calls.  Something simple like JSON or even just HTTP GET and POST to special urls.

The web UI is driving me completely nuts; I hate it.  The "notifications" mechanism is a joke compared to my RSS reader or even the most primitive NNTP client (let alone something as sophisticated as gnus).

All you need to give us is an API and we can do the hard work of improving the user interface.  Or at least reusing something we are already comfortable with.

I know the knee-jerk reaction is to say that the "new forum software" will have it, but a good plan now is better than the perfect plan tomorrow.  The new forum software is not going to get here anytime soon.  I'm starting to wonder if it ever will.  Maybe it won't work right at first.  Maybe we'll have to switch back.  Whatever.  Please add an API for the existing forum software.

Please.  Pretty please.

I will happily donate another 10BTC if you provide this.  Heck, I might even write it for you if that's what it's going to take (I can't believe I just said that).

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 04, 2012, 08:08:27 AM
 #2

http://download.simplemachines.org/?tools


SMF 1.1.x API: http://download.simplemachines.org/index.php?thanks;filename=smf_1-1_api.php

eldentyrell
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January 04, 2012, 09:29:08 AM
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That is the API for forum operators, not forum users.

It is for integrating other PHP code running on the same machine as the forum itself.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 07, 2012, 09:38:55 PM
 #4

ping

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 08, 2012, 07:00:41 AM
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I'm not willing to spend any time on it. I don't think many people would use it.

I'll install any theme. Maybe you can find one or write one that can be easily parsed. Other code extensions you write I will be less willing to apply, as I'll have to verify the correctness of the authentication and input escaping.

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eldentyrell
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January 08, 2012, 11:05:04 AM
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I don't think many people would use it.

Are you kidding?

How many feature requests do you get each week?  Here's one that just appeared today.  Having a forum API outsources the work of adding features to third parties.

Look, probably 1% of all MtGox users have ever coded against their API, but plenty of their users depend on it (via goxsh and other software) and they'd see a massive exodus if they discontinued it.  You're only seeing the 1%.

I'll install any theme.

Okay, now I'm sure that you're kidding.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 08, 2012, 12:08:38 PM
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Look, probably 1% of all MtGox users have ever coded against their API, but plenty of their users depend on it (via goxsh and other software) and they'd see a massive exodus if they discontinued it.  You're only seeing the 1%.
So are you offering to write some kind of custom frontend that *lots of users* will migrate to or something? Why not re-code the whole thing from the ground up and collect the (fucking massive) bounty there is on it?

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eldentyrell
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January 10, 2012, 09:20:22 PM
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So are you offering to write some kind of custom frontend that *lots of users* will migrate to or something?

No.  There is no "migration" involved.

Why not re-code the whole thing from the ground up and collect the (fucking massive) bounty there is on it?

Because an API is not a replacement for the forum -- just like the MtGox API does not replace their browser-facing website.  But "lots of" MtGox users use the API indirectly when they visit sites like bitcoincharts.com.

I have this sinking feeling that the site admins' stubborn insistence on "somebody must fall from the sky with a totally new website that fulfills our every last desire and until then we're going on strike and not making any improvements at all" is likely to lead to a slow stagnation and bleeding-away of userbase.  I don't want to see that happen.  The unusability of the forum has already driven away the bitcoin client developers.  An API would at least let (many kinds of) improvements continue without further effort by the admins.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 10, 2012, 10:46:29 PM
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The unusability of the forum has already driven away the bitcoin client developers.

I don't think it was forum usability as much as trolls and the like around here.

But I think an API would be a good thing for the forum to have.
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January 11, 2012, 01:18:54 AM
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Am I the only one that thinks OP is just looking for an easy way to data mine the forums or integrate it into some annoying spam system to make their site look important? Just a thought.

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January 11, 2012, 04:59:56 AM
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I would just +1 the above, but I don't want to be off topic, so in contribution, I think the suggestion of having scraping tools to be highly incongruous with the motivation behind this forum.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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January 11, 2012, 03:15:54 PM
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Am I the only one that thinks OP is just looking for an easy way to data mine the forums or integrate it into some annoying spam system to make their site look important? Just a thought.

This is what I was thinking but didn't say it in so many words. Maybe OP could give us some useful real world examples of this being significantly more beneficial as opposed to what there is now?

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eldentyrell
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January 12, 2012, 10:56:13 PM
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Am I the only one that thinks OP is just looking for an easy way to data mine the forums or integrate it into some annoying spam system to make their site look important?

This does not pass the giggle test.

Think about it: you can already do this with screen-scrapers.

Data miners don't need a stable API.  If some font change on the forum breaks their scraper, they don't care because they already got what they need.

Data miners don't need an API for posting to the forums, since if they post spam it will get deleted anyways (and their account will get disabled).

An API is only marginally useful to spammers/miners.  It is massively useful to legitimate users.

The bad guys don't care about convenience and quality.  The good guys do.  Offering an API is about convenience and quality.



The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
eldentyrell
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January 12, 2012, 11:00:40 PM
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This is what I was thinking but didn't say it in so many words. Maybe OP could give us some useful real world examples of this being significantly more beneficial as opposed to what there is now?

I already linked to this user's request for complicated forum statistics.  I guess you missed that.

I personally would like to use my newsreader to participate in the forums.  I already use it to participate in 50+ mailing lists, and it is obnoxious that the 51st requires me to use a weird new UI.  You might think I'm an outlier here, but take a moment to look at GMANE's userbase before you reply.  There are a lot more of us than you think.

But mostly it's not for the things we can think of (because then the forum admins will just tack them onto the enormous "list of requirements for new forum software" and declare victory) but rather for the things that the centralized admin-group does not think of.  Do you think that MtGox would have known their users wanted goxsh?  I suppose in theory you could say "MtGox does not need an API because their developers could have written goxsh."  If you believe something like that I am not going to be able to convince you that a forum API is a good idea.

Also think of it this way: of all the current goxsh users, how many of them -- in a parallel universe where MtGox did not have an API -- would have actively clamored for MtGox to add an API?  My guess is "not many".  Sometimes users don't know what they want until you offer it to them and they say "oh yeah, that looks awesome!"

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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January 12, 2012, 11:20:48 PM
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I agree that an API would be useful and desirable. I'm just not willing to spend any of my personal time on it when the code I write will be obsolete in a few months.

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eldentyrell
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February 05, 2012, 10:12:36 PM
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Sorry about the delayed response.

I agree that an API would be useful and desirable. I'm just not willing to spend any of my personal time on it

Well, like I said, I'm willing to spend my time on it.

when the code I write will be obsolete in a few months.

I guess we have differing opinions on the odds of the "new forum software" arriving.

Taking "few = 3", I'll post back here in mid-April; if the new forum software hasn't materialized by then perhaps you would be willing to reconsider your decision.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
eldentyrell
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May 10, 2012, 04:22:55 AM
 #17

when the code I write will be obsolete in a few months.

I guess we have differing opinions on the odds of the "new forum software" arriving.

Taking "few = 3", I'll post back here in mid-April; if the new forum software hasn't materialized by then perhaps you would be willing to reconsider your decision.

Well, it's been (more than) three months, and no new forum software.  The "new software" is always going to seem like it's just three months away.  In the meantime, we suffer with this painful web-only one-size-fits-all UI.

The SMF software is great for new users, which makes this forum a lot more accessible than things like RSS, ATOM, usenet or mailing lists; I'm sure that helped it rise to such popularity in the community.  But it is really awkward for people who want/need to use it frequently but not frequently enough to re-arrange their entire workflow around it.  This is the only "push" medium I can't integrate with either my RSS reader (*) or my NNTP client.

Would you please reconsider allowing a simple JSON API for the forum?

All we need are four API calls: show-board-and-thread-hierarchy, list-posts-in-thread, get-post-text, and make-new-post.  As I've said before, I will write the code if you like (even though I am not terribly fond of PHP).

(*) Yes, I know SMF has some crude RSS support.  But it's unusable: you don't get the whole article, it doesn't have topic-specific feeds, and there is no "feed of new threads" to notify you that a new thread has been created on a particular board.  It's a long, long way from being seriously usable.  And you can't post through it (what you see in your RSS reader doesn't even have a "quote-and-reply" link)

(**) Screen-scraping is not a viable solution.  I guess that an API is really only half of what I'm asking for -- the other half is for it to be acknowledged as something that won't vanish or break without some sort of advance warning.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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May 10, 2012, 05:09:49 AM
 #18

Maybe you can scrape https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?wap2 for now?

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eldentyrell
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May 12, 2012, 11:10:34 PM
 #19

Maybe you can scrape https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?wap2 for now?

(**) Screen-scraping is not a viable solution.  I guess that an API is really only half of what I'm asking for -- the other half is for it to be acknowledged as something that won't vanish or break without some sort of advance warning.

The printing press heralded the end of the Dark Ages and made the Enlightenment possible, but it took another three centuries before any country managed to put freedom of the press beyond the reach of legislators.  So it may take a while before cryptocurrencies are free of the AML-NSA-KYC surveillance plague.
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May 12, 2012, 11:29:41 PM
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That page won't change until the forum software is upgraded.

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