api's vs exports

software engineering course at university of texas.

in my software engineering course we had to make a website of information about world crises. a large portion of the project was exporting the data to xml and sharing it between groups.

this was a well-designed project because it encouraged us to learn several common skills in software engineering:

this is all well and good.

we had a guest speaker mention “restful api’s” this week, and i was caught off-guard when someone asked what that was. i didn’t learn about rest in undergrad either, but i forgot because i use it so frequently now.

in fact during my career i’ve had to deal with data exports a number of times (10? 20?), but i write code that uses api’s (specifically rest api’s) every day. when i’m not writing code against these api’s, i’m writing spec and requirement documentation that depend on them. i’ve even spent a lot of time writing code to mock rest-ful api’s so that i can write proper unit tests.

i think my experience of using api’s more than exports is indicitave of the industry as a whole. new products are more likely to offer an api or integration with an external api (twitter, facebook, google maps, etc.) than data export/import. it’s almost too broad to compare, but i believe that with the ubiquity of today’s internet, apps tend to use an external api’s more often than just importing/exporting their data.

so i suggest that instead of an xml import/export, future assignements center around providing a restful json api to the data. like the existing assignment, it encourages students to learn several common skills:

i think this approach has all of the benefits of the import/export assignment, but it is more relevant to the tasks students will encounter in the industry.

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