Friday, April 6, 2012

Integrating Google APIs and Technologies

In 1997, long before my tenure at Google, I became a member of the Python community in helping to create Yahoo!Mail, one of the most popular web-based email systems in the world. There were only two Python books on the market back then, and neither addressed my developer’s need to learn Python quickly and competently, so I had to resort to the online docs. This absence, and consequently my development of class materials for a Python course, inspired me to write Prentice Hall’s bestselling Core Python Programming over a decade ago. Since then, I’ve used Python to work on all kinds of interesting applications, from web-based e-mail to geolocalized product search engines, social media games, antispam/antivirus e-mail appliances, and most interestingly, software for doctors to help them analyze and assess patients with spinal fractures. (Ask me about osteoporosis!)

Today at Google, my work involves advocating our tools and APIs to the global developer community. Now that I've been part of the Google family for the past 2.5 years, I thought it would be fun to integrate some of our technologies into the book. With the just-published 3rd edition, readers will find revised but also brand new material they can use to build real applications with. Some of the Google technologies I've integrated into Core Python Applications Programming include accessing your Gmail, parsing Google News XML feeds, and a complete chapter on cloud computing with Google App Engine. It’s also the first published book to feature code that utilizes the Google+ API. While the book contains a longer example using that API, I want to show you how easy it is to connect to Google+ using Python right now!

The bulk of the work in connecting to Google+ (and other Google APIs) is done by my fellow colleagues who maintain the Google APIs Client Library for Python, easily downloaded with pip or easy_install as "google-api-python-client." With this library, the most difficult step to connect with your API of choice has basically been reduced to a single line... see the fourth line of this short Python 2.x example:

# (by Wesley Chun under CC-SA3.0 license)
from apiclient import discovery

service ="plus", "v1", developerKey=API_KEY)
feed = service.activities().search(query='android').execute()
for record in feed['items']:
post = ' '.join(record['title'].strip().split())
if post:
print '\nFrom:', record['actor']['displayName']
print 'Post:', post
print 'Date:', record['published']

In that one line of code (italicized above), we use the Google APIs Client Library's method, passing in: a) the desired API ("plus" for Google+), b) the version (currently "v1"), and c) the API key you obtained from your project's development console in the "Simple API Access" section. This key gives your project access to APIs that do not need to access user data. Once we have a handle to the service, we can execute generic queries on the available data stream.

In this code snippet, we're simply querying for the latest (public) Google+ posts that are related to Android and displaying them on the command-line (code can be easily repurposed into any mobile or web application). Naturally, you need to go through the OAuth flow if you do want access to authenticated data. Give it a try!

If you like the code, dig into Core Python Applications Programming for a longer, more detailed example. Both scripts can be downloaded at the website (the code is part of Chapter 15), and you can get involved in the conversation on the Google+ page. I'm open to all feedback, suggestions, and fixes. You can find me at +wescpy or @wescpy. Looking forward to meeting you at an upcoming Google or Python event or in one of my public courses!