Automating the Identification of Web APIs

Although this is somewhat old news, I still would like to drop a few lines about this work for it still can yield further fruits. We have been working for some time now on better supporting the use of Web APIs. So far, we have analysed the current state of affairs and have provided a set of technologies including conceptual models and tools for supporting the life-cycle of Web APIs and applications based on those. We worked in the past on a tool and conceptual model for creating semantic annotations for Web APIs with SWEET, advanced discovery support for APIs annotated in this manner through iServe, as well as for supporting the invocation of any of those APIs through a single generic invocation engine called OmniVoke.

Although the solutions we devised do provide a considerable improvement in the level of automation that one can benefit from while building applications based on Web APIs, it is all predicated on the existence of these semantic annotations and there are not many available. Indeed, better user assistance but also the availability of good incentives play an increasingly important role and we are devoting efforts to these aspects. I’d like, however, to talk in this post about another path we have been working on lately which takes as starting point Web APIs as they currently are. We have presented this work both at the AAAI Symposium – Intelligent Web Services Meet Social Computing and at ISWC.

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PhD Studentship Available

A position is available for PhD students at the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University, UK (see general information).

We are currently offering a fully-funded studentship commencing January 2013. Applications are invited from UK, EU and international students for full-time, 3-year study on the following PhD project:

Mining Services on the Web

As the role of the Web has become central within ICT and our society in general, it is increasingly apparent that although services are widely used, current practices are largely driven by less traditional factors than those initially anticipated and prescribed by software engineering methodologies. In this PhD Studentship we would like to carry out research on services from a fundamentally different perspective from the one commonly adopted in Computer Science. Notably, rather than focusing on defining new theoretical principles and frameworks for supporting the development of service-oriented systems, we would like to exploit the plethora of information that exists on the Web to figure out what current practices are, gain a better understanding on how service providers and service consumers are behaving, and use this knowledge to better support their practices. By doing so we expect to gather a richer understanding on current development processes in the Web era, so that we can determine the main factors driving services successes and failures, produce models that could predict the popularity or determine the simplicity of usage of a given service, etc. It is only then that we will be able to devise adequate technologies for supporting service providers and consumers, as well as identify and propose means for bridging the gap between current practices and best principles that could lead us towards a more sustainable future.

Deadline for applications: 16th November 2012.

Further information:

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Linked USDL Launched

In previous posts I talked about some of our work in the area of USDL initiated within the W3C Incubator Group. Together with SAP, mainly with Torsten Leidig, we have been trying to remodel USDL as a set of RDF(S) vocabularies that could better help sharing and exploiting USDL descriptions on the Web. An important part of this activity is devoted to identifying reusable vocabularies already available that could help enlarge the compatibility of USDL with other datasets and tools.

Since USDL is a considerably large specification, we have not yet ported everything. At the moment we have a few fragments out together with some examples showing how they could be used. There is indeed a lot of work to be done still but since this is thought for being reused by anybody interested on the Web we’ve opened it up and exposed it on a dedicated Web site: .

There is a lot more that will be gradually coming up but meanwhile feel free to check it out, use it, or even better, contribute to it!

Invited Talk at Microsoft’s eScience Workshop 2011

I just came back from 2011 Microsoft Research eScience in Action Workshop, which was co-located with the IEEE International Conference on e-Science in Stockholm, Sweden. The goal of this eighth annual cross-disciplinary workshop was to bring together scientists from diverse disciplines to share their research and discuss how computing is transforming their work.

I was there invited to talk on the session on semantics chaired by Evelyne Viegas where Steffen Staab and Tim Finin were also presenting. Find below the slides I used about our work on using Linked Services for the Virtual Physiological Human.

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Keynote on Linked Services at JISBD 2011

It’s been a while since I posted any news but this does not mean I have not been active. Quite the contrary actually… it’s been pretty hard to keep up.

Last September I gave a keynote during JISBD 2011 – Jornadas Sistedes 2011 back in A Coruña, Spain. It was particularly nice to do so in Spain and meet there some good friends including some of my teachers from the university in San Sebastian. I enjoyed the event very much both socially and work wise.

During this event I also met Manuel Lama who has a very nice tool for doing automated service composition which has just been adapted to work with services stored in iServe. I shall be talking about this in more detail in a subsequent post, though. Meanwhile, find herein the slides I used during the talk.

New Survey Highlights Key Issues with Web APIs

After quite some time without posting, I’d like to retake it and break momentarily the series on USDL (on which both Torsten Leidig from SAP and I have continued working) to quickly post an interesting survey on Web APIs I just found out about. The survey comes from the Trove blog and it was aimed at quantifying the actual costs regarding Web APIs integration. The survey corroborates some of the issues we found out in our own survey, e.g., the poor quality of the documentation, but it also highlights some other interesting aspects.

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USDL Foundation Module as RDF

In my previous post I introduced USDL, the W3C Incubator Group associated to it and I mentioned that within it, I was going to work on devising a USDL version that would be ready for the application of Linked Data principles, the interlinking of USDL data with that hosted in other Linked Data repositories, etc. This is the second post of this series in which I start reporting the work I’m undertaking. Indeed the work at this stage is essentially exploratory and cannot be considered in anyway complete or thorough but I hope it will still be of interest. Obviously any comments are more than welcome…

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USDL and Linked Data

Just as the world of services started drifting away from complex technology stacks and getting closer to simple, HTTP-based, possibly RESTful solutions, SAP have generated a new large, ambitious, all-encompassing specification named Unified Service Description Language (USDL). What is most remarkable of this approach is that it is not yet another WS-* technology or another process language. It is instead mostly focussed on capturing the main aspects that are relevant for carrying out business activities. This includes for instance pricing models, legal aspects, the notion of service bundles, the relationship between services and resources, etc. A “master data model for services” as they like to call it.

USDL is perhaps the most comprehensive specification around services which I have seen so far, bringing together economic, legal and technical aspects. Is it strange that precisely now that simpler service technologies seem to be gaining traction, they produce such a large specification? Perhaps. But one must also recognise that the technical aspects of services is not all there needs to be to allow the creation of service-based business solutions. In fact, for many services IT systems hardly come into play. These aspects have been dealt with by others previously, see for instance the e3 family of ontologies with which I’m a bit familiar. However, I am not aware of previous activities bringing all of this together in such a comprehensive manner with, presumably, the goal to eventually enable the creation of a platform allowing anybody to automatically trade (business) services much like the App Stores allows one to sell software.

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Investigating Web APIs on the World Wide Web

The world of services on the Web has traditionally been limited to “classical” Web services based on WSDL and SOAP. For quite some time now, though, services on the Web are increasingly marked by the domination of Web APIs, which includes, but is not limited to, RESTful services. Despite their popularity currently the development of Web APIs is not guided by standards, patterns, or guidelines. It is more an art than a science whereby Web APIs are more often than not solely described in HTML as part of a webpage rather than using an interface description language that could better support software development.

Lately, there is significant effort devoted to this “new kind” of services. A good deal of this work has focused on better understanding the architectural implications of the REST Representational State Transfer (REST) principles [1] as opposed to traditional Web services [2], or to better supporting their composition and invocation [3,4]. Most of this work, however, takes REST principles as a starting point despite the fact that on the Web many of the existing APIs do not strictly adhere to these constraints. Before we can make any significant improvement to current practices and technologies, it is thus necessary to reach a deeper understanding of existing Web APIs regarding for instance how they are actually described, what principles they follow and what drives their reuse. It is only in the light of these findings that we may then try and figure out how existing solutions, as opposed to ideal scenarios, could be enhanced and better supported. To this end we recently carried out a thorough analysis of large body of Web APIs [5]. This exercise has revealed interesting issues which I’d like to briefly highlight herein.

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Keynote at NFPSLAM-SOC’10

Last week I gave a keynote at the 4th Workshop on Non-Functional Properties and SLA Management in Service-Oriented Computing collocated with the 8th IEEE European Conference on Web Services in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. In this talk, I revisited some of the existing issues limiting the uptake of services on the Web, and highlighted how the research we are carrying out can help overcome these limitations.