Geni API Feedback

Posted December 17, 2010 by George | No Comment

Prior to Wednesday’s release of the Geni API, we had been working closely with several Geni users to test the API functionality.  Today two of our users, Daniel Walton and Grant Brunner, share some thoughts about the API.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

We had been planning to create the API for some time, but it hadn’t yet become a priority.  A little more than a month ago, Noah noticed an interesting discussion where Daniel had found some ways to nearly automate some merging tasks.  From Daniel:

About a month ago I reviewed a pending merge where EVERYTHING in the side-by-side comparison was green. Every name and every date matched, and all was identical.  I had about 200K outstanding merges at the time and started wondering how many of those were obvious matches like this one?  I have some programing experience so I wrote a PERL script to download the side-by-side web page for all 200K profiles and analyze each pending merge.  I figured that somewhere around 25% could be considered obvious matches where everything was green.

I wanted to be able to approve these merges with my script but wasn’t able to do so via the HTML interface.  Noah mentioned they had been thinking about implementing an API and asked if that would help me to automate merging these profiles.  Using an API would be much easier than downloading and parsing through 200K web pages so I said “heck yeah!”

Once an alpha version of the API was available, Daniel and a few of the other curators created a script that allowed them to merge more than a hundred thousand exact-match profiles in just a few days.

We mentioned the API to Grant, a tech enthusiast, and he was eager to check out what was happening.  After reviewing it, he wrote the following for us to share with the community:

Geni is an incredibly powerful tool for collaborative genealogy. It has a lot to offer that other sites and applications don’t, but collaboration can get messy very quickly. Lucky for us Geni users, the engineers have been hard at work making it easier for us to clean up the (big) tree. Specifically, they’ve been making a standard API (Application Programming Interface) so that technologically savvy users can create tools to manipulate data on Geni.

In plain terms, Geni has given us a set of instructions to call upon from third party tools. For example, Geni Curator Erin Spiceland has created a web site that automatically merges profiles together for you when you give it your Geni credentials. We’re already seeing great things, and the API isn’t even finalized yet. In the future, we could see Geni integration in desktop and mobile applications as well as other websites. I’m very excited for the possibilities, and you should be as well.

Obviously we’re excited about the possibilities, too!  It has already proven useful for cleaning up the Big Tree, but the possibilities are so much greater.  We can’t wait to see what happens, and we hope to feature your app on the Geni Blog soon :)

A final note from Grant:

I’d personally like to put out an APB for all programmer-types to try to do something very cool with the API. If you make an innovative and useful tool, I’ll be happy to review it. Let the games begin!

Visit the Geni Developers site for more information about our API.

Post written by George

George joined the Geni team in September, 2010 as Geni's marketing director. You can find him on Twitter where he never posts but is happy to respond: @georgegeni

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