Herding Code 115: RESTravaganza with Darrel Miller, Glenn Block, and John Sheehan

This episode of Herding Code the guys talk REST with Glenn Block (who’s driving the WCF Web APIs), Darrel Miller (a REST expert with a lot of real world production experience), and John Sheehan (author of RestSharp) about what REST really is and what practical value it really offers in real world, production applications.

  • Jon asks Glenn for a quick overview of how WCF Web API fits in with REST.
  • Darrel talks about how he got into REST in support of desktop systems.
  • John asks Darrel about how HttpListener is working for him.
  • K. Scott asks Darrel why he’s doing all the work to plumb RESTful services rather than just going with something like SOAP.
  • Glenn asks Darrel how his RESTful services are more "evolvable" than previous technologies he’s used.
  • Jon asks Darrel what REST means to him. Darrel says it means that there are just two things that the client and server couple on: media types and link relations.
  • John says that very few people he interviews describe REST as how Darrel just did. Glenn talks about how his understanding of REST evolved when he more closely studied Roy Fielding’s original dissertation.
  • Question from Twitter (@stevenproctor – Steven Proctor): "Do nice http paths really make an architecture RESTful? Wasn’t there something about next available commands too?" Glenn and Darrel talk about how this is the fundamental concept of hypermedia.
  • Jon ignites a firestorm by asking why people who care about REST dislike how OData is implemented. Chaos ensues.
  • Darrel explains how OData’s format doesn’t match with some important RESTful principles like link relations and metadata discoverability.
  • Glenn points out that OData is an API that takes a constrained view of of HTTP, which offers a tradeoff which many developers find beneficial.
  • Scott K asks the guests how many non-demo OData feeds are actually available.
  • Scott K asks why not just use JSON instead of OData, and Glenn explains how the important difference is around metadata – JSON is just untyped data.
  • Darrel talks about the concept of serendipitous reuse, and how common media types offer better reuse than untyped JSON data.
  • John asks if anyone is actually putting the client re-use case into practice in the real world, and Darrel plugs the REST Fest. Glenn points out that just having multiple versions of a client working against a spec is a significant advantage, talking about HTTP 1.0 and HTTP 1.1 as an example.
  • Jon asks  if a microformat approach could work, and eventually an RDF discussion breaks out.
  • Glenn talks about how many people view REST by mapping HTTP verbs to CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations, and they’re missing the importance of linking and hypermedia.
  • Kevin asks where people "lose the path" with REST, and what are the most important concepts to stick with. Darrel comes back to the hypermedia constraint as the most important concept that’s commonly missed.
  • Glenn points out that your architecture is up to you, and you don’t have to follow RESTful principles, but there’s a problem if you don’t and claim your API is RESTful when it isn’t.
  • John points out that there are few examples of RESTful systems really paying off in practice. Glenn and Darrel point to Jon Moore’s Oredev talk about real business value to Comcast, and Jon mentions Glenn Block’s MIX presentation about device support based on content negotiation.
  • Glenn explains that opportunities are emerging as we’re moving beyond the browser, and he sees a lot of opportunity for WCF Web API’s to shine here.
  • Darrel describes another example of how a RESTful API could guide a common user experience across platforms, using Twitter as an example.
  • Kevin asks for public examples of good RESTful API’s. Darrel mentions Sun’s cloud API and SteamCannon; Glenn says that ATOM PUB is the best public example.
  • K. Scott asks about building RESTful clients.
  • Kevin asks about the practicalities of clients navigating hypermedia.
  • Question from Twitter (@kellabyte – Kelly Sommers): "I’m curious how REST might fit with an application that is wanting to store events and event sourcing. Is REST common for this?"
  • Question from Twitter (@gsogol – Jeff Sogolov): "How about Rest in the enterprise? Securing Rest services with Saml or oAuth? Also impersonation."
  • Jon mentions how WS-* defined methods for securing portions of message for different access and asks if REST handles that kind of scenario. Scott K, Glenn, and Darrel discuss.
  • The show wraps up with a discussion selecting architectural styles based on concrete benefits.
  • Darrel pimps REST Fest 2011, August 18 – 20.
  • John mentions his upcoming talk at DevLink on August 17, and Monospace July 23-25.
  • Glenn mentions the Portland Code Camp and //build/.

Show Links:

Download / Listen:

Herding Code 115: RESTravaganza with Darrel Miller, Glenn Block, and John Sheehan