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REST APIs as Data Backends

Some months ago, the Socorro team agreed that our current mix of REST API middleware calls and direct SQL calls from the web interface simply wasn’t meeting our needs. We were faced with an increasing number of data sources, including the coming addition of Elastic Search to the data storage system, and maintenance was becoming a problem. Thus, the decision was made to move our data layer to our REST API exclusively, removing all direct access to data storage from the web interface.

This is the second such project I’ve been on where an external API has been used for the retrieval of all data in an application. It’s a novel concept, but one that takes some getting used to to be sure.

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Validation Blind Spots Hurt Real Users

A friend of mine lives on Bonieta Harrold Drive. I live on a Windsor Hill Drive. Both of us have a problem in common, which is that poorly designed software is incapable of accepting the length of our street address. For me, American Express refuses to accept more than “WINDSOR HILL D”, which still arrives at our home. I can’t imagine if my friend ever got an American Express card, since given the maximum length available for an address, he would live on “BONIETA HARROL”. If you live in a place where direction (e.g. NW, SW, SE) matter, not having enough space can be extraordinarily problematic to the proper delivery of mail and packages if there is not enough room for the whole address.

Clearly, these software systems have a design flaw. That design flaw is that the programmers responsible for programming the software assumed that 20 characters (house number and street information) was long enough for a standard address. It’s likely that in the best case, developers picked 20 characters based on some given experience (e.g. they considered all the street names in their own town in conjunction with known house number lengths, and came to an answer) or worse, simply picked a number out of thin air. Real users are worse off because of it.

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