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PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects
September 22, 2007
Week: 111 All time: 11
-At the time of writing, a Yahoo search for "web 2.0" estimates 892 million results. In contrast, searching for "Microsoft" only returns an approximate 852 million. That is a lot of interest.
Web 2.0, as we will all have to consider at one time or another, calls for a new approach to development. Applications are not developed for developers, but for the end users, and Web 2.0 has drawn our attention to the potential of a user-friendly web application.
With the advent of developer-friendly web services, mashups are playing an important part in modern web applications, and as developers, being familiar with methods of exploiting this is clearly of great value, both on resumes for job interviews and in developing our personal projects.
As its title so evidently suggests, PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects is a book that demonstrates various techniques available for developing mashups in PHP.
Through a highly practical format, Shu-Wai takes the reader through a series of projects utilising different Web services and APIs, while carefully exposing the reader to a wide variety of technologies and data formats.
With careful selection and shaping of language, the book is an extremely effective introduction to the world of mashup development with PHP. Per the brief summary on the back cover, a mashup is a Web page or application that combines data from multiple external sources.
Mashups are becoming increasingly popular among developers, as harnessing the power of information already available is often far more efficient and effective than developing formats and collecting data solely for the purpose of building an application.
In PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects, Shu-Wai takes the reader through five implemented mashups, ranging from simple examples of the power of APIs to a high-end demonstration of the power of Web services in a London Tube photo mashup.
Shu-Wai takes the reader through a series of sample mashup projects with PHP. His various examples demonstrate making use of simple REST Web services to SOAP APIs, and each technology involved is explained clearly and concisely.
By making use of a variety of APIs commonly utilised by Web 2.0 startups, Shu-Wai succeeds in introducing the reader to an entirely new approach to developing web applications.
Popular web services such as those of Google Maps, Flickr and Yahoo! are demonstrated, and each code sample is practical and functional while not overly complex.
Shu-Wai also demonstrates rapid development with the use of PEAR packages in a highly effectual manner, complementing the insight into PHP mashups already offered.
A common barrier of entry to the world of mashups is obtaining an understanding of the use of various Web services and different data formats.
Shu-Wai covers the common topics such as REST, SOAP, SAX, XML-RPC, WSDLs and PHP's SoapClient and DOM classes. All are explained in a nutshell, with excellent barebones examples, demonstrating an easily understood implementation of the technology, and Shu-Wai conveniently refers to further reading that readers can use to extend their understanding.
While the practical format is certainly appropriate, it goes some way to hindering understanding and appreciation of the technologies underlying the sample projects detailed, and while most developers may be after purely the familiarity they need to utilise the technologies in their work, this book is a little light on the highly technical details.
For example, Shu-Wai clearly explains the use of the DOMDocument and related PHP classes, however does not describe the underlying functionality. This may be appropriate for most readers, however those looking for a more academic comprehension of the technologies will need to do further research.
Finally, each sample project is summarised and explained in a detailed format that assists in developing an understanding of the technologies involved.
A collection of fully functional code samples from the book is available online, complementing the content and providing a solid foundation for developers to experiment with their own mashups.
PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects is a fantastic guide to entering the world of mashup building, with ideas for projects as well as technical insight.
While a little light on the finer details, developers will find it helps them to quickly gain an understanding of the topic.
Further reading is encouraged and the resources mentioned by the author throughout the book should provide comprehensive knowledge of the topic, making this a highly effective book.
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ryanpartington.comWhat I love about the book "PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects" by Shu-Wai Chow, is that it offers real world examples. You can download the code used in the book from Packt Publishing’s support page and use that as your starting point.
We are shown how to use various APIs provided by developers, such as Amazon and Yahoo, to mix services and provide a new hybrid Web application. An example that is provided is of how to use Google Maps to display Wii console availability on launch day from stores nationwide.
I have a couple years experience with PHP. A lot of the technologies and protocols were new to me. What I enjoyed was the introduction to several protocols, such as XML-RPC and REST. You are not flooded with information but provided with enough to work through the chapter.
We are told at the beginning of each chapter what protocols and APIs will be used and a brief overview of the chapter objective. This allows you to quickly find relevant sections in the book when you are working on a project and would like to review the concepts.
The book has six chapters with increasing complexity that challenge you to use your just acquired knowledge. We begin with an introduction to mashups, what they are, and how they can be used.
In chapter two we are shown how to create, for some of us, our first mashup using the Amazon API. Exploring PHP SAX functions we can create a parser for XML and create a front end to the Amazon store to order products directly through our site.
You can customise the pages to look as if your organisation sold the products directly, and then hand over the transaction over to Amazon to process the order. There is no tip toeing around, as you are expected to have good experience with PHP and get into data manipulation from the start.
Chapter three looks at creating a search engine using MSN and Yahoo APIs. Here we are introduced to SOAP, which is the most complex Web services protocol used today. There are 17 pages alone detailing SOAP structure. It is easy to feel lost.
If you are like me and you have not worked with the SOAP protocol before, you may need to re-read a few pages before you feel confident enough to proceed.
We are introduced to PHP SoapClient class. It is a welcomed relief, as it automates much of the low level processes allowing you to concentrate on the data exchange. The result is a mashup which searches both MSN and Yahoo and presents the results in customised pages.
In chapter four the book presents You Tube API and RSS feeds from Last.fm. With XML, XPSF and RSS we can retrieve a play list an a Last.fm user and display related videos from YouTube. For me this was the easiest chapter. We work with familiar data feeds you and we can use PEAR to help with parsing.
Chapter five is very interesting. It explains how to retrieve data in a completely new way. It is time to take a look at screen scraping. Using PHP DOM API we deconstruct the California Highway Patrol Web site and send the information via SMS.
I was surprised about how easy it was to screen scrape data from a site and generates RSS feeds. It start looking at an example of how DOM parses the results, which helps understanding how it works.
Chapter six is the largest and most complex chapter of the book. Focusing on numerous data formats and tools, such as SPAEQL, API for PHP and XmlHttpRequest Object (AJAX), we can mashup Google maps with pictures from Flickr.
This chapter covers a good number of technologies and uses advanced techniques. Each new technology is introduced with a example, allowing you to understand the examples as individual components before we create our final mashup.
"PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects" is written an well book in a way that even for someone who only has a couple of years working experience, like myself, it is easy to pick up.
If you are new to the protocols and technologies you may feel overwhelmed in the beginning, but using the sample code and continuing to work through the chapters you will naturally became more confident.
The author does an excellent job explaining the principals behind the technology, so it provides enough information to understand each chapter.
All in all, I recommend this book to anyone who has interest in mashing up various online services and even to those who would just like to obtain a better understanding on how such technologies work.
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