Tags: webdev

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App Engines of Creation

At last night’s £5 App gathering, after Glenn entertained us with the story of setting up Madgex, Paul and Simon unveiled a little thing they’ve been working on called WalRSS. In a nutshell, you point it at a URL and it makes a nice iPhone/iPod Touch version by styling the associated RSS feed.

Simon talked about all the headaches involved in such a seemingly simple concept. All the problems boiled down to the fact that the app needs to consume/parse/scrape third-party content. It turns out that consuming/parsing/scraping HTML and RSS is an order of magnitude hairier and scarier than pointing at a nice shiny RESTful API. In a textbook example of , Simon needed to be ultra-paranoid about malicious users potentially taking down his server while being overly-generous in the kind of malformed, invalid RSS/Atom he accepted because, as it turns out, a helluva lot of feeds out there are bozo-compliant. With all sorts of clever server-side solutions at his disposal to handle polling, load balancing, caching and message queueing, he quickly came to realise that he was becoming more of a sysadmin than a web developer.

Ironically, just the day before the £5 App meetup, Google announced their App Engine. WalRSS is almost exactly the kind of app that the App Engine is designed for: it’s written in Django and it needs to do the kind of processing that Google’s infrastructure was made to handle.

I for one welcome our new App Engine overlords. I quite like to dabble in the occasional bit of backend coding but I have no desire to delve into the domain of systems administration.

There’s already an OpenID provider built on Google App Engine. This means that anybody with a Google account potentially has an OpenID URL. You’d have to log in through the app first but from then on, you could use http://openid-provider.appspot.com/[your username] as your login.

Right now I’m using http://adactio.com/ as my OpenID URL, delegating to http://adactio.myopenid.com/:

<link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://adactio.myopenid.com/" />

Should I ever tire of MyOpenID, I guess I potentially update my delegate link to use Google:

<link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://openid-provider.appspot.com/adactio" />

I’d still need to update my openid.server link though.

Oh, you think this is geeky stuff? You should have heard Simon last night. Actually, you could have if you tuned into Ribot’s live broadcast on Qik.