Recollections on 2014 – the soul of a new book

Last March 11, while waiting for the subway to head home, I received an email from our O’Reilly editor telling us that “Designing Evolvable Web APIs with ASP.NET” had finally gone to print. More than 2 years had passed on a journey that started with an email from Pablo, asking me if I was interested in co-authoring a book on ASP.NET Web API.

designevolvecover

“Designing Evolvable Web APIs with ASP.NET” is the result of the combined knowledge, experience and passion of five authors (Darrel, Glenn, Howard, Pablo and me), with different backgrounds but a common interest for the Web, its architecture and possibilities.

Writing a book with five authors, living in three continents and four time zones is a challenging endeavor. However, it is also an example of what can be accomplished with the cooperation technologies that we currently have available. The book was mostly written using Asciidoc, a textual format similar to Markdown but with added features. A private Git repo associated with a build pipeline was used to share the book source among the authors and create the derived artifacts, such as the PDF and the HTML versions. A GitHub organization was also used to share all the book’s code, which is publicly available at https://github.com/webapibook. For the many conversations and meetings, we used mostly Skype and Google Hangout.

One of my recollections of reading the “C++ Programming Language” book, by B. Stroustrup, almost 20 years ago, is the following quote attributed to Kristen Nygaard: “Programming is understanding”. For me, writing is also understanding. Many afternoons and evenings were spent trying to better grasp sparse and incomplete ideas by turning them into meaningful sequences of sentences and paragraphs. The rewarding feeling of finally being able to write an understandable paragraph made all those struggling hours worthwhile. I really hope the readers will enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. There were some defeats also. For them, I apologize.

“Designing Evolvable Web APIs with ASP.NET” aims to provide the reader with the knowledge and skills required to build Web APIs that can adapt to change over time. It is divided in three parts.
The first one is composed by four chapters and contains an introduction to the Web architecture, Web APIs and related specs, such as HTTP. It also contains an introduction to the ASP.NET Web API programming model and runtime architecture.

The second and core part of the book addresses the design, implementation and use of an evolvable Web API, based on a concrete example: issue tracking. It contains chapters on problem domain analysis, on media type selection and design, on building and evolving the server and on creating clients.

The third and last part is a detailed description of the ASP.NET Web API technology, addressing subjects such as the HTTP programming model, hosting and OWIN, controllers and routing, client-side programming, model binding and media type formatting, and also testing. It also includes two chapters about Web API security, with an emphasis to the authentication and authorization aspects, namely the OAuth 2.0 Authorization framework.

“Designing Evolvable Web APIs with ASP.NET” is available for purchase at the O’Reilly shop. A late draft is also freely available at O’Reilly Atlas. Also, feel free to drop by our discussion group.

(the title for this post was inspired by the “The Soul of a New Machine” book, authored by Tracy Kidder)

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