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Learning The NPR API Has Never Been Easier

The NPR badge for Codecademy API courses.
The NPR badge for Codecademy API courses.

Earlier this year, we launched a new NPR API course on Codecademy as a tool for developers interested in learning the basics of our API and attracting new programmers to the public radio system.

The API makes NPR's content portable and powers all of NPR's mobile and connected cars apps. And with support from NPR Digital Services, hundreds of NPR Member Stations use the API to publish NPR stories on their websites and mobile apps and share their own stories with each other. This new course is intended to extend the knowledge and usability of the NPR API not just for those already working in public radio, but the general public as well.

Engaging With Developers

APIs are exciting, because they allow developers to build apps quickly and nimbly when new digital platforms emerge. They allow us to get our content to audiences wherever they are. However, the more we become reliant on APIs, the more we need to support and engage our developer community.

Beyond individual developer preferences, we also have to accommodate the fact that station API users can see a lot of story content, photos and audio assets that public API users can't. Our goal is collaborating and learning across all developer communities, and we need great self-service documentation and communication tools in addition to strong one-on-one professional service.

We've already been moving in this direction through 2012. The main API documentation got a facelift last summer. In the fall, NPR Digital Services launched the Q & A Café, an open question and answer platform where anyone can pose questions about Core Publisher, the API and other supported toolsets. Digital Services also launched open source modules for both Wordpress and Drupal, allowing Member Stations with their own content management systems to get started without reinventing the wheel.

Our goal is to provide tools and training to make the API as accessible as possible to everyone. And the availability of public media APIs is only going to grow. This year, NPR and stations are collaborating with other public media organizations on an API allowing content sharing across the network, called the Public Media Platform (PMP).

The Course, Of Course

Our Codecademy tutorial is the latest self-service tool from NPR. The site's model removes barriers to getting started with new technology - you don't have to register for an API key or install any software. Our course is written using Python (one of three scripting languages Codecademy currently offers), and while it's intended for developers, it's accessible to novices as well.

We've put together five lessons on the basics of working with stories, transcripts and station data that go into every NPR web and mobile app. By the end of the course, students will know how to print the latest story titles for a home screen and a full story, parse a transcript, create a custom podcast generator and create a simple app to find their local station.

Opening Our Doors, Not Just Our API

Beyond educating developers working at NPR and Member Stations, we want to excite developers outside the system and entice them to come work for public radio.

The NPR API has been open and accessible since it launched in 2008, and our training tools should be no different. Making our content public is daunting, because it invites scrutiny and forces a higher standard of usability and clarity upon us. Being public, however, also demonstrates that we value solving difficult problems a public space. It's the alignment of our technical strategy with the larger public radio mission of creating a more informed public.

So, have you taken the course? Let us know how it worked for you, and we are excited to see what you create.

Javaun Moradi is a Product Manager in NPR Digital Media

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Javaun Moradi