Mastodon #HashTags as an API Search Engine

I am fascinated with cultivating the hashtags that come through my Mastodon instances. I have two domains setup. Kin Lane and API Evangelist. My personal one is more photos, libraries, travel, outdoors, where my professional one is APIs, data, platforms, and protocols. Once you start following, following, posting, and engaging with other instances, your hashtag trends begin to evolve and you end up with a pretty robust list of topics that people associate with their posts.

I sift through these topics daily and pick out a couple that I think would make for an interesting search. Leverage those I follow on Mastodon as a sort of muse when it comes to searching for new and interesting APIs—here are the four words I chose today:

  • Supply Chain - Union Pacific Developer Center - Gain visibility to your inbound and outbound #rail #shipments. Integrating with the Shipment API provides real-time information on your shipment’s #location and #ETAs. Use this #service to build #dashboards, #apps and #reports. #automate and streamline work by integrating with our Action API. Complete actions such as, release #equipment, order-in rail cars or create intermodal #terminal #reservations. Things are always moving in the #logistics world and you need to be agile to maintain a resilient #supplychain. Our Cases API can tell you when shipments are off course and may require your attention.
  • Pollution - Air Quality System (AQS) API - AQS contains ambient #air sample #data collected by #state, #local, #tribal, and #federal air #pollution control agencies from thousands of monitors around the nation. It also contains #meteorological data, descriptive information about each #monitoring station, and information about the quality of the samples.
  • Criminal Justice - The United States Department of Justice API - Programmatic access to Justice Department blog posts, press releases, speeches, and vacancy announcements via a web API, providing access to information released as part of regular Justice Department operations.
  • Safety - Hawaii Beach Safety API - Providing #alerts, #ratings, and #conditions for #Kauai, #Oahu, and# Maui, helping communicate what is happening across #Hawaiian #beaches.

I could do more words, but some are difficult to search for. For example, you search for “data center” or for “bridge API”. It can be difficult to find the signal for the noise in words that have been reappropriated as brand names, and content rich areas where most of the search results are just fluff trying to sell you something. Regardless, I learn a lot. It is easy to get stuck in my API lifecycle mindset as an API producer, and I enjoy the inspiration Mastodon provides. As I progress in my busy day I am just not going to think I should search for supply chain, pollution, criminal justice, and safety APIs. Mastodon provides me with a daily trigger.

I am pulling the Mastodon topics using the API, and I am using the ScrapingBee Google Search API to pull results, but I am not yet automating the pulling of data because I am still learning how it all works. Eventually I will automate the discovery of new APIs, OpenAPIs, Swagger, and Postman Collections for the top words I flag as search worthy. Then I will manually look through the rest to see what is actually interesting. That last mile of interest and value is so hard to automate and I have a pretty well-trained eye for what is a real API and what is fake or not in use anymore. I enjoy expanding my API vocabulary like this, and Mastodon provides me with an ever expanding vocabulary voted on by some interesting people as they engage in regular activity throughout their day. I am just looking to maximize this intellectual exhaust, use it to uncover interesting Apis, and then share those APIs back with the community.