A number of my books include Web service examples. It’s hard to write a book about any sort of development today and not include one or two Web service examples in it. In fact, some of my books, such as Start Here! Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 Programming contain a number of these examples. The reason is simple. Online services provide access to a wealth of information and can also reduce the programming burden on developers. Learning to use Web services provides a significant competitive advantage, so I need to discuss them in my books.
Creating a useful and interesting Web service example in a book is a lot harder than you might think. It’s not as if my book is for a particular kind of reader or someone who is looking for a specific type of information. In addition, I need to consider the overall learning experience that the reader will receive from the example. With these criteria in mind, I ask myself the following questions when choosing a Web service for a book.
- Is the service free?
- Is it general enough to be appealing to my reader?
- Will the service be around tomorrow so that the reader doesn’t find a blank site?
- Does the service include a well-designed API that will make it easy for my reader to learn?
- Will the service be easy enough to use that the examples won’t become too complex?
There are often other questions I must ask, but you get the general idea from these questions. It isn’t simply a matter of choosing something, anything, online. Even though I’m particular about which Web service I choose, readers often encounter problems. Just this past week at least one reader complained about the REST example in Chapter 6 of Start Here! Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010. It was a frustrating problem to troubleshoot because the example continued to work just fine for me. However, here are some things to consider when working through the Web service examples in one of my books:
- Use the book’s source code, rather than type the source in yourself.
- Look on my blog for updates for your book that show how to use any Web service updates.
- Check your Internet connection to ensure it’s active.
- Verify that the Web service is actually functional (and try back a few times, just in case).
- Contact the Web service owner with questions you have about it.
- Contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com about example code that you simply can’t get to work.
I want you to have a great experience using my books. When I do encounter a Web service that has changed or is no longer in service (it does happen), I’ll try to update my example code so you can continue using the book, as long as the book is still supported (please check the unsupported book list on my Web site).