Providing Better Meta Tags for the Rest of Us

Story 1 – Meta Tags

With messaging systems trying to satiate information-hungry users, it’s fascinating to see how standards are popping up around the decades old infrastructure of the internet. I’m talking, of course, about the meta tags and their evolution, or lack thereof. When sharing links on popular platforms, the new standard is to show a preview of the link so that users can know what they’re about to click on. Facebook introduced a new standard to help unify sites around the web and make information more easily scrape-able. Since then, there have been more standards added on to the age-old infrastructure of meta tags.

Story 2 – Serverless Architecture

A quite fascinating and paradigm-shifting technology is peeking its head on a lot of cloud platforms: serverless/Functions as a Service (FaaS). The possibilities that this technology opens up are not only quite endless, but also pretty darn cool. The premise is that one can deploy a simple function and only pay for the length of time that the function took to complete running. This is a great addition to micro-services and can instantly lower an API’s costs. Since well-designed API’s are stateless anyway, one doesn’t need a server constantly up, but only spun up as needed. It’s easy to see that FaaS can very easily turn API hosting on its head. And given my great interest in backend architecture and API design, I’ve been itching for a good excuse to play around with serverless architecture.

Story 3 – The Convergence

Meet Better Meta, the API that allows you to quickly and easily fetch any site’s meta tags in a digest-able JSON format, built on AWS’ Lambda. Better Meta is the perfect example of an API that can run simply in AWS Lambda with minimal resources and provide valuable information in a readable format for other developers to use in their applications. This allowed me to play with Lambda and get a feel for the serverless world and API’s, work with XPath (the scraping needs to be done somewhere, right?), study a bit of the history of the internet and evolution of meta tags, and of course, provide a valuable resource for fellow developers. Happy meta tagging!

BaDumChh and the Beloved Retro ‘Apps’

I hereby announce my newest project, BaDumChh; a daily one-liner joke texting service.

The idea for BaDumChh came to me one evening during a startup weekend when I was working on something completely unrelated. I simply wanted to create a fun, quick app that could run (and hopefully sustain) itself, built on Twilio’s phone system. I was so excited about this idea originally that I had trouble sleeping that night just thinking about the possibilities and how I would go about implementing a service like this, where I’d get the renewable jokes from, a business model, etc.

Throughout the development of BaDumChh, and even more so now, I realized what I love so much about this idea (even more than the guaranteed smile on my face once a day) – the fact that this is a texting service and not a mobile application.

In a world that is constantly evolving and being populated with countless apps for any and all needs you can imagine (and probably some you can’t imagine), I’ve grown to miss some of the simpler days without having to download an app specific to each need or constantly see how many notifications I’m behind. That is one of the beauties that the Twilio API enables. Sure, I can’t send push notifications to my users. Or easily charge them through in app purchases. Or send app updates. But why use push notifications when I can text my user? It makes communication that much more personal. And if I set up my own payment system, I can avoid the standard 30% cut that instantly comes of the top from app stores. App updates? I can push up changes to my back-end any day and all of my users will be on the new, updated version instantly. That also means I have one code base to maintain, not 2 (or more if I wanted to support more than just iOS and Android). Not to mention that while most cell phones ever have text message capabilities, only smart phones (of a certain operating system, version, etc.) can support apps.

I was recently introduced to another app that works through texting instead of an app, Digit.co. Digit Savings will hook into your bank account and inform you of your spending habits and move money aside for you in a separate Digit Savings account. All of this through texts. That tiny fact makes me respect this up-and-coming start up all the more. Digit also does not even provide an app option (as of November 2015).

Another startup that works through texts is GroupMe. GroupMe enables groups to chat easily through a single phone number instead of the mess that group messages can be (especially on a dumb phone). The interesting thing about GroupMe is that while they operate through texts, they also have an app that you can use instead of texts. Through the app you get a few more benefits like sending and receiving unlimited messages (they have a monthly quota for texts), favoring messages, emojis and images, and no message length limit (which is and always will be a limitation of texts).

So what is the ‘better’ option, a text message app, or an app as we’ve all grown to know and love? I don’t think there’s a right answer (what a cop out answer…); I think it very much depends on what you’re trying to do. But in today’s super busy, hustle and bustle daily routine world, BaDumChh will remain a simple and elegant service that will put a smile on your face the old fashioned way.