Articles by Adam DuVander

Adam DuVander speaks fluent "developer" while serving as Developer Communications Director. He helps SendGrid connect to coders of all stripes. Previously Adam wrote for Wired, Webmonkey and edited ProgrammableWeb, the leading resource for APIs.

There’s No Such Thing as a “Long Tail Developer”

Developer with Lightbulb

Spend some time listening to companies with APIs and you may hear one refer to “long tail developers.” Usually it’s said in a derogatory and dismissive manner: “We aren’t going after long tail developers with our API.” So they’ll put their API documentation behind registration walls, or worse make you talk to sales before you can even find out what the API makes possible. In an effort to focus, companies shun the so-called long tail developer for fear that resources will be drained catering to their every whim. It’s common knowledge that you can’t be everything to everyone. But you can show everything to everyone, which buys you the chance for the right developers to make themselves known. Within the

Webhook vs API: What’s the Difference Between Them?

Parse Webhook settings

As you become familiar with SendGrid’s services, or even those of many Internet companies, you’ll see the term “API” used a lot. Increasingly, you may also see someone mention a “webhook.” At SendGrid, we’ve consciously made a distinction between the two in our documentation and any time we write or speak about our seven services for simplifying email. Here’s how we break down the differences between webhooks and APIs. What is an API? API stands for Application Programming Interface, but what does that really mean? Rather than what it is, I find it easier to talk about what APIs enable. APIs can share data or functionality. For example, you might use a places API to look up restaurants by location

Send Email in Python on Nitrous.IO


When we announced our partnership with Nitrous, we showed how to send email with Rails. The platform-as-a-service and web-based IDE also currently supports Python, Node.js, Go, and PHP. In this tutorial, I’ll show how to use a Python development box on Nitrous to send email using SendGrid. Get Started with Nitrous.IO / Python We’ll use this sample app to show how easy it is to send email. You’ll want to create a Nitrous account and follow these steps: From the Nitrous New Boxes Page, create a new box using Python/Django Launch the IDE and go to the workspace folder in the Nitrous.IO terminal console. Clone the SendGrid sample application: git clone Install the SendGrid Python library: pip install –user

Track Transactional Email in Real-time


Historically, it was difficult to track transactional email. Developers were never sure if the email was delivered. There are various reasons email can be tripped up along the way. Email can bounce, ISPs can throttle you or you could be marked as spam. A lot of these problems can be avoided with a transactional email service, which will make sure your emails get delivered. But what about tracking these emails? Both marketing and transactional email can be extremely beneficial to a company, but flying blind to the data means missed opportunities. The type of data you can track includes notifications that come from email servers, as well as actions that originate with users. Bounce and throttle messages give you insight

Elementary Arithmetic of Modern Development

Five plus Two

I know some developers love advanced mathematics. My computer science degree came with a math minor, but quite honestly I haven’t thought about any of it in awhile. I’m more of an elementary arithmetic kind of guy. If you like complex formulas, Nick has you covered with his A/B testing explained post. For this one, I’ll stick to the basics. In fact, I promise only three numbers in this post: 5, 2 and 80. The 5 stands for the number of APIs that SendGrid provides and the 2 is for our great webhooks. If you add those together, you’ll have seven services for simplifying email. The 80? The mathematical sticklers will prefer it to actually be 0.8. It represents the

Four Things to Do With Webhooks


The web and mobile are both moving much more real-time, with push notifications and auto-updating interfaces. Yet, most APIs that tie together our technology are “pull” technology. You make a request and get back a result. Webhooks are one of the popular answers to providing data as-needed. At SendGrid we have two webhooks, one for events and another for incoming email. You can do some cool things with these webhooks. If you look around, you’ll find other companies that also use this technology to provide real-time access to events as they occur. But what do you do with those webhooks once you have them? Here are four ideas. Test Them Simply in Your Terminal Our simple webhook debugger can very

So You Want to Be a Developer Evangelist?


Developer evangelists are a unique breed, a combination of developers, teachers, passionate communicators and frequent flyer mile collectors. SendGrid’s team is now over 10 people, who often share details of their craft on this blog. Below you’ll find a bit more about being a developer evangelist, from how you explain the job to others to putting together a demo. A Day at a Hackathon as a Developer Evangelist Developer evangelists do a lot of things, but going to hackathons is often a big part of the job. This puts you in front of new users of your product and at SendGrid we often find current customers, too. You can’t beat this kind of face to face feedback. There’s a lot

Introduction to Un-Programming


APIs provide “hooks” for developers to create new applications on top of other services. Many of these same hooks have been converted into templates that give anyone access to functionality previously only available to programmers. With services like If This Then That and Zapier, anyone can automate their business or their lives with what I call “un-programming.” This post is a taste of a SXSW workshop I’ll be giving on Tuesday. Unlike with normal programming, where you could integrate with any API, un-programming requires a little more work to be completed for you. You need to have a template available within one of the un-programming tools: If This Then That (IFTTT) has 82 available channels Zapier is integrated with over 250

API Documentation: Always Living With It, Can’t Live Without It


Have you ever heard the one about the API with the perfect documentation? Yeah, me neither, and I wouldn’t believe it if I did. API documentation–all technical documentation, really–is notoriously difficult to produce, but just as essential to a developer’s life. If you’re reading this, the chances are you already know this to be true. And I’d place a bet that you’ve looked at some pretty bad documentation in an effort to make anything work. This post shares four lessons to everyone who creates documentation. And, as one of these lessons shares, anyone who codes (and some who don’t) should play a role in some sort of documentation. Start at the Beginning, If You Can Chances are, at some point,

Hackathon Tips for Developers and Evangelists


SendGrid’s team of evangelists attends a lot of hackathons, in addition to other events. In turn, they’ve written a lot about hackathons, from both the perspective of a developer hacking and an evangelist working the event. Below, you’ll find some of the best tips they’ve shared recently. Remember the Community Hackathons mean a lot of things to different people. The important thing to remember is that a hackathon happens for the community that attends. Oftentimes it’s organized by that very community it supports. WHY a Hackathon Community is the first of many reasons for a hackathon. How I Organized Puerto Rico’s First Hackathon How a SendGridder brought a coding event to his home community. Bigger Isn’t Always Better As hackathons

Un-programming: Maybe Everybody Shouldn’t Learn to Code

Check-in at home, turn on the lights

Follow the history of computer science, and it’s a series of solutions that make programming easier. The early days required punch cards and hours of compile time. The C language is not difficult when compared to assembly. Modern languages and computing in the cloud have further simplified the programmer’s life. Assuming this trend continues, programming in the future won’t look much like it does today. Maybe the “learn to code” movement is premature because the future has everybody un-programming. There are signs of this non-technical future today in the proliferation of APIs and the popularity of tools like Zapier and If This Then That. Anyone can automatically send an email when a spreadsheet is updated or even turn on their

How iDoneThis Interactively Increases Productivity


When Rodrigo Guzman was in grad school, he would lose track of his physics research. Though he spent a lot of time working, the days would blend together. He wasn’t really sure he was making forward progress. So he started outlining the important things he did each day on a calendar. This problem of understanding one’s own productivity exists outside of academia, too. Guzman co-founded iDoneThis to help others use his simple trick to track their own important things and share them with their team members. Every day, iDoneThis sends an email out to its users that requests a reply with what each did that day. Since iDoneThis uses the Parse Webhook, recipients can use the entirety of the application