Recent Tesco API downtime

A couple of weeks ago I decided to jump back into my project My Shopping Assistant which uses the Tesco API to wrap the idea of packages around grocery shopping. Unfortunately about a week ago the Tesco API went offline, great timing hu! Just as I was trying to get people to use the alpha!

I immediately notified Nick at Tesco via Twitter and email, unfortunately he was away on holiday and I had nobody else to contact. I did eventually get a reply from him with the contact details of someone else at Tesco to contact. I did contact him, via email and Twitter but to this day I have not had a response from him.

Nick is now back from holiday and has looked into the issues. The API is back online however the ability to register for a new API account has been disabled and all past accounts have been deactivated. So if you have registered for a developer key in the past and your still having problems connecting, even though the Tesco API Health page is reporting everything is ok, thats why. You are probably getting errors retunred like ‘Service problem when API tried to access developer portal for authorisation – result returned was:’.

If you visit the main Tesco API Developers Portal you will see an updated message (3rd Sep 2012). Registration for new developer keys is still disabled however if you have already registered for a key then you can email your developers key (NOT your application keys) to nick@lansley.com and your keys will probably be cross referenced with the log files to make sure you have not been abusing the API and if your truly committed to innovation then I am assuming your developers key will be re-enabled. I have done this but have not had a reply yet and my developers key has been reactivated! Yay!

My understanding is that someone (who needs a slap) has been using the API for things that are against the Terms and Conditions. This has resulted in really por performance from the servers which run the API and eventually has caused an error in one of the system files and taken the server offline.

I had noticed that the API was running quite slow when I was testing it recently so I hope that this crack down and performance monitoring will help my app run even faster with faster response times from the API. I also welcome the introduction of a less open access policy to the API. Before you were able to go to the portal, register for an account and you would receive a developers key in a matter of seconds that would allow you access to the API. There are certain things that you are not allowed to do with the API but from reading certain posts online it is obvious that people are using the API for things that would be frowned upon and also which will be effecting the performance for people like me who are using it how it is meant to be used. I hope that they stick with a locked down application process and request a little more valuation and maybe vet the applicants and their ideas before they give out keys in the future.

I am currently working with a company working with them to implement the Tesco API into their product. It has taken me a while to convince them that the API is stable and that it will be around in the future. The recent downtime means that my reputation has taken a hit, I don’t blame Tesco directly, I blame the individuals who have been abusing the API. I do, however, think that Tesco need to take the API a little more seriously and maybe dedicate a little more resource to it.

Nick Lansley has done an awesome job of getting the API to where it is today. He has also done a great job of supporting me, as a developer, since I have started to use the API. The T-jam event was a great thing for Tesco to put on for developers. There has been talk of a Tesco Public API Version 2? There has been talk of another T-jam event…. I know Nick is busy and as far as R&D it’s probably reached the end…. but what now? Please don’t forget about us!

A helping hand with your grocery shopping

A while ago, actually in August 2009 I blogged about attending the Tesco.com T-jam event in London. In my blog post I mention that I was going to start work on a project called My Shopping Assistant that would allow me to play with the Tesco.com API and also produce a product that would help people when doing their grocery shopping online.

I started work on a website but work on that slowed and I ended up putting a holding page on that domain for the past few years. I did some work on a Facebook app which allowed people to shop within Facebook. The idea was if you were browsing Facebook and you suddenly remembered you needed some milk you could quickly go to the app page and add the item directly to your Tesco basket. It worked and it got quite a few users. I even got mentioned in The Grocer magazine. Unfortunately changes to the Facebook API and lack of time meant the app stopped working so I had to turn it off.

For years Fiona and myself have been doing our grocery shopping online using Tesco.com. Every week Fiona will ask me what meals I want for the week ahead. She has to really battle to get my input and I hate the entire process. We ultimately come up with a list of meals that we want to have and pick what days we will have them on. We then have to work out what items we need for those meals, search for each individual item and then add it to the basket.

For a long time I have had the idea of creating a website that will allow you to create meals. You then add the items you would normally have to that meal including the quantity you require. When you have a list of meals you would simply click the meal and the app would add all the items in that meal to your Tesco.com basket for you. Simple.

Over the past couple of weeks I have managed to put some time aside to work on the idea. A couple of days ago I put the Alpha version of the website online. You can find it by going to www.myshoppingassistant.co.uk

With My Shopping Assistant you create packages, which can contain a number of items. You choose which items to add to a package so you pick the brand, size, colour or flavour you prefer. I decided to go with packages because you can create a package for; things for pets, cleaning items, meals, bbq food etc…

When you’re ready to do an online shop you no longer have to go through the tedious and laborious task of searching and adding individual items. You simple select the package you want to add, confirm you want all the items in that package and then add them directly to your Tesco.com basket.

If you shop online at Tesco.com then I would love it if you would try out my website. You don’t have to register as you just sign in with your Tesco.com account. Go to My Shopping Assistant and give it a go. Please let me have your feedback and thoughts.

Remember at the time of writing this blog post the website is still in development. What is online does work but its slow and there will be bugs and things that are not there yet. As and when I find more time I will keep working on it and with your feedback I think we can make it into a really helpful service.

Have fun!

tjam and whats next

Its been a while since I attended the TJam event at Microsoft London which was for developers to get insite into what customers want to help them shop with tesco.com. There is already a community preview API avaliable; however tesco are about to release at any time now the new Tesco.com Grocery API Beta Edition which is built on their new ‘martini’ platform. The new api will be much faster and will allow access to much more information including product nutrition and even information about which isl and how far down that ile the item can be found in the customers local tesco store!

I am trying to do some ground work for ‘My Shopping Assistant’ which will be something connected with the Tesco API but I have not decided exactly what yet. I have a couple of ideas; however have not set anything in stone as yet. I have some feedback from friends and family about what they would be looking for, and we will make use of one of the ideas so the time and effort saved for our weekly shop would be a reason to invest some time into the application. The idea is that there may be many applications (apps) which get built eventually so the website name My Shopping Assistant will be a home for them all. Then you will be able to access the differnent tools and utilities from this main site. I will not go into too much detail at this stage about what the website will do as the ‘TJammers’ are still waiting for the release of the new Tesco API.

The above video is taken from Nick Lansley’s Technology for Tesco blog.

Tesco API – Tjam

Today I am heading down to London to take part in the Tesco Tjam event. There are two parts to the day. During the day customers and creative thinkers will meet to drive ideas and innovation around what they would like to see from Tesco’s as a service. This information will be gathered by Nick Lansley Head of R&D at Tesco.com throughout the day. The second part of the day is an event for developers, where around 120 developers will meet for a presentation of the days ideas. At the event Tesco will introduce the new ‘martini’ API which will provide access to many more features and functions than the currently available preview API.

Tesco’s are really trying to give the developer community the tools to create the future applications for Tesco. Facebook applications, iPhone applications or full systems which will sit in you’re kitchen… you name it, your going to see it once ‘martin’ is fully tested.

The initial stage is nearly over. People have been playing with the preview release of the API for a while now. I have just managed to get PHP to connect to the SOAP API and managed to create a little application which allows you to search the tesco products database and then add things to your basket. This all updates your actual Tesco basket live so once you log into Tesco.com you can just go straight to the checkout. I am really finding this very exciting and the possabilities are endless.

At first only the developers who attend the Tjam event will be able to register for an affiliate account. We will be able to earn money when sending new customers to Tesco.com and also on the cart total at checkout if items were added to the basket using an application key belonging to that affiliate (its quite confusing – more info available on the developers form).

Its going to be quite an exciting event. I have been contacted by Nick to see if I would show some of my php code however I am not sure if I could do that in front of 120 other developers from around the country! I have sent him FTP to my application so we will see what happens.

More information can be found on the Tjam home page. There is also a techfortesco blog or maybe you would like to follow them on twitter techfortesco on twitter.