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APIfy It

We started developing the very first version of Suruk just after a small discussion in a coffee shop way back in May ’09 (That does seem like ages ago). Anenth and myself were just starting to learn J2ME and PHP, we completed the product within a month. We do often laugh over the fact that a Java class in client app ran over 2000+ LOC and server side code well over 1000+. But, what was really motivating was the fact that it worked, and people loved it. Suddenly we were like this bunch of guys in college who had real customer issues to tackle. In the midst of our assignments, we would set aside a couple of nights for dealing with “real” customer feedback.

We’ve come a long way since May ’09, we iterated tons of times over Suruk codebase and it’s quite stable on all platforms today. With every version, iteration and product, the learning we all acquired was really valuable. Since all our apps were related to travel and commute, having  a consolidated data model was perhaps a natural progression. We started writing reusable components and modules which were used across products, and this made life much easier. The iteration time reduced immensely and we were launching newer stuff in rapid speed.

Hence Wander (we code-named it so, as it was dealing with objects in travel and commute) was born.. and Cosec joins us in IIM-A!

We started evaluating various platforms like Sinatra, Zend, Django, Flask, wsloader and so on. Being Python lovers we decided to stick to Python platforms and ruled out likes of RoR and PHP. Keeping in mind our requirement of APIifying modules, we finally nailed it down to wsloader. A big shout goes out to Tahir Hashmi, developer of wsloader, who was more than happy to guide us through some initial queries we had and we were good to go. Cosec also did some performance testing comparing wsloader with other frameworks and we were really happy with the findings.

In simple words, wsloader allows exposing native Python interfaces as WebServices (REST+JSON) without having to write any HTTP/Web service specific code. In some ways it’s a parallel to web.py, but makes it insanely easy to make any python module a webservice. It’s a WSGI module which runs on top of Apache with error handling integrated with Apache error logs. Consider an example python module as given below:

class greeter:
def say_hello():
return "Hello Ideophone!"

The say_hello() method can be accessed via http://{hostname}/services/greeter/say_hello Super simple, no? To get started, simply visit http://code.google.com/p/wsloader/. Do keep in mind that wsloader is a minimalistic framework and does not provide in-depth support for session and user management as the likes of Django would give. More on Django (our latest crush) will come soon to a blogpost near you. Till then, APIfy your code :-)

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Autofare Reloaded

As early stage users of various products ourselves, we always value and look up to companies which engage in continuous customer engagement and work on suggestions and improvements suggested by users. The same appreciation makes listening to our customers and working on their feedback an integral part of our product development.

Autofare, which started of as a quick hack, an extension of existing feature of Route Finder in Suruk, quickly became a favourite on the txtWeb platform. It also helped us realise how having an SMS extension can help expand the reach of a valuable service to huge set of users. It also went on to win App2Fame 1st prize and fetched us many laurels.

Recently txtWeb team collected a lot of feedback from users and passed on a few valuable suggestions for @autofare. When we revisited the product, we realised there were many things we could improve and we worked on all of them and are extremely pleased to launch Autofare 2.0 today.

We hope the experience for the end user will improve with the new changes and hope to keep continuously improving the product. We will appreciate any feedback you might have on the product.

Enjoy a hassle free ride by being better informed!

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Thank you note

We launched Autofare app on the txtWeb platform back in Mar 2011. We were happy to have one of the most used features on Suruk (Route Finder) integrated with an SMS platform. The instant catching up of the app on the store and exceptionally high usage made one thing very clear to us “a simple and quick way to getting concise information is a huge value-add for users”.

Support extended by txtWeb has been exceptional, they featured Autofare as “App of the Week” and wrote at length in their facebook/twitter pages thereby helping us get huge traction. Thanks to the platform, we quickly built three more apps (@locatetrain, @pyka and @bmtcroute) in no time. The txtWeb platform is a very well envisaged product, being agnostic to programming languages, seamless integration with existing web-apps, and ability to easily extend an “SMS arm” to any of your web-apps. And to top it all, it requires no learning to newer technology or installation of libraries/SDKs – it’s a developer’s dream to work with such a platform.

We and other developers on this platform have suggested many additional feature sets and requirements. We sincerely hope txtWeb team takes note of it and takes it forward :) Also we would like to extend our sincere thanks to Srividhya Ramarathram, Manish Maheshwari, Shantanu Deshmukh, and the geeks in house Srinivasan Narayan a.k.a Srini and Aritra Ghosh for their continuous encouragement and support.

Got an idea which can give value to tons of users via SMS? Get Started immediately. Before writing the blog, I thought I will give a short overview on how to get started on txtWeb, but in fact txtWeb is so simple that no tutorial or help blog post is required to get on-board.

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Simple, yet effective!

It’s been over 2 months since our flagship product, Suruk has been live on the Nokia Ovi Store for free download. Suruk has been downloaded over 15,000 times and, apart from offline usage of Suruk auto meter, there has been more than 50,000 requests to our other services like fetching the routes. The high usage and very encouraging response from various tech-blogs in Spain and UK motivated us much and has given us lot of stuff to work on and improve the application day by day.

We recently came across astonishing figures of SMS VAS usage in India.

* An average Indian sends 29 SMS per month

* 1 in 5 urban Indians have used a SMS based VAS service

* Approx 6 million have used SMS to get directions

We believe that providing our services over multiple channels will help us cater to most of the people in India. Hence, today, we launch our first SMS-based application, Auto Fare, which started out as a collaboration with a IIIT-D team. It costs nearly nothing to use, doesn’t require an internet connection and there’s no need for a gps/gprs/java enabled handset: it’s practically an open and free for all service.

Do try it out and tell us what you think :-)

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