Working with GitHub REST APIs: Loading and Extracting Data Made Easy

on Data Extraction, Data Loading, Github, REST API • November 3rd, 2021 • Write for Hevo

Behind every prominent app in today’s market, there is an enterprise system that fetches information from the Cloud or Servers with one or many REST APIs. Today, REST APIs are the medium to make an organization’s assets consumable and productive through third-party applications. With APIs, organizations are able to monetize their core assets by allowing the development of new services on top of the existing ones or streamlining the existing processes. GitHub REST API is one such solution that is playing a major role by acting as a catalyst that allows end-users to easily fetch, consume, or extract data from any repository on GitHub effectively.

In this article, you will learn what REST APIs are and how GitHub REST API is leveraged to load and extract data with API calls.

Table of Contents

Prerequisites

  • A very basic understanding of GitHub.

Understanding GitHub

Acquired by Microsoft, GitHub is a web-based collaboration service for developers across the world. It is the centralized location for sharing codes, distributing data, and collaborating on different projects. GitHub offers features like forking, pull requests, issues, and more that allow users to specify, discuss, and review changes with their teams more effectively. Due to GitHub’s wider capabilities, it is not only considered as a code hosting platform but also a development interface that allows users to plan, develop, and track the evolution of projects.

Key Benefits of GitHub

GitHub is the home for a wide range of open-source projects where the source code is freely available online that can be redistributed and modified later according to your needs. However, it is not limited to open-source or not-for-profit projects. GitHub is equally popular among organizations to host and collaborate on private projects. There are numerous features like branching, forking, and more to allow users to collaborate with minimal hassles. While forking enables users to copy others’ repositories and modify them according to their needs, branching allows working on different versions of a repository at a time when users want to experiment with diverse methods for the same project.

In a nutshell, GitHub is a platform that satisfies all the document requirements, allows users to collaborate on independent streams, review each other’s work in progress, resolve conflicts, and work in teams to achieve more remarkable results.

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It helps transfer data from GitHub to a destination of your choice for free. Its strong integration with umpteenth sources allows users to bring in data of different kinds in a smooth fashion without having to code a single line. 

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Understanding REST APIs

API (Application Programming Interface) allows one software to talk with other software by sharing a set of data and functionalities among applications. However, REST API (Representational State Transfer) is currently an essential aspect of the modern Web World as it connects more applications with fewer resources due to its superior design and architecture.

REST is an architecture to enable developers to create APIs that standardize how information is shared across the web. REST API creates an object of the data requested by clients and sends objects’ values in response to requests. Since REST defines an architectural approach for communication between client and server, it eliminates the need for wider bandwidths to allow the transfer of information and make an application more suitable for the Internet. Today, the REST architectural schema is commonly applied to design most of the APIs for modern web applications.

To make APIs RESTful in nature, end-users should follow a set of constraints while developing them. Those constraints are:

  • Uniform interface
  • Statelessness
  • Layered system
  • Decoupled service
  • Cache

1) Uniform Interface

The uniform interface constraints ensure that the detailed internal implementation in the server for managing resources should not be visible to clients. It is a key constraint that distinguishes between REST APIs and Non-REST APIs.

2) Statelessness

It ensures that all client-server interactions are stateless. The history of recent HTTP requests made by a client should not be stored on the server. One client can send multiple requests to the server, but each request should be independent.

3) Layered System

The REST architecture should be built of multiple layers. There should be no connection between layers. Because of the isolation between layers, the calls and responses go through different layers. This allows new commands to be added without impacting previous commands and their functionality.

4) Decoupled Service

The decoupling of client-server shows the isolation between client and server. While a service listens to requests and has multiple capabilities, any request made by consumers is either accepted or rejected by the server.

5) Cache

Caching ensures performance improvement and scalability. The same server can be accessed by multiple clients simultaneously requesting the same source, so it is essential that these responses can be cached to avoid unnecessary processing.

Key Benefits of REST APIs

REST API (server) can be consumed by a vast range of applications (client) like Web browsers, Desktop applications, Mobile Applications, IoT devices, and more since REST APIs integrate systems without the need for higher computation.

It uses the most prominent transfer protocol of the Internet called HTTP protocol for interaction between client and server by using JSON or XML file format. Ideally, all APIs will have documentation to describe how to communicate with the endpoints/end users, but as REST APIs standardize the interactions, they can be used to achieve exceptional development goals.

Using GitHub REST APIs

GitHub REST APIs allow users to communicate with GitHub and extract the desired information effectively by using an authenticated access token. With GitHub REST APIs, you can easily create and manage repositories, issues, branches, and more, with only a few lines of code. This eliminates the manual process of leveraging the user interface, especially when working with large projects.

GitHub REST API also allows users to authenticate with respect to the username to access repositories that are not publicly available. 

To generate a new token for authentication of GitHub REST APIs,

  • Step 1: Log in to the GitHub Account.
  • Step 2: Go to Settings >> Developer settings >> Personal access tokens.
  • Step 3: Then, click on generate a new token.
  • Step 4: Confirm the user password to continue.
  • Step 5: Add a description to the token.
  • Step 6: Under the select scopes option, check all the boxes.
  • Step 7: Finally, click on generate a new token.

Loading and Extracting Data using GitHub REST APIs

Here, you’ll use CURL (command-line tool and library) to load data into GitHub and extract data from GitHub using the GitHub REST API. However, you can use several third-party libraries that support the programming language you prefer.

You can use the Base URL https://api.GitHub.com to obtain all the accessible API links that can be changed along with the respective keywords to access specific information.

To start, just run the command in your command prompt/terminal:

curl https://api.GitHub.com

You will be able to see a list of API URLs to perform different tasks.

GitHub REST API - API URLS
Image Source

1) Loading the Data

Usually, when a user wants to load the data into GitHub, it is always needed to log in to the GitHub website and create a repository. By using the GitHub REST API, the process becomes much simpler, where a user can automate the entire process in a few lines of code.

Create a Repository using the GitHub API

$ curl -i -H "Authorization: token ghp_16C7e42F292c6912E7710c838347Ae178B4a" 
    -d '{ 
        "name": "blog", 
        "auto_init": true, 
        "private": true, 
        "gitignore_template": "nanoc" 
      }' 
    https://api.github.com/user/repos

The above command creates a new repository. The new repository will be named “Blog” and will be set to private. 

2) Extracting the Data

Similarly, Data Extraction also becomes way more straightforward with GitHub REST APIs. The following commands allow users to create, manage, fetch, and control the public and private repositories on GitHub.

Get the User Profile

# GET /users/defunkt
$ curl https://api.github.com/users/defunkt

> {
>   "login": "defunkt",
>   "id": 2,
>   "node_id": "MDQ6VXNlcjI=",
>   "avatar_url": "https://avatars.githubusercontent.com/u/2?v=4",
>   "gravatar_id": "",
>   "url": "https://api.github.com/users/defunkt",
>   "html_url": "https://github.com/defunkt",
>   ...
> }

The above example shows the client request via HTTP and the output of the respective user profile data in JSON format. Unauthenticated clients can make 60 requests per hour. To get more requests per hour, authentication is a must. 

Get Repository Details of an Organization

$ curl -i https://api.github.com/users/octocat/repos

This command returns the repository details of an organization. In the above command, ‘orgs’ is the keyword for accessing the organization, ‘octo-org’ is the organization name, and ‘repos’ is the keyword for all the repositories the organization has.

List Repositories of Another User 

$ curl -i https://api.github.com/users/octocat/repos

This command returns all the repositories of a user. Here ‘octocat’ is the user name.

List Repositories of an Authenticated User 

$ curl -i -H "Authorization: token ghp_16C7e42F292c6912E7710c838347Ae178B4a"  https://api.github.com/user/repos

To access the repository of an authenticated user, provide the token in the command. 

Get Issues under one Organization

$ curl -i -H "Authorization: token ghp_16C7e42F292c6912E7710c838347Ae178B4a" 
    https://api.github.com/orgs/rails/issues

This is how you leverage GitHub REST APIs to seamlessly import and export data.

Conclusion

In a rapidly changing world, with REST APIs, developers are creating applications that are robust in nature. The objectives of REST API is to couple services that follow specific web standards that are development-friendly, and flexible enough to use for any external applications. Since GitHub REST APIs satisfy these objectives, developers can increase productivity and develop web services to automate interaction with GitHub.

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