One of the “weaknesses” I put in the SWOT analysis was that we had a lot to learn. Fully understanding and implementing authentication and authorization for the API was one of the things that we had to learn. As of now, at the end of the funded work on the project, we seem to have failed in this.

Our first point of failure was in being pointlessly over ambitious in what we wanted to do via the API. When drawing up the initial feature set for the API I took the starting position that anything that you could do through the native sux0r interface should be doable remotely; so the feature set included register new user. This muddied the requirements for accessing the sux0r security procedures in a way that I can now see was quite unnecessary–it’s really not unreasonable to expect people to have an account with a service before the interact with it from another application.

Having clarified this it became clear that oAuth would be the authorization mechanism of choice, though we had no experience in implementing it. Santy got a client working with twitter and flickr based on Andy Smith’s library. He used
Google PHP OAuth library for the server on sux0r, but it didn’t work with either that client or Google’s own client. There is another library he would like to test for the server side, but had already spent more time than was available.

Struggling with oAuth meant less time to spend on actual features. In retrospect we should have implemented the features without authorization in the hope of adding some form of authorization later (which is indeed what Santy has done towards the end of the project), but it is always tempting to keep trying one more thing in the hope that the next try will succeed.

As a result we have fewer features implemented than we planned, and features that should require authorization don’t have it. We still hope to add some form of restriction on access, even HTTP digest authentication requiring sux0r user name and password to be entered into the third-party app is better than nothing.

Lessons learnt: 1) you don’t have to do everything through an API (god, that seems obvious when I write it); 2) get on with what you can do in parallel to trying to overcome road blocks; 3) analysing the problem and implementing the client did give us a better understanding of what oAuth should do.

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Filed under management, technical