Breeding a new generation of data analysts

Every day, there are more than two exabytes of raw data being added to the World Wide Web. That's 1,073,741,824 GBs of data, multiplied by 2! As digital natives realize their own power over this new media, they will seek to acquire higher skills to build their personal knowledge libraries and information bases to create software and apps at whim, if they like.

But they all don't need to become programmers or complete a Computer Science degree to be able to achieve this. Maybe they need to understand a few basic things about data structure on the web — that most of this content is not yet standardized, that you need APIs to give content structure, and that you need a smart tool to do that.

What's an API, you ask? Before we get to that, let us introduce you to this week's Business Model Showcase — Kimono Labs. Despite still being in beta state, it has acquired some 15,000 users [Wired] and allows people to do for themselves what Google does on a regular basis.

Simply put, an API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of technical protocols that allow third-party software programs to interact with an application. So an API is a program that can be automated to do repetitive and mundane task as specified via code.

This is where Kimono Labs comes in — to help us 'scrape' the web without understanding APIs or writing a single line of code. And it only takes minutes, if not seconds. It allows us to focus our energies on how to make use of the data we wish to collect - instead of worrying if our data source has an API available or collecting and tracking data on spreadsheets maintained manually.

Now, it's no secret that Kimono Labs is focusing its efforts on engaging the developer user base for now, perhaps to improve their service, but they will shift their focus to make their service friendlier for non-technical users, ultimately. They know the main driver of the digital economy will be ability to build APIs, and to even out the playing field in terms of app development, including non-technical users is a high priority. Already there has been a surge in the app market with revenues for app stores shooting for the moon every quarter, which is a good indication of where all the digital natives are heading.

So you can use Kimono to build mobile web apps, to set up email alerts, and to embed feeds directly into your website, but you can also create nifty data visualizations that can come in handy when making design decisions for a website, or for data analysis.

Gone are the days when most of the hard-work started with collecting data manually, which was a painful process — extracting it according to a schedule, cleaning it up before being able to use it, and then updating it periodically. It was a time-consuming process that shifted the focus from the real task at hand, and might have been the reason why many startups failed right at the beginning. And then there was the issue of websites that required authentication.

When it comes to collecting data from email, social media or subscription news, the extra layer of encryption still proves to be a major pain for web scrapers. Earlier this month, Kimono Labs came through with 'Auth APIs' that now allow users to get data from websites that require authentication. As if all its other features weren't enough, this latest innovation makes Kimono Labs the best web scraper available to us today.

In The New World Order of Marketing, we talked about Zapier at great length, which allows users to upload their own APIs to create 'zaps'. While there may be some similarities between the offerings of Kimono Labs and Zapier, it is easy to visualize how Zapier's magic could work really well if you have your data sets available to you via APIs made by Kimono's smart tools.

The #BuiltWithKimono site features a collection of projects that use APIs created with Kimono Labs, mostly featuring World Cup related apps and visualizations, to showcase some of the incredible things that can be done using their service. There are a few more examples here as well. If you have a knack for creating apps for smart wearable devices, you can use this simple guide to build an app for the Pebble smart watch in under 10 minutes.

Kimono Labs is still offering its services for free with unlimited public APIs and a limit of 20,000,000 pages fetched. But they will be introducing paid plans soon that will also allow users to create unlimited private APIs for $400 a month.

In this era of information overload, Kimono Labs is making it possible for us to tame exabytes of data.