FAQ: Overview of Data Acquisition Methods - Making API request from browser

Is anyone else having difficulty understanding this little section? I feel like I couldn’t fully understand what they were trying to teach me. I attempted the challenge and got pretty close, but was still off by a few small errors and I feel like I’m just not fully grasping what they’re saying here.


I’m feeling this way too! I’m on the same career path and it’s been pretty smooth sailing (other than having a hard time grasping some of the statistics stuff). I had someone recommend to me to do the Learn the Command Line course and that helped me a bit to feel more competent but definitely doesn’t go over this API stuff. It was also a pretty quick and easy course, I finished it within a week or so.

I’m debating on just going for the full python course as well, wondering If I can just pick and choose the courses along the career path to just get enough certifications to get a job and then continue it later?

From what I understand with my goal, is that I can get a job without all of this career path being completed and if you want to advance more into data analytics then this stuff will eventually become important, but not exactly for a beginner into the field.

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I can’t seem to figure out how we are making "an API call to request state-level data containing: * The total commuters count, and

  • The count for commuters who travel 90 or more minutes."

Where are these “counts” contained and where do we confirm this?

I come from a web programming background and have used APIs before so maybe I’m forgetting something obvious :upside_down_face:


Hi, it’s definitely a bit confusing. You can find the appropriate variable to request in the B08303 variable group documentation.

The link will pull up a table with the variable name and what data that variable would pull. Since we’re looking for people whose estimated commute time is 90+ min, the variable name is B08303_013E and the label (aka definition) is Estimate!!Total:!!90 or more minutes.

How can I write this query to return the ratio between group commuters vs total commuters?

How did we come to the conclusion that we need to use B08303_002E in our query?

Yeah I don’t get this API stuff at all there is no way that based on the information given you could have come to the right answer if you don’t have any know how regarding API requests, please make this more accessible!

On top of that, when I typed it myself, it didn’t work, however when I copied it did work. I asked chat gpt what the difference was between my API request and the one I copied and apperently there was no difference.

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for the people that don’t understand this part:

Census API:

  • variables:
    unit of data which you can search for, such as REGION, DATE etc and are seperated by commas
  • required variables:
    variables that are included in an API request to be able to access a parameter without getting an error and are seperated by commas
  • attributes:
    additional variables that you can be included in the API call to better specify the corresponding main variable and therefore the information you’d want to receive and are seperated by commas
  • get function:
    specifies (and preceeds) the required and selected variables you are requesting the API to give you.
  • predicates:
    specifies how variables should be filtered or limited by use of conditionals which always start with “&”

To be able to use API calls you must look into the metadata of the datasets to understand the variables etc that you need to use to select for certain data

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You have to read the docs, including the one with the variables for the data you’re fetching:


This isn’t something that you can’t speed through either.


@doben someone can correct me if I am wrong but I believe the point of this section is just data acquisition and you use APIs to “fetch” the data. You can save the data somewhere and then access it using a different program (like Python) where you can do further manipulations. I don’t think you are meant to do all the manipulations within the API.

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I appreciate that someone from the community has added the API docs in the forum, but I was completely lost during the lesson, and I know how to make API calls :rofl:… That should tell you something