LinkedIn Gem for a Web App

December 8, 2009 Will Read

There’s an untapped cash cow out there when it comes to recruiting and her name is LinkedIn. Until recently, only LinkedIn had access to your profile and social graph, but all that changed with the release of their OAuth-based API. I’f you’ve hooked into Twitter or Google then this authentication process should feel very familiar to you. To help you along, pengwynn released a LinkedIn gem last week.

What’s lacking is a good controller example, you kind of have to piece it together yourself. So code first, explanation second. Here’s what a simple LinkedIn authentication controller might look like:

<code>
#uncomment the line below if you aren't using bundler
#require 'rubygems'
require 'linkedin'

class AuthController < ApplicationController

  def index
    # get your api keys at https://www.linkedin.com/secure/developer
    client = LinkedIn::Client.new("your_api_key", "your_secret")
    request_token = client.request_token(:oauth_callback =>
                                      "http://#{request.host_with_port}/auth/callback")
    session[:rtoken] = request_token.token
    session[:rsecret] = request_token.secret

    redirect_to client.request_token.authorize_url

  end

  def callback
    client = LinkedIn::Client.new("your_api_key", "your_secret")
    if session[:atoken].nil?
      pin = params[:oauth_verifier]
      atoken, asecret = client.authorize_from_request(session[:rtoken], session[:rsecret], pin)
      session[:atoken] = atoken
      session[:asecret] = asecret
    else
      client.authorize_from_access(session[:atoken], session[:asecret])
    end
    @profile = client.profile
    @connections = client.connections
  end
end
</code>

So the flow your user sees is this:

  • visit /auth/ which automatically redirects me to log in via LinkedIn
  • type in my LinkedIn user name and password, click submit
  • submitting takes me to /auth/callback which might show my profile and connections

What the code does:

  • creates a new LI client based on your credentials as a LinkedIn developer
  • get a request token (pay attention, there’s 2 kinds) , and sets the callback to your callback action
  • saves off the request token-token and the request token-secret into the session, you’ll need to reconstruct the request token in the callback, and the request token itself doesn’t have a marshal-load method defined.
  • sends the user off to the LinkedIn log in page
    — user logs in and is send to the callback action —
  • create a new LI client with the developer key and secret from LinkedIn
  • check to see if the access token (2nd kind of token) has been created before
  • create the access token using the oauth_verifier sent from LinkedIn and the old request token (1st kind) that you save in the session.
  • authorize the client and save off the access token info so you don’t have to send your user back to LI when he comes back (*here I save the access token into the session for simplicity in the example, you should put this in a database probably)
  • if the access token exists, just authorize the client usoing the access token
  • finally, use the client to do interesting things like show the user his profile and his connections.

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