Friday, November 30, 2012

My API Building Blocks Workshop With Intel at the Gartner AADI Conference

I conducted two workshops this week in partnership with Intel at the Gartner AADI Conference in Las Vegas. Working from my Building Blocks of a Successful API material, I put together a 30 minute workshop that I conducted at 12 and 6PM on Tuesday.

My workshop started with the history of APIs, then walked through API building blocks in 3 areas:

  • API Design 
  • API Development 
  • API Evangelist

Then I stepped back and emphasized that APIs are all about research & development and business development for your company.

After stepping back, I looked into whats next with APIs with API aggregators like Singly, API automation platforms like IFTT and new API programming libraries like Webshell.

The goal of my talk was to plant a few seeds in attendee’s mind:

  • APIs Are More Than Tech 
  • APIs Require a Business Approach 
  • Politics Can Be Biggest Killer of APIs 
  • Focus Delivering Value

You can view the slide deck below for the workshop. If you’d like a custom demo feel free to contact me and we can do a Google Hangout.

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Does Your API Showcase Its DOers?

Poster boy for how to properly run your API ecosystem properly, Twilio, recently updated their DOer Gallery to highlight developers in the Twilio ecosystem that build cool stuff on the popular voice and SMS API.

Twilio has the best record I’ve seen of any API, when it comes to showcasing and being loved by their developer community, and I'm sure the DOer Gallery plays an important role in that.

The Twilio DOer Gallery has the following features:

  • Personal Details
  • Short Bio
  • Skills
  • Other Profiles
  • Projects

Devloper Galleries like Twilios might not be for every API platform. But if you have a passionate base of developers you might want to consider giving them their own profile and a gallery where they can not just discover and interact with each other, it can let other companies find potential developers to execute projects via your API.

A Developer Gallery can be a great way to give your API developers some love and attention. Twilio even features developers from their DOer Gallery on their blog in a "DOer of the Month".

Would showcasing your “API DOers” benefit your API community?

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Adigami Aggregates Analytics APIs Into Single Interface

In 2012 the number of APIs has grown significantly. We are transitioning from “there aren’t enough APIs” to “how do we more intelligently use many APIs”. As I track on this and the future of web APIs, I’m noticing growth in the number of API aggregators like Singly.

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced Adigami, a "Singly for Analytics". While Singly focuses on personal data API aggregation, Adigami is focused on aggregating the top analytic platforms used in business today--covering seven key channels:

  • Web - Google Analytics
  • Search - Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing
  • Display - DoubleClick, Yahoo! APT, Facebook Ads, MediaMind
  • Social - Facebook Insights, Twitter
  • Mobile - Yahoo! Mobile, Verve Wireless
  • Email - MailChimp, SendGrid, ConstantContact, ExactTarget
  • Custom - Adigami can import proprietary data.

Operating your business on the Internet or "in the cloud" is a reality, and as we operate more and more in this cloud, each platform will have its own set of analytics--making the need to centralize and standardize analytics across channels and platforms more and more critical.

Adigami is just the tip of the iceberg. I predict we’ll see API aggregators emerge from top industries like government, healthcare and education. In 2013 we will learn to more fluently communicate with web APIs with the help of API aggregators like Singly and Adigami.

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Facebook Provides Developers with Platform Alerts

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, in an effort to make the Facebook platform more responsive and dependable for developers, Facebook announced Developer Alerts. Developer alerts are a way for Facebook platform developers to receive critical information about their apps via email or Facebook notification.

Facebook Developer Alerts provide the following for Facebook app administrators:

  • Breaking Changes - If your app is using functionality that FB is changing or removing, you will be sent an alert at least 90 days before the change goes into effect
  • App Status Changes - If you have submitted Open Graph actions or created an app detail page for App Center, FB will use Developer Alerts to notify you when the status of your submission changes
  • Policy Violations and Enforcement - If your app doesn’t adhere to FB Platform Policies you will be notified through these alerts

Facebook Developer Alerts are more than notifications, it is an issue management system which will allow multiple developers on a project to known when action is required or things have been resolved.

It seems like a great approach to improving communications between API platforms and its API application developers. I think I will add platform alerts as an official API building block, and recommend it as something API should consider when developing their platform.

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Spectagram Rolls Out Instagrams Embeddable Strategy for Them

There was a great post last week on ProgrammableWeb from Curtis C. Chen (@sparCKL), on how a company called Spectagram has launched a new JavaScript library built on top of Instagram.

Spectagram uses JQuery to provide a basic set of embeddable tools for Instagram allowing users to embed widgets showing latest photos, popular photos, and photos by tag.

Instagram has been notoriously focused on their core product, which leaves a lot of areas open to its developer community. Even the first version of the Instagram API was created by a passionate developer.

It is interesting to see such a sophisticated Javascript library developed by a developer, essentially rolling out something Instagram should be doing themselves, but obviously haven’t prioritized. Something I’m sure many API owners would love to have happen in their communities.

For more information you can visit Spectagram for more deails, and get at full documentation at their Github repository.

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Start-Up Offers Blueprints For 3D Printed Parts

I read a great post recently about how a company called Teenage Engineering has started providing 3D CAD files that allow their customers to 3D print replacement parts for the products they make.

It is awesome to see things I talk about become reality.  I wrote about the concept of a 3D printed junk drawer last year, while doing research on 3D printing and APIs.

Teenage Engineering is taking a big step, and potentially leading the industry in new ways.  Can you imagine if companies by default, provide 3D drawings of common replacement parts and pieces for their products?

There is still a lot of gaps in how all of this can work, 3D printing is widely available yet, but with retailers like Staples playing around with offering 3D printing on demand, the future for 3D printing is looking pretty bright.

from Kin Lane

LearnSrout Says IlluminateEd API is Best Student Information System API So Far

I got an email from Anthony Wu over at LearnSprout yesterday. If you are not following what LearnSprout is up to, they are bridging legacy student information systems (SIS) and providing easy to use web APIs that application developers can use to build educational apps.

The email from Anthony was in regards to a SIS LearnSprout was integrating with, which he said:

IlluminateEd is the best SIS API we've seen so far! Clean & simple. OAuth, JSON, no bullshit. If every SIS did this, we could just move on to greener pastures. This kind of thing should be encouraged!

I agree with Anthony. The IlluminateEd API is clean and simple. They intelligently use common technical API building blocks like oAuth and JSON, while keeping the API interfaces intuitive and meaningful and provide simple, up to date documentation.

My only criticism is simple, and would be about the description for the API: “This API allows third party applications to interact and communicate with the Illuminate system”. This is a classic mistake from API owners. Unlike Anthony I had no idea what the Illuminate system is. I can assume its a SIS, but they should really make it a little more description for newcomers.

Even though the API isn’t perfect LearnSprout says it is better than:

  • Humans as APIs (i.e. office secretary mashup with Excel)
  • CSV as APIs (the status quo)
  • Screen Scraping as APIs (for some, the ends justify the means…)
  • Legacy DOS terminal emulation

Learsprout sees a lot of different approaches to accessing and sharing data between SIS systems. They have a lot of value to bring to the industry, and I enjoying telling the story about what they are experiencing. And I agree with Anthony and this type of effort should be encouraged within the education space. Nice work IlluminateEd.

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Where To Have Your API Sticker Swag Printed?

Swag can be a critical tool in any API evangelist toolbox. And stickers are one piece of swag that if possessing the right design, can be something developers will take home and put to use.

Earlier today Ari Fuchs (@arifuchs), developer evangelist for Aviary asked, “who do you use to print your sticker swag?

In which Michael Schonfeld (@baconseason), developer evangelist at Dwolla responded with

Then Tim Falls (@timfalls) from SendGrid chimed in with StickerGiant.

There you have it. Some great advice on where to have your API sticker swag printed, from evangelists in the field. If you have any other suggestions please let readers know by posting in the comments below.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chartboost's API Driven Approach to Application Development

The team over at Chartboost have a pretty forward thinking blog post about what they see as the next generation of web application development.

They feel that the future is about creating web applications, not sites. The server side should be an API and the client should be a self-contained app which uses the API as its back-end. With mobile applications following the same pattern.

To practice what they preach, Charboost is overhauling their help site to be an API driven web app using the following approach:

  • Push State - Provide site navigation without page refreshes by faking navigation and inserting JavaScript callbacks
  • JSON-API - A REST API providing JSON to drive the site
  • Responsive Design - Providing an application design that responds to mobile as well as it does laptops or desktop computers
  • Vector (Icon Fonts & CSS) - Using a combination of icon fonts and CSS3 to deliver the UI. SCSS - A new technology that uses CSS-preprocessing to make the CSS code cleaner and res-usable
  • Markdown - Using the simple markup language to allow anyone on their team to write and edit help articles
  • GitHub - Using Github to manage the help center as an open project

I agree that their metholody has the potential to be one possible future of web and mobile application development. JavaScript and API development have both matured in the last 10 years, getting us to this point where you can build some damn sexy, but simple apps that run smoothly on the web or mobile devices.  

Or as Chartboost puts it:

We believe that the web is finally reaching a tipping point. The culmination of a decade of incremental improvements to web technologies is upon us, and lets us do things in a way that is radically new and better.

I’m also playing around with my own approach to delivering apps in this way using Github + Jeckyll + Mustache Templates with JSON data stores, all running as open repositories using Github Pages.

I’ll have more to publish on this in the near future.

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Join Me For AngelHack Los Angeles This Weekend with Singly

I’m going to head over to AngelHack Los Angeles this weekend (Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM - Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 5:00 PM) with Singly.

AngelHack Los Angeles is part of 11 city hackathon competition where winning teams will receive:

6-8 weeks of mentorship and be flown into Silicon Valley for a weekend of events including a Global Demo Day to A-list investors and media, Site visits to, Google, Facebook, Google Ventures, VIP dinners, and raging parties with the Valley startup community.

The hackathon is boasting over $650,000 in prizes. Crazy!

So if you are in the Los Angeles area this weekend, head over to CrossCampus at 820 Broadway St in Santa Monica. The event kicks off 9AM saturday morning.

Get your ideas ready, and I look forward to meeting you there.

from API Evangelist

I Will Be At API Days in Paris France Next Week

I am heading to Paris, France next week for API Days. API Days is December 3rd and 4th in Paris and is dubbed as the "First National Event on APIs in Europe". The two day event is organized by faberNovel, who helps large organizations think and act like startups, and by WebShell, who enables developers to easily make advanced web and mobile applications based on APIs.

API Days sees the API economy the same way I do:

The Web 1.0 was readable, the Web 2.0 was social, now the web is programmable through application programming interfaces, aka APIs. Web APIs are a unique opportunity for companies, governments and developers to either better organize the governance of their IT into a scalable and flexible model, either leverage a complete ecosystem around the organization, exchanging data through the web for trillion of applications on billion devices. Because each civilization has been described by the way it communicates and make exchanges, API are the beginning of a programmable civilization.

The API event is hosting over 50 sessions from over 30 speakers--including two of my own talks:

  • The Secret to a Successful API is Internal
  • Business models for your API as a start-up

I’m excited to see APIs getting interest in Europe. And after working with the Webshell team for several months and learning more about FaberNovel, I'm excited to be working with both of them to drive API adoption in Europe.

If you are planning on going to API Days, let me know and I’ll make time to talk. If you aren’t, I will publish more info about the event and my talks here on API Evangelist, when it is all wrapped up.

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Managing API Terms of Service, Privacy, and Branding with Github

The legal building blocks of an API can be just as critical as the technical and business building blocks. It makes sense to version and communicate your API terms of use (TOS) , privacy policy and branding guidelines alongside your code.

Since Github will allow document types other than code, such as markdown and PDF, it can make sense to use Github for managing the legal side of your API.

Using Github for the legal aspects of API operation will provide a level of transparency developers will appreciate, allowing them to download and store for their own records while being able to see the difference between each version, in a format that makes sense to them.

Just as with all other areas of an API, Github will allow you to completely manage the evolution of your API terms, privacy and branding in a way that is in sync with all the other technical and business building blocks of your API.

Consider using Github for API legal building block management.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PeopleBrowsr Wins Temporary Injunction To Keep Twitter From Shutting Off Firehose

Social analytics provider PeopleBrowsr has won a temporary injunction against Twitter today, with a complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court. It reads:

PeopleBrowsr seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent Twitter from destroying its business, interfering with PeopleBrowsr’s contractual and prospective business relations, and restraining competition in markets using Twitter data.

The complaint was filed in response to a trheat from Twitter to cut off PeopleBrowsr’s access to its Firehose by November 30, 201  PeopleBrowsr has had access to the full Twitter full firehose for over four years. According to the complaint:

PeopleBrowsr’s products require the full Firehose feed. A mere sample of Twitter data is insufficient for PeopleBrowsr to provide the products its users expect. Though there are some data analytics companies that can provide certain limited types of Twitter data analysis based on sampling, PeopleBrowsr competes in a separate “Twitter Big Data Analytics” market, in which a few, highly sophisticated players analyze massive amounts of Twitter data to provide deeper insights.

Twitter’s decision to terminate PeopleBrowsr’s firehose follows a pattern of it consistently cutting off partner and developer access to the platforms and its data. In doing so Twitter has sought more control in their effort to monetize the social networking platform and provide investors with a return on their investment of almost 1.4B dollars.

PeopleBrowsr states that it has “invested millions of dollars and years of work in building a business based on the Firehose”. It says it did so in rlying on Twitter’s representations that it would maintain an “open ecosystem” and allow other companies to use of its data. Through agreements with Twitter PeopleBrowsr felt it could compete without fear that Twitter would cut off access to its data in order to influence which businesses succeed or to usurp business opportunities for itself.

Twitter has consistently described the Firehose as a part of this open ecosystem that it would make available to “everyone in the system”, and this open approach was a key component of Twitter’s business strategy. 

The injunction PeopleBrowsr received today will keep their firehose access open until January, when further hearings on the case will be held. Until now, all the outcy regarding Twitter’s restriction of access to the platform have been vocal, but without any legal action. The filing by PeopleBrowsr shows the situation has truly become serious and will move discussion about Twitter access from the tech blogosphere and hacker news into the U.S legal system.

Disclosure: API Evangelist has provided API strategy services to PeopleBrowsr.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

In Case You Missed It Last Week...(Mobile)


from Kin Lane

In Case You Missed It Last Week (APIs)


from Kin Lane

Friday, November 16, 2012

3Scale Launches Open Source API Proxy Build On NGNIX

Those of you who follow my blog, know my favorite API management service provider is 3Scale. It’s no secret I’m a fan of what they are doing. We share a vision of the API space and what a healthy API industry will look like.

In support of that vision, 3Scale just launched a new open source API proxy build on the NGNIX web server technology--a move, I feel is important for 3Scale, as well as the entire API industry.

What makes 3Scale’s approach signficant, is that by deploying the NGNIX proxy, API providers don't need to rely on proprietary API proxy solutions, while also gaining additional benefits, such as acess to a library of 3rd party addons and modules available in the NGNIX ecosystem. All while employing an established technology that has been proven to deliver in highl volume production environments.

In addition to the benefits provided by NGNIX, the proxy provides seamless integration with 3Scale’s API management platform that delivers:

  • API business modeling using service contracts, API rate limits and pricing rules
  • API access control & security with API key generation with user id, app id, oAuth
  • API analytics & reporting including alerts, statistics, business intelligence
  • API billing & payments supporting pre-paid, post-paid, PCI compliant, six separate payment gateways
  • Developer portal for self-service registration and onboarding
  • Interactive API Documentation for better adoption using Swagger

This list represents everything you will need to get your API up and running. 3Scale enables you to do this both on premise or in the cloud, using a proxy that you cotrol--then alllowing you to choose which 3Scale API management services you need to use. But what is most important for me, is 3Scale allows you start off without spending any money. 3Scale has a free, entry level tier that will allow you to design, experiment and iterate until you find the meaningful API definition that works for your developers--at which time you can scale, paying for only what you need, as you grow. 

This approach is critical to success of individual APIs as well as the overall health of the API industry. We need to allow companies to innovate without spending a fortune, give up control of their data, and being locked into unnecessary commitments--allowing the industry to go from thousands of APIs to millions of APIs as quickly as possible.

“As of today this makes 3scale the API Management solution provider with the richest and most flexible set of technical options to manage API traffic,” said Guillaume Balas, 3scale CMO. “At 3scale we want companies with great and valuable APIs to be able to distribute them easily, rapidly, without hampering the economics of their API project and without disrupting their existing infrastructure: this what 3scale’s API Management solution provides.”

The 3Scale approach is in aligment with my industry philosophy, that we shouldn’t stand in the way of API providers with costly, proprietary proxies. We should leverage existing, proven, open technologies like NGINX to allow API providers to deploy wherever their infrastructure exists, either in the datacenter or the cloud--while enabling them to “connect” to the best of breed API management services, which allow them to scale, grow and evolve their API ecosystem in the healthiest way possible.

Disclosure: 3Scale is an API Evangelist partner

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