Friday, September 19, 2014

Forget Being Neutral And Objective Anymore With APIs

I commonly use the statement that I don’t work for any company, and I strive to be a neutral voice in the industry. After four years, I’m going to be ditching that rhetoric, so if you hear me say it, call me out and say bullshit!! First of all I don't believe the concept anymore, and I feel like it was bullshit to begin with, and as the API space is picking up momentum, I can't help but push some technologies, products, and services over others.

I’m writing this post to seal the deal in my own memory, which is the primary reason I blog. First of all, the companies that sponsor and support me, I can't help but endorse what they offer, not just because they give me money, but also the fact that they have a decent product, otherwise I wouldn’t be associated with them. Also there are a number of API related tools I use myself, and I can't help but talk about them over some of their competitors in the space.

If you see me endorsing a certain technology, it is often because it just works for me, and ask me why, I'll give you an honest answer. The main thing that spurred this post is I was writing a story about Swagger 2.0, and I always feel bad not writing as many posts about API Blueprint, as I do Swagger, but Swagger is in my consciousness because I use it, and depend on it every day. I believe in what Jakub and gang are up to at Apiary, and highly support you using their tools and services, and will always work to showcase what they are up to.

Hopefully this line in the sand will help me feel a less guilty in this area, because I’m reducing the amount bullshit claims in my writing and stories. (minimum viable bullshit) The Swagger and API Blueprint example, is just one of many conflicts I am struggling with each day, so I figured just being as honest as I can, will be the only way I'll stay sane in all of this.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Moreira


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Building The Type Of Audience I Really Want

I used to work hard to write blog posts on API Evangelist that would have broad appeal with the Hacker News community, and at first I didn't have any luck, after trying to engage with readers on posts, I found myself blacklisted, where nothing I submitted showed up. I lived in some kind parallel universe, all because I argued with a couple influential HN users, who didn't like what I had to offer.

I started a new account for API Evangelist, and began playing the game with a little different approach. I didn't engage with users, and wrote posts with titles that would bring in readers, kept things short and superficial, and had some front-page exposure, which would result in thousands of pageviews, and then would dissipate. This type of storytelling ever really turned into meaningful traffic, an engaged audience, conversations, or brought any value to my overall mission.

Early last year I stopped posting to HN, only occasionally posted a story, but never really used it in the same way that I had before. I was worried my traffic would be hurt, but I went back to work, trying to write meaningful posts, that brought value to my target audience, and supported my mission. In the last year and a half, I've seen my sustained monthly traffic go from 500 page views a day to almost 2000 a day, all by just my sticking to my mission.

The audience that does visit my blog, for the most part engages with me, shares posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels, and I see much of what I write echoed on other blogs, and in conversations I see on social media, and in person at events. This approach to building my audience, and ultimately traffic to my site has been very healthy in helping me obtain my objectives. My goal is not pageviews for advertising sake, it is to build an awareness in the average business person, and the everyday individual, about the importance of APIs.

I’m writing this post because see echoes of HN in another blog DZone, which I don’t actually syndicate to, but because of the history behind my kin blog, some of my posts still get hand selected by the DZone staff, and syndicated to the blog. Many of these blog posts get some pretty good comment activity, and the other week a blog post I wrote on Google’s hiring process, which got quite a bit of comments, including some pretty trollish ones.

I made the mistake of feeding the trolls, something I don't usually do, but I can’t help myself occasionally, and it made me think of this same illness that many advertising driven technology sites possess. I’m so happy to have my blog, something I know that reaches a wide range of people, not just because of the page views, but also because of the online and in-person feedback I get. The alpha geek crowd is not my audience, and I don't care what they think about what I’m saying, but the trollish comments still get to me sometimes. i quickly shrug them off, but writing about these emotions is one way I do that—resulting in this post.

I’m stoked to have a mission driven blog, that goes beyond monetization through advertising. My audience may be small compared to DZone or Hacker News, and what I do may not matter to a lot of their users, but at least I have purpose that involves helping educate people, and I don’t feel the need to tell people how stupid they are, and that what they do is worthless. I can’t imagine being so lost, that doing that makes you feel better. It makes me sad, but then I get back to work, and move on, keeping on with my mission.

Photo Credit: Jonathan C. Dietrich


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Moving Beyond Server Side Code And Hosting

I remember all the pain and suffering I used to go through in the old days looking for a place to park my server side code, leading me to eventually invest in my own servers, and rack at a datacenter. All of this changed with Amazon S3 & EC2. After 2008 I migrated everything to the cloud, selling all my servers, and never looking back.

As I complete two stories, one one an innovative API deployment platform called Blockspring, and the other on automation platform Temboo’s new JavaScript SDK for the 100+ API platforms Temboo connects with. Both of these evolutions in technology, and evolution in cloud computing, reflect one possible future where the concept of “server side code” will fade away, bringing us closer to a more programmable web.

While there will always be robust server side frameworks, I’m seeing a shift to where the need to have server side coding skills to deploy websites, mobile apps, and single page apps will go away. I envision containerized solutions like Wordpress, that allow us to deploy anything we need to support app deployment, and allow us to configure, tweak, and evolve without being aware of what the backend is up to.

I know these thoughts will drive many developer crazy, thinking that I will open up the gates to a much more shittier web, but I think if developers build high quality, very configurable, and modular APIs, we can help mitigate the trash that gets deployed. Whether you like it or not WordPress runs over 65M websites, and I think we can do even better with the next generation of online apps, and the APIs that drive them.

I’d love to see the concept of hosting evolve into allowing anyone to park the apps they need anywhere they want, even on their Facebook account, or via their Dropbox. I think APIs and containers will go a long way into moving us towards this future. It is something that won’t happen overnight, but eventually hosting, and much of the server side code wrangling we’ve done in the past will go away.