Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Micro Attempts At Being The Change I Want To See in Government

One by-product of being as OCD as I am, is that I am always looking for the smallest possible way that I can help grease the wheels of the API economy. A big part of helping the average person understand any company or API, is possessing a simple image to represent the concept, either a screenshot, logo, or other visualization. A picture is worth a thousand words, and as essential to API operations, as your actual service.

As I worked to understand the agencies that power our federal government, I quickly realized, I needed a logo for each of the 246 federal agencies--something that didn't exist. I could find many on Wikipedia, and Google for the others, but there was no single source of logos for federal agencies--even at the Federal Government Directory API from Unacceptable, I created my own, and published to Github. 

Ultimately, I am not happy with all of the logos I found, and think it can be greatly improved upon, but it provides me with a base title, description, and image for each of our federal agencies. It is something you can find in the Github repository for my federal government API research, and a JSON representation of all federal agencies + logos under the data folder for the research.

It took me about 6 hours to do this work, and it is something I know has been used by others, including within the federal government, as well as across numerous of my own API research, and storytelling. These are the little actions I enjoy inflicting, helping to wield APIs, and machine readable, meaningful, openly available, micro data-sets that can be used in as many scenarios as possible. Logos might seem irrelevant in the larger open data war, but when it comes to the smaller skirmishes a logo is an important tool in your toolbox.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Use Of APIs By Regulators To Audit Telco Behavior

I keep reading stories about federal regulators investigating, and issuing fines to telcos like AT&T paying $105 million for unauthorized charges on customer bills, and Verizon and Sprint to pay $158 million for cramming charges on customers' bills. Maybe I am biased (I am), but I can't help think about the potential for APIs, and OAuth to help in this situation.

As an AT&T, and Verizon customer, I can say that I could use help in auditing my accounts. I'm sure other users would pay for a service that would help monitor their accounts, looking for irregularites. I think about services like Cloudability, that help me manage costs in my cloud computing environement--why aren't there more of these things in the consumer realm?

If all services that are available online simply had APIs for their accounts, this would be possible. It would also open up the door for government agencies, and public sector organizations to step up and provide research, auditing, and potentially data counseling for the average citizen and consumer. 

I want more access to the data I generate via the telcommunication companies. I also want to be able to take advantage of services that help me manage my relationships with these companies. I also think there should be a certain amount of regulatory acess and control introduced into all of this, and APIs provide not just a programmatic way to do this, it can be done in a real-time way, that might provide the balance we need--rather than just every few years when the feds have the information they need, and the enforcement power they need to take action.