Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Indie Ed-Tech, The University And Personal APIs: Drawing Lines In The Sand To Define Our Digital Self

When you talk about Reclaim Hosting, or Reclaim Your Domain concepts of owning, and operating your domain, and living a POSSE way of life to your average IT or developer folk, they will most often shrug, point to GoDaddy, and let you know how its not a thing. When you have conversations with indie ed-tech folks, the conversation takes on a new form, helping individuals, organizations, and even entire higher educational instiutions, better understand their digital self. 

Ok, hippie, what is a digital self? This is the version of ourselves, our companies, and institutions have been giving birth to, for over the last 20 years of our increasingly online lives. Companies, organizations, institutions, government, and individual citizens are using the web to define who they are, often by having a website, a blog, or an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook presence. Some companies are better at it than others, with many of the craftiest, convincing everybody else to develop their presence, within their domain -- owning the value of anything being generated.

I discussed one of many examples of this in action, with my story about operating your blog on Medium's platform. This isn't a bad thing, unless you haven't thought about the pros and cons, and are just giving away the value you generate (in this case blog posts), and don't take any steps to retain control over what you create each day. You need to understand where the lines exist in the sand, and take very opportunity you can to redraw those lines, in your favor--you know Ev Williams does this (he's savvy). 

Here is my line in the sand at Medium: 

It is in Medium's interest to get me to publish my stories (exhaust from my writing) here. However in my world, 98% of my writing always begins within my domain(s):

Every single idea for a story actually begins with a single API call to:

Sorry, you have to be authenticated to GET from that url, let alone POST new notes. This is where I flush out my ideas for stories, using my notes API.

Once an idea matures, it might eventually graduate to be a blog post:

I leave that endpoint open for anyone to GET from. My API Evangelist and Kin Lane blogs all pull their blog posts from here. When a new blog post is added, and tagged for publishing on either or, it triggers the publishing of the blog posts to the targeted web site.

At that moment in time the blog post is published under the CC-BY Creative Commons license

With each story published, and openly licensed within my own domain, now I can start thinking of other domains, where I might wish to grant a license, allowing them to use a copy. You might find my work at:

These are all lines I've drawn in the sand, as I work to define myself online. Some of these lines will fade over time, as I lose interest in a platform. I know I lost interest in:

And this line is getting pretty faded:

I know Tumblr is big for some folks, but I just never quite got excited about it, and don't really publish there (I stopped when posterous went away).

I really am just drawing lines in the sand--some of tehse lines fade away with time, with others playing varying roles in how I define myself online. Some of them play a strong part...

Twitter does this:

So does Github:

Both of these lines in the sand are very important to my digital self. I have agreements with both of these companies, when it comes to these lines. I pay almost $250.00 to Github, and I pay nothing to Twitter. I am constantly redrawing these lines in the sand, multiple times a day, while also feeling nervous about my relationship with both platforms on a daily basis. Twitter frustrates me more than Github, but I don't trust either of them to really give a shit about me and my lines in the sand on their beach. They could care less if I'm there each day to redraw these lines, or just fade away.

This is why everything in my world begins within my domain. There will always be a portion of my digital self that exists on other beaches, but my goal is to draw as many of the lines, store, and capture the value from my daily exhaust within my domain. If you run your own small business like I do, this is critical. This is how you will control your intellectual property, make your living, and mantain direction over your career, and where you go in life. The more you do this on other people's domain, the less ownership you will have, and the less control over the direction that you go.

This is the conversation we are having within our Indie Ed-Tech, University and Personal API working group, asking questions:

  • What does this look like from the insitutional standpoint?
  • What does this look like through a teachers eyes?
  • How do we we expose students to this way of thinking?

Schools like Brigham Young, University of Oklahoma, and Davidson, who are deploying domains for their students using providers like Reclaim Hosting, are pushing this conversation forward amongst institutional leadership, IT, faculty and students. Teachers and students can go beyond having subdomain or folder on the university domain, and launach their own domains. 

When you talk to CIO Kelly Flanagan (@kelflanagan) from BYU about the future, he wants to publish student information to the students domain. All incoming freshman receive their own domain, storage, and what they need to be digitally literate, something they will take with them when they leave school, and enter the real world -- setting a pretty high bar for the expectations of where the lines in the sand will exist for them.

The World Wide Web looks very different to a digitally literate invidual. When you are equipped to define your own world, and draw the lines in the sand as you see fit, and learn bend that in your favor, you know how to ask the right questions:

  • Is it possible for this to start in my own domain, then publish elsewhere?
  • Does this online service allow me to get my information out, and delete my account?
  • Is that line in the sand acceptable to me? Where are the opportunities for negotiation?
  • This information is important to me, will it be secure if I put it in that location?
  • What are the motivations of organizations I work for, and companies who's services I use?
  • I don't think that content, image, video, or other element reflects me, how do I delete it?
  • I don't think you are trustworthy with my information anymore, please end our relationship!

You become better equipped to ask the questions that you will need to define the version of your digital self, that you want to see. The one your customers will see. The profile(s) that your employers will see. The side of you that your friends and family will see. What you will need to make money from the exhaust generated by your hard work each day. While in college it may be for fun, but in a few years you will have a professional reputation to maintain.

As an individual, company, or institution you want as much control over your online existence as you possibly can. The lines you draw in the sand are important. It is critical that you stop from time to time and take assessment of the lines you've drawn (aka Google yourself). Get rid of old accounts. Clean up dead profiles. You should be also taking every opportunity that you can to make sure you draw lines within your domain, while also applying more thoughtfulness about the lines you draw in other people's domains. 


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Silence On Your Blog Is Way More Damaging Than Any Spelling Mistake On Mine

I get the whole spectrum of spelling and grammar trolls as the API Evangelist. I get the ones who are nasty, and leave comments about how they'd respect what I say only if only I'd learn to edit. All the way to my favorite ones who submit pull requests with corrections...and everything else in between. 

This post is about the ones in between, another class of spelling / grammar trolls who have their own blog, which isn't near as active as it should be. I always strive for quality editorial processes on API Evangelist, but it is something that after I read a post for the 3rd or 4th time, I have to step back from--good enough. Since I'm also the broke ass evangelist, I can't afford an editor either.

I understand the remaining spelling / grammar mistakes can be a sin, but I'm here today, to talk to you about an even greater sin! Perhaps one of the worst sins of all, in my opinion. Not blogging at all! If nobody hears your voice, your perfect spelling, and grammatical prowess will never matter, let alone your actual opinion.

I am judging all you, each and every day for the meaningful, impactful posts you aren't publishing!! Unacceptable! The silence on your blog is way more damaging than any spelling mistake on mine. ;-)


Friday, March 25, 2016

It Is Not You Being Evil I Worry About, It Is You Being Greedy And Priveleged

This posted started as a Tweet the other day, but since I'm in a ranty mood today, I pulled it out to help emphasize several other stories I've written today. A pretty standard response I get from folks who have been indoctrinated into the Silicon Valley culture, when I write or say something that is pushing back on VCs, is dismissing the fact that they are using technology for evil purposes.

Aside from this being a pretty shit simple, and broad response to a (hopefully) precise, nuanced argument, I'm not actually worried about 99% of you actually planning on doing evil and sinister things with technology. As with my last post on the unintended consequences of API patents, I don't think you are up to evil things, I just think that on your greed driven quest to be wealthy, and from your privileged position as a white male, you are missing a whole lot of bad shit that is happening along the way.

You see, I am not worried about the intentionally bad shit people do with technology, but I am very worried about the all encompassing need to get VC money for your tech idea, and all the bad shit that will happen along the way, and after you''ve cashed out (or failed) and moved on to your next idea. This is where the damage will occur, and because you enjoy a privileged place in the world, all the fallout you don't see from your vantage point, will be assumed by everyone else.

So please, do not talk about doing evil anymore in your arguments with me, and help me understand that you have done the hard work to understand the lower level, unintended negative fallout that is occurring every day from all y'all's quest for riches, fame, and tech glory.


Monday, March 21, 2016

I Predict We Will Be Using HTTP/1.1 451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons A Lot More In Future

photo credit

I'm playing catch up with some of my news and information curation, something that always builds up when I travel. As part of my work I came across the RFC 7725, HTTP/1.1 451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons, providing an HTTP status code for use when access to a resource is denied as a consequence of legal demands.

The RFC states that, "responses using this status code SHOULD include an explanation, in the response body, of the details of the legal demand: the party making it, the applicable legislation or regulation, and what classes of person and resource it applies to"--something I'm wondering if even will be possible in some situations.

Anyways, I wanted to make sure this HTTP status code was filed as part of my overall API Evangelist consciousness. I have the feeling that we will be using HTTP/1.1 451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons a lot more in the future, and want a reference point to link to. Hopefully someone out there will be tracking the number of 451 status codes that emerge, so we can graph over time how many online resources go 451--I do not have the resources to do it.

Seems like it will be a pretty telling metric of the health of this online experiment, we are calling the web.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Never Dismiss The Power Of Storytelling

As I'm working my way through my news feeds, aggregated across the blog RSS and Twitter streams of the companies I track on in the API space, as well as the leading organization, and individual tech blogs I subscribe to, I am noticing one of several storytelling memes being tested at any given moment. The tech story du jour is about wearables being applied to managing the older generations of our world (innovation?).

When you monitor as many feeds and Twitter accounts as I do, you start to see these patterns of storytelling emerge, popping up on a handful of mid-size blogs, and then eventually some of the bigger blogs. Wearables for monitoring and managing the old peoples, is just one of the latest, insurance has been another, and on, and on. Sometimes these stories take root, and begin to get retold by folks who think these stories are true, and are put out there to genuinely educated them. 

The industry news and blogs are not telling you how about this API driven device is radically shaking up the insurance because for altruistic reasons, a desire to keep you informed about what is going on. 95% percent of this storytelling across the tech space has precise targets in mind, looking to influence investors, employees, and other key actors in this Broadway musical we are all playing a role in.

Storytelling is central to everything. It is how startups influence investors, and investors influence markets, which influences the enterprise, which influences industry, and government--everyone tells the story they think will result in the outcomes they desire. I do this. I tell stories to influence what I want to see in the space. So does Google. So does AT&T. So does the White House. So do the Koch Brothers. Everything we read, is published to influence us--whether it is fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of the two (aka marketing).

I started API Evangelist in 2010, so that I could tell stories about what people were doing in the API space. I saw that API architects, designers, and developers all sucked at telling stories about what they were doing. I stepped in to fill the gap. Six years later, most folks operating APIs still suck at telling stories, and when I tell them that the most important tool in their toolbox is storytelling, they quite often chuckle, and dismiss me. This is so common, that I regularly have folks who use the dismissal of storytelling to downplay the importance of what I do, and what it is that I am saying.

API Evangelist is just a blog. You are just a single person. The enterprise doesn't listen to stories. Government doesn't care about public stories. I hear these arguments regularly in, as people try to put me in my place, or just lash out because they don't agree with what I just published. That is fine. You don't have to agree with me, but you should never dismiss the power of storytelling. Our reality is just layers of carefully (or not so carefully) crafted stories, influencing us at every turn. 

Bring this back down, most of the criticism thrown at me is true. API Evangelist is just a blog. I am just a single person. Most in the enterprise, and government will not pay attention to what I say, because of the way they see the world. However, this doesn't stop my stories from influencing folks. An average post of mine will be read by a couple hundred people, and never be seen anymore. However 1% of my posts will have a significant impact like the Secret to Amazon's Success: Internal APIs, which enjoys 2K page views a week, almost four years later, and comes up in conversations across the industry, from banking to government, around the globe.

And that story is 98% bullshit! People believe it. People eat it up. People love stories. This is why the tech sector is always moving on to the next great thing, while simultaneously testing out thousands of possible next great things, through storytelling, and see what bait brings in the biggest fish (THE OPPORTUNITY IS THIS BIG!). Stories are everything. Whether its marketing, PR, or the hacker storytelling theater that I perform, it is what is making all of this going around, and is what markets are based upon--never dismiss the power of storytelling.

One irony of all of this, a majority of the folks who dismiss me, and my evangelism fo the storytelling process, are often trying to get me to talk more about what they are working on. Something I'm happy to do, but understanding, distilling down the complexity often present with the world of APIs is hard work, and crafting meaningful stories from all of it is more art, than science. It takes practice. This is why you see so much work published across the API Evangelist network, it is all practice, building up to the one story I tell that gets retold, and retold, and retold--never stop telling stories.