API Skills Alongside Web In Developers Toolbox
21 Aug 2013
As I immerse myself in the federal government, I have left my private sector world where web APIs have become commonplace. Sure I still worked hard to get outside of Silicon Valley and reach out further into land of "normals", helping spread the API gospel, but in Washington D.C. I seriously have my work cut out for me.
I have a great support system within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House, but as I go deeper within specific agencies I see fewer web APIs, and fewer people who understand them. When I do come across a web service, it makes me hopeful, but still these SOAP driven services may get the job done for programmers, but lack the simplicity needed to get wider adoption.
This is only my second week in DC, I'm spending a lot of time going through websites, getting to know the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies, and recognize there is a lot of web talent, even though much is probably contracted, within the Federal Government. I can't help but think how CMS platforms like Wordpress, Drupal and others have helped our government publish valuable information and resources via the web, but we still are lacking a complimentary web API movement.
The value of websites has been accepted across federal government, what can we do to get web APIs to the same level? Web services are embraced, but they are still a very black box, developer centric tool, something out of reach of the common gov worker. But web APIs aren't much different than the websites being produced, they just trade their HTML output for data formats like XML and JSON--I'm looking to change this.
In 2013 and 2014 I want to pose the question in within government, why aren't open data and API skills part of the federal government's web developer toolbox, alongside the skills you already posses. You can increase the productivity of government 10x with this little change. Every time you publish web content via HTML, simultaneously publish an XML and JSON version of the same information. This little change will transform how our federal government works, much like it did when website development was adopted in the 90's.