Do My APIs Have The Skills They Need To Compete In A Voice And Bot Enabled World?14 Mar 2016
I'm evaluating the Alexa Voice Service ecosystems alongside leading API messaging platforms like Telegram, and Slack, who are changing the way users engage and communicate, but also are evolving how we are putting our API driven resources to work. As I do this research, I keep finding myself coming back to Amazon's concept of an Alexa Skill, and thinking about how it applies to average everyday APIs like mine.
Do my APIs have the skills they need to compete in this new voice and bot enabled world? It is bad enough that I don't always have the skills necessary to compete as a programmer, but now my APIs have to have the right skills? WTF ;-) Seriously though, I feel the Amazon's concept of the "skill" reflects a wider experiental shift in the API space, where APIs need to deliver information and other digital resources in the context of how they will be experienced by users, and not just how they are stored and maintained by developers and IT operations.
Since there is such a diverse amount of APIs out there, what exactly consitutes as a "skill" could vary widely. If you are person or business directory, the skill might be returning the website address or phone number for an individual or business. If you are an email or SMS service it might be simply send a message to an individual. The concept of a skill further come into focus when you think in context of Alexa Voice Service, or as Amazon puts it:
Alexa, the voice service that powers Amazon Echo, provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to interact with devices in a more intuitive way using voice. Examples of skills include the ability to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm or timer, and more.
How does this same way of thinking apply when we are communicating in Slack? Does my API have the same skills to identify that someone just asked a question, or possible executed a keyboard shortcut, and can respond intelligently, in real-time, with the expected behavior the user is anticipating? In addition to having the right skills, Slack is also asking if our APIs can enable Bot Users to be "delightful, interesting, and fun"--significantly raising the bar for what is expected.
As with the evolution of our own personal and professional skills, it will take some practice to develop the new skills that our APIs will need to be successful in this evolving landscape. Something that cannot even begin, unless we have already embarked our own API journey, exposing valuable data, content, and other resources as APIs, while also having in place an efficient way to add, and evolve our API resources. Only then can we start really polishing and honing our API skills, to operate via voice enabled platforms like Alexa, and the next generation of messaging platforms like like Telegram, and Slack.
All of a sudden I feel like my APIs are just a teenager who is typing up their first resume, headed out to find their first job interview, so they can afford a car, and go out on their first date.