Empowering You To Make Informed Decisions Around Your Information Is What The Personal API Is About
22 Apr 2016
My friend Tom Woodward is continuing his personal API journey on his blog, sharing more of his thoughts around taking control over his information, and sharing some of the conversational exhaust that his journey has generated. The conversation around what what is "personal API", is where the value in all of this for me, something that is full of endless perspectives, and views of what APIs do. Which is one of the things I truly love about APIs, as they mean so many different things to different folks.
As i mentioned before, when I mention the concept of personal API to some of my engineering friends, they seem to always focus on people designing, developing, and operating an API stack on their own server, or at home. The recent post from Tom, focuses around a comment from our other friend Alan, who commented on his previous post, talking about the process of personal API being, "a bit binary (reclaim or “let it burn”)". I'm thinking Alan's perspective has been strongly influenced by Tom's heavy "reclaim" desires, as well as two other friends, who have embarked on similar journeys.
I'm endlessly intrigued by the dimensions of personal API that people are drawn into, and focus on. That personal API is about hosting or managing your API, or just about getting your information out of someones platform. When I read Tom's post, I actually do not see local or cloud, reclaim or let it burn, I see Tom working to understanding what information he generates online, understand the tradeoff's around the platform where this information lives, then logically making decisions around how he manage this. Sure this might involve abandoning platforms, and could involve setting up some self-hosted APIs, but more often it will not.
I can't help but think Alan might be missing some details of his own personal API journey, as a result of his focus on his friends. When we focus to heavily on a specific aspect of API enablement (migration), I find people tend to miss many of the other benefits also occurring. I'm guessing that many the reasons that went into his original adoption of Flickr, feeling like he can rely on it, and his lack of interest in ever leaving the platform, were most likely API influenced. APIs have have made Flickr a a ubiquitous tool in our lives, allowing the community to share photos using oEmbed, develop valuable syndication, upload, and other useful solution, including WordPress integrations, and tools like Aperture--APIs have been shaping everyone's decision to use the photo sharing platform for many years.
One of the reasons I keep using the phrase personal API, is because of how people respond to it, view it, and accept of reject it. To me, personal API involves having my own hosted API stack, depending on 3rd party APIs (my personal storage API is Amazon S3 & Dropbox), to host, sync, share, syndicate, publish, reclaim, orchestrate, collaborate, control, open, and restrict access to my bits and bytes. My journey is not yours, and your journey is not mine, but the process of sharing our stories, and having conversations around it are critical to each of us learning from each other.
APIs are empowering every brand you know and love (or hate) to make decisions around how they maximize where their bits and bytes are stored, accessed, and put to use across the web, mobile, and increasingly devices. Additionally APIs are empowering every brand you know and love (or hate) to also make better decisions around how they maximize where your bits and bytes are stored, accessed, and put to use across the web, mobile, and increasingly devices. Personal APIs are about shifting this balance in your favor, but for many of us, in many situations, we are fine with offloading these decisions to others, as it can be lot of work to operate on our own. At some point though, when they are ready, there will be a wealth of information out there to help them take back control, no matter how small that first step it might be.
In the end, I don't care if anyone cares about APIs, or personal APIs, but I do care about people being aware of the online services they use, and that they are equipped to make the best possible decisions they can about what services they use. For me it is less about APIs, than it is about how APIs are already being used to enable your world, and helping ensure that you have the awareness and opportunity to assert whatever amount of control over your digital self that you feel comfortable doing, whenever you are ready.