Absolutism Around API Tools Increases Friction And Failure
24 Jul 2019
I know you believe your tools are the best. I mean, from your vantage point, they are. I also know that when you are building a new API tool, your investors want you to position your tooling as the best. The one solution to rule them all. They want you to work hard to make your tools the best, but also make sure and demonize other tooling as being inferior, out of date, and something the dinosaurs use. I know this absolute belief in your tooling feels good and right, but you are actually creating friction for your users, and potentially failure or at least conflict within their teams. Absolutism, along with divide and conquer strategies for evangelizing API tooling works for great short term financial strategies, but doesn’t do much to help us on the ground actually developing, managing, and sustaining APIs.
Ironically, there are many divers factors that contribute to why API tooling providers and their followers resort to absolutism when it comes to marketing and evangelizing their tools. Much of which has very little to do with the merits of the tools being discussed, and everything about those who are making the tools. I wanted to explore a few of them so they are available on the tip of my tongue while working within the enterprise.
- No Due Diligence On What Is Out There - Most startups who are developing API tooling do not spend the time understanding what already exists across the landscape, and get outside of the echo chamber to learn what real world companies are using to get the job done each day.
- No Learning Around Using Existing Tools - Even if startups are aware of existing tools, patterns, and processes, they rarely invest the time to actually understand what existing tools deliver—spending time to deeply understand how existing tools are being put to use by their would-be customers.
- Lack Of Awareness Around The Problem - There is a reason investors prefer young engineers when it comes to developing the next set of disruptive tooling, because they rarely understand the scope of problems being solved, and provide great fuel for short to mid-term growth strategies.
- Aggressive Male Dominated Environment - Young white men are perfect for this approach to delivering tooling that isn’t about the tool, but about a larger economic strategy, putting us passionate, privileged souls at the helm, and push them to do the disruptive bidding with very little awareness of the big picture.
- No Empathy For Others You Encounter - API tooling that takes an absolutist approach is rarely about empowering others, or understanding and providing solutions to their problems—lacking in empathy for other tooling providers, tooling consumers, or the companies left with each round of tech debt.
- Lack Of Diverse Experience In Industry - Entrepreneurs who ride each wave of API tooling absolutism and state their API tool is the one solution often lack experience in a variety of industries, and rarely have diverse experience outside of the - Silicon Valley echo chamber, and across multiple industries or geographic regions.
- VC Backed With Aggressive Growth - The aggressive absolutist approach of each wave of API tooling is almost always fueled by aggressive funding cycles, and have very little to do with the actual application of API tooling—operating the puppet strings which most API tooling providers and consumers on the front line do not see.
If you are in the business of tearing down someone else to deliver your tool, your tool will die by the same approach–someday. There is always a better funded, more aggressive solution to emerge on the market. Even if your tool has managed to achieve some level of market success, there will be a time when you let your guard down, and someone comes along to begin taking jabs at you. With each cycle of absolutism assault, the merits of the tooling mean very little. Perception always trumps reality, and there are always armies of developers waiting by in the wings to adopt what is new, and begin raising a pitchfork to attack what was. There is no allegiance and loyalty in this game.
I know. I know. This is just business. I just don’t get the game. Smart people have to make money! Yes, there are also many of us who are responsible for keeping the lights on. That aren’t as disloyal as you are, willing to jump from job to job, startup to startup. There are many of us who have been doing this a lot longer than you, and are willing to be responsible for the tech debt we incur along the way, and we do not mind doing the hard work to clean up your messes. I know that API tool absolutism makes you feel knowledgable and in control now, but just wait until you’ve ridden a few waves, and you’ve had many of your valuable tooling taken away from you because of this game. Then you will begin to see the other side of this, and better understand the toll of this business approach. Eventually you will grow weary of it, but fortunate for you, there will always be a fresh crop of recruits to wage this battle, and there is no rest for the wicked. #liveByDisruption #DieByDisruption