She Asked “What Now” After Seeing Me Put Together My NASA API Collection
I thoroughly enjoy engaging with my wife when it comes to APIs. She has been along for the entire API Evangelist ride, and she has absorbed more about APIs from listening to me talk about APIs than almost anyone else in the industry. While she tunes me out most of the time, she does listen and engage regularly, providing me with a pretty valuable sounding board to bounce ideas and concepts off from time to time. I’m cautious about how often I tap this resource, but when the time is right I will introduce her to an API concept I’m working with to see what she has to say. Yesterday was one of these days, and I took advantage of an opportunity to show her a Postman Collection I had made of several NASA APIs.
My wife isn’t known for beating around the bush, just read her blog Hack Education for a sampling, and after walking her through what Postman does when you have a bunchof APIs defined as collections, complete with an environment and API keys, her response was “cool, but what now”? Providing me with the regular brutal honesty I look for in my wife, but also what I like to hear when it comes to my API blah blah blah. My motivation behind sharing this Postman Collection with her was all about testing the waters for building API collections and potentially sharing them with non-developers. Since all of the NASA APIs are read only, and while they provide a wealth of rich data as part of each API response, the resulting value of these API collections is all about the JSON responses, which you can save in Postman, but then as she states, “what now”?
I am going to work on some other API collections that allow you to add or update data to demonstrate the wider API potential, but her question pushed me to think about how I can also work to better provide her with an answer to her question, and enable her to do more with the JSON data returned from the API collections I give to her and other non-developers. As a developer, I know what to do with the JSON responses from each API, but to the average individual, there can be a pretty big cognitive gap associated with taking the wide variety of JSON schema you may get back from any single API, and actually putting it to work within some useful process or application. The challenge for me is, how do you make JSON more usable by normals, making it something they can actually benefit from using, and apply in their everyday life without having to know how to program. If all JSON responses were one dimensional this might be easier, but with very little standardization of API schema, this creates a pretty big hurdle for the non-developer API consumer.
Postman has began to introduce features like API response visualization, adding to what you can do with each API response, but I feel there is a lot more opportunity ahead of us when it comes to what you can do with each API response in Postman. You can save, download, copy, and now visualize responses, but if I’m going to reach “normals” with my Postman Collections I am going to need more than that. I’ll start with some basic tooling that allows you to copy or upload the resulting JSON and accomplish some valuable task, just to explore what is possible. Then I’ll explore what the possibilities are when it comes to making these capabilities more seamless with Postman, or possibly even work to influence the road map. I’m pretty determined to see if I can come up with some answers to my wife’s question of “what now”. She is a tough audience so it will require me creating something that delivers real value, and is dead simple for her to put to use, otherwise she is mostly likely to tell me to take a hike, and let me know what I am peddling is just API blah blah blah.