A 100% Open API Industry & Conference

When I set out to put on an API industry event in early 2012, I had grand visions of what it would be. Getting everyone together to discuss the best ideas, approaches the industry has to offer--while also discussing the critical topics such as open APIs, developer rights, monetization, etc.

Fast forward 10 months, and the event is a reality, and even though it doesn’t exactly look like I imagined, it is damn close--with lots of amazing API discussions.

After I announced the event has 60 speakers yesterday, I saw a tweet from Dave Winer (@davewiner):

Now for those of you who don’t read entire posts, I’m NOT going after Dave. We’ve already tweeted back and forth and discussed, and he is supportive. This post is about my feelings and thoughts on "open", and how we can all work together to make sure the industry is as open as possible.

First, I don’t see things as black and white. When it comes to politics, life or the API industry. To ability to snap our fingers and everything becomes open will not happen. It will be a lot of hard work and be very painful.

Next, I can honestly say there isn’t anyone else in the space who is dedicated to open APIs as much as I am. Sure Dave is much bigger name and has more history on this, but this is ALL I do. Period. I don’t work on anything else. It is my day and night job.

I have written constantly about the need for open API building blocks, open API billing and traffic control, all while constantly asking what open even means? My evangelism has helped guide two of the service providers in the space to deliver the first enterprise grade open source API products, from WSO2 and Alcatel-Lucent.  While these products aren't everything I want, they are a start.

I’m a firm believer in constantly discussing what “open” means. Is it free access, write capabilities, TOS, open source software under the hood, distributed technology, embracing open standards or is it just using the word, as many people feel comfortable with. Through these open and honest conversations, I firmly believe we’ll educate people and change their opinions one by one.

This is one of my goals at the API Strategy & Practice Conference. At first glance it is easy to think the event might appear to be a corporate API lovefest, but let’s scratch the surface a little bit:

  • Steve Klabnik - His keynote title is “Why Open?” 
  • Singly - I don’t know anyone who cares more about open access to personal data than Singly 
  • Swagger - Tony and the gang are building amazing open source tools that facilitate API development
  • Kirsten Jones - Kirsten’s talk on educating owners and devs about HTTP is critical to the standard being used consistently across industry 
  • Temboo & Webshell - These guys entire business rely upon open TOS allowing them to aggregate APIs and their existence provides real pressure for API owners to open up 
  • Hack Education - I’m biased here. But there is nobody in education working as tirelessly as my girlfriend Audrey Watters to open up data that is locked in education silos
  • Donors Choose - An online charity that provides open data and APIs to make classrooms better 
  • Seabourne - Seabourne has a suite of open source and open API products like Cumula that are transforming the government and making it more open and transparent
  • Digital Strategy - I will be showcasing all the open tools, data and API initiatives across federal agencies--spearheaded by the GSA

That is 10 out of 60 of the session and keynote speakers bringing open discussions to the table.  There are also three panels that are purposefully designed to discuss open:

  • Building Great APIs: Do’s and Don’ts 
  • API Business Models 
  • APIs Platforms and Business Model Tradeoffs

As you can see there will be plenty of "open" discussions at API Strategy & Practice--I’m sure I could extract more if I had time. I would love to be able to have a perfectly open API industry and perfectly open API event, where everyone agreed on what open was, widely used open standards and came together to truly make the industry the best it can be. But it doesn’t exist. We have to create it incrementally.

API Strategy & Practice took corporate sponsorship to make sure everyone has an event to come to. Then we got to work bringing together the best minds (yes some corporate running closed APIs), to work together and discuss all the issues across a multitude of industries. 

I’m 100% dedicated to the concept "open". I don’t work for any corporation, I’m 100% independent so that I can have the loudest, most unrestrained voice possible. And I am dedicated to making sure the event is about the community, ideas, strategy and real discussions about the toughest challenges we face in the space.

If you aren’t there, participating in these discussions, I’m afraid we are losing an important voice, and that is a lost opportunity. So please contact me if you wish to be there. I will make sure you get in.  Otherwise, you will miss your chance to convince some of the folks who might not see open, in the same way you do.