On Being An API Broker For Hackathons

I recently had a conversation with one of my contacts at a federal agency about a hackathon tour they are planning. The federal government doesn’t call these events hackathons, they call them data jams, but for sake of this story I’m going to call them hackathons, and also omit the name of the agency until they are ready to talk about the event(s) publicly.

This agency had many questions about putting on a hackathon, but one I found particularly interesting, and something that is in line with other concepts I’m exploring in the API space, was the desire to assemble a stack of resources that developers could put to use at the event, along with their own agency APIs. They were concerned about hackathon teams coming to the event and having to spend a great deal of time looking for APIs, open data-sets, and tools to use in their projects.

Building on top of other stories I've told about being an API broker, I will be putting some thought into how I can possibly act as an API broker for this agency and their hackathon(s). I will set up a Github repository, where I will list agency APIs, as well as bring other relevant government agencies APIs and open data sets. I won’t stop there, I will also consider what other private sector APIs, and open tooling that would help attendees be more successful, save time and ultimately rise to the occasion.

These thoughts are building on earlier ideas from Cyril Gaillard in his medium post titled "I don’t need a business co-founder, I need an API broker". My motivations are all about defining a new breed of evangelists who really understand the API space, and know where to find the best APIs, tools, and other resources. Then these API brokers can use Github to aggregate all relevant APIs, data sources, and tools or services into a single location, saving developers real time and money when building applications.

Maybe not for these hackathons, but in other API broker scenarios I can envision the API broker also signing up for developer accounts, organizing API keys, and finding other meaningful tasks that would save time, and increase efficiencies for developers. An API Broker would be in charge of managing all resources that a development team will need to achieve their objectives, as efficiently as possible.

As the number of APIs increase, I envision the concept of a single developer or API evangelist, for a single API evolving to a world where there are many API brokers, who deeply understand many APIs. Then companies, organizations, and government agencies can lean on these API brokers to help them build the best aggregate backend stack possible for projects, hackathons, and any other scenario where APIs will be put to use, potentially solving problems that these groups and individuals face on a daily basis.