Encouraging Feedback By Thinking Through Your API Road Map, Out In The Open, On Your Blog

This story is derived from listening to the API podcast, Traffic and Weather. One of the things John Sheehan (@johnsheehan), and Steve Marx (@smarx) discussed during the recent show, was a post Steve wrote as part of his role as product manager, called "How many HTTP status codes should your API use"? I think the story is extremely useful to read, helping us all think through how we use HTTP status codes in our own platform, but personally I think the real story, is Dropbox talking out loud about their strategy.

John and Steve pointed out on the podcast that someone had tweeted that the story was not in sync with the way Dropbox actually did their HTTP status codes. To which Steve replied, that is why he wrote the story, to talk it out, and solicit feedback. This is how you should be thinking through your API road map, out loud, on your platform blog. When I mention to API providers that the blog is the most important tool in their toolbox, this is what I mean. Your blog isn’t just for broadcasting your platform message, it is also about you thinking through thoughts, sharing those thoughts with your API consumers, and potentially getting feedback, which you can consider as part of the overall decision making process.

I am addicted to thinking through my ideas publicly on my blog. For me, a thought isn’t fully formed, until its published. I also depend heavily on the feedback from my audience to my stories, in their public comments on Disqus, and Twitter, as well as privately via email and DMs. Talking things through, publicly on your blog, teaches you to think outside the box, let the sunlight in on your thoughts, and forces you to (potentially) properly form your ideas (not always), at least enough to share with the public--even if you don’t end up getting feedback, that process alone, is highly valuable.

The best part of this, is after you’ve thought through your stories, received feedback from your API consumers, the story also has the potential to live on as a marketing vehicle, which is what I feel most people think of when I mention a blog for API operation. All of this creates a potentially virtuous cycle, that is essential to API evangelism and the overall road map. If you do this type of storytelling regularly, thoroughly thinking through your ideas, and opening them up to public comment before you finalize your road map, eventually you will find that you have momentum in some very positive directions, and are generating some extremely valuable exhaust from your efforts that also brings in new API consumers, and helps keep the existing API consumers engaged.