This Is How APIs Will Deliver The Change We Need

I recently caught a glimpse of how APIs are going to deliver the change we need in this world. It began while I was attending a gathering of indie ed-tech folks on the campus of Davidson College in North Carolina. Where 20-30, mostly non-developers, discussed what is indie ed-tech, something which included many visions of what was dubbed "the personal API". While the gathering was very enlightening, it was what this gathering has set into motion, after we all parted ways, that I think has the most potential

Since the gathering occurred, a rolling wave of API driven awarenss has been picking up speed, with Indie Ed Tech, Colleagues/Friends, APIs, Unexpected Emergent Ideas, and dot dot dot and Can The JED-API Power a Certification with a fellow who barks about and plays with web tech. The Indie Ed-Tech: Revue/Reflections from the ed-tech Cassandra. I took a Journey to discover what is Indie Ed-tech with an expert generalist, and heard about Indie Educational Technology from a university chief information officer (CIO). I then read about how we are Pushing/Pulling Data – Thinking Computationally? Differently? from someone focused technology integration in K12 and higher ed. Then I explored Lo-fi Ed”-“Tech and The Personal in Indie from an edupunk with a mountaintop compound in Italy, and enjoyed the Reflections on Indie Ed-Tech from his partner in crime who is someone who is just making things up as he goes. I enjoyed the recap of the #IndieEdTech Design Sprint and #IndieEdTech Personal APIs & The Current State of Ed-Tech and IndieEdTech Keynote Reflections from an instructional psychology and technology graduate student. I thoroughly enjoyed the Framing Indie EdTech and Indie EdTech Design Sprint and Indie EdTech: Future and Funding and finally listening to the Vinyl API of One’s Own from a director of digital learning.

This collective vision of Indie Ed-Tech, which includes some very personal views of a what an API is, is how APIs will deliver the change we need.

It will not be the e-commerce vision of SalesForce, eBay, Commerce, Paypal, and other API pioneers that will move the needle with APIs. It will not be the following wave of social API leaders like Twitter and Facebook who connect all of us together using APIs. It will not be the API as a product vision of startups like Twilio, SendGrid, and Stripe who shift the landscape with a complete API package.

A perfectly designed REST API, that follows all the hypermedia rules, and the linked data vision of API visionaries will not save us. No single API specification, schema or standard handed down from above will provide the framework we will need to make the change necessary. Our belief in the perfect API implementation will not ever unite, and connect humans in the ways we need, and bring the balance that is necessary.

The well oiled API platforms of the big five: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Microsoft will not bring the collective power needed to make web scale API change. Their API platforms, organizational-wide unity, design strategies, and CEO mandates, will never support the API power that is needed to achieve the global scale we will need.

The better late than never API implementations of last generation tech gorillas like Oracle, IBM, SAP, and AT&T will not begin to power even 5% of the potential that APIs will deliver. These 1000 lb legacy tech giants like to talk API, and like to pretend they get what APIs can do, but they will never realize what is actually needed to be API, beyond their own selfish needs.

Even the mighty US, UK, and other top governments, with their all knowing, all seeing, all mighty NSA, military, and bureaucratic institutions will ever fully realize API, with all their open data efforts, and global surveillance networks. Their belief that they have all the data, intelligence, network, and mobile access that they will need, will only distract them from what is actually possible with APIs.

It won't even be the over eager API Evangelists, who spends all their time understanding everything that is API, that will change the world using APIs. These evangelist will only be the channel in which each individual receives the information and awareness about APIs each day, setting the stage for what will bring the change we need. Evangelists can spend the next 33 years watching, writing, speaking, and hacking on APIs, and still not move the needle in the same way, that the API literacy showcased above will set into motion.

It will be the API literate individual, who understands that they can get access to their own data, and information from any website, system, application, connected device, company, and institution, using APIs. It will be people who understand that they can make their education, career, and the web into what they want, using APIs. That the web is programmable. A digitally aware individual who assumes full control over their online self, taken it back from the tech giants, understanding that they own all the exhaust from their online (and increasingly offline) personal, and professional life. 

I have been excited about some of what I've seen while monitoring the API space over the last five years. Something that is getting harder and harder to find each year. However, nothing I have seen makes me more hopeful and optimistic about what APIs can do, than reading about each of these individuals, who have been turned on to what an API is. It is not my vision. It's not IT's vision. It's not Silicon Valley's vision. It is their own vision of what is API, an understanding that APIs are all around them, and developing their own interpretation of what APIs can do.

No single API implementation, tool, service, specification or standard will set into motion the change that is needed. The real API story is about empowering every single individual to take control over their own digital self using APIs--something I believe should begin in education at the K-12, as well as University level. This is the front-line of APIs. This is how we will push back on Silicon Valley, technology, digital exploitation, and the NSA's of the world.

This is how APIs will help to deliver the change we need. #IndieEdTech