{"API Evangelist"}

The API Driven Marketplace That Is My Digital Self

I spend a lot of time studying and thinking about the "digital bits" that we move around the Internet. Personally, and professionally I am dedicated to quantifying, and understanding those bits that are the most important to us as individuals, professionals, and business owners. Like many other folks who work in the tech sector I have always been good at paying attention to the digital bits, I am just not as good at others when monetizing these bits, adding to my own wealth.

When you talk about this world in the world as much as I have, you see just a handful of responses. Most "normals" aren't very interested in things at this level--they just want to benefit from the Internet and aren't really interested in how it works. People who are associated with the tech sector and understand the value of these bits, often do not see them as "your" bits, they seem them as their bits--something they can extract value from, and generate revenue. Then there are always a handful of "normals" who are interested in understanding more, because of security and privacy concerns, as well as a handful of tech sector folks who actually care about the humans enough to balance the desire to just make profits.

The Imbalance In All OF This Is What Fascinates Me 
The majority of the "normals" don't care about the complexity of the bits they generate, as well as who has access to them. Folks in the tech sector love to tell me regularly that people don't care about this stuff, they just want the convenience, and for it all to work. However, they are also overwhelmingly interested in the bits you generate each day because there is plenty of money to be made extracting insights from your bits, and selling those insights, as well as the raw bits to other companies so they can do the same. This is why EVERYTHING is being connected to the Internet--the convenience factor is just to incentivize you enough so that you plug it in.

There is a reason this latest wave of tech barons like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are getting wealthy--it is generated from the exhaust from our personal and professional lives. Facebook doesn't make money from me just having a Facebook account, they make money off me regularly using Facebook, sharing details of my life via my home and work computers, and mobile devices. This "exhaust" from our daily lives is why Silicon Valley is looking to invest money in each wave of startups, and why corporations, law enforcement, and government agencies are looking to get their hands on it. If these bits are so important, valuable and sought after, why shouldn't the average citizen be more engaged as part of this? I mean they are our bits, right?

Where the imbalance really comes in for me in all of this, is that technologists agree that these bits are valuable. Many even hold them up to be the source of intelligence for the next generation of algorithms that are increasingly governing our lives. Some even hold up these bits to almost a religious status, and that someday humans will be able to be simply uploaded to the Internet because these bits reflect our human soul. However, the average person shouldn't worry themselves with these bits, do not have any rights to access these bits, let alone be able to assert any sort of control and ownership over these bits and bytes? It is troubling that this is the norm for everything right now.

I operate somewhere in the pragmatic and realistic middle I guess. I do not believe these bits and bytes represent our soul, being, or any other religious stance. I do believe they are a digital reflection of ourselves, though. I do think that my thoughts in my Evernote notebook should not be purely seen as a commodity to enrich their algorithms or the photos of my daughter on Instagram being open for use in advertising--they are my bits. I am fine with the platform that I use generating revenue from my activity, however, I do expect them these bits as mine, and this is a shared partnership when it comes to being a steward of my bits--something I feel has severely gotten out of balance in the current investment climate.

Who Do These Bits Belong To?
Only in recent years have I seen more tangible discussion around who these bits belong to. Startup founders I've discussed this with feel pretty strongly that these bits wouldn't exist if it wasn't for their platform--so they belong to them. Increasingly the ISP, cable, and mobile network providers feel they have some right to this information as well. Local and the federal government has also pushed pretty hard to clarify that they should have unfettered access to these bits. Sadly, there aren't more discussions that actually include end-users, the average citizen, and "normals" in these discussions, but I guess this is how power works right? Let's keep them in the dark, while we work this shit out for them.

I guess that I am looking to help shift this balance by being a very vocal "average citizen", and active participant in the tech sector, one who cares about privacy and security. This is why I do API Evangelist--to shine a light on this layer of our increasingly digital world, and be transparent about my own world, so that I can help educate other "normals", and people who care, about this version of our digital self that is being generated, cultivated, and often exploited online without any respect for us as individual human beings. To help quantify the digital version of myself, I wanted to walk through my footprint, and share it with others.

What Makes Up The Digital Version Of Kin Lane?
Alongside studying the world of APIs, and how the bits and bytes are being moved around the Interwebz, I regularly try to assess my own online presence, define, a regularly redefine who is Kin Lane on the Internet--this is how I make money, and pay my rent, so it is very important to me. I am always eager to dive in and quantify this presence, because the more I am aware of this digital presence, the more I am able to make it work in the service of what I want, over what other people, companies, and the government want for me. Let's take a stroll through the core services that define my digital self in 2017. 

Twitter (@kinlane & @apievangelist)
Starting with the most public version of myself, I'd say Twitter is one of the most important digital performances I participate in each day. I have 10 accounts I perform on, Tweeting about what I see, what I write, and many other elements of my personal and professional life. Here are some of the key bits and bytes:

I get that Twitter needs to generate revenue by providing insights about the relationships I have, the role I play in trending topics, and other interesting insights they can extract in aggregate. However, these are my words, thoughts, messages, photos, and friends. Even though these activities connect in the cloud at twitter.com, they are occurring in my home and my physical world via my laptop, tablet, and mobile phone.

Github, Github Pages, and Github Gists (@kinlane, @apievangelist)
Twitter is an important channel for me, but I would say that Github plays the most critical role in my professional world of all the services I depend on. I host the majority of my public presence using Github Pages, and I manage all the API driven code that runs my world on Github. Aside from Twitter, I'd say that Github is one of the most important social, and communication channel in my world, used to keep track on what individuals and companies are up to.--here are the bits I track on via Github:

When it comes to what matters in my world as the API Evangelist, Github is the most critical. Many providers have dialed in how to game Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other popular channels, but it is much harder to fake a presence on Github. This is where I track on companies and individuals who are doing some the most valuable work on the web--the most important part is it's out in the open.

Facebook (@kinlane & @apievangelist, & @dronerecovery)
I would put Facebook more in the personal category, than a professional one, as I have never really found a voice for API Evangelist on Facebook. I tend to use the platform for coordinating with my friends and family, but I am increasingly opening up to the wider public and including folks from my professional world. This doesn't change the conversation around the value of these bits and bytes in my daily life:

I do not publish much else to Facebook.  I don't check-in, or really use it as part of my business operations, so what I do is pretty basic. I am spending more time crafting how-to API videos, and other content and media that is focused on a Facebook audience, so this will change over time, making my perspective on ownership and control over my bits and bytes even more important in coming years.

YouTube (@kinlane, @dronerecovery, @algorotoscope)
Historically most of my videos on Youtube have been speaking at conferences, universities, and other gatherings. I've been slowly shifting this, as I hope to produce more how-to API content, as well as significantly shifted with the introduction of my Drone Recovery and Algorotoscope work. Youtube's role in my personal and professional world is only going to continue to expand:

I do not have a lot of experience working with Youtube in a professional capacity and do not spend a huge amount of time on Youtube watching videos, but its network effect is undeniable. While Twitter and Facebook are growing in significance when it comes to my video bits, Youtube is still number one.

Dropbox
While not a very public part of my online self, I use Dropbox a lot for managing a more human side of my online storage of files, videos, and other digital objects. I leverage Dropbox as sharing for planning my conference(s), working on video projects, and a variety of other projects, across many different teams. Here are some of the bits I manage with Dropbox:

I'm increasingly using the Dropbox API as a way to automate my document, image, video, and other media processing workflows in a way that allows me to plug humans into different stops along the way. It helps me maximize control over the media and other objects I need throughout the work on a daily basis. 

Google
Google has been a significant player in helping me define my digital self since 2005. However, in recent years I've made an effort to reduce my dependence on Google, but it is something I'm not able to ever do completely. I see Google as the poster child for why we should be mindful of our digital self, the bits we manage online, and why we should be skeptical of free software and tools for our businesses. Here are the bits I'm leveraging Google to manage:

I would point the finger at shifting the landscape from business software to free, surveillance-style business models. I also point the finger at Google for shifting the overall focus of a free, open, and democratic Internet, towards something that is about making money, generating leads and clicks, and fueling disinformation networks--"Index The Worst Parts of the World and Human Race".

Slack
I like Slack. I get it. However I find it to be a little too noisy and busy, and I find that I can only handle about three active channels at any point in time. Even with all the noise, it is a pretty interesting approach to messaging, and one of my favorite API platforms, so I can't help but put the platform to use in my business and a personal world in helping me manage the following bits:

I'm not a big believer in bots and automated approaches to messaging, but I get why others might be into it. I'm a little more critical about where and how I automate things in my world, and a little biased because I tend to write the code that assists me in operating my world. When it comes to bots, I'm hoping that users are more critical about which bots they give access to, and bot developers provide more transparency into the data they collect, and their security practices.

Eventbrite
I have my own conference that I help produce, as well as have played a role in other conferences, so EventBrite can play a pretty significant role in managing the bits for this part of my professional world. Eventbrite helps me manage my bits for use across numerous events but also helps me manage my relationship with the bits of my conference attendees, which are very important to me.

Eventbrite is an interesting convergence of the physical and digital worlds for me. Tracking on the details of the types of events I attend, which are primarily tech events, but occasionally also other more entertainment, political, and other types of events. If you've ever run a lot of conferences as I have, you understand the importance, value, and scope of information you are tracking about everyone involved. A significant portion of the conference's business model is based on sponsors having access to these bits.

MeetUp
when it comes to smaller gatherings, I depend on Meetup to help me manage my involvement. I actively use Meetup to stay in tune with many of the API Meetup groups I frequent, as well as keep tabs on what other interesting types of gatherings are available out there. Here are the bits I track as part of Meetup usage:

I am hyper aware oft he information Meetup tracks from my own usage when attending Meetups, but also my experience running Meetups. I also use the Meetup API to do research on locations, and the different areas that are related to the API industry--so I know what data is available, or not when it comes to profiling users.

CloudFlare
I use CloudFlare to manage the DNS for all my domains. They provide me with a professional, API driven set of tools for managing the addressing of my online presence. Most importantly, CloudFlare helps me manage the portion of my digital presence that I own the most, and allows me to extract the most value from the bits I generate each day.

This is a very important service for me, my business and brand. Choosing the right service to manage the frontline for your online presence is increasingly important these days. CloudFlare plays an important role when it comes to securing my bits, and making sure I can operate safely on the Internet, and stay functioning as a viable independent business. 

GumRoad
I use Gumroad to help me sell my white papers, essays, guides, images, video, and other digital goods.  They provide a simple way for me to create new products from the digital goods I produce, and give me an interface, as well as an API for adding, managing, and selling things that are as part of my operations.

I like Gumroad because it allows me to sell digital goods one my site, and they just get out of the way. They aren't looking to build a network effect, just empower you to sell your digital goods by providing embeddable tools, and easy to use ordering, checkout, and payment solutions--they make money when you sell things and are successful.

LinkedIn
A lot of what I do targets a business audience, making LinkedIn a pretty important social and content platform for me to operate on. I do not agree with LinkedIn's business strategy, and much of what they have done to restrict their developer community makes them of lower value to me, but I still use them to manage a lot of bits online. 

Like Facebook, I'm looking to expand my business usage of LinkedIn, and minimize its role in my personal world. Their lack of APIs for some of the important bits I manage on the platform makes it hard for me to expand and automate this very much. As a result, it tends to be just a destination for publishing news and engage with people via messaging and groups.

Amazon & Amazon Web Services
Amazon is another cornerstone of my operations. They provide me with the core elements of my business operations, and are what I'd consider to be a wholesale provider of some the bits I put to work across my operations. I guess I have to consider the consumer relationship I have with Amazon as well, and the role they play in making sure physical goods arrive on my doorstep, as well as the digital bits I manage on their platform.

Amazon is a very tough service for me to replace. I keep everything I run there as generic as possible, staying away from some of their newer, more proprietary services, but when it comes to what I can do at scale, and the costs associated with it--you can't beat Amazon. Aside from Amazon Web Services, I depend on Amazon for my camera equipment, printer, and other things that help me generate and evolve my bits both on, and offline.

Pinboard
This is is a very specialized service I use, but has provided a core part of my world for over three years now. I use Pinboard to bookmark news and blog posts I read, images, videos, and any other digital bit of others that I keep track on. Pinboard is my memory, and notebook for everything I read and curate across the Web.

I have a different relationship with almost every service provider listed on this page, and in some of the cases I have a love/hate relationship with the platform--I need their service, but I don't agree with all of their policies and practices. This IS NOT the case with Pinboard. I absolutely love Pinboard. It is a service that does one thing and does it well, and I'm happy to pay for the service they offer. They do not have any surprises when it comes to helping me manage my bits. They are extremely clear about our partner relationship.

SoundCloud
This is where I publish the audio from my world. I've published recorded webinars, audio versions of talks I've given, and Audrey and I publish our Tech Gypsies podcast here. Like Youtube, SoundCloud is a place I'm looking to expand on how I use the platform, to manage the audio side of my digital self with these bits:

At Tech Gypsies (my parent company) been publishing our podcast to SoundCloud each week since April of 2016, and is something we are going to keep doing in 2017. I'm looking to capture more sounds that I can publish here, to accompany some of my videos. I'm also looking at some of the music and sounds of other artists for inclusion in some of my work.

Medium
It took me a while to come around to the network effects of publishing on Medium, but I'm there. While I'm not nearly as active here as I am on my other domains, I do syndicate certain pieces here to Medium to tap into these benefits.

After a recent announcement that they would be downsizing at Medium, the benefits of my approach to managing my bits were clear. Many folks have told me I should move my blogs to Medium, and while I'll keep investing time into the platform, it will never receive the same attention as my own properties, because of the revenue they bring to the table. 

Flickr
I have been a long time Flickr user, and was a paid customer for many years. I still use the platform to manage certain collections of images, including my APIStrat conference, but its dominance as an image and photo manage channel has been reduced due to concerns about the stability of it's parent company Yahoo.

In addition to managing my own digital presence using Flickr, I also use it to discover photos and people, by navigating tags and conducting searches via the site and API. This service contributes pretty significantly to my digital presence because I use them in my blog posts, and other publishing I do online (licensing allowing). 

Instagram
I swore off Instagram when they changed their terms of service temporarily so that they could use your photos in advertising without your permission--it is something they have backed off, but I still kind of lost faith in them. I still try to maintain the platform by publishing photos there, and I've recently setup an account for my photography, drone, and algorotoscope work, so I expect my usage will grow again.

I really like Instagram as a solution. My only problem with it really is that they are part of the Facebook ecosystem. As an image management solution, and social network around photos I think its a great idea, I'm just not a big fan of their priorities when it comes to licensing and surveillance.

Paypal
My primary payment platform for my business is still Paypal. If I am building an application, or scaling a business I'd be leveraging Stripe, Dwolla, and other leading providers, but because there is still a human element in my payment scenarios I heavily use Paypal.

My Paypal is a look at the financial side of my operations. It helps me centralize my money in a way that helps me work with a variety of services, as well as the underlying bank account(s). I can integrate into my site, and use the embeddable tooling that they provide to integrating payments into my sites, and the applications or tooling I develop.

Zapier
The majority of automation that occurs on my platform is hand coded because I have these skills. However, there are many services that the integration platform as a service provider Zapier offers which I just can't ignore. Zapier makes integration between common API driven services dead simple--something any non-developer can put to use, and even programmers like me can put to work to save time

Zapier has an API, but it doesn't provide control over my account, services, and the connections, or as they call them--zaps, as I'd like to see. It is a much better solution than IFTTT, who takes a proprietary stance about your services and connections, but in my opinion, we will need to evolve more solutions like DataFire.io to help more normals make sense of all of this. 

The Core Services I Depend On
There are numerous other services I use, but these 20+ are the core services I depend on to make my personal and professional world work. These are the services I depend on to make a living. Some of these services I pay for, and there is a sensible and fair terms of service in place. Other services I do not pay for and put to use because of the network, and other positive effects...even if there is often a term of service in place that extracts value from my data and content--hopefully the positives outweigh the negative for me in the end.

My Domain(s)
Now we come to the most important part of my digital self. The portion of it where I get to have 100% control over how things work, and benefit from all of the value that is generated--this is my domain, where I am a domain expert, across a handful of web domains that I own and operate.

In my world, all roads should begin here and end here. The majority of my work starts here and then gets syndicated to other channels. When this isn't possible, I make sure that I can get my content back out via API, scraping, or good old manual work. My objective in all of this work is to define my entire digital footprint and paint a picture of not just the services I depend on for my online self, but also the valuable little bits that get created, moved around, and ultimately monetized by someone (hopefully that is me). 

Identifying The Bits
When you look at my digital self I would say that the two most defined bits of my existence are the blog post and the Tweet. These are the most public bits I produce most frequently, and probably what I'm best known for which also results in me making money. I began focusing on the digital bits I generate and manage as part of my presence on a regular basis because I am the API Evangelist, and I saw companies using APIs to make money off of all of our bits. Amongst it all, I managed to make a living talking about all of this and generate bits (blogs, guides, white papers, talks) that people are interested in, and sometimes they are interested enough to pay me money. 

I am not looking to identify all of my bits just so that I can make money off them, and I'm not looking to deprive companies who work hard to develop platforms and useful tools from sharing the value generated by my traffic, data, content, photos, videos, and other bits I generate. I'm just looking to assert as much control over these digital bits as I possibly can because, well....they are mine. Here are some of the most common bits I'm producing, managing, and in some cases making a living from across these services I use to define my digital self:

  • Analytics
  • Billing
  • Blog
  • Books
  • Bots
  • Calendar
  • Certificates
  • Channels
  • Collections
  • Comments
  • Companies
  • Compute
  • Database
  • DNS
  • Documents
  • Domains
  • Email
  • Essays
  • Events
  • Events
  • Files
  • Firewall
  • Forums
  • Friends
  • Gists (Code)
  • Groups
  • Guides
  • Hangouts
  • Images
  • Invoices
  • Issues
  • Jobs
  • Likes
  • Links
  • Locations
  • Magazines
  • Members
  • Messages
  • News
  • Offer Codes
  • Orders
  • Organizations
  • Pages
  • Papers
  • Payees
  • Payments
  • Payors
  • People
  • Photos
  • Pictures
  • Places
  • Playlists
  • Posts
  • Profile
  • Profile
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Relationships
  • Reports
  • Repositories
  • Sales
  • Search
  • Sharing
  • Shopping
  • Storage
  • Subscribers
  • Tags
  • Teams
  • Tracks
  • Translation
  • Tweets
  • Users
  • Venues
  • Videos

All of these digital bits exist for a variety of reasons. Some are more meta, some are casual, while others help me be more informed, organized, and ultimately becomes my research which drives the bits that make me money. I want to respect the digital bits of others that I put to use in my work (images, videos, quotes), and I would like folks to be respectful of my digital bits. I could use some help driving traffic to my sites, and I'm happy to help create unique content, media, and other activities to drive traffic to the services I use, but I want it to be fair, equitable, and acknowledge that these are my digital bits, regardless of the platform, tool, and device where it was generated--it is quite likely that occurred on my laptop, tablet, or mobile phone in my home.

The API Driven Marketplace That Is My Digital Self
I understand that I probably think about this stuff a little too much. More than the average person. It is my job, but I can't shake that the average person might want to be a little more aware of this layer of their increasingly digital life. Especially so if you are looking to make a living off your work as an independent progressional (some day), and successfully develop your career in the digital jungle, where everyone is looking to extract as much value from your digital bits, before you ever even can benefit yourself. As a professional, I want to maximize my control over the traffic and other value generated by my labor, asserting control over my digital bits whenever, and wherever I can.

I notice my digital bits flowing around online at this level because this is what I do as API Evangelist, and I'm working to automate as much of it as I can, maximize my digital footprint and presence, while retaining as much control over all of my bits as I possibly can. All of the platforms listed above have APIs. If possible, I only depend on services that have APIs. I don't do this just because of what I do for a living, I do this because it allows me to automate, and syndicate my presence and work more efficiently and effectively. I have active integrations with Facebook, Twitter, Github, and all of the services listed above. I always have a queue of new integrations I need to tackle, and when I do not have time to code, I try to use Zapier or other integration as a service solution.

All of my work is conducted within my domain, within my workshop. Each blog post I write, each image or video I create, and guide, essay, and white paper I produce is crafted on my desktop or the workshops that are kinlane.com, apievangelist.com, and my other web domains, where I operate my open, publicly available digital workbench. Then I use the API for each of the service listed above to then push my bits to each channel, syndicating to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Medium, and to my network of sites using Github. I know the APIs of these services intimately, including the bits that are exchanged with each transaction. I have written code to integrate with, and crafted OpenAPI Specs for each of the services listed above--I can close my eyes and see these bits being exchanged daily, and think constantly about how they are exchanged, bought, sold, and leveraged across the platforms above. I know, I have a problem.

I'm sure that all of this sounds a little OCD to some. Most folks I talk to about this stuff do not care and dismiss as out of their realm. Most of the entrepreneurs who get things at this level are too busy making money from any value being generated, they do not have much interest in everyone else understanding all of this. In my opinion, you will either want to understand things at this level, and assert control over your bits, or you will work on these other platforms, allowing others to benefit from what you do online, in your car, and in your home. I don't mind other people generating value from my digital bits, especially if they provide me with valuable services, and the details of the relationship are disclosed, I am informed, and we are in agreement before entering.

I am just getting to know my digital self. Sadly I do not fully understand the terms of service that guide all of these relationships as well as I know the technical details of our relationship. Now that I have more of a handle on which core services I depend on, as well as the digital bits that are exchanged in these digital relationships I have entered into. I'm currently working on profiling the business models, pricing and plans available for each of these services I depend on. After that, I'd like to take a better look at the terms of service, privacy policies, and other legal aspects of these relationships. Maybe then I'll understand more about how my digital bits are being bought and sold on the open market, and what dimensions of my digital self really exist.