The Most Important Aspect Of The API Discussion Is Learning To Think Outside Our Boxes

There are many good things to come out of doing APIs properly. Unfortunately there are also many bad things that can come out of doing APIs badly, or with misaligned expectations. It is easy to focus on the direct benefits of doing APIs like making data resources available to partners, or maybe developing a mobile application. I prefer looking for the more indirect benefits, which are more human, more than they are ever technical.

As I work with different groups on a variety of API definitions and strategies, one very significant part of the process I see, is people being forced to think outside their box. APIs are all about engaging around data, content, and algorithms on the web, with 3rd parties that operate outside your box. You are forced to lookup, and outward a bit. Not everyone I engage with is fully equipped to do this, for a variety of reasons, but overall the API process does make folks just a little more critical than they do with even their websites.

The web has come with a number of affordances. Those same affordances aren’t always present in API discussions forcing folks to have more conversations around why we are doing APIs (an answer shouldn’t always be yes), and discussing the finer details not just storing your data, and managing your schema, but doing in a way that will play nicely with other external systems. You may be doing things one way internally, and it might even be working for you, but it is something that can only get better with each outside partner, or consumer you are exposed to along your journey. Even with all of the internal politics I encounter in my API conversations, the API process always leaves me enjoying almost any outcome.