I Wish I Had Time To Tell That API Story

If you have followed my work in the API space you know that I consider myself an API storyteller before I ever would an API evangelist, architect, or the other skills I bring to the table. Telling stories about what folks are up to in the space is the most important thing to me, and I feel it is the most common thing people stumble across, and end up associating with my brand. You hear me talk regularly about how important stories are, and how all of this API thing is only a thing, because of stories. Really, telling stories is the most important you should be doing if you are an API provider or API service provider, and something you need to be prioritizing.

I was talking with a friend, and client the other day about their API operations, and after they told me a great story about the impact their APIs were making I said, “you should tell that story”! Which they responded, “I wish I had time to tell that story, but I don’t. My boss doesn’t prioritize me spending time on telling stories about what we are doing.” ;-( It just broke my heart. I get really, really busy during the week with phone calls, social media, and other project related activity. However, I always will stop what I’m doing and write 3-5 blog posts for API Evangelist about what I’m doing, and what I’m seeing. I know many of the stories are mundane and probably pretty boring, but they are exercise for me, of my ideas, my words, and how I communicate with other people.

The way that enterprise groups and startups operate is something I’m very familiar with. I’ve been scolded by many bosses, and told not read or write on my blog. This is one of the reasons I don’t work in government anymore, or in the enterprise, as it would KILL ME to not be able to tell stories. I need storytelling to do what I do. To work through ideas. It is how I learn from others. Why would I want to do something that I can’t tell others about? Why would I not prioritize the cool things my clients are doing with my APIs? Sure, there are some classified, and sensitive situations where you definitely would not, but most of the reasons I hear for not telling stories publicly about the cool things you are doing are complete bullshit. I’m sorry, but they are. Even if you have to package it as a white paper or case study, you should be putting this down for others to learn from.

When you find yourself telling your creative side (or me), that you wish you had time to tell that story, you should consider that a canary in the coal mine. A sign that there is other illnesses going on. Sure, once or twice is fine, but if this becomes a sustained thing, or worse–you stop wanting to tell stories at all, then you should be looking for a new gig. You just had your mojo killed. Nobody deserves that. No employer should kills their employees storytelling mojo. Even if you are all business, telling stories is essential to making things work. Press releases are stories. Ok, they are usually a very sad, pathetic story, but they are a story. Your company blog should be active. Your personal blog should be active. Go check out your personal blog, when was the last time you wrote something you were passionate about? If it was more than a year ago, your employer has put you in a box, and is looking to keep you there.

Photo Credit: The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais, oil on canvas, 1870. A seafarer tells the young Sir Walter Raleigh and his brother the story of what happened out at sea, from the Wikipedia entry for storytelling.