Why Did We Need The API Evangelist?

I am spending two days this week with the Capital One DevExchange team outside of Washington DC, and they’ve provided me with a list of questions for one of our sessions, which they will be recording for internal use. To prepare, I wanted to work through my thoughts, and make sure each of these answers were on the tip of my tongue–here is one of those questions, along with my thoughts.

You needed the API Evangelist because there was nobody paying attention to the big picture of the API space. Sure, there are many vendors who pay attention to the big picture, and there are analysts who are paid to pay attention to the bigger picture to help validate the vendors, but there is nobody independent. At least there wasn’t in 2010 when I started. Now, there are a number of leading API experts and visionaries who work at different companies, and are able to maintain an independent view of the space, but in 2010 this did not exist. I’d like to think I helped make such a thing possible, but honestly it probably would have happened without me.

Developer advocates, and evangelists tend to pay attention to a specific API, set of APIs, or API services and tooling. I pay attention to everything. I keep an eye on as many APIs as I possibly can, and work to evaluate all the services, tools, and technology that emerges on the landscape. I try to remain objective about what is working, and what is not, and share stories about both. I still have my biases, and tend to hold grudges against a few companies for their bad behavior, but for the most part I’m just trying to share an honest view of what is going on at the 100K view. Something that differs from the analysts, because I don’t have a vendor driven agenda, I’m just looking to understand.

Another area that I benefit the space is educating the normals about what is going on. I’m priming your customers, and the decision makers who will be buying your products, services, and putting your tooling to work. Not every company is willing to invest heavily in the area of API education beyond their own products and services, and it is something that needs significant investment. I’ve had API service providers thank me for providing articles, white papers, research, and guides they can use to help validate what they are saying. I’m used by newspapers, tech blogs, and ocasionally analysts to validate their own findings and stories about what is going on in the API space. I help API providers and service providers do better, and this is why some companies support me financially by sponsoring my work.

Even with all my work over the last seven years, we need hundreds of more API Evangelists. We need API Evangelist in every industry, and in every country and region. It’s not a model that will scale, and don’t think about going to get some funding to make it happen. We just need other people who care about their sectors, have the capacity to make sense of the technology, while also still be able to explain what is going on to normals, and holding their own with developers and IT folks. You need the API Evangelist because most people are just looking to sell you something, even if they are really nice folks. You need the API Evangelist, because I’m going to look at things with an honest and critical eye that isn’t blinded by what I’m trying to sell you, what my boss’s or investor’s agenda is. Even if that agenda is mostly positive, they will always miss a significant portion of what is going on. I’m where you come to ask questions, and read stories about what is happening, without things being skewed by money. I’m not doing this to get rich, build a startup, exit, or doing anything beyond just making a decent living, and paying my bills.