Admitting There Is So Much I Do Not Understand Makes Be Better At APIs

One of the reasons I’m so good at APIs is because I embrace how little I know. This rolling realization keeps my appetite wet when it comes to learning to things, and working hard to discover, and realize sensible API practices. I am comfortable with the fact that I do not know something. I enjoy coming up against things I do not understand, eager to learn more. However, I think there is one big difference in the way I approach technology from other developers, is that I’m not confident that I will ever be able to fully understand a particular domain, let alone think that technology, or specifically APIs are a solution to a specific set of problems within every domain.

Many developers are overly confident in what they know. They are also overly confident in their ability to learn new things. They are also overly confident that they can hammer out a technological solution that will solve all problems within a domain. I feel like many technologists aren’t in the game to learn, they are in the game to prove they have the chops to solve problems, and when they can’t they just walk away. When you approach APIs in this way you are leaving a lot of opportunity for learning and growth on the table. APIs shouldn’t be seen as simply a solution. APIs are just a tool (like the web) in a business toolbox, that should be applied when appropriate, and not applied when it doesn’t make sense.

Beyond developers, I feel like many business users are scared off by the uncertainty in the world of APIs. They don’t thrive in an environment where there are so many possibilities, configurations, and ways to do things right and wrong. APIs give you more control over your data, content, and algorithms, allowing you to provide access to them in many ways, and reach across many client channels like the web, mobile, and other device or network implementations. I feel like many business users want this amount of control, but aren’t willing to invest the time to be able to make decisions in this environment, and own the responsibility surrounding so much uncertainty. Unlike developers, they may have the domain expertise, but aren’t willing to experiment, play around with, and bang their head on the different ways APIs can help deliver solutions.

I feel like developers tend to suck at admitting they don’t understand things, and have to much belief in our technological toolbox when it comes to filling in the gaps. I feel like business users just aren’t confident enough with technology to thrive in environments where you perpetually do not know everything. I feel like my ability to admit I do not know, and maybe never fully understand a specific domain–coupled with my insatiable appetite for learning, puts me in a good position to be studying APIs. I can dive into new domains without thinking I’m going to save or disrupt the world. I can develop API prototypes, and help define API specifications, fully aware that I may not get it right on the first release. I know this is ok. I know that APIs are a journey, and not a destination. I know that APIs shouldn’t always be done. I know that sometimes they are a bad idea. I respect that there are domain experts in specific industries that I should be learning from. Admitting there is so much I do not know, helps me be better at what I do with APIs.