The API Reality In Our Heads Versus The Reality On The Ground
10 Sep 2019
I am spending some time grounding my views of the API landscape. Working my through all of my beliefs, and systematically blowing them to bits to see how they hold up against the stress of reality on the ground. This is something I’ve become very good at when it comes to my personal beliefs in recent years, and something I’ve been working to transfer to my professional world to help me keep a grip on what is going on. There are a number of reason why I fall prey to things that are not real in this game, and I’m pretty aware of the shady things that occur in the business world, but when it comes to technology I find the stories it whispers in my ear prove to be particularly enchanting and seem to go from whisper to truth at a velocity I don’t always understand.
One of the things I need to develop a way of better evaluating in the moment is around the velocity at which things will happen. How fast adoption of APIs will occur within the mainstream. How quickly a company will adopt an API-first approach. And the time it will take a new tool to go from creation to adoption. Technology has this way of convincing me that everything is moving faster than ever before, and it is something that ends up as a residue on everything I touch, and is relative to how deeply I believe in this myth. As I approach a decade of doing this, I can say that API adoption and awareness has never played out in a timeline anywhere close to what I envisioned in the early days. At this point I’d say that most things are at a 6X scale than I had imagined. Sure, there are exceptions, but when it comes to the normal pace of change, especially within the enterprise, it has taken about 6 times as long for things to take root.
Beyond time, another area that I have to get better at accepting is when it comes to how technology convinces me to ignore the human side of things. It empowers me to efficiently overlook the human factors in all of this at a scale I’ve never seen before. Technology, combined with my clueless white male privilege super powers makes for a pretty potent formula for missing the human factors of rolling out a new application within large organizations, and amongst the normals out in the real world. I am a master at working my way through all the technical and business details of an API rollout at an organization, pouring over the details making sure I haven’t missed anything, and then I’m genuinely surprised when 30 days in I’m blindsided by some human being who is like—this shit is dumb. Then everyone else on their team goes yeah, this is dumb. Then I have a revolt on my hands. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why hadn’t I mapped out the teams better? What is it about technology and APIs that convinces me I have everything covered, when in reality I have such a massive blindspot for the most important detail—humans.
Why can things make so much sense in my head, but then fall apart so horribly on the ground within the enterprise. Why don’t I see all the negative ways in which my “solution” will be abused by the public? Why can’t I see the negative consequences of my application when it gets released in the wild? These are the questions I’m tattooing on my forearm so I make sure and consider them early on in the API ideation and development lifecycle. I don’t fully understand why technological whispers in my ear (I only have one good one) are so powerful. I don’t fully get why I am so attracted to tech in the first place, and still come back for more after so many misfires, and incomplete pictures painted. Sure, I’ve also had a number of successes, but not near as many as I believed I would have. I don’t think it is due to my abilities. I’m pretty good at this shit. I think there is more to it. I think there is something inherent about technology that convinces us to overlook the essential human elements we will need for success. I don’t think this is by accident. I think this is probably something that is baked into the DNA of technology. Regardless, it is something I’m going to work to be more honest about, and understand as I continue to bang my head on this API thing.