Most People Just Want to Deliver the API and Will Not Be Interested in the Process

The is my regular reminder that not everyone will care about APIs as much as I do. Most people just want to do their job, and aren’t interested in understanding the nuance of API design. I’d say that this is one of my biggest sins as a technologist—believing that other people see the world as I do, and in turn will want to care about “doing APIs right”. This is not a case of I’m right, and they are wrong.  This is a case of the world is full of different people, who see the problem very differently, and not everyone will agree that APIs are the solution, let alone care about understanding and debating the details of API design with me. And I can’t expect them to always change their tune.

While there are people who will stop, listen, and over time internalize what I’m sharing with them, the majority of people will show no interest, avoid, and even resist what I’m putting on the table. I have to realize and accept that most of these people will never convert, and become believers. If I am going to be successful, I’m going have to find ways of herding these folks along, trick them into contributing, and I guess in some situations force them to be compliant. But do I want to do this? There has to be other more creative ways of educating folks and getting them on board. I mean, I’m write aren’t I? My solution is the logical solution? Let’s explore the possibilities:

  • Maybe I Am Wrong - Lets start with the obvious and most painful. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing APIs. Maybe my way of doing APIs isn’t right. This one gets at the very foundation of my being, my existence. Maybe these people smell something I don’t, and my suggestions for doing APIs in a particular way is a bad idea. I’m going to simmer on this one more, see where it leads me.
  • Make Them Do It - I can possibly just make someone do what I want, depending on my level of control over the situation, but do I really want to do this? I do not think so. I am not a big fan of command and control ways of operation.
  • Give Them Room - Maybe people aren’t on board with doing APIs because they just don’t have the breathing room in their day to care about things at any other level, and if I can carve out enough space for them to breathe, things might change.
  • Moving On - Letting someone go is always a possibility, acknowledging that they are not capable of change, or maybe they need a greater disruption in their world before they’ll begin to see thing differently, making termination the only option.
  • Education - It is quite possible that someone just can’t see the big picture and is missing critical pieces of the puzzle that are preventing them from getting on board. Making education and training a critical nutrient that might help them get over the hump and get on board with things.
  • Give It More Time - Maybe I am being too impatient and I need to give people more time to see the change that is possible, and overcome their legacy mindset, acknowledging that this will take much more time to play out.
  • Demonstrate The Value - There may need to be more demonstration of the value APIs bring to an organization before some people will agree with the API change that is being proposed will begin to move hearts and minds.

I realized a long time ago that my expectations will not always match other people’s expectations.The bar I set for myself might be too high for others. If I’ve learned nothing over my time as the API Evangelist, it is that nothing happens as fast as I think, and my first attempts at sharing API concepts with others is almost always stonewalled. None of this stuff works out as easy as it seems in my head. Most folks who aren’t already immersed in the world of APIs may not be interested in what I am saying, and hear me as one of the parents from the old Charlie Brown cartoons—API wah wah wah. It is important that I don’t see this as their problem, and I realize it is a challenge for me.

Being able to have the time to consider the bigger API picture is a luxury. I’m thankful for having been able to carve out the time to contemplate the API space so thoughtfully. Not everyone has the space and bandwidth to be genuinely interested in the process, or even if they are, they know that the realities on the ground within their organization will prevent them from staying engaged in any meaningful way. This reality is why I stick to my storytelling, even after I’ve long reached the point where I’m saying the same things over and over. This is what is necessary to properly plant the seeds of change that will begin bearing fruit in coming years. It just takes time, a lot of work, and patience, but eventually we will get there. Just not as quickly as we originally anticipated.