After flipping the page on yet another chapter in my career and beginning a new chapter focused on the application programming interface (APIs), I am left once again with the burning question — what do I do with API Evangelist? To help answer this question I will need to refresh my memory on why I did API Evangelist in the first place, what it ultimately has become, and exploring what value it might still bring to the table. I love to lean on the fact that API Evangelist first and foremost is about me (isn’t everything), but the fact of the matter is that none of it is possible without exploring ideas with other smart people in the space, and in 2023 I could care less about page views, social media, growing and audience or getting more attention. However, I can’t ignore that API Evangelist is why I have a career and can pay my bills—something I suck at reconciling on a regular basis.
Writing Stories to Explore Ideas
Crafting stories about complex technical and business concepts is the only way I know how to work through things. I love writing. I love exploring ideas. This is how I learn. I started API Evangelist to understand REST APIs. People kept being mean to me for not understanding REST, and they kept telling me I shouldn’t be writing about things I don’t understand—so I got to work understanding. Over a decade later I got the technical details of REST thoroughly, and realized people weren’t being mean to me because I didn’t understand REST. They were being mean to me because they are insecure, privileged, and self-centered in a sea of insecure, privileged, and self-centered individuals all trying to get people’s attention as the grand wizard on the hill. Luckily for me, along the way I learned how important writing is to me exploring and understanding ideas—and fuck the rest of the game.
Sharing Ideas with Smart People
I am extremely thankful for the smart people who I’ve encountered along the way. My knowledge around the subject of APIs is completely dependent on learning from people like Steve Willmott, Mike Amundsen, John Musser, Adam Duvander, Tony Tam, Mehdi Medjaoui, Lorinda Brandon, and many, many more over the years. There are multiple geological layers of these people, ideas, and conversations, and I am thankful for all of these smart people who have put up with me over the years, especially the latest wave of people who right now are thinking to themselves what a strange fellow I am—hopefully I don’t run you off. Honestly these are the readers of my writing that I care about the most, because it is the feedback loop with them that I cherish and depend upon for the nutrients I need to survive. Sharing ideas with other smart people is one of the main reasons that API Evangelist still exists, and is a significant part of the fuel for what will keep it going for many years to come.
Getting Attention for API Tooling
A significant portion of what has kept API Evangelist going over the years is my ability to get the attention of API service and tooling providers, and being able to hustle them out of money. I am thankful for all companies who have stepped up over the years to give me money, and help me pay my bills. I have no regrets about anyone I have taken money from over the years, but I have to be honest about it being a very bad way to fund writing about the intersection of the technology, business, and politics of APIs. I’d say this dimension of what API Evangelist is, has done the most to sustain it over the years, but also to tear it down, exploit, abuse it, and come close to going away. Moving forward I will be extremely skeptical of writing about and exploring any single tool or service, and the bar for sponsorship and involvement from any API solution will be very high.
Feeding Information to Investors
I have a long history of providing information to those who invest in API technology. I feel like I’ve always been able to hold my own here, but unfortunately everything with investors is a one way street, or simply bullshit. I don’t think I will be engaging with investors much anymore. I’ll let them clean the bones I throw out here on the blog—I don’t get anything back from them except occasionally a check or a gift card. These things don’t sustain me. If they’d share more data and insights from their portfolio I’d change my tune, but they don’t. Investors are all about value extraction, and honestly I am tired of having my heart broken because they are unimaginative, uncaring, and straight up lies when it comes to what their investment goals are. I know that investment is needed to make all this work, but you can’t tell me that the current incarnation of investment offers anything of value to being open, interoperable, or anything that APIs are actually about, and how they produce value in our world. Investors have done more harm to the API realm than good. Period.
Moving Open Source Ideas Forward
Open source specifications, tooling, and community are the lifeblood of APIs, not just in open circles, but also within the very closed enterprise. Enterprise organizations depend on open source technology to operate, whether they want to acknowledge it or not. With that said, I will also have a very high bar when it comes to supporting and shining a light on open source solutions. The problem with open source in the API realm is that much of it is still thinking like last generation open source software, that large enterprise vendors have long figured out how to game the open source realm and keep things from moving forward in any meaningful way, and the people with power around open source tend to have very big egos (me included), and get in the way of shit actually getting done. I will keep using, supporting, and investing in open source solutions, but you won’t see me leading the charge around any of them (except APIs.json)—I am just too much of an asshole to thrive in these realms.
Turning More People On To APIs
I do love turning people on to the APIs that are behind everything in our online and offline worlds. The problem is that I tend to tell stories at the loftier levels of the API realm, which is often out of reach of normals. I have long stated that I try to introduce more people to APIs, and will keep striving to to this, but I am honest with myself in acknowledging that I probably achieve this less than 25% of the time. It doesn’t mean I will stop. However, one thing I will back off of is telling people they should do APIs if they aren’t already. I will be operating more in the realm of focusing on the fact that people are already producing and consuming APIs—they just don’t do it with any imagination, awareness or strategy. API Evangelist will be more about cheerleading that you should get your house in order with the APIs you already have and use, versus bringing any new APIs into this sprawling digital landscape that we’ve chosen to live in. If you are creating new APIs, the bar should be very high regarding the technology, business, and politics of your APIs—especially if they are publicly available.
Continuing to Level Up My Career
I can’t ignore the fact that I have a career because of API Evangelist. It scares the shit out of me to entertain the thought of shutting it down or selling it. It is a big part of my identity. It is why I can hustle startups and enterprise organizations out of six figure salaries. There is something valuable in what I do here, even though I regularly feel like I am losing the thread of what actually matters. I have strong evidence of what storytelling on API Evangelist has led to me working with top startups in Silicon Valley, leading enterprise organizations across almost every industry, academic institutions, and government agencies around the globe. I can’t walk away from that, as much as I’d love to just sit on the beach in California. I have opened up a series of doors, climbed up a bunch of ladders, and there is no turning back now—no matter how much I may want to. This is why I am sitting down (once again), writing down what API Evangelist, and trying to come to some understanding of what it needs to be for the next chapter. So I can continue leveling up my career and reaching new heights of telling stories.
Uncovering the Nutrients I Need
I love writing on API Evangelist. I love the voice I have crafted here. Publishing a well thought out post on API Evangelist leaves me feeling accomplished and whole. I can lay awake night after night thinking about some complex topic, then sit down and write up 750 words on the subject here, hit commit to the GitHub repo behind this blog, and I am left feeling complete and whole. It isn’t about the page views. It isn’t about someone reading (though it helps), it is just about me working through the idea and publishing my thoughts in a (hopefully) coherent way. I feel like I am a hoarder of ideas, with my brain cluttered and messy, and writing a story here on API Evangelist helps clean up one part of my brain. But without it, I’d slip into madness amidst the cluttered brain that makes my head wobble. I am being literal when I say that API Evangelist is my therapist and helps me stay sane. I am guessing if you analyzed the post timeframe and volume here on the blog, you’d see a similar pattern before each one of my burnouts—some of which have been public, but others I just keep low-key.
Honestly, the most nutrient rich era on API Evangelist was the 3Scale years (2014-2016)—when Steve Willmott the CEO of 3Scale made sure my bills were paid and I could just write. I could just tell the stories that matter. I’d say that this is the model I will employ to shape the next chapter of the blog. My bills are paid. I don’t need to chase after funding to just exist. I don’t have any grand vision of saving the world, being famous and well-known, or being the wizard on the hill. I just need to write stories to stay sane. I just need to work through the thoughts in my head, planted from my daily work, bubbled up from my years of experience, or triggered by something I read online in another blog post. I just need to absorb as many of the nutrients I need to stay healthy when it comes to my evolving API awareness and maintaining storytelling momentum. I like to be API aware—it helps me make sense of this complicated world. I like to have storytelling momentum, because it brings order to the madness that lies right behind the smile you see me presenting to keep you convinced I know what I am doing out here in the API universe.