[Talk] API Strategy: The Next Generation

I took the mic at APIStrat Austin 2015 last week.

A few weeks back, Kin Lane (sup) emailed and asked if I could fill in a spot, talk about something that was not all corporate slides. After being declined two weeks before that and practically interrogating Mark Boyd when he graciously called me to tell me that my talk wasn’t accepted, I was like “haal no!” (in my head) as I wrote back “haal yes” because duh.

I don’t really know if it was apparent during, but I didn’t practice. Last year at APIStrat Chicago, I practiced my 15 minute talk for about three weeks before. At APIdays Mediterranea in May I used a fallback notebook and someone tweeted that using notes is bullshit. Touché, though some of us keep our instincts in check with self-deprecation and self-doubt. Point taken: don’t open your mouth unless you know something deep enough where you absolutely must share it.

I don’t use notes anymore. I live what I talk about. I talk about what I live. APIs.

I live with two crazy people and a superhuman. It’s kind of weird. My children are young and creative, my wife and I do whatever we can to feed them. So when some asshole single developer tries to tell me that they know more about how to build something amazing with their bare hands, I’m like “psh, please, do have kids?” (again, in my head).

Children are literally the only way our race carries on. You want to tell me how to carry on about APIs, let me see how much brain-power for API design nuance you have left after a toddler carries on in your left ear for over an hour.

My life is basically APIs + Kids + Philanthropy + Sleep.

That’s where my talk at APIstrat came from. Me. For those who don’t follow, imagine that you’ve committed to a long-term project for how to make everyone’s life a little easier by contributing good people to the world, people with hearts and minds at least slightly better than your own. Hi.

It was a testing and monitoring track, so for people coming to see bullet lists of the latest ways to ignore important characteristics and system behaviors that only come from working closely with a distributed system, it may have been disappointing. But based on the number of conversation afterwards, I don’t think that’s what happened for most of the audience. My message was:

Metrics <= implementation <= design <= team <= people

If you don’t get people right, you’re doomed to deal with overly complicated metrics from dysfunctional systems born of hasty design by scattered teams of ineffective people.

My one piece of advice: consider that each person you work with when designing things was also once a child, and like you, has developed their own form of learning. Learn from them, and they will learn from you.

 

HackCU : An Example of Student Leadership

In an unused downstairs side room of a hotel, I listened to students from the University of Colorado express their desire to change the world, and their concerns about commercial interests moving in to poach talent from hackathons.

Alex Campbell, Alex Walling, and Nika Shafranov.

[Download as MP3]

HackCU is a Boulder-based hackathon incubator program that seeks to educate, inspire, and connect local students to technology and hands-on skills. It is at the cutting edge of technical education. It is student-led. It is well intentioned.

It is a way for students to arm themselves in the digital workforce when they can’t trust the technical market to treat them properly as employees. They teach each other how to code, design, and prove the value of their own technology.

I think this is great. These are the right people to be running this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping my eyes open about hackathon politics in the local area thanks to my conversations with these fine engineers.

My goal in engaging the two Alex’s and Nika, with help from Maria Sallis of StartupDigestCO and Lorinda Brandon‘s wise words, was to assist these students in any way a storyteller like me can: network the right people together, understand their challenges, and help them tell that story to a wider audience.

Much like the open source community (which I am far less a part of than I’d like to be), the communities of student-led hackathons are a brilliant place to hang out and listen, intellectually stimulating and ethically challenging. My own exploration of this space will take time.