Report from the API Outlook for 2011 Meetup

This blog entry was actually written last week, but due to being slapped down by the flu, I haven’t been able to post it until now. Sorry!


Two weeks ago, I went down to San Francisco to attend a meetup at Apigee HQ. The theme of the meetup was API Outlook for 2011, and had four great speakers to address the topic. I was lucky enough to secure an early RSVP – apparently there was a waiting list, as the event was capped at 50 attendees.


First up was Andrew Mager, a developer advocate for SimpleGeo. According to Andrew, an awesome API is accessible, open and fast. Make authentication simple for your users, as it is one less barrier that they would need to overcome. As for cultivating a developer community, Andrew emphasized keeping an eye on the pulse of your community through tools such as CoTweet, holding “office hours” and communicating downtime or changes.

Dan Hobbs presented lessons learned from engineering the CNET API. CNET allows consumers of their API to specify how they want their response – XML by default, and JSON by request. Also, CNET always delivers the smallest response possible, unless the user asks for more. This allows the API to operate quickly and efficiently, while still letting consumers to get all the information they need.

David Barrett, Founder & CEO of Expensify, spoke about when APIs go bad (cue ominous music). He emphasized that before planning an API story for your business, analyze whether it will add value to your product, or simply add another item for upkeep. It is definitely not something you tag onto your product for the heck of it -- it deserves careful thought and consideration, even if the vote goes against its existence.

Lastly, hacker advocate at Answerly, Abraham Williams gave a talk intriguingly entitled “Please Feed the Unicorns.” This presentation addressed how to attract, feed and retain a herd of unicorns. The subject of the talk might make more sense when you realize that:

unicorn = developer


And there’s more – unicorns are not just developers with free time, but they are also early adopters, fanboys and technical evangelists! Reward your unicorns for being a part of your community by giving out SWAG, tickets to conferences and recognition. See what works and what doesn’t with your community. As Abraham stated: “You're iterating your product. Iterate your community too.”

Overall, the event delivered invaluable information and was a great opportunity to meet technology influencers! Check out these resources to find out more:

Abraham's "Please Feed the Unicorns" talk:

Answerly from API Meetup on Vimeo.




I'll keep updating this post once videos of the talks go up. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to leave your thoughts about what makes a good API and/or awesome developer community in the comments.

Interested in reading more of my writing? Feel free to check out more of my blogging over at the DocuSign DevCenter Blog!

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