API Strategy and Practice: Right Now, It's All About The Mistakes

Mark Boyd
Oct. 24 2013, 11:00AM EDT

Organizers and keynote presenters encouraged participants and speakers to share stories around API failures and to focus on error messaging when improving the developer experience, at the start of the 2-day API Strategy and Practice conference in San Francisco being held today and tomorrow.

Opening the day's proceedings today, co-organizer and CEO of API Management Platform 3scale (and author of Winning in the API Economy released yesterday), Steve Willmott, said: "The aim of the event is to share the good, the bad and the ugly: what they did wrong, what they did right."

The event is being co-organized by API Evangelist Kin Lane, who hosted a pre-conference workshop on government open data on Wednesday. "Share the whole story," said Lane. "People need to hear it, people need to hear the stark reality about the monetization and the evangelism", Lane said.

The event is being attended by over 550 participants, mostly API developers, API service providers, and those with business responsibilities for managing an API strategy.

Following opening remarks, Pamela Fox, Senior Frontend Engineer from Khan Academy presented the first keynote, focused on the Developer Experience, a core theme for the whole event.

There is a developer skill shortage around the world and a growing number of open APIs being made available. So businesses are finding they must offer an accessible and enjoyable experience for developers who are at the frontline of using a business' API. It has become a key measure of a business' API success. B2D marketing and developer on-boarding is expected to become even more competitive in the coming year, with a shift amongst some players from targeting 'longtail', startup-type developers to moving to a greater focus on businesses appealing to in-house developer teams.

"The developer experience asks: How does the developer feel about your product, and how do they feel about themselves when they are using their product?" prompted Fox. "There's a lot of things to think about, there's a lot of different audiences. Its hard to be a developer when the experience is crap, so we should all be motivated to improve it."

Fox asserts that a bad user experience will see developers using an API minimally and only if they have to, and will jump to an alternative as soon as one is available.

"A good experience leads to developers using your API in cool, unexpected ways, and they will become evangelists about your API," encouraged Fox, who drafts API curriculum for the Khan Academy.

One of her key take-homes from her keynote presentation 'Developer Experience: What it is and why it matters' is to give developers meaningful error messages. "The main thing I focus on at Khan Academy at the moment is spent on improving error messages and providing meaningful error messages. Debuggability is the most important thing in using an API. That is when developers will be most unhappy and most confused, so you want to help them when they are at their lowest."

ProgrammableWeb will be airing live streams from selected presentations and panels at API Strategy across the next two days. You can also keep up with participants tweeting from the event by searching the hashtag #apistrat. We will also be updating you with key news announcements and analysis direct from the event across the next two days.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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