This week, API Talks landed in Boston. We were joined by an awesome group of panelists after our API workshop to discuss API strategy, the future of APIs, and the demand of integrations that they face at their companies. The panel moderated by Mark Geene, CEO and co-founder at Cloud Elements, and consisted of Rovaira Dasig, ecosystem product manager at Salsify; David Berard, senior product manager platform at Constant Contact; William Thiel, director of analytics at Pointillist; and Jared Long, senior product manager at HeyWire. Find out what they had to say:
What are some surprising use cases you have run into with APIs?
Will: When you think of a behavior analytics engine you think of a number of different events being used to track an individual, but what happens when you are bringing data in from a website? You end up with single event behaviors with the purpose of analyzing events for many individuals instead of tracking events for a single individual.
Dave: Bulk email and transactional email as one single service, that was a surprising use case. Someone once used Constant Contact to send transactional emails. There were hundreds of thousands of email campaigns with one contact each and it stressed the system in ways we didn't expect.
Rovaira: We have had customers do very complex things with our basic concept of a workflow. We have to ask ourselves what are our customers workflows and processes? These should be the gateway into how these other services will work with our customers and how we build and evolve our product.
How have you worked to drive developer adoption of your API?
Will: Ultimately at the end of the day you have to ask, what is the value the API is delivering? If you can articulate the value that you deliver, who consumes it and when they can consume it in JSON, then you just created an API. That is the critical piece - creating user stories of how your API is going to be consumed and used.
Dave: We tried the developer evangelist strategy, and it didn't work well for us because our target customers are small business and the marketing teams within those businesses. Instead, we pivoted to work with a strategic partner network who consumes our API and builds solutions that address the needs of our end users. We have also invested a lot into self-service resources for our platform and API, like API documentation, public developer forums etc.
Rovaira: I think we have been really lucky that the customers that we have want to build against our platform. We have to step up our game to keep up with demand to do that by providing great documentation, a developer portal and just really good resources.
Jared: The best way to get developers to integrate is to talk to them about their approach. You need to be really open to users feedback. It has helped HeyWire develop new features people are asking for that we wouldn’t of done otherwise.
What is the future of your APIs/APIs in general?
Will: I think you mentioned open APIs, I usually hold mindcraft up as the epitome of API design. It's having an autonomously simple API. Having an extensible but elegant and simple API allows you to build applications that are more functional. As the level of interaction increases, the number of actions and reactions to that API are going to be huge. Simple and extensible APIs are going to be huge in the future.
Dave: I think one of the challenges is the sheer volume of APIs out there today. The cost of maintaining integrations and meet customer needs is going to be really hard to keep up with.
Rovaira: We are in the space where Retail E-commerce in general is so behind. Walmart acquired Jet and they are really only a few of the major retailers that have an API. I hope more of those retailers will get APIs.
Jared: More APIs are going to become available and there are going to be people simplifying ways to make it easier to build and consume them. There will be more and more businesses that try to simplify the API space.
Big thanks go out to four leaders in the Boston API tech community: Will, Dave, Rovaira, and Jared. Thank you for preparing for and participating at API Talks Boston.