Many of the core areas of my API research, and the common building blocks of the API life cycle that I talk about regularly, often seem trivial to the technically inclined, or the purely business focused segments of my audience. To many, having a road map might be a thing you have when developing and deploying an API, but really doesn't matter if you share publicly. I'd say, with technical folks they often don't even think of it, with the more business focused individuals often deliberately choose not to, seeing it as giving away too much information to your competition.
I think Slack nails the reason why you want to open up and share your API road map. I can talk about this kind of stuff until I'm blue in the face, but people just don't listen -- they need leadership like Slack brings to the table. In their post today, they open with:
We know that being a developer is hard, and building on a platform is not a decision to be made lightly. Many platforms have burned developers and we frequently see that risk highlighted. This is our response.
They nail the the (often elusive) promise of the API ecosystem:
An ecosystem, a real platform, is shared. We are growing fast, but no one company alone could grow fast enough to meet the amount of potential in front of us. We are working hard, but no one team can work hard enough to meet the demand that lies before us all. Instead, we are building a platform where this potential, this demand, is shared. As we grow, developers are able to succeed with us; sharing our customers and joining us in changing the way people do work. In turn, our customers are delighted, new customers have even more reason to use Slack, and the cycle continues.
They nail the reality of the API ecosystem, and how it is a shared experience:
An ecosystem in its healthiest form creates a virtuous cycle. Platforms do fail. We’ll make mistakes, but we’re building for something much greater. We are building for a future where Slack is dwarfed by the aggregate value of the companies built on top of it. This is our success as a platformâ—âwhen the value of the businesses built on top of us is, in sum, larger than we can ever be.
They connect the reality of an ecosystem with having a public road map:
So, today we’re sharing our platform product roadmap. It is a small step in equipping you to claim this opportunity with us. There are three major platform product themes to highlight: app discovery, interactivity and developer experienceâ—âyou can see more on this card.
Slack doesn't stop there, and throw in having a idea showcase to help as well:
We’re also sharing what we’re calling an Ideaboard —âa list of useful ideas that could be built into Slack apps per conversations we’ve had with our customers. [...] The goal of the Ideaboard is to continue this momentum by creating a bridge between our developer community and our customers’ needs.
As Slack mentions, this won't be perfect. They don't have all the answers. A public road map and idea board might not ultimately make or break Slack as a platform, or ensure the community continues to evolve as a full blown ecosystem. Shit can go wrong at any point, but having a public road map, and active, truly contributing idea board, will go a long way to contributing to positive outcomes.
If you aren't allowing input from your API community into your road map, truly considering this input as you craft your road map, and then share the resulting plan with your community, how can you ever expect them to stay in sync? It doesn't mean that Slack will listen to everything, and every developers opinion will be included in the road map. It will however, put Slack into a more open state of mind, and go a long way to set the right tone in the API ecosystem, building trust with the individuals and business who are building on their platform.
What tone has been set in the community around the APIs you provide? What is the tone in the communities you exist in as an API consumer?