I have been working for a month or so on what some of the common tasks that developer advocates and evangelists would like to see occur around their API operations. These are small little tasks that evangelists should be doing themselves, but if they can encourage their own API community, or the wider developer and tech community to help out, they might achieve a greater reach.
Getting your community to help out with tasks on your platform is nothing new. This is a core premise of modern web API operations, something that can work well in some ecosystems, but has historically been abused by other ecosystems. Some API providers enjoy vibrant communities where developers are more than happy to step up and build things for free, generate a buzz, and show up to events. The reality for most is that it can be very hard to stimulate developers to help in any way, and resort to the exploration of other ways they can stimulate this activity.
As I was exploring these concepts with fellow evangelist, soliciting ideas for what some of the common tasks evangelists might need, someone brought up how sleazy this sounds. Are you going to give away swag, gift cards, or money for these tasks? Are you going to do it for points? I agree, on the surface, when you describe it like that, it does sound cheesy, if not sleazy. Then I got thinking about the micro transactions and tasks people ask of me on a regular basis--things like:
- Writing Blog Posts
- Retweeting a Link
- Voting Up Something on Hacker News
- Voting Up Something on Product Hunt
- Write a Code Sample
- Build a Prototype Integration
- Comment On a Discussion
- Create a Visualization
- Participate in a Webinar
- Keynote a Conference
- Participate In Discussion
- Write a White Paper
- Provide a Quote
- Talk To Reporter
- Talk To Analyst
These are some of the common requests I get. Sometimes the requests are paid, sometimes they are not. There is not a clear line to follow for any of this. It comes down to what I'm willing to do, and what I'm not. I know plenty of people who write blog posts for companies, and get paid per post--I choose not to do this. I do write white papers for money sometimes, but I would never tweet or upvote something for money. I would prioritize consideration for an upvote or retweet when someone is a paid partner--I tweet things for my paid partners all the time, but not if it isn't relevant.
I am just trying to explore where exactly this line is for one of my API research areas--evangelism. Like I do in all of my other areas. I am working with my partner Cloud Elements to explore these concepts, so in a sense, I am getting paid for this work, although indirectly. That is not my goal, though, I want to help define a simple list of micro-transactions that could occur within API ecosystems, and across the web, that benefit both API provider and consumer--equally. I think it can be done ethically, and transparently, and avoid the cheesy and sleazy, however, I think many will win in these areas as well.
In the end, I think it is about making the tasks meaningful, and be as transparent about what is going on. I don't see any problem giving developers in your ecosystem gift cards, API credits, or another form of incentive, if they are willing and not being exploited. I know I would do more work for some of the API providers I use if I got free API credits! (wink wink) I will keep exploring these micro API evangelism activities, and how to do them right. If there are tasks you think should be on the list, or have opinions on where you think the ethical line is, and have examples you'd like to share--feel free to ping me!