There are tens of thousands of API’s available. More to come. Most of the companies though, have troubles engaging developers to use them. So I have decided to share a few thoughts and ideas on how you can do that, based on my experience.
Design your API well
Nobody likes powerful, but not developer-friendly APIs. Follow the “standards” in the area, but innovate a bit to make us (developers) happy and eager to learn more. I will not spend more time here, because I guess you are already building your API if you need the information below. If you are looking for more info on that subject, click here to read an excellent article.
Document your API
If you want other people to use it – document it well. Add examples for the most popular programming languages. Copy/ Paste/ Run is the first step to a great journey.
Do not forget the not-so-trending programming languages at the moment. Target people who explore them – they are the right group to start with.
Eat your own dog-food
Ask your internal developers to use the API. Get the feedback from them and make it better. I am not talking about the developers who wrote the API, they must use it of course. Try to engage other teams within the company (if you have any) to use the API.
Organize an internal Friday APIJam. Sit together in a room for a few hours and do something useful using the technologies you work with – don’t push them to learn new language or technique – just use the API focusing on the value.
Come up with nice awards for the most active participants, get some sweets and drinks (even beer) as well. Then ask the participants to present their work at the end and listen to their feedback.
Hack your API
Organize hackatons with external groups or jump into such organized by someone else – ask developers to hack the API and to create a small app that will serve theirs needs – then promote the effort and make those developers rockstars by using your PR channels.
The goal is not to test your API (as you do during the internal APIJam event), but to show the value that your API brings to the world. The Call for Action should be something like “use our API to build your own App”.
Create more initiatives like that. Repeat();
Get in touch with the local developer groups and go the their next meeting with some pizza and beer. Show them your data, ask for their feedback, show them your API, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Then create a fair process to work with communities around you – what you want from them and what’s in for them.
Push the discussion around your API and manage it. Respond to comments immediately, ask for feedback and show how it is implemented. Post your API to reddit, Dzone and other similar sites and get real, honest feedback (together with some trolls, that’s inevitable)
Treat your community members equally. Sometimes a new member can have a kick-butt idea and if you ignore him/her this can have negative impact overall. Focus on the value!
Find partners to help you to get traction. Why don’t you contact your local startup accelerators and do something together to include your awesome API as an requirement for the next call? Does it work? Oh yeah!
Constantly explore new ways and hacks on how to engage the community, but remember – this must be a fair deal – every part should be happy and equally satisfied. This is your way towards an engaged community.
The best API ever?
No, it’s not yours. Is this one 🙂
This article was initially posted here.
I am a product manager with Vistaprint. I work on the customer identity and security area. I used to contribute to Creative Commons, Fedora, Mozilla, and a few more FOSS projects. I am from Bulgaria, but I live and work in Prague. I love I.P.A.