API Evolution

Sometimes you have to step back and look at the past in order to fully understand the present. That's what I'm doing with this post. Here's a brief history on the evolution of web services apis. API's allow business owners to get feedback from their users which isn't that much different from a few other areas on the net. I call them...

Open Source Contribution Mechanisms For User Generated Content
Okay, Okay, I admit, I just made up that really long title to make a relatively simple idea seem deep and mysterious. You've seen these mechanisms all over the place and chances are you've used them as well. A few of the more well known examples include forums, wikis, and blogs. But there are more that are less obvious. Let's discuss a few of these more well known apps first.

What is a Forum?
If you're reading my blog I shouldn't have to explain this one but I will for grins. A forum is a public meeting or assembly for open discussion on a given subject or topic. Forums rely on users to generate content and feedback on whatever topic the forum moderators decide to talk about. There's a pecking order and usually a qualitative indicator of each member of a forum that's derived from their number of posts and or the amount of quality they add when they post.

Forums have helped many a web site owner in solving the age old question of "How do I get my site to the first page of Google for my keywords?".

They usually center around a certain vertical market or subject area and draw all sorts of responses. The most trafficked forums are usually the most controversial and if the noise coming out of a particular form rises high enough then the big dogs in a given industry will respond but these responses are few and far between. Forums have typically had a bad rap, especially in the seo business, because of the amount of hearsay and misinformation that has come out of them. The general rule of thumb is "for every truth you learn in a forum you have to weed out 9 mistruths".

What is a Wiki?
Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.

Perhaps the most well-known example of a public wiki is Wikipedia. The free encyclopedia where everyone and anyone can contribute to a subject area. David Weinberger pointed out to the Library of Congress that even though one would naturally think this type of openness would encourage disinformation but quite the opposite is true. Users are contributing well formed meaningful information and the results are shockingly qualitative.

Wikis rely on user input and collaboration. They provide a mechanism for users to give their 2 cents on any subject and are increasing productivity for organizations and corporations around the world. They're simple, easily maintainable and highly dynamic, fitting today's business needs to a "T".

What is a Blog?
Blogs are all the craze, all the kids have 'em.

Blog: A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in cronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominantly.

Blogs are what got Dan Rather to resign, got Maza to remove a blog because its sole putpose was to promote a car, and they're now helping Tsunami victims in South-East Asia. Blogs are changing the face of journalism and marketing alike. Marketers are finding that the most important factor in marketing, word of mouth, is now attainable via key bloggers. But getting those key bloggers to buy into what these marketers want them to push is a challenging proposition.

Forums, Wikis and Blogs have laid some of the groundwork (even though they've grown in parallel) for much of today's development in apis. The idea of users giving feedback in the form of applications isn't that much different than users giving feedback in the form of posts or threads. The main difference is that developers of applications that implement apis are in essence conducting research & development for the api owners and the cost of the R&D is the cost of maintining the api. Not a bad price to pay for conducting R&D and user test cases while building brand loyalty all at the same time.


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