Why Open Platform Matters

I joined the Ticketmaster team five months ago to help build a platform that drives both internal and external product innovation worldwide. The gateway to this platform would be a set of empathic APIs that developers love. Our customers are the API clients (see below) who will need to use the platform without having to learn the intricacies and understand the complexities of our systems.

The team took on this challenge and has been hard at work over the past several months simplifying the complexity of the systems and focusing on the developer experience with a clean, well-documented APIs. As a result, we will be announcing our very first set of open APIs in January! Very exciting 🙂

Why “Open” Platform?

At Ticketmaster, we see ourselves as the engine that powers unforgetable moments of joy for fans everywhere. That’s our purpose. That’s our promise. We were just reminded of the impact our work has on fans when Adele tickets went on sale in North America two weeks ago. The emotional impact and the memories we help create are very real.

In order to continue delivering on our promise, we have to embrace a platform on which 3rd-party product innovators can bring those moments of joy to fans. We have to democratize the creation of compelling, innovative products powered by our APIs.

Aside from providing fans with eclectic and effective experiences powered by our data, an “open” platform has a direct impact on a company’s ability to grow and innovate. Here are the four main reasons why an “open” platform is critical to a business:

1. Reduction of Platform Entropy

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that entropy, or disorder, in a closed system can only increase over time. The same applies to a “closed” platform where software entropy takes on many faces like system complexity, technical debt and low data quality. 

On the other hand, an “open” platform, like any open system, tends to work out its “disorder” over time through open-source style collaboration and input from the developer community. The feedback developers give on the quality of the data and APIs helps reduce that entropy. Even designing APIs with “open” in mind has an impact on entropy reduction. It forces the team to simplify and abstract complexity where possible.

2. Becoming a Marketplace

To ensure fans get tickets to any live event they want on the Ticketmaster platform, we’ll need to become the definitive marketplace for all live events, much like Amazon is the definitive marketplace for consumer goods. Earlier this year, we acquired both Front Gate and Universe ticketing platforms, and soon their events will be available on the Ticketmaster website, mobiles apps, and the APIs.

in 2016, 3rd-party ticketing companies can reach the millions of fans that come to Ticketmaster by publishing their events to the Ticketmaster platform using a Publish API. In the end, any experience built with our APIs will give fans access to the widest array of live event catalogue on the market today.

3. Unleashing Effective R&D

When a platform puts out open, predictable and intuitive APIs, it attracts entrepreneurial developers with specific product ideas in mind. Oftentimes, those are out-of-the-box ideas with unknown or untested product/market fit. Using APIs, those developers can run fast with their ideas.

This process helps the platform provider (i.e. Ticketmaster) evaluate the feasibility of ideas without the overhead that goes into building them into products. For example, two days after we internally announced the availability of an event search and discovery API, one of our interns asked for an API Key and went on to create a winning prototype at a hackathon in just under 30 hours (see below).

He used the Ticketmaster API to create a live event search app on the Amazon Echo with the ability to later book an Uber ride to the venue. The prototype caught our attention and we’re now in talks with Uber to see how we can bring it to market.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZLE14s5pGE]

4. Tapping into The Network Effect

An intrinsic characterstic of an “open” platform is its network effect. The more producers of value (i.e. application developers) you have on the platform creating apps and experiences for fans, the more consumers of value (i.e. fans) that that platform attracts. The more fans you have on the platform, the more attractive it is to developers, and so forth. All along, the growing platform renders the business a robust ecosystem for both producers and consumers of value.

What’s Next?

On January 16th, we will be soliciting feedback from developers on our new developer portal and APIs. We want to delight developers as much as we like to delight our fans. We want to extend the same enthusiasm and promise to developers by focusing on the developer experience, or DX. This will ensure that our open platform is actually providing what developers need in the way they need it.

2016 will be the year we provide open APIs, hold public hackathons and fully engage the developer community worldwide. To stay abreast of what’s coming down the pike, follow us on Twittersubscribe to our Medium Publication and tech blog.

Here’s to plenty more unforgettable moments of joy, for both fans and developers, in 2016! 🙂


Originally published on Medium

5 Reason Why Your Company Needs an API

(published a year ago on QConnects)

Over a month ago, the world of APIs witnessed an inflection point in its evolution. Both Intel and CA Technologies acquired the API management companies, Mashery and Layer  7, respectively. The acquisitions happened amongst other positive activities in the world of APIs. These are all clear indications of the critical role APIs are playing in our increasingly interconnected, multi-platform world of commerce.

So how does this news impact your company? If yours is one of the few out there with a healthy Open API program, congratulations! You’re well positioned to take your business to the next level.

If you’re still contemplating opening up your API or creating one from scratch, you might be wondering if it’s really worth all the trouble and overhead. I can’t say I blame you. The API Economy is a fairly new concept that varies depending on the business goals and strategy of the company.

At Edmunds, we opened up our internal APIs to the world a couple of years back and we didn’t know what to expect. We had lots of questions like: Will developers use the APIs? Are we compromising our core business by giving up free access to our data? How are we going to make it ROI-positive? Today, our open APIs are used as a critical capability to expand our brand name and business reach, enabling us to forge new partnerships and support automotive innovations happening outside our ecosystem. We answered our own questions along the way and learned a ton, with the help of many in the API community, including Mashery.

An API is a gateway that enables developers to communicate with your systems in one of two ways: Reading out of and writing to your system. It’s also a contract; a clean, simple and standard contract between your company and the developers of the world, including yours. This contract frees developers to focus on the business goals they’re trying to achieve rather than the tech details that can take days and weeks to resolve. So if you’re still on the fence about APIs and their role in taking your business to the next level, maybe these five reasons could help make your decision easier:

1. Mobile Enablement: Let’s say you want to build a mobile app for your business. You will need a way for the app to communicate with your servers to get and set the right data points. Imagine doing that without an API. Yes, it’s doable without one, but think of the effort it’ll take to maintain, scale and update that app. Besides, most developers won’t build an iOS app without a data API. No business can compete today without mobile presence and having an API is an integral part of enabling that presence.

2. Innovation Acceleration: APIs lower the barrier to innovation at a company. When your developers have access to data in a clean, simple and standard way, they are better equipped to innovate by focusing their time and effort on the customer needs instead of how to get the data they need.

3. Partnership Enablement: In the not-so-distant past, the data exchange between your company and your partners was done through CSV files that are FTPed periodically to a remote server. Unfortunately, that approach is long dead because it doesn’t scale. Enabling external access to your systems through an API has its benefits:

  • Scalability: Partners can access the data they need when they need it. No need to compile yet another data file to satisfy a slightly different use case needed by your partner. You provide the data and put the power to access it in your partners’ hands.
  • Data Integrity: No more stale data! No more, “oh, we need to FTP a new file to reflect the recent changes in data.” The data available through the API is the most up-to-date data you can get. Period.
  • Control: If for some reason you and your partner part ways, you can terminate their access quickly and easily.
  • Analytics: You will get full visibility into what data your partners are using and how often they’re getting it. This could help you optimize your API and offer your partners more insight into data usage that you wouldn’t get with uploading a static CSV file to an FTP server.

4. Branding: APIs help get your brand name out there through 3rd-party implementations of your data. For example, the Edmunds API requires entities that use it to give us attribution by showing our logo on their site and linking back to us. This helps cement the fact that we’re the authoritative automotive data provider out there. That’s powerful, passive marketing we all should tap into.

5. New Business Model: This is largely dependent on your strategy. At Edmunds, we don’t charge for our API. We use it as a critical capability to help us advance and grow our core business. For you, it might make sense to use an API as another revenue stream for your company by charging a licensing fee for its usage. Or maybe you want to have a tiered system where you offer a free, basic and gold access plans for different audiences. We are seeing that charge-free APIs are much more attractive to developers and potential partners than their counterparts. Companies are actually switching to our API from our competitors’ because our data is good and it’s free.

So, Are you ready to open up your API?

Interns Can Run Your Business: How to hire interns that ROCK!

We’ve all been there. Your projects are taking off and there’s a ton of work to be done. Important work. You need to hire more people. You request a new headcount but you’re told that unfortunately there’s no budget for full-time hires. You’ll need to get things done with the people you have…or hire interns.

Let’s face it. None of us likes to hear that. Most of us don’t think important work can be done by interns. How can someone who’s only with the company for three months be effective, anyway, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that I totally understand where you’re coming from and that you’re wrong. If you hire the right intern, they could potentially run your business in three months. For real.

Over a year ago, I needed help with API community management and outreach as well as the development of code samples to expedite the API on-boarding process at Edmunds.com. Like you, I had no budget for a full-time headcount and interns were my only option to scale. At first, I wasn’t really happy with the thought of an intern managing a community of developers, communicating with potential strategic partners, and writing quality SDKs. But that’s exactly what I needed help with, so I went for it with very low expectations.

Fast forward to today, I couldn’t be happier!

The Process

I started the search with a list of minimum requirements a potential hire must have (intern or otherwise). I knew I wanted someone who a) coded for fun, b) had experience with REST APIs, and c) was personable, humble and engaging. Simply put, I wanted someone who was demonstratively interested in the tech and business of APIs.

So I worked with HR on crafting the job listing. I set the bar really high. I wanted someone who was coding on Github because it’s fun, not because they had to. Someone engaged on Twitter, Stackoverflow and Quora because they have something to add to the conversation. Someone who was having conversations.

API evangelists are a special breed of developers. The good ones are experienced and possess excellent people skills. This made it even harder to find a candidate amongst the pile of resumes sent in by students trying to get a paid internship to meet some school requirement.

Needless to say, the process took a long time, almost 6 months. I got resumes from students with stellar academic credentials in computer science and math but with zero presence on Github, Twitter and forums. Some hadn’t even heard of APIs until they saw the job listing on their school’s bulletin board.

The Result

When the search was finally over, I hired @MichaelRBock, and boy am I glad I did! Michael’s been with us for over 6 months now, even while he’s doing a semester abroad …in Singapore.

Michael and I clicked right away. He’s smart, easy to talk to and very personable. Most importantly, he was extremely interested in our world of car open data APIs and their business impact.

Michael quickly proved himself an invaluable member of the team. Almost everyone who’s worked with him was shocked to learn that he’s just interning with us. He was all caught up with our systems, challenges and roadmap in a couple of days and by the end of the first week, he was knee deep helping developers with their API questions.

He sat on business development meetings and partner discussions on the second week of his hire. He built our Python SDK and was updating the Developer Portal on daily basis during our DX Certification process with Mashery.

Michael saw the potential in some of our API developers and brought them to my attention. He’s been great at handling difficult developers as well. All in all, he’s been fantastic at everything he’s done.

We’re Hiring!

Sadly, Michael’s time with us is about to end at the end of May ☹ If you or someone you know is interested in APIs and want to have a summer internship with us, let’s chat! There’s some big shoes to fill, which is always a good place to be.

Edmunds.com API: Driving Innovation and Partnership with Open Data

I gave a talk at Mashery’s BAPI NY conference last week on the success of the open data initiative at Edmunds.com.  I gave a webinar a few months back on the same subject.  You can find the Edmunds API here. This is only the beginning 🙂

Caught My Attention: API craft group, the future of classics, the culture of innovation, SOPA and code racer

  1. API Craft (Google Group) – Started by Apigee to provide a place for API developers and architects to talk shop with peers and to learn more about best practices. Great resource for anyone interested in APIs.
  2. Do The Classics Have a Future? – What is truly amazing is what we have, not what we don’t have from the ancient world. If you didn’t already know, and someone were to say that material written by people who lived two millennia ago or more still survived in such quantities that most people wouldn’t be able to get through it in a lifetime—you wouldn’t believe them. It’s astonishing. But it’s the case; and it offers the possibility of a most wondrous shared voyage of exploration.
  3. Is It a Fools Errand to Try to Create a Culture of Innovation? – A culture is its people. Innovation starts with the people in charge. If they don’t really embrace it and lead it themselves, they aren’t really for it, no matter how hard they try.
  4. On the Problem of Money, Politics, and SOPA – An interesting take on SOPA and the role of Hollywood money in starting it and giving it life.
  5. Code Racer – A game that tests your CSS/HTML skills. Pretty awesome!

APIs: A Strategy Guide by Daniel Jacobson, Greg Brail and Dan Woods

Learn to Speak API for The Sake of Your Business

You should read this book if you are remotely interested in the following:

1. Why your company needs to have an API

2. How to design, secure and manage the API

3. What API strategies your company should adopt, including legal and operational considerations

4. How to measure the success of the API

5. How to drive API engagement

The authors have years of experience in the API space and I think they did a pretty good job distilling their collective wisdom and learned best practices in this “short and sweet” booklet (134-pages!) I think it is important for the success of any API initiative that *all* stakeholders read this book to get on the same page of what needs to take place to ensure the success of the initiative. It’s hard to argue with the “tried and true” practices of which this book is rife.

If you’re interested in getting into the nitty gritty technical details of how to build an API, I highly recommend RESTful Web Services Cookbook: Solutions for Improving Scalability and Simplicity as a technical companion read to this book. Read this book first, and then delve into the technical details with Subbu’s book. Full Review

Can Google+ Be The “Actionable,” Relevant Social Network? You Bet!

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about relevancy and the future of user experience on Facebook. I argued that relevancy in Facebook was broken and suggested a way to fix it.

Google+
Two days ago, Google released its newest social product, Google+. As I read through the Tech Crunch post explaing what the product was about, I couldn't help but smile. Google's Vic Gundotra was quoted saying:

We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward. We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public. Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.

Thank you! That's precisely the arguement I made. Google is finally onto something big in the social space! Moving away from the "walled garden" approach that's at the core of Facebook, Google+ focuses more on shared, real-time interests than mapping real life relationships.

Google+ is inherintly relevant. You don't need a virtual handshake of "friending" another person to connect. With Google+, you can hang out with anyone, no strings attached.

So it's open, it's relevant, but is it actionable?

I worte in my previous post about the detailed, localized and actionable relevant experiences on Facebook. What I meant by actionable was giving the user the ability to transact on that piece of relevant content without leaving his/her profile page.

So, does Goolge+ offer that capability?

Google+, Circles, Hangouts and Sparks

Not yet, but it's definitely within the realm of possibility.

What's currently missing in Google+ is autodiscovery. Right now, you can follow a topic by creating a "spark." This allows you to get content from everyone following the same topic. However, if someone who's not following that topic shares a related piece of content on the topic, you won't see it.

Sparks depend on the explicit intention of the user (ala Facebook) instead of the context of the shared content itself. As it is today, Sparks are useless, but they can be great!

The good news here is Google can easily implement autodiscovery. If you read In The Plex, you know they can. So the question here is, how can autodiscovery make the experience actionable?

For starters, if Google is able (and it is) to recognize the category and context of every piece of content users share on Google+, then they are able to monetize that content by making it actionable.

For example, let's say I'm into photography. I go ahead and create a "photography" spark to follow all the related content people share on photography. A week later, some random person (who is not following the "photography topic) on Google shares the following post:

Dude, I love my Canon 5D Mark II. It's like the best. camera. ever!

Because Google now recognizes the category and context of content, it flags this content as, "photography, canon, 5d mark II, ….etc." And as a result of that, I would see that post under my "photography" spark … with a link to buy the Canon 5D Mark II from the Google Store or Amazon.com or whatever.

That added link, which is a call to action, is where the power of Google+ lies! By knowing what the content is about, you can enhance it by offering a call to action that makes sense to the user who is more likely to engage with it.

Now think of all the other verticals that this could apply to: travel, financial, automotive, gifts, …etc. Google can partner with subject matter experts in each vertical to provide to help it enhance the relevant experience by making it detailed, localized and actionable.

Thought?