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Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis

Observations on marketing and technology (mostly).

Banging the drum for Pearson's APIs

Steve Ellis  |  1 Sep 2011, 11:48 PM
Comments: 1

Or maybe that should be banging on - and on - about APIs generally, as it is a subject I like.

Yesterday I spoke at the launch of Pearson's new Plug & Play Platform, which provides developers with access to the company's content via a series of API datasets. I was speaking about a proof of concept project our Metia Labs team had developed using one of the new Plug & Play APIs (but more about that shortly).

We've long advocated that companies from all sectors should explore the use of APIs, and given that Pearson has taken that brave leap, I'd better give a good plug for Plug & Play. Visit their site here, read the Pearson announcement here, checkout their coverage on TheNextWeb, The Bookseller and ProgrammableWeb amongst others.

Pearson have have done a thorough job in setting up the Plug & Play Platform. They are using API management vendor APIgee, amongst others listed here, to build out the sort of management features and testing facilities developers regard as essential. But first and foremost the Plug & Play team have a great attitude. In my experience API programs divide into two camps: there's the 'take or leave it' approach, or the 'listen and learn' attitude. The Pearson crew are definitely in the latter category.

During our proof of concept project the Pearson team were great about taking feedback and refining their APIs. Typically our feedback was categorized into three big buckets: things that affected our ability to create a richer user experience (especially around UI presentation); things that improved efficiency (both minimising calls to the API and to make the app more agile); and things that improved the utility of the service (especially in areas like search, filtering and the like).

Here's a good example of Dan introducing versioning.

Inevitably opening up API access to pre-existing content assets means the start of an iterative process of improvement and refinement. It is inescapable. If one of the key reasons organizations make APIs available is to allow third party developers to explore the use of their content in ways they could never imagine. Well, understandably, no-one can be completely prepared for something that can't be imagined.

That's why it helps to know the attitude of the API providers before committing to a project. We always reckon the willingness to listen and adapt is a very positive signal.

1 Comment:

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