We talked with Arnaud Lauret, well known as the API Handyman and author of The Design of Web APIs, to find out more about the upcoming ASC 2021 (Sept 28-29).
Lauret is presenting “Taking advantage of OpenAPI for API Design reviews” on Tuesday, September 28 starting at 11:20am PDT.
Lauret is a Senior API Architect at Natixis, based in Paris, France, currently helping everyone from executives to developers to understand what APIs are, why they matter and “how to do them.” He helps teams design their APIs by reviewing and challenging their designs, providing training and building API design guidelines.
During your live API design review demo session at ASC 2021, what are the top 3 key API design principles you will be covering?
Inside/Out, semantic, and consistency.
An API that is just a technical connector giving access to the underlying mess, throwing bluntly the inside to the outside, will be a total nightmare for consumers but also for providers. On the consumer side, people will get a complex API requiring a high level of expertise, requiring much effort to do simple things. On the provider side, you may have to fear unexpected consequences such as data corruption or security breaches.
Semantic is very important, the meaning of words is critical when designing an API. Choose the wrong word and people may not understand your intent, what the API is supposed to do, which value to provide or what they can do with returned data.
And last not but least of this top 3: consistency. Designing a consistent API is hard but it’s worth the cost. Being consistent with the rest of the world will make developers feel at home when they see your API for the first time. Being consistent across your APIs and within them will make developers able to make connections easily between operations, data models, or parameters and so they will be able to master your API without even thinking about it.
Can an API design review be based on facts, not opinions? Is this possible?
Yes. It’s not always that easy, but that’s what I try to do. An API design review based on baseless opinions has absolutely no interest. People don’t care if you prefer blue over orange. The question is why blue is better than orange in a given context. Everything that is proposed must be backed with reasonable explanations, facts.
Having guidelines is really a great help: those predefined rules provide factual arguments that everyone agrees on. But guidelines can’t solve all design questions, they provide only high level guidance, there always will be more specific functional/business questions leading to multiple possible designs. Each one conforming to guidelines. But which one is the “right” one? You’ll have to find “facts” to make a decision, you can take advantage of your knowledge of business rules, what will come in the near future, … As long as a solution has a valid explanation everyone agrees on, that’s a review based on facts.
What other presentations will you be attending at ASC 2021 and why?
Actually, I wish I could attend them all! There are so many interesting sessions, but here’s my top 4:
- API Terms of Service : From Creative commons to Machine readability – Célya Gruson-Daniel, COSTECH & Mehdi Medjaoui: I’m a “machine-readability nerd,” I love this idea of trying to structure the unstructured because it simplifies both machines’ and humans’ job. Bringing machine-readability to TOS could have a major impact for me. It could simplify the comparison between service providers; and as a person participating to call for proposal processes to choose software solutions, I would be very happy with just that. And I’m sure there are other totally crazy outcomes. I can’t wait to attend to this one!
- We brought OpenAPI Docs into our service catalog. Now what? – Shai Sachs & Zoe Song, Wayfair: I work in a large organisation, many different teams, many different APIs and that is not easy. The Wayfair session resonates with my context and they will also talk about Backstage open source service catalog that I’m interested in.
- Finding Ways to Measure the Complexity of an API Design – Stephen Mizell, API Consultant: I help people design APIs and I design APIs. It’s not always easy to evaluate if a design is complex or not. Sometimes it just feels complex or simple, and I don’t like that, relying on just baseless feeling. I would prefer to back my evaluation by something more concrete, true facts if possible. That’s why I really look forward to what Stephen has to say on that topic.
- Mistakes to avoid during API Specification Reviews – Rahul Dighe, PayPal: I have done hundreds of API design reviews. I have learned much, found solutions to various situations, but sometimes they don’t work or I can face totally new situations. That’s why I’m always interested in learning from what others do because they may have found other solutions to the same problems or be in a totally different context facing different situations.