What I Would Like To See From API Providers When It Comes To Public Analytics

February 5, 2017

I'm putting some thought into the what a public analytics layer might look like for federal, state, county, and city governments. Something that looks like analytics.usa.gov, but for APIs. This is one of the things I really like about government is that you get to push forward ideas that you just can't convince folks to do in the private sector. There is no way companies will share their web or API traffic numbers publicly because there are too much smoke and mirrors involved in the process--for some reasons folks like accountability in government, but not in private sector???

API analytics are a slightly different beast than web analytics, so I wanted to step back and think about what is important to me, an API consumer, or potential API consumer when I am looking at what API does, or a group of APIs actually do:

  • APIs - Depending on how APIs are grouped, if there are many APIs across the different organization, groups, or event external agencies, help me understand which APIs are available, giving me a quick snapshot of which are most used, and how they compare against each other.
  • Paths - Within each API, which individual API paths are the most used, showing me the most used aspects of any available API. Not always a sign of popularity, as the API design may be a factor here, but it will help me see how others are using.
  • Applications - Which applications are making the most use of an API. This may be a number of calls or the number of APIs they are putting to use as well. Are these applications web, mobile, analysis, visualization, a system to system integration, or something else--details about what the app accomplishes and delivers helps a lot.
  • Industries - Which industries are applications that put an API to work servicing? Would be helpful to understand which industries are finding API resources useful, and actually getting traction.
  • Users - I am going to add users here, but I think we need to be careful here. I'd like to see trends and spikes in new user signups, but if these aren't translating into active applications, there really isn't much value. I also have privacy concerns, but I'm sure providers will think deeply about this.

As a potential API consumer seeing this data would help me understand what is possible, based upon what other people are already doing, and possibly light the fire under my imagination. This is where I would start based upon some of the most common analytics I'm seeing behind the scenes from API providers. I wish ALL API providers had the balls to publish their analytics publicly, but sadly many are too concerned with obfuscating their successes and failures, to be this honest.

I'm hopeful with the precedent that analytics.usa.gov is setting with web analytics, and the fact that the code behind it is open source on Github for any federal, state, county, or city government to put to work. I'm also optimistic about this same practice being put to use when it comes to the API layer of the public sector, and something I'm hoping that open source API management providers will help incentivize their users to publish on GitHub. I'd love for a few honest and brave API providers in the private sector to follow the lead, but after getting to know the space so intimately I am not holding my breath.

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