API Craft Detroit 2014: Hypermedia Rising

APICraftI had the honor to be one of the attendees at the first annual API Craft Detroit conference last year, which was so successful that it spawned abunch of API Meetups around the globe (I regularly attend API Craft Boston, which is a roving band of API lovers who tough out the winter meetups over Google Hangout). This year, I bought my ticket as soon as I could and then groaned as life got in the way and I had to miss the first day of the conference. But I made it to the second day and got a whole new perspective by walking in after the sessions were set up and the energy was already humming. I was relieved though to see that the guidelines for this open space conference remained the same as last year (although with fancier signage).

What I missed

This year the conference did something new by setting aside a half day for aconcentrated discussion on Hypermedia APIs. The idea was to have short presentations by a panel, following by a Q&A for the panel, then break into discussions. But API Craft is about organic conferencing, which means “whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” The panel discussion was so interesting and engaging that it actually went on for the whole 3 hours, leaving no time for the breakout discussions. Interestingly enough, nobody seemed to mind – quite the opposite, in fact. 🙂

Ah, very predictive of you, @marinade. 🙂 Indeed, there were plenty more conversations about hypermedia over the next couple of days, so much so that it emerged as the dominant theme of the conference overall.  In case you’ve never been to this kind of event, the best part of API Craft is that we design it as we go. There is no set agenda or speaker list before you show up. It’s a place where the most recognized people in the industry sit in the same circle of folding chairs as the most inexperienced people in the industry. The best advice I can give you is “leave your ego at the door and participate. The first official day of the unconference kicks off with people suggesting topics – all ideas are welcome and you don’t have to be an expert in the topic to suggest it. In fact, this is how many people get their questions on the table and have some of the best brains in the industry thinking it through with them.

I missed it this year but last year I watched with fascination as this portion of the day unfolded. The first suggestions are timid and there are pauses while everyone waits for the next idea. But then something happens – minds unfold, heartbeats slow, people relax and step forward. Until finally, out of nowhere, you have a conference agenda.

And of course, hypermedia dominated the first day of sessions:

Didn’t attend this session? Don’t despair – whiteboards like this get translated into notes in github so the conversation can not only continue, but move into the public consciousness. This is not about one expert talking at the rest of us – this is about all of our collective intelligence and creativity coming together to define the future of software. Yes, it’s THAT big.

What I didn’t miss out on

If you’re going to be late to a conference, at least time your arrival so you get dinner on the yacht.

After a great evening of sailing and beers (and more beers around town), we came back the next day for another round of discussions. I missed the agenda building but I was happy to see I had a broad selection of sessions in front of me. 

I guess we weren’t done talking about hypermedia (hmmm, what does this mean to the industry? has hypermedia finally come into its own? are we maturing enough in this industry to appreciate its flexibility?)

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