A Bit More on the Personal API
Keep trying to growths “personal API” stuff, but it feels like a strained replacement for “organization”. https://t.co/A6i2HUF44c
— Area Man (@xwordy) April 19, 2016
The tweet above and Alan’s comment on the post (below) and figured I haven’t really made a chunk of why I’m doing this clear or even what I’m doing clear. I’m probably a mix of more-middle-of-the-road and ambitious than I’ve been able to articulate so far. I declare no holy war. This is more a journey of self-improvement but I’m hoping the destination will be far more interesting than Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I like the idea of establishing some sort of importance/urgency level to your list, but to me, it’s a bit binary (reclaim or “let it burn”). I still maintain there’s a fair bit of room in the middle ground. When Boone Gorges and D’Arcy Norman did their aggressive acts of Reclaiming a few years back, my thought was “That’s impressive” as well as “That looks like a lot of work”.
See, I would rather take, edit, and share my photos than maintain my own flickr wanna be in WordPress or whatever. And there is the loss of potential social interaction you give up when you do a total reclaim, as happened when people went to Trovebox.
I am content to store 44,000+ photos in flickr, even if it might burn up one day or get sold. If it disappeared, well I’d be pissed, but its not the end of the world. Because I have my primary archive on my own hard drives and Aperture as a library. Likewise, I *could* build a link manager, but I really do not feel like bothering with it.
Yet, my rationale does not match others, I just am not convinced that a personal API requires a total reclaim act.
I do think what you are doing here is good model for something we might create a guide for or some spreadsheet thing or some Kin Lane Magic Elf API thing for people to keep an active inventory of “where my stuff is” beyond a blog post.
The Personal API will not cure baldness
True, I’m not particularly organized. Put it down as a character flaw. Some people are really good at organizing things or maybe they enjoy organizing things. I generally do not. Some people plot out which tools they’ll use, what services they’ll join, and they know well ahead of time when they’ll change jobs. I do not. I tend to do things more organically and move fairly quickly. These are things about me that are unlikely to change.
Despite the overall creepy vibe of the IBM video above, I do believe in that concept. Boring, repetitive, patterned work ought to be off-loaded where possible. It’s not where I want to spend my time.
Alan has his Flickr photos backuped on local hard drives and uses Aperture as the library. I believe, but have not verified, that I have my photos backed up on local hard drives. I have had a number of hard drives fail in my life. The big silver Lacie ones far more than I’d like. It is unlikely that a hard drive will fail and Flickr will go away at the same time but I am unlikely to know the hard drive failed until I go to check . . . when Flickr is dead/dying. That means at the time of service failure/migration, in order for me to feel comfortable with the stuff I care most about, I’ll have to check all the physical drives.
I moved away from Aperture a few years back and into Lightroom because Aperture wasn’t being taken care of by Apple. I don’t know how easily I can open old Aperture libraries now. It may be that I don’t need them . . . but I don’t know.
I also want a longer-term consideration to play out here. How difficult/easy will it be to migrate codecs as time passes? I already can’t open certain files either because my license is no good any longer or my new version won’t open the version from two iterations back. I know things like JPG have long term validity but what about the many flavors of RAW? How many of my physical hard drives photos are RAW originals? At least 7,000 or so. Looming in the back of mind is also how many things I’m not considering at all.
Granted, I don’t care about all this stuff equally. If I lost all my non-family pictures, or my bookmarks, or my YouTube videos I’d be disappointed but it’d be fine. It is the family pictures that matter the most to me. Their purpose is for the people down the road.1 I’m also now in a place where little bits of things I’ve added over time seem a bit more valuable as a whole. I find I rely on being able to search for things in particular places (even Twitter, despite having to go to my archive to do it well) or build consistently with particular tools. There’s also new potential around all this (my own personal skills and new options with technology) that makes degrees of control worth more to me than they were when this all started.
The other thing that plays into organization is realizing just how tenuous some of this stuff is. If it is organized in place A, how much of that organization comes with me when I leave? I’m not looking to self-host everything I’m using. The use of the reclaim/burn categories was probably ill-considered. I am trying to look at things more deeply. Where is my stuff? What do I get out of putting it there? What does the company get? What would happen if that service went away? What are the benefits of self-hosting? What are the costs of self-hosting? Something like the table below maybe . . .
So far about 90% of this stuff is oriented more towards organization/reclaiming even if it’s automated through API interactions. The part where it starts to get into a personal API for me is when you start building the flows between services in ways that matter to you. I do some things on a whim like building the Snoop Friends tracker but I want to do some really different things with workflows in the long-run. For instance, I’d like to build a central place to aggregate and search all the things I write across Twitter, by blog, stack exchange etc. A bit like Alan’s bookmarklet and I certainly use site:bionicteaching.com whatever in Chrome to search my own site all the time but I think that all my writing aggregated in a single spot starts to open up additional possibilities. I might search it with Angular binding or some other technology that isn’t shaped by Google. I might want a calendar or timeline interface for all my writing. I might want to analyze aspects of my writing Voyant style. That’s where having more direct control and API like interactions start to change how I think about what I might do.
My own “portfolio” site has been rotting but is begging for a rebirth via the personal API. How do I show all the stuff I do in interesting ways without duplicating work or adding hassle? I can push or pull data. I need to really think through how to do it in ways that practice what I preach.
My old workflow stuff was very fragile and I neither controlled nor had alternatives to many of the paths I relied on. What IFTTT allowed is what I could do and if that broke I was out of luck. I’d like to build more resiliency into this now. I might very well continue to do my work in the non-owned space because it’s a space I value but I have new options because I have new skills and the technology gives me far more options than I’ve yet exercised. It’s a see-saw of choice/work but I’m glad to consider some of it more deeply.
It’s a bit like hosting WordPress myself rather than doing it via wp.com or edublogs. I take on some hassle but I gain elements of control. My link and word counting plugin can be written and installed. No question it’s a give and take . . . a bit like owning a house. I get to paint stuff or knock down walls . . . but if the roof leaks or I knock down the wrong wall . . . that’s on me.
I guess I’m at the point where I want to knock down a wall or two, maybe build a brick pizza oven2 . . . come what may.