My colleague Marieke Guy is involved in work investigating best practice on “What Makes A Good API?“. The work began with a half-day workshop at the CETIS 2008 conference – we were fortunate that the topic we had been invitd to facilitate coincided with Marieke’s current area of work (although, of course, this wasn’t really coincidental, but reflects a growing awareness of the importance of APIs).

The CETIS workshop was entitled “Technological Innovation in a World of Web APIs“. This provided a valuable start for the work, with useful input from a number of important communities: developers who are already making use of APIs (either consuming APIs provided by other services or providing APIs to the services they are developing); project managers who may be considering the potential benefits – and correcpsonding costs – or providing APIs for their project deliverables and  and IT support staff who may have responsibilities of supporting such services once they are deployed into service.

But there’s still a need for further research and for listening into to the discussions which are taking place regarding use of APIs. How should one go about this, was a question Marieke and I discussed recently.

One suggestion I made was to explore the potential of Twitter.  As shown, you can set up a search query in Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck. Will searching for a term such as “API” provide useful information, I wonder?  Well I’ve found one person who is very critical of Skype’s closed APIs, another will has made great progress with iPhone APIs and someone who has responded to a query by stating that Tokbox APIs go out (are deployed, I think) very quickly.

Is the useful? Clearly the approach is not scaleable to all areas of research. But you might expect software developers to be early adopters of Twitter and to use Twitter to discuss their work.  Indeed the final example I gave above was from dbillian, a Toxbox employee.  And as I have previously written about Tokbox I potentially have a contact with someone who may be responsive to queries about, in this case, the APIs provided by the Toxbox video chat service.

Now in a previous version of the Tweetdeck client I could select whether to search across the tweets from the  Twitter users I follow or across all tweets globally. I personally found the former more useful as, in some but not all cases, I would know about them and their interests. However that feature seems to have disppeared following a recent upgrade of the Tweetdeck software.

Will Twitter help in the research, I wonder?  Let’s try it and see.