Life Hacks, Media Mind

There should be an App for a Personal API

 There should be an app for that

There Should Be An App For That

Apps and websites (and features) are becoming single function, best-of-breed experiences.

And in the future (and the present) customers want to knit them back together into a mix-up of their own creation.

Services like Zapier ( and IFTTT ( are just the start. These services enable a kind of personal operating system where you identify the “channels” (where stuff happens, e.g. Twitter, Salesforce, Facebook – there are hundreds), the “triggers” (what causes this to happen, e.g. receiving an email, creating a calendar item, or posting a tweet), and the “actions” (what data is transferred or referenced in another channel, e.g. When I post on Instagram, also post it for me on Flickr; or make a calendar appointment for me automatically when I get this type of email.)

The future belongs to startups that help you make “Data Glue” and “Personal API” management, sticking together all of your best of breed digital exhaust and interactions and photos and stuff into one coherent management view. Yeah, yeah, I know – you keep all of your stuff in Facebook or on Twitter or on Google. But do you? Do you really know where all of your online stuff lives?

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends presentation is a must read.
What is there was a personal API where you could see all of your stuff?

Today you share a lot of information online. And you don’t have a good place to review all of that data, understand how it’s shared, and stop sharing it when you want. We need an API of Me that gives you one place to know what you’re doing and sharing online. You might argue that this is dangerous to connect all of the streams of information and to put management controls in one place. I might argue that it’s potentially dangerous to not know all of the information that’s being shared and connected to you with and without your knowledge.

A personal API could bridge this gap by giving you better control over the information you choose to share and understanding where it’s shared. There are some technical hurdles to making this happen and a start might be: allow consumers to create their own chunks of information that are connected with an API using oAuth to publishers. It’s the same way a company might broker and share this sort of information, only you would be brokering the information and using it as a “pass-through” for the information you currently share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other services.

There would need to be a minimum amount information that would be always be shareable and discoverable – for example, you might use as your key the username that you share on those networks (your Twitter handle, LinkedIn ID, etc). As a start you might simply provide extended information to those services. If this is a valuable service to share highly targeted information, then those services might start using you as an API provider.

What if there was a way to package up that data and sell it to people who wanted your stuff and to get payment?

In a world where you had better control over your personal data, you might choose to give it away freely or sell that information. Today there is a Creative Commons license that allows you to give away content easily and it’s much harder to centralize the way that you sell data, mostly because you are often operating under the auspices of other organizations when you create that information. Who owns a Tweet? Who owns a Facebook post? Who owns the digital exhaust of an interaction that you create when you move from place to place?

The future will include:
– tightly controlled views of uncontrolled data
– custom bundles of seemingly random information that have value when aggregated
– individual micro payments for actions online and offline

Would you use an “API of Me”?

Media Mind, Product Thoughts

Revisiting the API of Me

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Revisiting the API of ME

About 6 months ago, I wrote an article on the “API of ME“, an idea for a system of capturing, sharing, and **limiting* information by and about customers so that they could participate actively in a marketplace of data that includes their data. This is a follow-up to that post, inspired by HelpMeWrite*

The Big Picture of Your Big Data

Big Companies (and governmental entities) make decisions about our data every day. Wouldn’t it be great if it was easier to create “the API of Me” and segment the information those companies were allowed to sell? And wouldn’t it also be great if the company could ask you (and give you micro-payment) for additional data it wanted to sell? For the purposes of argument, let’s talk about voluntary means of asking for and receiving information instead of other forms of information collection.

Why do we need a system to do this?

The current online identity system is hopelessly fragmented and controlled by companies, not consumers.

I believe that customers and browsers (people who consume media and do not purchase) have a right to know how their information is being used.

Most things that are free on the Internet need a business model. I believe that Companies have a right to make money off of this consumption and should be sharing more openly with customers how their data is being used (whether it is sold directly or aggregated.) I also believe that customers should have a right to control how that data is being asked for and used.

And there is so much information being shared today in a combination of media by customers that it’s really hard to even know what you’re sharing. It would be great if it were easier for customers to make their preferences known about the information being used.

We all need a service that can expand our existing electronic identity to other future uses and to allow those future uses to learn more about us and to provide better service, more utility, and societal good while minimizing the possibility of “bad actors” to make inappropriate use of that information.

This idea needs to support an elegant, multi-factor authentication solution that’s as simple as possible, and no simpler.

What’s the goal?

The goal of this idea is to make data sharing transparent. An API of ME would also allow you to become a data broker for the information you would like to share with the world, and to make that sharing process easy to use and understand. If you imagine a venn diagram of “most private,” “somewhat private,” and “public” information that you specify, an API of ME would help you separate that content and activity into buckets.

When a company wants your data and has never made an agreement with you for that information, a possible solution might include a detailed request for information not unlike the way that oAuth connections (consider how you connect a 3rd-party account like Twitter or Facebook) ask for that information today.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Customers?

Customers would benefit from an API of Me by being able to specify directly what information they’d like to share and where. If the system worked well, the default level of sharing would make sense to most people (it might look like “share everything”, “share nothing,” and “tell me the kind of things you’d like to share.”) In an ideal world those customers would get paid for sharing that data.

What is the benefit of an API of ME for Companies?

Simply put, better qualified leads for activity, sales, interactions, and a true possibility at building a relationship. When a company really knows me – understanding where and when I like to be contacted and the types of offers that are valuable to me – that company gains my trust. I’m more likely to take a chance that they will do a good thing rather than immediate suspect ill will.

Can this happen?

Who knows. We are already in the business of sharing a lot of information with each other and with the companies that facilitation. Those companies are already selling our data (because, as you well know, if you’re not paying for the product, the product is you.) And yet there is the possibility that brokering the conversation will start not only a backlash at the extent to which this information is being bought and sold today but also a real marketplace for information where the key elements are owned and negotiated by the customer.