What Star Wars Can Teach Us About APIs - Part 1

Part 1 of a trilogy where we try to incorporate wisdom from Star Wars to improve our API Ops.

2 years ago   •   6 min read

By Leigh Wallett
Table of contents

There may be no better guide for APIs than Star Wars. Or as Yoda would say according to this translator: Us about APIs, what Star Wars can teach.

Star Wars has many lessons for life and personal growth. It has even better lessons for APIs. While the tech in the movies may look outdated, its effectiveness is still inspiring. Even Elon Musk is still trying to create a robot as lifelike as C-3PO. The closest language we have to Binary is probably REST.

Let’s stop the fan fiction there. This blog is not about scripting APIs into the Skywalker Saga. This blog is about the lessons we can apply from Star Wars to APIs. Instead of focusing on the technology, we’ll be taking lessons from the human drama. APIs are dramatically changing our world. They are integrating technology into the human experience through AI, and IoT and moving us closer to becoming cyborgs.

When it comes to working with APIs, if you have the courage to imagine what others won’t, you can create a life that’s better for everyone.

In true Star Wars style, these lessons are shared over a Trilogy of Trilogies. In part 1 we’ll look at lessons from the stories themselves, through quotes, characters, and galaxies far far away. In part 2, we’ll step out of the story and into the myth of the hero's journey. Finally, in part 3, we’ll take a meta-view of the enterprise of Star Wars itself.

Join me as we start this space opera with key themes from Star Wars stories.

Lessons from Star Wars for APIs

This whole series could have been quotes and characters with valuable API lessons. Instead, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 3 themes with the most relevant quotes. These themes form a common thread through all the Star Wars stories. The intention is to elevate how we view APIs and give them the respect they deserve.

Hope in Rebellion

Starting off strong, it takes a rebellious spirit to fight the Galactic Empire. It also takes a particular type of rebellion to reimagine what’s possible with APIs. Rebellion is the essence of Star Wars.

Shmi Skywalker makes a powerful statement in the Phantom Menace: “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.”

While APIs may not be fighting against evil exactly, many organisations can feel oppressive, hierarchical structures have autocratic power, and there is certainly complicated bureaucracy. Like the Galactic Empire, there is often a desire for singular rule and control.

APIs help democratize data and therefore break down these traditional power structures. As Shmi Skywalker says, nothing can stop this change.

API first companies are part of a different rebellion. They are fighting against the gatekeepers of technology. APIs are an essential part of the no/lo code revolution. They provide plug-and-play functionality without the need for coding from scratch.

Jyn says in Rogues One: “Rebellions are built on hope.” When you need some extra emotional motivation to be part of this change, have hope for a better future with APIs helps. APIs are leading the way in enterprise modernization and removing barriers to integrating technology no matter the scale of your operation.

Photo by freestocks / Unsplash

Team Synergy

Now that we know what we’re fighting for, the next lesson from Star Wars is the power of synergy. It's easy to think technical work is best done alone. It requires deep thought and focus, especially with technology like APIs.

“The First Order wins by making people think they are alone. We’re not alone. Good people will fight if we lead them.” —Poe Dameron, The Rise of Skywalker

Teamwork can take many forms. It can look like a highly collaborative group of people interacting regularly, or it can look like making data available and accessible. It’s the synergy between people or information that leads to a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

“We had each other. That’s how we won.”—Lando Calrissian, The Rise of Skywalker

When it comes to finding synergy with APIs there are multiple communities to connect with. In a literal sense, APIs are there to make data available. They are the ultimate tool for connection. They allow for work to be parcelled up so it doesn’t need to be built from scratch.

In a broader sense, the creation of APIs requires synergy with customers or consumers from the beginning. Bringing together different perspectives in the design and testing of an API can lead to exponential results.

The rebels in Star Wars find ways to come together to win. The same is true for APIs. Look for opportunities for synergy when creating or integrating APIs. Bring together different expertise and perspectives.

“In my book, experience outranks everything.” — Captain Rex, The Clone Wars

Working together as a cross-functional team is like a superpower. Draw on the experience of people who will work with your API. Find people who’ve struggled with the challenges your API overcomes. Make information about your API transparent. This allows for synergies to develop in ways that can be hard to predict.

The Power of Observability

The third and final lesson in this trilogy of Star Wars themes is the importance of observing data. As Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return Of The Jedi says: “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our viewpoint.” In New Hope he shares another banger: “Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.”

Observability with APIs can be confusing. There is no interface for an API. You cannot see it. What you can see is the documentation. You can also see the interactions. With a tool like Treblle you can see your APIs' behavior.

By visualising your APIs behaviour you can quickly see how it's performing and if there are any errors. For instance, if there are any delays in communication between your API and database or to view the stream of events in real-time.

Without this data, your API performance can be too subjective. As Obi-Wan Kenobi says, this intuitive view cannot be trusted. You need objective data to optimise your API.

You can use that information to discover both blind spots and opportunities. You have real-time visibility of what is happening. And as Yoda says in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, “In a dark place we find ourselves and a little more knowledge lights our way.”

When you have more information, the next steps become clearer. Observability can lead to better performance.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” —Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

In this fast-moving, complex world of APIs, you cannot wait for perfection. You have to act and improve. The more data you have, the easier it gets to know what’s working, what’s not, and what to improve.

How to Apply These Lessons from Star Wars to Your APIs

The best way to bring these lessons to life is with your own API data. Share the vision of what your API can achieve. Show how your API can help overcome challenges. Make your API easy to access and understand.

With Treblle you can create a ‘datapad’ instantly. In 2 simple steps, you can add the Treblle SDK to your API. You’ll then have real-time API monitoring, carefully designed API analytics, and detailed search and filtering. Problems are detected as they occur, you can track requests based on location, conduct 1 click testing, and auto-generate documentation.

Soon we will be releasing Treblle 2.0 where you can create your own dashboards with specific graphs to suit your needs.

With this data, you can give hope to the rebellion and shine a light on the change. The transparency on how your APIs are performing will improve synergy and collaboration. You no longer need to talk through technical or business challenges, everyone can be on the same page instantly. Through observation, you can see opportunities to improve and grow your API products.

You can get started with Treblle here and bring these lessons to life with your API.

Now that we’ve explored the lessons scripted into Star Wars, we can turn our attention to the next perspective. In Part 2 we’ll look at the monomyth that Star Wars follows: The hero's journey. This is a robust structure to use with your APIs. We’ll look at why some APIs create billion-dollar businesses while others fall into obscurity. With lessons from the Star Wars story arch, you can elevate your APIs to cult status.

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