API-Craft Highlights Booming Detroit and API Community

August 7, 2013 8:00 am PDT | Open Data

I’ve got a little secret to tell you about… last week I attended one of the best tech conferences I’ve ever attended, and it was in Detroit.

API-Craft 2013 started with a simple goal – to gather together the leading minds of the API world in one place, and give them a chance to learn and collaborate on equal ground. Organized by the Detroit arm of the popular api-craft mailing list, the conference was designed from the ground-up with that goal in mind, from the geeky, API-powered event website, to their deliberate decision to take no sponsorship offers, and their choice of the open and democratic “unconference” format.

The results were nothing short of spectacular. No chest-puffing sponsor talks, no sales pitches, and no show floor full of corporate logos. Just 100 of your smartest friends getting together in one room to talk about their successes, their failures, and where we as a community can evolve and grow. The only time company names or products were brought up was to provide context to incredibly frank, almost confessional, stories about what worked for them, and often what completely failed. Every discussion was open and honest, and praise and criticism were dealt in equal amounts.

I arrived in Detroit with an open mind and a few technologies I wanted to explore, and left with a brain stuffed full of new technologies and techniques I wanted to learn more about. I myself led two topics – “Hypermedia and the Semantic Web” and “Designing and Documenting APIs for Discovery” – and was bowled over by the engagement and intelligence of my groups. I can easily say I probably walked away having gained as much as my attendees. I also came away with a ton of new friends and a ton of awesome contacts I’d love to work more with in the future.

I also left with a renewed sense of hope for the City of Detroit. It’s been hard for the city to catch a good break lately, with mayoral scandals, a huge budget deficit, and most recently a looming bankruptcy. As a longtime resident of southeast Michigan and a proud graduate of the University of Michigan, this has been really hard for me to watch. I can honestly say I’ve been concerned that Detroit might never recover.

However, my recent visit has given me a new appreciation for the drive, enthusiasm, and love that Detroit’s citizen entrepreneurs have for their city. The downtown core is full of beautiful, reclaimed buildings, new restaurants and lofts, and scrappy, innovative startup companies. People are moving back downtown, finding work, and building businesses. Campus Martius is now host to a hip “beach bar” and Grand Circus to open air markets and concerts. And from the beautiful roof deck of our hosts at the M@dison, we watched the Tigers beat the Nationals 11-1 in front of a packed ballpark.

Detroit is back in business. And I’ll be back for API-Craft next year, you can guarantee that.


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