API Integration: The Developer Community as a Critical Resource

Digital innovation is almost never a solo act. Creating cutting-edge technology (and keeping it at that edge) requires collaboration and cooperation — smart people putting their heads together, sharing ideas and insights, answering one another's questions, and challenging one another's assumptions. Developers understand that, and since the earliest days of the internet, they've looked for communities online where they can exchange information. Now, as your organization embraces API integration, your team needs a developer community more than ever.

In today's application programming interface (API) economy, developer teams spend a lot of time evaluating third-party APIs that can help them build superior functionality into their apps and websites. In addition to looking for productive and capable APIs, you should also be tapping into the associated developer community. This critical resource is a key differentiator in API integration because it provides developers with a collective knowledge base they can leverage. Insights from these communities enable developers to shorten their time to market, debug coding issues, and learn from the mistakes (and successes) of others to create a better overall user experience.

From discussing new features, projects, and code branches to sharing the latest hacks and workarounds, the developer community is an important consideration when deciding which APIs to incorporate into your communication-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) stack.

Evaluating Developer Community When Selecting an API Integration

Investing in an integration without a robust developer community behind it is like buying a new car without a dealer network: If you have problems, you'll have a hard time finding help. So when thinking about support for integrating APIs, consider whether the community is:

  • Active.
  • Engaged.
  • Professional.
  • Moderated.
  • Honest.

Also, check to see if the API vendor hosts helpful content produced by developer advocates or other company subject matter experts (SMEs). While you should expect some discussion of the vendor's specific APIs in this content, it should neither contain overt marketing messaging nor bash competitive solutions from other providers.

The Vonage APIs platform (formerly Nexmo and TokBox) has a developer community that meets the mark on all the previously mentioned criteria. The goal of this community is not to promote the Vonage Business but rather to help developers help each other. And they do, all the time.

API Developer Communities Found Across the Internet

You may think of a developer community as a single, monolithic entity. But when it comes to CPaaS and integrating APIs, developer communities' specific solutions can be found across the internet. For example, popular forums for discussion of features, limitations, workarounds, and alternatives can be found on Quora and Stack Overflow. If you search for "Nexmo" or "Vonage APIs" on those sites, you'll find current and archival posts about short messaging service (SMS), virtual numbers, language support in Laravel and Java, and lively discussions around other topics. Developers can post questions and get answers from fellow developers or SMEs directly involved with the provider.

Other developers are out there right now, ready and willing to help you integrate and optimize communication APIs. All you have to do is join the conversation.

While not strictly considered a developer community, the GitHub Nexmo Developer repository contains many developer contributions that have helped improve the integration. There, you'll find more than 80,000 code samples and scripts that developers have supplied. You can copy and paste many of these into your own app development to shorten your time to market. In addition, you can have peace of mind that other like-minded developers — if not actual Vonage SMEs — have likely tested the code. If you have any doubts, you can click on the developer profile to see their contribution history and determine whether it meets the level of sophistication you seek.

With development communities, there can be latency between when a developer posts an issue and when an answer is supplied. If you need immediate help with an operational problem on your application integration, you can always contact customer support. But if you need real-time API feedback from other developers or developer advocates, you can join the open Vonage Developer Community Slack channel. As with any Slack channel, you can join in communication threads that interest you and leave threads when they're no longer relevant to you. You can also start your own thread if you don't see the topic you want to address, or you can initiate a private discussion with Vonage SMEs or specific community members if you have a sensitive question that you'd rather not discuss publicly.

The Vonage Slack channel is free to join — you only need to supply a valid email address. Once verified, you can immediately start connecting with the community, where you'll usually find one or more Vonage developer advocates online at any given time to answer questions.

Beyond the API Developer Community

Developer communities aren't the only useful resource for developer teams. You can also find useful insights in open-source, developer-related publications such as Hacker News (located on the Y Combinator site), SME how-to articles on ProgrammableWeb and other online developer resources, and articles from Vonage Business. Developers and SMEs in the Vonage community frequently author articles with specific examples of application development and API integrations. You can also contribute your own content.

In short, developer communities are an underappreciated but highly important part of any API integration, and their value should not be overlooked. Other developers are out there right now, ready and willing to help you integrate and optimize communication APIs. All you have to do is join the conversation.

Derek Handova
Derek Handova Contributor

Derek Handova is an enthusiastic white paper writer and brand journalist in the B2B and technology spaces. Previously, he has led content creation efforts at prominent companies such as Altera, BearingPoint Inc., Check Point Software, Harris Corporation, Solectron Corporation, and other Silicon Valley icons. His most recent engagement was working in content at Nexmo, the Vonage API platform. He has written articles for B2B News Network, Energy Central, IPWatchdog and Channel Futures, a Penton publication.

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