17Dec

The future of API design: The orchestration layer [feedly]

The future of API design: The orchestration layer
api modeling 520x245 The future of API design: The orchestration layer

Daniel Jacobson (Twitter | LinkedIn), is currently director of engineering for the Netflix API. Prior to Netflix, Daniel ran application development for NPR where, among other things, he created the NPR API. He is also the co-author of APIs: A Strategy Guide.


The digital world is expanding at an amazing rate, giving us access to applications and content on myriad connected devices in your homes, offices, cars, pockets and on even on your body. The glue that allows all of this to happen, that connect the companies who provide these services to the devices that you use, is the API.

Because APIs have such a huge responsibility for so many people and companies, it is natural that API design is often one of the industry’s liveliest discussions, touching on a range of topics including resource modeling, payload format, how to version the system, and security.

While these are likely important areas to explore when designing virtually any API, the reality is that a much larger decision needs to be made first. That decision is based on a fundamental question: who are the primary audiences for this API and how can we optimize for those audiences?

This seems like an innocuous enough question, but don’t underestimate its importance or complexity in the growing world of APIs.

Years ago, this question was much simpler

At that time, many emerging APIs were being built as open or public APIs, targeting a large set of unknown developers (LSUDs) external to the providing company.

Because of the (hopefully) vast numbers of external developers using the API representing different use cases, the most sensible way to design the API for this audience is to have the providing API team design it in a very clean, concise, and resource-oriented way that closely represents the data model and/or features of its source(s).

In a previous post, I referred to these as OSFA APIs (or one-size-fits-all APIs). Allowing for such granularity in the modeling means that any developer who wishes to use the API can mix and match the elements in whatever way they choose to satisfy their application without further API team involvement.

The resource-model approach to designing an API can be very powerful, especially for this type of audience. The problem with this approach, however, is that the way that many companies use APIs today is different than described above. While many are still supporting the use cases of LSUDs, more are using their APIs to support a growing mobile or device strategy.

For some of these implementations, the engagement with the developers is different. The audience is a small set of known developers (SSKDs). They may be engineers down the hall from the API team, a contracted company hired to develop an iPhone app, or an engineering team in a partnering company. In all of these cases, however, the API team knows who these people are (at least in the abstract sense).

More importantly, however, the API team and the providing company care about the success of these implementations in a different way than they might care about the applications developed by the LSUDs. In fact, the success of the SSKDs may very well be paramount to the success of the business as a whole, a model that is becoming increasingly more pervasive.

Because of this change in audience and the deep interest in their success, there is great opportunity to change the API design.

For the SSKDs, having granular resource-based APIs that closely represent the data model works, but it just isn’t as optimal as it could be. This is especially the case when you consider the growing number of device types in the world and the fact that more and more companies’ business strategies are dependent on providing value to customers on such devices.

So, all it takes is a couple of devices with diverging needs and/or capabilities, each of great import to the company, for the resource-based API to start to show some warts. Making the API better, more optimized, for each of these target applications is the next logical, and most critical, step.

Enter the Orchestration Layer

An API Orchestration Layer (OL) is an abstraction layer that takes generically-modeled data elements and/or features and prepares them in a more specific way for a targeted developer or application

To address this opportunity, more companies are employing orchestration layers into their API infrastructure. While there are many ways in which to implement this architectural construct, the concept remains the same across all of them.

Below, I will describe a few of the more common patterns that I have seen (and/or been involved in implementing). But first, here are a few key principles that need to be considered when building an OL:

1. Most APIs are designed by the API provider with the goal of maintaining data model purity. When building an OL, be prepared to sometimes abandon purity in favor of optimizations and/or performance.

2. Many APIs are designed by API teams to make it easier for the API team to support. When building an OL, be prepared to potentially add complexity for the API team (or other teams, depending on the way it is implemented).

While this sounds undesirable, the goal here is to dramatically improve efficiency and/or simplicity for other people at some mild cost to the API team. Also keep in mind that such costs can potentially be programmed away over time.

3. It is important to understand the breadth of the audiences for the API. Depending on those constituents, you may only need the OL. In other cases, you may need the OSFA foundation in addition to the OL.

Here are a few examples of how some OLs have been approached:

Device-specific wrappers

This is the most common pattern that I have seen because most companies that are experiencing the distress referenced above already have APIs that they still use, continue to support, and invest in. The result is to continue to offer the granular resources as they always have, but to offer a wrapper tier on top of them – with new endpoints that are tailored to specific developers, devices or device clusters.

In this model, the API team will work more closely with, for example, the iPhone team to write a custom wrapper that handles specific requests and deliver specific payloads that are optimized for the iPhone app. In this model, most often the team to build the endpoints and the wrappers is the API team although that doesn’t have to be the case.

Query-based APIs

In this model, the API team is putting the power in the hands of the requesting developer, although that power is limited. The goal here is to create a more flexible way in which the requester can make requests and tailor payloads without putting additional ongoing burden on the API team, as could be the case with the Device-Specific Wrappers.

This is achieved by breaking down the resource-based APIs and allowing them to be queried against like a database through flexible parameters and payloads that can contract, expand and possibly morph based on what is needed. The benefit here is that once the query language is set, the API team does not need to keep writing wrappers as new implementations are needed for different devices.

The detriment, however, is that the query-based API is still a set of rules to which the developer needs to adhere, although these rules are much more flexible than the resource-based API model.

Experienced-based APIs

resource v experience apis The future of API design: The orchestration layer

This is the model that Netflix has implemented, which in some ways is a blend of the two above. In this model, we basically have device-specific wrappers but they are designed, implemented and owned by the device teams.

A key concept here is that we have put the API team in the position of gathering the data in a generic, reusable way while putting the device teams in the position of owning the data formatting and delivery. After all, the formatting needs evolve in concert with the UI changes so putting that effort in the hands of those closest to the changes eliminates additional steps.

(For more details on how this system operates, see the links at the bottom of the post.)

As I noted, the range of implementations is potentially much more diverse than these three, although these are some of the most consistent and interesting patterns that I have seen. Regardless of how this is achieved, however, the key is for the API team to stop supporting the API as a service that is designed independent of those SSKDs who consume it.

Rather, the API team needs to view the SSKDs as partners in the design with an interest in making the products as great as possible so the end-users can get the best experience possible. The API team has the opportunity to build services that help developers to be better at developing by focusing on optimizing for the developers’ needs rather than how to optimize the time spent supporting the API.

Given the opportunity ahead with the potential number and diversity of connected devices, the effort to provide such optimizations is a small price to pay for the massive upside.

For more information on the Netflix use case, the problems we encountered that prompted our redesign, and how we implemented our Experienced-Based API, here are a few links:

Image credit: bloomua/Shutterstock

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17Dec

The Future of TV, according to CNN and France Télévisions [feedly]

 
 

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The Future of TV, according to CNN and France Télévisions
LeWeb Future of TV panel

Left to right: moderator Adrian Monck, MD, head of communications and media, World Economic Forum; Kenneth “KC” Estenson, SVP & GM, CNN.com; Bruno Patino, SVP of programming, network TV and digital strategy, France Télévisions Group

 

Digital deciders of two of the world’s biggest broadcasters sat down at tech conference LeWeb today to discuss the future of TV. Digital disruption, new forms of TV consumption, 2screen TV, multiplatform content and advertising were all covered in this quickfire and inspiring session.

Moderator Adrian Monck began by asking the two speakers what keeps them awake at night. “We’re entering the video age,” said France Télévisions’ Patino. “Video is everywhere, TV is everywhere; we’re in a golden age of what we can do. But what keeps me awake at night is how can we make our vertical organisation fit this horizontal world, and live with the age of context. So we’re embracing the second screen, and being present on every platform. We also have to embrace the age of the audience being present (in the shows), with Twitter & Facebook, the sharing of TV programmes, and welcoming an audience that can now create its own programmes. Institutionalised TV still has a long way to go. Then there are the interfaces. I don’t believe broadcasters can make interfaces like those that exist in the tech world; so APIs are important. Finally, you have to organise the data around the programmes to be present around algorithms (such as Google Search). I’m very confident in the future of programmes we can publish; the challenge is how to handle this complex world.”

Then CNN’s Estenson was asked to react to recent media claims that TV is dead. “The rumours of the death of TV are overrated,” he said. “But every operator must have a massive digital setup behind them. CNN was disruptive to begin with, so we made the decision to be on as many platforms as we could (now over 20). ”

He then gave an impressive list of the news network’s multiplatform reach:

– 100m TV homes for TV

– 41m desktop web users

– 31m mobile web users (+30% this year)

– 51m social media followers (+75%)

– 42m apps (+96%).

 

The network’s social media growth and presence is one of its key strengths, said Estenson: “CNN is far and away the largest social media news brand in the world. Two of the biggest Twitter accounts in the world are CNN’s. That’s because we’re actively reaching out and publishing specifically for Twitter & Facebook audiences.”

CNN is also closely tracking who looks at which platform when, and has discovered that whilst the majority of newspaper reading happens in the morning, mobile and app news consultation peaks midday, and iPad news consumption takes off in the evening. Food for thought…

 

Patino then observed that, for France Télévisions, “being on every screen was not as difficult as you would imagine. It took us 3 years to become present on all pltaforms. That’s rather easily done, including with the producers. They’re really happy when they see their programmes everywhere. “Fais pas ci fais pas ça” (one of France Télévisions’ biggest series) has 15% of its audience coming from another screen than the TV. What’s harder is to convince producers to include sharing and participation within the programme. So we started introducing these elements with 3 programmes a few years ago, then 20 the next year, then 50. At first, for example, political programmes didn’t want tweets on screen. Then they realised that the conversations we got via Twitter are first-rate, and that they improve the overall quality of the programme.”

“Whether digital leads the way or comes after traditional TV is not my problem,” added Patino. “My problem is making both worlds work. We have to adapt to things like on-demand viewing, viewing based on recommendations, or optimising series for binge viewing, so maybe without cliffhangers, for example. We’ll be ready for that.”

Then came a surprising digital TV comment from Estenson: “In general, I think second screen experiences suck. It’s a hacked attempt to bring some kind of interaction to TV. For me, there are two ways to do connected TV. It’s either about internet connected straight into the TV, and we’ll build an app layer with the TV manufacturer. Or it’s about devices like Chromecast or Apple TV, and we’ll work with them to provide apps. There’s a huge opportunity for people who are building those boxes right now.

Patino agreed that “these experiences are going to explode, and we need to be ready for that.”

So how will TV consumption evolve in the near future? “If i see a great interview on the TV, I should be able to send it to my mobile device before I go out,” said Estenson. “That capability is coming very quickly. So ultimately, we’ll take the news down to the atomic level and organise it so we present it to you in a very personalised way.”

Said Patino, “we’re experimenting with things like that, but for now the innovation doesn’t come from the TV set itself; it has to go through the second screen, if, for example, you want to share a section of a programme via Facebook.”

Finally, the speakers were asked about how advertising is evolving on these new platforms, where traditional audience rating systems no longer apply. “We’re experimenting with Twitter Amplify (which allows sponsors to target content to viewers of specific shows) on a few programmes,” said Patino. “It’s a great way to experiment with engagement. So we’re trying to figure out how to sell engagement (rather than traditional audience ratings).”

 

 

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15Dec

Bitcoin hakkindaki en Guzel ve ozet yazi

  A Quick and Complete History of Bitcoin So You’re Not Totally Lost

A Quick and Complete History of Bitcoin So You're Not Totally Lost

News stories that are really big unfold over months or years, and tackling them can take almost constant media coverage. But all of that distilled information can start to feel overwhelming in itself, and that’s where the infographic recap comes in really handy.

15Dec

IN DEPTH: Origin of the series: how TV producers are adapting for on demand [feedly]

 
 

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IN DEPTH: Origin of the series: how TV producers are adapting for on demand
IN DEPTH: Origin of the series: how TV producers are adapting for on demand

Ten years ago, the TV industry was a simpler place. People watched a show on television, then perhaps bought it on DVD if they really loved it. The biggest thing producers had to worry about was making sure there was a commentary track and some outtakes for the DVD extras.

Fast forward a decade and everything has changed. Audiences are fragmented, with relatively small numbers tuning in when a show is broadcast, but many more later watching it on “catch-up” services like BBC’s iPlayer in the UK and Hulu Plus in the US. Yet more might illegally download it, or merely watch clips of episodes on YouTube. DVD-buyers still exist, but many people also now buy series on Apple’s iTunes platform, or through a streaming subscription to Netflix or Amazon On Demand, which are starting to bypass traditional broadcast TV by commissioning their own series.

“We are now challenged with making television that can live beyond its singular broadcast window,” explains Dan Tucker, a freelance senior producer who’s worked with the BBC, Disney, Endemol and more.

“The commissioners who choose and then fund programmes are thinking about audiences in new ways.”

What a producer does

The role played by a producer in putting together a television series is complex and multifaceted. It’s their job to make sure a programmes are delivered on time, on budget, and to as high a standard as possible. They’re often the first and last people involved, from the earliest research and scripts to the end of post-production and final delivery of the show. “The producer is the keystone in a programme’s lifecycle; bringing together and leading the team, responsible for delivery and also a key editorial force in making the show the best it can be,” says Tucker.

Netflix TV

That means getting the most out of all the platforms available to them, which can involve tweaking a show so it resonates better with an online audience. “The viewing figures on YouTube often totally dwarf those of linear television”, says Tucker. TV shows no longer end at the TV – they can inspire internet memes that last far longer than the shows themselves, having a profound effect on popular culture.

Producers are also discovering that people tend to watch different genres of television in different ways. “Most of the comedy content I watch from TV I watch whilst commuting,” says Tucker. “Then I’ll sit down with my wife and watch back-to-back episodes of a drama. Big documentary series are often watched on long rail or plane journeys.”

That leads to a totally new set of priorities, Tucker explains. “We’re now all really keen to have our landmark documentary series on Netflix because it has the long tail and the audience reach. It’s much more valuable than a repeat late at night on a sister channel to one of the big broadcasters that might only pull in a few tens of thousands of viewers. Once.”

Ahead of the curve

That’s not all. As well as having to adapt to a new audience, producers now have to contend with having to gather material from a far wider range of sources, many of which have owners that are difficult to track down. “We often want to use content from YouTube and other shared media platforms, but the accreditation or permissions for obtaining copyright clearance are a bit more obscure,” says Tucker.

YouTube

In fact, smart producers often look at what’s big on YouTube to guide their work. “In the case of videogames, for example, TV is years behind,” says Tucker. “YouTube is an enormous repository for content that is eminently shareable. It’s both a rival and an amazing research tool for traditional telly.”

That’s great for YouTube, but it can be frustrating for streaming services that rely on traditional television infrastructure for new shows. As a result, many are starting to commission their own series to keep the flow of content coming, based on their own data on what people want to watch.

Major players

Netflix has made the biggest splash so far by remaking cult political drama House of Cards with Kevin Spacey, and commissioning a long-demanded new series of the much-loved comedy Arrested Development. It’s also hoping that teens will be as keen on werewolves as they are vampires with Hemlock Grove, and is bringing several superheroes to the small screen with Marvel.

Netflix

Amazon hasn’t been taking that sitting down, though, with five series planned for 2014. Two are adult comedies, one featuring John Goodman and Bill Murray and the other focusing on Silicon Valley. The rest are aimed at a kids audience – Annebots, Creative Galaxy and Tumbleaf. Meanwhile, it’s been snapping up exclusives on a stack of BBC hits like The Office, Jonathan Creek, Top Gear and Spooks.

Amazon has also commissioned a sextet of comedy pilots, and Microsoft will be putting a live-action Halo TV series, produced by Steven Spielberg on to its Xbox One console. Sony isn’t far behind either, forming a unit inside its movie studio Sony Pictures called PlayStation Productions.

So far it’s almost all fiction, however. “It would be great if companies like Netflix were to start looking at producing documentaries for more niche markets – something that TV broadcasters will not do, despite there being a big audience out there,” says Tucker.

“I just made a documentary about videogames for a terrestrial UK channel that 1 million viewers watched on the night of transmission. But if it was on a platform like Netflix, an already-web-and-game-savvy audience would, I hope, watch in even greater numbers.”

Next steps

So how can traditional TV fight back? “I think that commissioners and the channels that they work for need to become a bit braver with how they commission shows,” he adds. “I also think that the big broadcasters, certainly in the UK, need to place much more value on the viewing figures that come from on demand viewing.”

Meanwhile, the digital ground doesn’t show any signs of settling. More changes are coming down the line, as Blu-ray and 3D fade into irrelevance and technology companies set their sights on 4K.

4K

What happens next will depend largely on how consumers respond to exclusives and having to pay multiple subscription fees to see all the shows they want. If the arms race continues for more than a year or two, then it could erode trust in streaming services before they can get established in the mainstream. That would be bad for consumers, producers, streaming services and the TV industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, with an increasing amount of original content being produced, such a situation is looking more and more likely. If we’re ever going to build a one-stop giant Blockbusters in the sky, we’ll need to do rather better than that.

  • Want to know where to find the best TV shows? If you are from the UK, then click this way…


    



15Dec

Netflix Top of SVOD List, RedBox Leads in Pay-Per-Rental Category [Report] [feedly]

 
 

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Netflix Top of SVOD List, RedBox Leads in Pay-Per-Rental Category [Report]
Netflix Top of SVOD List, RedBox Leads in Pay-Per-Rental Category [Report]Digitalsmith’s Q3 2013 Video Discovery Trends Report confirms that Netflix holds the lion’s share of the Subscription Video on Demand market with 41% – no surprise there. Redbox Kiosks have the largest share of the Pay-per-Rent services market at 16.5%.

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