3 Essential Elements of Open Technology
When most people think of “open technology,” they think “open source,” and for good reason. Over the past two decades, open source—with its principles of transparency, peer review, and collaboration—positively changed not just software, but the world. Continued support for open source projects and practitioners is an incredibly important part of the Postman Open Technologies team mission.
However, software doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Successful implementations are the result of a myriad of interactions between three essential things: specifications, practices, and people.
Open specifications and standards
Open specifications are collaboratively created, peer-driven solutions available for anyone to build upon. They describe how to accomplish a common goal in a predictable, consistent way. Specifications like OpenAPI, AsyncAPI, and JSON Schema take unstructured syntax and imbue it with meaning. It is this meaning that empowers human and machine parsers alike. Investing in these specifications (and the people behind them, like Ben Hutton and Mike Ralphson) will continue to be key.
Open practices are learnings made freely available for all. Special emphasis is given for participants to use, adapt, and improve upon the material for the benefit of those that come after them. Doing so turns the passive dictation of “best practices” of a master to student into the co-evolved “common practices” of a community. Postman’s creation of public workspaces that can be shared and built upon is just one such example. Amplifying innovative tool uses, like leveraging Postman’s existing features to teach API basics, also demonstrates this principle.
While the concept of open people is less well known in technology circles, it is no less powerful. Being an open person means remaining curious and empathetic to new ideas, regardless of professional distinction or accomplishment. It is a commitment to being a lifelong learner first and an “expert” a distant second.
Recognized industry leaders can fall into the trap of what organizational psychologist Adam Grant calls “preaching and prosecuting.” Both of those activities start from a fixed mindset that the actor is right and others are wrong. Experience or intellect may justify this frame of reference, for a time. However, the long-term effect can be debilitating.
A preacher or prosecutor type may be motivated to win others to their worldview. However, without openness, they risk becoming liabilities to the businesses they support. These companies are buffeted by unprecedented amounts of uncertainty—so they require mental approaches that are more readily capable of recognizing, interpreting, and acting on new information. What may be correct yesterday may be wrong today (and downright dangerous tomorrow).
An open person is more interested in getting to the right solution than being right. They have an identity independent of any one belief or theory and, subsequently, are not threatened when new information suggests an alternative. Open people are less concerned with leadership and more interested in fellowship. Open people spend far more time identifying and sharing common ground versus defining and exploiting differences.
The byproducts of nurturing open people are open and collaborative conversations. And those are the kinds of things that healthier, more resilient ecosystems are made of.
Open specifications, practices, and people are at the heart of the Postman Open Technologies program, and we invite you to explore our public workspace. Together, we’ll grow the API economy to even greater richness and diversity.
Are you using open specifications? Do you employ open practices or develop open people in your own organization? We’d love to hear your story. Use the tag #PostmanOpenTechnologies on your social media platform of choice when sharing your ideas and experiences, and let’s connect!