Net API Notes for 2020/03/12 - Issue 123 - The Viral One

Putting together the newsletter this week was a challenge. It's not so much that it has been a slow week; there have been slow weeks before. Answering questions, pontificating on the industry, or cribbing from Phil Sturgeon's twitter feed has never been an issue.

What is different is I'm writing this on the edge of a global pandemic. To not acknowledge it, to swell architectural arguments and teacup tempests to the entirety of the email while leaving room for nothing else, seems dishonest.

One doesn't have to look hard to find alarmist content. You might even be experiencing news fatigue. That's completely understandable. Whether it is the "always-on" performative nature of social media or profit-driven 24-hour cable news networks, there's no end of incentive to pour gasoline on an already burning fire.

The bad news is that the current disruption is going to get worse before it gets better. I can empathize with conference organizers and enterprise consultants, whether in API space or elsewhere. They've watched audiences and engagements - their revenue - evaporate with no obvious end in sight. Day-by-day, that disruption grows to other areas.

The good news is that we can minimize the impact if we take action now. You might have heard the phrase "social distancing". Containment, at this point, is unlikely. You and your loved ones are probably going to get covid-19 at some point. By limiting contact and slowing the spread, however, we help the existing health care system from being overwhelmed. By lengthening the amount of time it takes for the virus to infect a community, at-risk populations will maintain access to the care they need. This is known as "flattening the curve".

Animated GIF showing the effect of 'Flattening the Curve' by @SiouxSiew

If you want a pragmatic, grounded list of practical things to do, check out Zeynep Tufekci's article.

Like the article mentions, there are several easy, common sense things to do now. None of them involve hoarding toilet paper:

  • If possible, work from home. Software development, for all its foibles, can be done remotely. There has never been a better time to leverage this superpower.

  • If you have elderly or vulnerable family or neighbors, help them avoid unnecessary contact; offer to run errands like picking up medicine or buying groceries.

  • If you are a people manager and your team is now, suddenly, remote look for ways the soften the sudden isolation:

    • Have a routine and stick to it; find solace in a predictability during an unpredictable time.

    • Make yourself available and apply empathetic listening.

    • Stay informed, but not obsessed; refreshing Twitter every ten minutes not only isn't very informative, but goosing your anxiety will carry over to your team.

  • Keep a sense of humor about you, but avoid wallowing in gallows humor, as tempting as it may be; what seems like catharsis can be corrosive.

Two informative sites I've been checking (but no more than once a day) have been:

The data for the John Hopkins site is located within Github. Much of it comes from the World Health Organization situation reports. Italy, which is under lockdown, has also published a tremendous amount of data, in JSON format, to Github.

In a situation like this, the lack of a well-designed API is not concern #1. However:

[Frustrated sigh reaction gif]

ProgrammableWeb lists a couple of COVID-19 related APIs. Nubentos is a Spanish marketplace for health APIs. They have an API but require registration and available data seems limited and not updated that regularly. There's a Github project that also mentioned by ProgrammableWeb. However, it appears to be doing little more than scraping the website, something that the site's license frowns upon.

It does sadden me that individuals are having to spend time manually collecting and correlating data to address a need. This is a solved problem.

Don't panic, but be smart. Now is not the time for denial or anger. The sooner we get to acceptance, the sooner we can take simple, common-sense approaches and improve the survivability for the greatest number of us.

I'll pick up the API stuff again next week.

~ Matthew

Subscribe to Net API Notes

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.