The many developers who use the Twitter API have built thousands of creative applications that have certainly exceeded anything that Twitter’s founders could have initially imagined when the API was released (for examples of some of these applications, check out our growing list of hundreds of mashups that use the Twitter API).
Twitter’s relatively small staff size presents a challenge for the company to stay connected with its ever-growing developer community. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick recently reported on his investigation into the tweeting habits of Twitter employees, and found that, among other things, “Twitter staff members aren’t following top Twitter developers in the community.” In response to Kirkpatrick’s report, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams responded:
On the topic of developers… We find them incredibly important, but we aren’t able to pay enough attention to them, so we’ve hired people to do so full time. You’ll find the @twitterapi account replying to developers all day long, for instance.
If activity and number of followers is any indication, the official Twitter API feed mentioned by Williams has already made an impact. Not only is the feed full of tweet replies to developer questions, but it has gained over 12,000 followers. The Twitter API dev team has also released a survey to gauge developer perspectives on API development. It’s a relatively short survey, but gives insight into what questions and issues their team is tackling.
The first question asks respondents to provide feedback on “how many people at Twitter do you think are working on” various aspects of API development, including Search, OAuth, and Streaming. And as the Twitter API team likely knows that members of its developer community have also had experience with other APIs, so the survey also brings up interesting questions such as “what is your opinion/impression of the various API communication methods?” and “what do other developers communities (jQuery, PHP, Facebook, etc) do well that we could improve on?” . Developers can submit their responses to the Twitter survey here.
Given the incredible growth rate of the developer community that Twitter’s team needs to help, it’s good to see this kind of outreach. With its small staff and heavy user base, Twitter’s strategy for developer communications, from tweets to surveys, might end up being a textbook example of how other, similarly sized companies should solicit feedback about their public APIs.