Hello Fluidinfo API Competition

How does a small startup get the word out about their API? The people at Fluidinfo probably thought that a full page ad in the New York Times is a bad idea. They decided to run a contest instead. If things go well, contests are great because tens or hundreds or thousands of people (“contest participants”) create value according to your specification but you only have to pay a few of them (“lucky winners”). If all goes wrong only a few people create very little value and you have to pay all of them. That’s really all there is to know about contests.

Back to the Fluidinfo contest. Fluidinfo have an API, no full page ad in the New York Times, and an API competition. How do I know? I found out about it on the Radar blog published by the universally awesome people at O’Reilly Media.

To enter said Fluidinfo competition which has not been promoted with a full page ad in the New York Times, one has to put an entry in Fluidinfo’s writable information storage system. Looking at the other entries, the convention seems to be that this entry contains a link to a blog post where you announce your status as a “contest participant” and your interest in becoming a “lucky winner”. And you are currently reading mine.

This is where I am expected to write something insightful about Fluidinfo. In one sentence: Fluidinfo is Tim O’Reilly’s favorite startup (I suspect that’s why O’Reilly media sponsors Fluidinfo’s API contest). What Fluidinfo offers is a data storage platform where anyone can create entries (called “objects”), to which anyone can add pieces of information to (called “tags”). Anyone can then come along and look at the data, search through the data and work with the data. That’s it. “Terry Jones, the guy behind it, isn’t even sure himself if it will work,” said O’Reilly (writes Businessinsider). Hah, if I ever have a startup, that’s how I will promote it!

Let’s get down to business: What is my entry? Enter www.skillshelv.es.

You can learn anything on the internets these days, but most programmers worth their salt have a couple of books in their bookshelf. And more often than not, quite a few of these books have a pencil sketch of an animal on their cover and/or are published by O’Reilly Media. I go as far as saying that the list of O’Reilly books you read is a pretty good indicator of your skill levels across all things IT.

www.skillshelv.es is going to (I am writing this as I am only half done with the page) let you create a list of O’Reilly books. I don’t really care if you own them or just read them or wish you read them or whatever but the site will work best for you if you read and understood them. Once done, you get to have a personal page under www.skillshelv.es/username where not only your books but also your skill levels in the fields covered by the books is presented. If at this point you are still wondering about the name “Skillshelves”, allow me to reveal to you that it is a word play of “skills” and “bookshelves”.

Let’s say you admire my kick-ass Lisp skills (disclaimer: I know next to nothing about Lisp). Then you can go to my Skillshelf and find out which O’Reilly books I used to become so awesome at Lisp. And then you go buy these books! And then O’Reilly is happy! And because O’Reilly sponsors this competition and my site just made O’Reilly happy, they give me the first price in the competition! Excuse me, I’m getting carried away on waves of excitement.

So what I am going to do: First, I’ll tag every single one of the 2000 O’Reilly books currently present in the Fluidinfo data store with topics that they are relevant for. And then I’ll make a site where users can declare their ownership of a book - which is then also stored in the Fluidinfo data store. And finally, all that data get’s combined to be descriptive of people’s skills as well as helping people find relevant books.

This is when the author realizes that there are only 32 hours left before the deadline and starts working.