API Description Pipelines

Working on API tools, I get to see inside lots of different organisations’ API projects and processes. Every scenario is different, but a common theme is that many companies use a more complicated API description workflow than you see in conference slide decks! Without sharing any one organisation’s secrets, this article shares a rundown of some typical steps that might show up in an API description pipeline. Continue reading

Checking Links in Docs-As-Code Projects

Creating content requires accuracy as well as creativity and the ability to deliver. Working with docs-as-code gives a strong foundation and structure to work within, and means there’s a clear workflow where automation can be added to help us with the easy stuff, such as “do all these links work?”.

I really appreciate having the extra confidence and support of these types of tools, and having implemented them on multiple projects at this point, I thought I’d share my advice for anyone looking to do the same. Continue reading

Reviewdog filter settings with GitHub Actions

Reviewdog is a tool to use with GitHub actions for applying review tools in your CI. I use it with Vale, and it’s really good. One thing that has tripped me up multiple times is that by default, it only applies the checks to the changes in the pull request, not to the whole project. So when you add something like Vale, which is a prose linter, it only checks … the workflow file you just added! I always forget that it works this way, and how to change it, so I’m pasting some examples for future reference. Continue reading

Short tech writing style guide for developers

Style guides are vital to successful publishing projects, but they are usually too extensive for casual contributors. After running a number of projects with developers rather than specialist documentarians as the main contributors, I’ve started using a short-form style guide, short enough to be read and used by people who don’t spend as much time thinking about these things as a full time writer does. The main version is published on GitHub, but I’m also sharing the current version here. Continue reading

API Linting Levels

I’ve been thinking about API linting lately, partly because I work on a tool for API linting in my day job, and partly because I get quite a lot of questions from teams wanting to improve their API quality. The “best” ruleset depends entirely on your context, where you are in your API practice journey, and how much you want to invest in the API in question. I typically use a 4-levels model of API linting readiness, and I’m sharing them so that you can find yourself on the map and see where you might go from here. Continue reading

Add OpenAI flags to OpenAPI descriptions

With OpenAI’s new Actions feature allowing you to get a GPT that uses your own API, many new doors are open. However giving an AI an access token the keys to your API and telling it to have fun may lead you to realise that one of the doors available leads to the empty lift shaft of overwritten data, or the bottomless well of cloud bill shock. To reduce the risks, OpenAI supports an extension x-openai-isConsequential that you can add to your OpenAPI description, to indicate which endpoints should not be called without a human confirmation step.

I’m not doing much with OpenAI right now, but I do plenty with OpenAPI and the question “how do I add this field to my existing API description?” is one that I can answer! What’s more, you can use the advice in this post to add other extensions or additions to your OpenAPI descriptions using Overlays, this advice isn’t OpenAI-specific, but it’s used in the examples. Continue reading

When to version bump your OpenAPI description

I’ve heard a variety of bad advice (and some untruths!) regarding how to version your OpenAPI description lately. Rather than dig into those, instead I’ll share my opinion on how I like to version API descriptions in my own projects. Every API project is different, but perhaps there’s something here that can help your project too. Continue reading

API docs previews with Redoc and Netlify

I talk to a lot of people about their API lifecycles and processes, and one thing that has value in almost every case is immediate documentation preview for all updates to an OpenAPI description. The time it takes to set it up (about ten minutes now I know what to do) is an investment that makes every future change easier to propose, review, and accept. Here’s my recipe for open source OpenAPI documentation using Redoc (disclaimer: I work for Redocly, who publish Redoc) with the files pushed to Netlify for hosting (but it’s HTML, so really any hosting will do and you should feel free to adapt the instructions for your preferred platform, and then share them in the comments). Continue reading

Selective prose linting with Vale’s glob switch

Vale is an open source CLI tool for linting prose (if you’re not linting prose yet, why not? I never want to go back). I typically use it for everything, locally and in CI, and it’s especially valuable now I’m working for a company that uses US English. You’d think that most of the challenges would be caused by the majority of non-native English language contributors? Nope, most of the chaos comes from the token Brit :)

I ran into one challenge though where I didn’t want to enable Vale for everything: a large internal documentation repo. This is the catch-all of things we should share with one another and like most internal company documentation sites, there is a lot going on. I assembled a very minimal set of Vale rules and still the first pass netted me over 10k errors. Luckily, Vale has a --glob option, but it took me a while to find how to exclude multiple files and directories using it, so here’s the example for future-me, and anyone else who needs to see it! Continue reading

Visualise OpenAPI with Blockly

Giving talks about OpenAPI often means lots and lots of slides of YAML. In fact, one of my talks even contains a “warning, contains yaml” slide! If you aren’t a professional yaml developer, it can be difficult to digest and learn from, and so I wanted to do better. The various elements are nested inside one another, and so I had this idea to build a representation of OpenAPI using Blockly (the tooling also used for Scratch, if you’ve seen that).

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