Nelson M. offers a list of do's and don't when launching a web service, including:
- High quality reference docs
- Sample programs and XML
- Best practices
- Support plan with quick answers
- Test in every language
Nelson is perceptive, but I wonder how he would grade Google's launch of AdWords API? Lately, the newsgroup is getting more traffic with Googler Brian Kennish helpfully chiming in, and the AdWords API blog has accelerated to all of 6 posts in the last 2 months. However, I'd give Google a D on launch execution, using the minimum criteria above.
The reference docs are good, but the sample programs, best practices, FAQs and "testing in every language" were not good. Nelson mentions XML samples. The AdWords API site has a total of 1 sample in XML. The newsgroup is filled with instances of people trying to get the basics right, solving the same problems over and over (try using version 0.60 of SOAP::Lite in perl, and downgrade to v1.82 of NuSOAP for PHP while you're at it...)
Simply put, I don't think Google knows how to do hand-holding yet. Essentially, they throw the stuff out there, and if you're smart enough, you'll figure it out. I wonder if they know how to allocate enough resources to the community or will they just keep relying on the engineering teams to do it all. Yahoo's learned how to execute on this stuff over the years, and I think Yahoo does it better.