Alex Payne

Writer, backer, erstwhile technologist.

Treating Developers Right

I’ve had the idea for a quotation-capturing application for the Mac for some time. It’s been towards the top of my list of side-projects for ages, held in place by Cocoa’s steep learning curve (easy to get started, takes years of experience to do an app right).

It recently occurred to me that this application would work even better on the iPhone, and that the smaller “surface area” of the iPhone SDK might make the project more approachable. I applied to be an iPhone developer and began consuming Apple’s materials for developers as I waited for approval.

That was two weeks ago. In the intervening time, Apple has disbanded the NDA on the iPhone developer program, which indicates that they’re responding to pressure from Android starting to materialize as a viable and open mobile development platform. It’s disheartening that it takes a market threat in order for Apple to do the right thing by their developers.

My full-time job is looking after Twitter’s developer community. Twitter’s and Apple’s respective developer technologies are very different beasts, but it’s hard to imagine treating our developers the way Apple treats theirs and still having a community to speak of.

Let’s be clear about Apple’s iPhone developer program: you’re paying them. That means they should work for you. If they don’t, you should fire them. If Apple can’t afford to support their developer community at $99 per year per developer, they should charge more. But in the two weeks that I’ve been waiting for Apple to give me permission to pay them, I’ve come to realize that my free time is better spent on side-projects that I have more control over.

At Twitter, our developers don’t pay us a dime, and we don’t currently have a formalized quality of service policy that obliges us to any particular behavior. Still, leaving developers hanging without support for two weeks is unthinkable to me.

Treating developers right isn’t difficult: be open, be honest, and respect their time. When we’ve failed to keep to those rules, developers are rightly pissed. When we keep to them, our developers are happy. For the sake of my friends in the Mac development community, I hope Apple figures these simple rules out.