Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I didn't run the press release yesterday, but apparently other bloggers took the bait. Basically, this company called "oDesk" (which I had never heard of before receiving their press release) claims that the demand for iPhone Developers is up 500% in six months.

Of course, this is based on "internal data" with a sampling size that is admittedly too small to be valid. Besides, six months ago, the SDK wasn't even stable and you couldn't distribute apps yet. It was the era of first-wavers, and with the exception of a few large companies that Apple got on board with them, most of the first-wavers were individuals and small Mac development shops.

Now with huge App Store success stories running rampant and general consensus being that the App Store is a runaway success (albeit with few hiccups along the way), of course everyone wants in! There's gold in them thar hills! It's no longer risky to jump into the fray. Those of us who saw the opportunity for what it is from the start and jumped in with both feet (in my case, turning my back on a client-base I had been developing for almost a decade in the process) got a head start because we took a chance. We trusted our judgment and jumped.

Now, all this press release really says is that some johnny-com-lately company has realized we were right and wants to cash-in on that missed opportunity. And though the numbers look good on the surface (or would if they were statistically valid), crap like this actually sucks for our platform. This is the kind of things that college and high-school students read and say "Oh, I want to be an iPhone developer". And, of course, most of them don't want to be an iPhone developer because they love tinkering or programming or problem solving. They want to be an iPhone developer because they envision themselves making big bucks with little effort, spending their days sitting in hot tubs with playmates, driving expensive cars, and otherwise living the high life.

(Just for the record, that is not the life of any iPhone developer I know, except maybe Wil Shipley, but I only know him by reputation.)

It's like those Microsoft Certified Training programs with the radio ads that promise to take somebody who doesn't know jack shit about computers and in six weeks turn them into a "certified" guru who can handle any job that needs to be handled.All this shit floods the market with people who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. It drives up rates in the short term and causes them to crash in the long run, and it makes it miserably hard for companies to find developers who knows what they're doing unless they happen to already have somebody who's technically knowledgeable about the SDK who can weed out the chaff.

I guess it's inevitable. Success attracts. And, in the long run, it's probably good for the platform, but there's going to be some rough times ahead as a result. I wish success only attracted the right people and for the right reasons.


dgregryc said...

Jeff, I have to say that a LOT of people have been joining iPhone developer ranks, myself among them. I agree that quality of developers will suffer because of the "there's gold in them thar hills" mentality. My ramp-up has gone like I expected - every day it's a little easier and the patterns are more expected. About to ship my first app!

The biggest problem is that the App Store is a terrible application that makes it very hard for buyers to find the application they are looking for, unless they KNOW what they are looking for (via word of mouth). Top 25 is the only "product shelf" available, and that's just not enough. Browsing doesn't yield good results. The upshot? Huge sales drop-offs after you drop off the new list, and a glut of new applications hiding little gems that are simply tough to find. You need to market outside of the app store so people can find you.

That's just not enough, Apple! And they are only doing their 30% cut harm because sales volume will not increase (as much as it should) as the # of applications go up.

This is quickly looking like XBox Marketplace.

Jeff LaMarche said...

I don't mind a huge influx of people to the platform. I really don't. I think it's great. What I hate is the "gold rush" mentality. Other people have made money doing it, so therefore we should do it.

I don't care what your background is, if your interest in the platform is genuine, you should be welcomed with open arms. But I don't like these hype machines making it sound like anyone who learns a little Objective-C is going to become a millionaire. It cheapens the efforts of the developers who have done well, and it brings in people for the wrong reasons.

As for the App marketplace, I don't have a strong opinion on that yet (other than I think they should stop censoring) because I've spent all my time writing and doing projects for clients and haven't really been able to get my own projects done and on the store. I put one small program out there because I wanted to go through the process, but it's a free app and I could care less if it does well.

But, I have heard the same complaint from others, and certainly can see your point. There's no doubt that you have to take steps to drum up interest in your apps. The only thing I can suggest is that you let Apple aware of your dissatisfaction, either by sending an e-mail to Developer Relations, or by opening an Enhancement Request using the bug reporter.

Victor Agreda, Jr. said...

Jeff, your main point is spot on: just because there's opportunity and because that opportunity has less obstacles than ever doesn't mean it will be "easy" making money, let alone piles of it.

I'm finally getting back to my roots and learning everything all over again. Challenging my poor math skills, diving in to real OOP after years of scripting, and loving the problem solving aspect (something I'd forgotten how cool it can be when you tweak a bit of code and suddenly everything falls into place).

For me, it may partly be gold rush, but it is mostly the feeling that this is what I've been waiting for all these years! We did our gold rush (failed) business when iPod cases took off. Learning 20 years worth of math and CS doesn't seem so bad by comparison! :)