Believe it or not, maintaining a successful developer program is such a dicey and unique challenge that there's actually a conference devoted to it. Evans Data, a market research consultancy, will host its seventh annual Developer Relations Conference in San Jose, Calif., later this month. For any other industry, partner relations would be considered a niche topic. But each year, the list of speakers at the Developer Relations Conference reads like a veritable who's-who of the IT industry's largest companies. This year's conference will feature presentations by representatives of Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP, among others.
A glance at the conference schedule reveals a few of the topics on offer. Recruiting developers seems to be a primary concern -- meaning not just grabbing their attention, but keeping them engaged (rather than repelling them, as Murai was by the PlayBook developer program). One session purports to explain the "cultural norms of the modern developer" for business managers. A keynote presentation will discuss how to engage a developer audience by bridging marketing jargon and "geek speak."
Developer relations: A work in progress
So far, the BlackBerry developer community's reaction to RIM's response to Murai's blog post seems divided. While some commenters appreciated Lessard's acknowledgement of the issues Murai raised, others said they would reserve judgment until RIM actually took any action (and they didn't seem to be holding their breaths). Murai himself posted a follow-up in which he commended Lessard for his attention and speedy response, and said it had actually changed his mind: He now plans to give the PlayBook SDK another try.
But buried within Murai's second post is perhaps the most damning criticism of all -- that RIM paid attention to one frustrated developer's angry, sarcastic blog post, when comments and pleas for help posted on RIM's own developer forums usually went completely ignored. It seems even companies that are willing to engage their developers directly don't always have their lines of communication sorted out.
That's the thing about Evans Data's Developer Relations Conference, too. The sessions on this year's schedule sound remarkably like last year's session, and the year before that. The overarching theme seems to be what do developers want from a developer program, and how do we give it to him. Sadly, for all the theorizing, it remains an open question. If you think you have the answer, be sure to let the rest of us know.
This article, "How to (accidentally) sabotage a developer program," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the latest developments in programming at InfoWorld.com, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.