Developer relations: True lies

Your stories must be true. Developers can spot lies and it’s easier than ever to spread bad news, such as on Facebook. Not to pick on Facebook, but they serve as an example of conflict between a platform vendor and developers.

Facebook is a platform for third-party applications. And not just for games; you’ll find a range of business and marketing applications as well. After all, with Facebook’s massive user base there’s money to be made.

Facebook has chosen to tell a specific story with their developer blogs, forums, wiki, bug tracker and f8 conference. Open source projects such as the Cassandra NoSQL database and HipHop PHP compiler add credibility.

Their developer-friendly story sounds good, but is it true? Browsing the forums suggests they don’t always live the story. This lack of consistency leads to frustrated and angry developers. You don’t want upset developers.

One example: Facebook doesn’t (can’t?) distinguish developer and end-user roles. Developer accounts get banned for inappropriate (undocumented) use of APIs. Developers testing their apps can trigger Facebook’s abuse detectors.

To make it worse, a byzantine ban review process also seems unable to distinguish developers testing their apps from bad people. This seem a pretty fundamental oversight for such a massive and successful platform.

It appears Facebook isn’t living the story they chose to tell. Your product is your software and the stories that go with it. You get to choose your story, but it must be true. Live your story each day, at every touch point, to make it so.

History has proven that platforms without developers are doomed to fail. Even so, you don’t need to go to extremes like Steve Ballmer’s Developer chant. It might make good material for a funny music video, but there are limits!