Three Steps To The Developer Heart

One theme that surfaced for me at SxSW this week was the incredible amount of energy being expended trying to find developers for projects.  It certainly is a theme that should help the guys at StackExchange, if only they figure out how to reach this audience.  I was in so many rooms where the number of companies with ideas needing devs outnumbered the developers in the room – sometimes as high as 25x in a single room.

At first I thought that this was a systemic problem with SxSW.  I’m not sure I have the data to support that conclusion, but there was a different problem afoot.  Each and every one of these entities with ideas was going about their developer search completely wrong.  Showing up with an iPad with large font text saying “I need devs” is not a good marketing strategy.

I also met quite a few companies trying to hawk their API wares and didn’t know how to go about getting developers excited.  The skill set I have been building over my working career is understanding the mind of the developer, and how to reach them.  I wanted to share this out so that others can reduce what was perceived as frustration as a lack of ability to find developers or get them excited about a project they had.

Go Where Developers Are

It’s a bit of an obvious statement, but seriously, if you are a company looking for developers, go where they go.  If you are at SxSW, they may not be at the meetups.  Why?  Because they are off demoing/showing their apps.  They are at these broader events for the same reason you are – to do business.  Developers are in hot demand right now, and that supply/demand imbalance dictates that they are not only busy, but not partial to interruptions.

Go where they go.  Is there a local iPhone developer group in your area?  What about a technology specific show (PyCon FTW)?  If the developers are at the event to learn versus to do business, you are likely better off.

Be a Coder

I got called a “marketing douchebag” on a panel at SxSW.  I tried not to take offense.  I am a product manager after all.  However, I am a hobbyist coder.  How can you be a developer marketer and not be?  I love spending time writing code to make something cool.  Is my solution the most elegant and efficient?  Probably not.  Can I wax philosophically about string interpolation of C#?  I can now (thanks Miguel).

If you cannot speak the language, or understand the issues, how can you have a constructive conversation?  More importantly, it’s just not as hard as you think.  Seriously.  We have a Windows Phone series for absolute beginners.  I know the notion of downloading tools may seem scary.  Try it.  Most of the dev communities have walk throughs to make it mostly doable by anyone who can install Office.  If you can wrangle an XLS, you can likely get through some of the really beginner stuff.  You may even like it.  Net net, being credible in conversations in the dev user groups means at least being conversant.

Have a Prototype

Even if your design is awful, getting your concept across with working code is FAR FAR FAR more effective than PowerPoint slides or your highly polished 25 words or less routine.  Here’s a secret about developers – any one worth their salt will see what you have and want to make it better.  They may want to join your project, or they may just give you some tips on how to improve on what you are showing so that the next dev who sees it may get interested.  Either way, you get some good feedback which is actionable by you.  You are more likely to not change your slides or 25 word pitch, and just move on to the next developer, but getting actionable feedback from a developer is priceless.

The other benefit of having a prototype – a completely unpolished turd even – means you have had to communicate your ideas to the screen.  That will show you the flaws in what you are trying to explain in words or PowerPoint, and makes for a much more constructive conversation with potential devs.  Your idea gets better simply by trying to work through it on the screen.

So there you go.  I hope that’s helpful for all the non-technical types looking to get to the dev community.  It’s a great time to be a developer, and so much positive energy around projects.

  • …And if you are looking for a top notch, affordable developer team with proven WP7 experience (authors of the #3 paid app in the MarketPlace, SurfCube, and invited to speak about it at MIX’11), please contact us at info (at) response.hu.

    I wonder if Brandon will allow this comment to show 🙂

  • I am also open to WP7 work at the moment.

    http://rd3d2.wordpress.com

    Ditto I wonder?

  • Anonymous

    @Brandon you get cred from me for just knowing what string interpolation is.

  • I wonder if we do need a site somewhere for WP7 companies and developers to list their availability for projects and show off their portfolios.

    Oh and me too 🙂 http://compiledexperience.com

  • Jumping on the bandwagon.
    If you’re looking for a WP7 dev in the UK, I know some excellent devs I can put you in touch with. 😉

  • Ross

    Step 0. Provide a simple way to take an in-house application and deploy it to a phone, without requiring AppHub submission and byzantine agreements. Even if you’ve bought the hardware outright, and want to develop in-house apps this just doesn’t seem possible. Am I missing somthing?

  • Scott

    After hearing numerous dot net
    rocks episodes on the Windows phone 7 development, I have to say that
    now that I am into it, I have run into something totally unacceptable. 
    Through all of the shows where win phone 7 was discussed, there was
    never (to my memory) any mention that I would have to pay microsoft
    $100/Year to deploy MY applications to MY phone.  I am not interested
    just yet in selling applications on the market place.  I just want to
    write code for me and run it on my phone.  I have heard quite a few dot
    net rocks episodes and even went to the road trip event in Atlanta, GA where non-other than Brandon Watson
    was there, again talking about the phone.  I am a professional
    developer but a mobile application hobbyist.  I don’t
    want to pay $100/Year to put my own applications on my phone.  I am
    wondering why this never came out on the shows (of which several Brandon was the guest).  If it did, then I must
    apologize but I surely don’t remember it.  No matter what it is still
    wrong.  This isn’t a positive experience for the developer.  The excuses I have heard
    involve piracy but there seemed to be no steps to go through to make
    sure my MP3’s I uploaded were legal (which of course they are, I don’t
    steal media) but for some reason my own apps are locked out of my own phone.

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