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The BlackBerry Development School of Hard Knocks and What RIM MUST Do to Fix It!

Stressed out

Over the weekend something interesting happened. The first domino to fall was an incredulous yet whiney blog post by Jamie Murai on how just getting up and running developing WebWorks applications for the PlayBook is a pain. While that is really nothing new the interesting part was that RIM actually responded to Jamie’s rant on their blog.

While I commend Tyler Lessard for sticking his neck out and responding to Jamies Open Letter his best response would be to actually change the parts he concedes are counter productive. The thing is that Jamie gave up early. He did not even get the chance to experience the full school of hard knocks that is starting to develop for the BlackBerry platform. It is not that developing for the BlackBerry platform is impossible its simply that RIM goes out of their way to make something simply into an overly complex process.

Let me give you a perfect example. RIM came out with a wonderful newfangled technology to allow developers to push notifications to your BlackBerry. You would think developers would jump all over themselves to get in on this technology. Trust me I know why so few have. RIM first makes them fill out a 2 page form to request testing access to the push service. You then have to wait a few days for them to provision this and open their firewall to your IP address which can take forever. Once you are all up and ready you then need to request YET AGAIN from RIM a 2 page form to move the push service into production. All of this could simply have been done with a nice web form with everything provisioned automatically. I know that both Google and Apple do it that way so why can’t RIM?

Here are a few other things RIM could do in one day that would make the lives of new BlackBerry Developers that much easier:

  1. STOP making us register for EVERY SINGLE download from your site. It would not be as bad if one registration was good enough for everything but its not. Just turn these stupid registration forms off for now. How many submissions from [email protected]” do you need?
  2. Make code signing key requests INSTANT. Is there a reason you need to wait up to 48 hours to approve them? Better yet why do we need YET ANOTHER registration form for signing keys.
  3. What is with the overly complicated code signing? Why are they restricted to one PC? Why do I have to get an email every time a code signing key is used (3+ times per signing)?
  4. Moving on to App World registration. Why does this take so long? I was lucky enough to have a copy of BerryReviews Articles of Organization so I did not need a letter from a notary public. Seriously though. Who are we kidding with this notary public stuff? It is time to kick RIM legal to the curb along with all their crazy requirements.
  5. Stop writing legal agreements for developers that are longer than the US Constitution and then force developers to scroll down the whole page to accept it THREE TIMES!
  6. As Jamie rightly pointed out start packaging all of the installers into one app. They got this right with the Java Eclipse Plugin but the WebWorks SDK for the PlayBook requires 2-3 installers.
  7. PLEASE try out your own documentation RIM before you publish it. For example, quite a bit of the documentation from RIM on how to compile and deploy a PlayBook app on a Mac OSX machine is simply wrong. Anybody who would have tried the command would have realized that. I am telling you I cannot be the only one who thought using a command line utility to build and test an app is ridiculous. The fact that you forgot to put the “./” before the Mac Terminal commands simply means the documenter didn’t even check to see if it was right.
  8. Allow developers to leave comments on documentation NOW. Just add disqus to the bottom of every documentation article. That way developers can at least help you fix the shoddy documentation jobs once we figure it out.

Those are simply 8 examples off the top of my head where RIM adds complexity where there shouldn’t be any. I am truly looking forward to the BlackBerry PlayBook to blow my socks off and have been developing some cool apps for it. Still it just saddens me that RIM seems so shocked that asking developers to have a notary public sign their proof of identity is reasonable. Maybe we need some of these Adobe Flash Evangelists to be  BlackBerry Developer Evangelists at RIM?

14 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. My $0.02:
    1) Are you talking about the contact-info form preceding each download? The funny part is that RIM has actually told us that they are getting rid of it. I’ve heard Mike Kirkup directly state this with my own ears, to a room of applause. Yet, somehow, its *still* there.

    3) This is mostly just the legalese, I think. Its trivial to actually copy the installed key-files around. For the E-Mails, I took care of that a long time ago with server-side filtering, and haven’t worried about it since.

    8) This, and related reasons, is why I finally decided to kick off this new website:

    • It’s also worth pointing out that we’ve an irc channel on freenode that’s dedicated to BlackBerry development talk (phone and Playbook): we can be found in ##blackberry-dev

      More general BlackBerry discussion is in ##blackberry

  2. I love reading your articles. It’s almost like I am listening to myself speak. The only difference is I would have no idea what I’m talking about. Hahaha!

    This goes back to my other comment as to why I think developers leave BlackBerry for last (if at all).

    Oh, and I used [email protected] when I register. I knew I couldn’t have been the only one making mine up. Haha! Loves it!

  3. +1

  4. If you use firefox it auto saves your registration details so you dnt have to enter this info every time you download something
    Tho sure rim must get bored of [email protected] emails which I use!!

    The other points are all valid. I’ve tried to download and set up the playbook app building software and as a novice I gave up after 5mins as had no freaking idea what to do!

  5. Since I’m in no way shape or form a developer, I hope things get easier.

  6. I downloaded the software and simulator a while back. It didn’t seem too complicated, although I never got around to actually trying to write an app.

  7. Wow. I don’t envy RIM with all the hate regarding the developing process they seemingly deserve.

    Maybe that’s why they offered a free PlayBook to developers who get accepted into App World, lol. They know that noone wants to develop for them.

  8. lol, RIMs step by step processes make me almost happy i am not a developer. But i commend those who go out of their comfort to develop for us who have no clue about the pressures of it…. :) ThankYou… keep it up!!!

  9. I agree with the whole download PITA.
    especially because my BB doesnt save the forms….. and I am on like 3 different PCs.

    I wish we could just log in with out MYWorld login and have access to all downloads without the annoying forms.

  10. Hahaha at point 1, 4, 5, 7. So totally true!

    Even I gave up :(

  11. (Yes, I know I’m yelling, sorry, can’t be helped)


    OH….MY….GOD….RIM, you wonder why people bad mouth you, and you go publishing web sites that people using YOUR OWN PRODUCT can’t even use. If it wasn’t SO consistently awful, I’d say it was just a slip on a particular section.

  12. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (especially since I posted a rather unkind reply on slashdot to the whinging over the weekend.).

    Here’s what I’m seeing: Those of us with a lot of development experience are mildly annoyed by these issues, but we’re generally committed to the platform; and in experience with other devices/systems we’ve usually had to deal with far worse tools than this. This kind of creates a sense of “well, when I was a kid, i had to walk uphill to school. Both ways. In the snow,. barefoot! So … suck it up and quit whining !”

    But there are a couple of things wrong with that way of thinking.

    First, it’s based on a fundamental assumption that if someone isn’t willing to deal with a few early bumps, then surely they’re not going to do anything worthwhile in the first place.

    But if we look at what’s good for the platform; and its viability for future development — these are the people we need. The ones who – with sufficent toolkits and sample code – can hack together an entertaining little app in a weekend and publish it to AppWorld. Because when it comes to the BlackBerry ecosystem, more apps means that the platform is a more attractive target for serious developers; and is not considered an afterthought. As we see today with the many hastily-assembled crappy app ports that take advantage of NONE of what BlackBerry has to offer, BlackBerry *is* an afterthought – in spite of its huge installed userbase and continued growth. Apps like those further perpetuate the myth that you can’t write good apps on BB – but until the platform is appealing enough for people to really explore it, those apps will make up the majority of what gets published.

    Second: is it really wrong to be able to express a creative idea without having a dictionary knowledge of the BlackBerry Java API and the quirks of each phone? Aside from the part of me shouting “get off my lawn” in the back of my head — because I had to learn that stuff — I would have to say no. Why shouldn’t it be easy? You can do it for every other major platform out there: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android. Just because someone is more artist than programmer doesn’t mean they’re incapable of creating a compelling app.

    It does RIM no favors if people are turned off from developing before they even start – because some of the casual developers will one day become those who have the depth of knowledge and experience to write the next ‘superapps’.

    The frustration becomes a little easier to understand when I consider it from a different perspective. For the better part of two decades, I have been trying Linux on my desktop two or three times a year but always I give up. (Not trying to start a flame war – I love Linux on the server, and I will *still* keep trying it on the desktop until it gets there 😉

    It’s not that it’s hard to use – it isn’t. IT’s because when I’m at my computer, I want to be writing code, checking email, doing whatever task is at hand. I don’t want to think about my OS. I don’t want to have to tinker with it, I don’t want to have to fix it, I don’t want to have to be AWARE of it – because l’m not sitting down to play with my OS [usually], I’m sitting down to get work done. It’s not that I can’t fix it – it’s that I really, really shouldn’t be forced to in order to do what I want.

    This situation is no different than that one; people are dabbling in something that they have no vested interest in. If the road isn’t an easy one, it’s not often they will feel compelled to continue. Especially if you’re developing apps for a hobby.

    When I’m learning a new platform , I don’t want to have to hunt down 30 pieces of information and fill out 18 forms JUST TO START. I want to do the minimal setup, and see my Hello World up and running. Immediately.

    And if it’s a platform I ‘m not sure that I want to commit to, I don’t know that I’d be willing to jump those hurdles either. (Case in point: I’d like to do iphone development but I refuse to buy a Mac to do it. It’s too much of a hurdle for something I”ve no vested interest in – even though I am intrigued by it.)

    For BlackBerry development, I *did* have a vested interest, so I stuck it out through all the quirks: I owned a BlackBerry and liked the phone; I wanted a good SSH client designed for BlackBerry; and I was willing to get through a few roadblocks to achieve that end. Other people will stick it out because they have to – such as being paid to do it.

    But if you don’t have a specific itch to scratch, and you’re not getting paid for it — what incentive do you have to engage in a frustrating activity that may or may not give you any long term benefit? SPeaking personally – in that situation, my threshold for annoyances is *lower* than in most cases.

    Keeping in mind that Murai’s post was likely written from a perspective more like that above… it begins to read more like sheer frustration and not overblown whinging.

    (On the other hand, who *is* this guy? Some big deal app developer? All I could see was that he dabbled in iOS apps in his spare time… )

    Hmm, that was rather longer-winded than I planned. Hopefully I said it all right – this text box is too small to review it effectively and alas – no preview function 😉

  13. Really guys, Blackberry Apps Development is not easy task for developers because everytime, they have to face new challenging work.

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