Speculative Developers

Between the day job and visiting Macworld, I’ve spent a lot of time with application developers over the last several months. I think because I’m a Mac user, I have an idealistic impression of software developers. They are artists. They sweat the details. They work long days making beautiful things for my Mac, iPad, and iPhone that make it possible for me to get the things done that need getting done.

For the software I truly love and use all the time, I still believe this is true. From the smallest one-man shop, like Marco Arment’s Instapaper, to the larger developers, like The Omni Group, there are indeed developers out there who fit this idyllic view.

My revelation the last few months is the large number of developers who don’t work this way. In particular, I’ve bumped into several iOS developers with a different view of software development. I call them “speculative developers”. I always knew speculative developers existed but witnessing them work first hand is something else entirely. They barf out as many apps as possible in the shortest time possible in hopes that they strike gold in the App Store lottery. They run a never ending treadmill with little thought about the user experience except (sometimes) making sure their apps don’t crash. Some of these “developers” don’t know a lick of programming code. Instead, they are fountain of ideas with a group of somewhat ambivalent programmers on speed dial in India, Russia, and other far away places.

I “get” their business plan. There are a lot of apps on the App Store. It’s really hard to get noticed. They think the more apps they submit, the more likely they are to find lightning in a bottle. They are, however, completely wrong. Their chance of hitting it big with two (or twenty) crappy apps instead of one good one is about the same as their chance of retiring with their lotto winnings. Infinitesimally small.

If you want to develop apps, take your time and make something awesome. Make it fast. Make it beautiful. Make something you’re proud of. Don’t make 60 crappy apps: Make one really good one.