Friday, August 26, 2011

My email to Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook developer relations

Back in 2007 I sent the following message to Mark Zuckerberg about the state of developer relations. I had been working with the Facebook API and felt that Facebook didn't really care about its external developers.
My unsolicited thoughts on how Facebook is handling developer relations
Mark,

You don't know me, I have been a technology VP in the Valley for years and
lately I've been coding Facebook apps in PHP. Thanks for opening up the site.

I'm also active in the developer forums, and I think Facebook could do a
better job of how it handles developer relations. I think it would be 
valuable if you appoint someone as a developer advocate within Facebook.

Here's how I imagine you could greatly improve the developer experience:

1. Have the developer advocate hang out in the forums and be a face that 
developers see on a regular basis. This person isn't expected to answer 
all the technical questions; they are there to be an interface between 
Facebook and the developer community.

2. Open up the bug database to developers. If you publish your bug databases 
and allow comments you'll gain a great deal of credibility in the developer 
base. People will have a place to sound off and developers will get a feel 
for how things are progressing.

3. Create 'test.facebook.com' which is a clone of the current site but 
accessible to developers only and which can be used to test the new versions 
of FBML etc. that you'll be creating. This will help fix a lot of problems 
before rolling out to the main site.

4. Publish your up time statistics for apps.facebook.com. Tell people 
immediately when you detect problems. One of the biggest frustrations
is that opacity of the developer team.

5. Fix the application directory. I won't say exactly how here as there 
are many suggestions in the developer forum and I'm sure your team has a 
TODO list for this anyway.

I realize you didn't ask for my ideas, and thank you for reading this far. 
If you have questions you can find me on Facebook.

Cheers,
John.
That email got me an interview with Facebook which went nowhere because I wanted to stay in Europe and they wanted me to move back to Palo Alto. Looking back I'm sad I didn't get further with the process because I still think they do a poor job of handling developers. When I was programming regularly on Windows the state of support and documentation was marvellous. Facebook's was frankly shoddy.

Facebook has just announced that they are moving their support to StackOverflow. Whilst StackOverflow is marvellous this feels more like the company outsourcing a problem that should be core to them. If they want to love developers (as one recent post put it) then they need to embrace them. They also announced that they will have a f8 developer conference this year.

Let's hope the threat of other social networks that do understand developers makes Facebook take big and small developers seriously.


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