Nov 19, 2009

Mass Hysteria

Paul Graham is whining about the App Store. It’s the whine du jour amongst the blogerati: the review process is broken, developers will flee, the ecology will disintegrate without a constant stream of new applications, the sky will fall, humans will be sacrificed, dogs and cats will live together. You know the drill.

I am sure no one, not even the most loyal employee inside Apple, believes the App Store review process is even near perfect. There are human beings involved and subjective decisions required: mistakes will be made.

So, why should Paul care enough to post?

Simple: the App Store review process throws a big ol’ monkey wrench into the grinding gears of his beloved development process. The key paragraph:

Apparently Apple’s attitude is that developers should be more careful when they submit a new version to the App Store. They would say that. But powerful as they are, they’re not powerful enough to turn back the evolution of technology. Programmers don’t use launch-fast-and-iterate out of laziness. They use it because it yields the best results. By obstructing that process, Apple is making them do bad work, and programmers hate that as much as Apple would.

Paul’s obviously a big fan of the Agile movement. But let’s face some ugly truths:

People are whining because Apple is succeeding despite constant predictions that it was destined to fail because Apple does not follow the arbitrary rules set by the “developer community.” Just as the Windows crowd complains that the support Apple receives from its customers is merely from a cult of personality, just as the Cluetrain people gnash their teeth because Apple has huge mindshare despite never holding a “conversation” with their customers, the Agile proponents are livid because Apple is succeeding despite ignoring every tenet of their beloved manifesto.

You can’t argue with success. And in the end, the best developers — the steady, responsible, modest, trustworthy developers — simply demand renumeration for their work. And that, much to Graham’s chagrin, is exactly what the App Store will give them.