App rewards and why I don’t want to “Pull a BlackBerry”

On Monday the UK marketing team Launched an app rewards programme… After a discussion on twitter I thought I'd put my thoughts in writing:

Rightly or wrongly the total number of apps is becoming shorthand for the consumer experience that a device is going to provide. "It's a great phone/tablet, but doesn't have enough apps" is the rhetoric regurgitated by tech journalists up and down the country. For me, total number of apps on a platform is a nonsense. Too much choice is no choice at all, Interesting, compelling and well executed apps are what consumers want and they are not created overnight, they are crafted by professionals and like it or not you can't build them in a weekend.

As someone who works on and cares about developer platforms, the pressure of large app numbers creates a huge challenge. You could do what Blackberry did and pay a company like Mippin to auto generate thousands of apps for you, you can refuse to play the game and have every tech journalist point and laugh at your app number (oblivious to the fact that app development lifecycles are far longer than the 24 hour hackathon culture that we are all quietly obsessed with), or you can incentivise developers that you know are capable of building quality by giving them a reason.

To me stuffing a store full of which are rushed ports from other platform and WebView versions of mobile websites is like opening up a museum next to the Louvre with photocopies of their art and 70,000 drawings you did last night then wondering why nobody is buying tickets.

I'd love it if we could take all of our marketing money and spend it on working 1-2-1 with developers to produce only the best apps (we spend lots of time doing just that), but I have to face the realities of the current market. We can't just compete on quality of applications, we have to compete on quantity as well. It's all about quality, but on a large scale.

Trying to develop a rewards program which rewards developers for building great apps rather than simply porting rubbish from other platforms is really hard. I think the UK team have done a great Job of putting together a developer rewards program that tries to encourage quality by giving developers time and incentivizing them to incorporate Azure, Phone and Windows 8.

Rewards programs are only a fraction of what we do here in the UK Developer evangelism team, as well as Myself, Mike, Andrew, Lee, Ben, Andy, traveling the country to show developers how to build Windows apps, Our UK based team of around 60 work with app builders from small to large. We work on funding, making heroes of developers, create apps of the future, work with start ups and showcase the best of local talent.

What do you think about rewards programs? How can we tailor them to make them better for developers. Let me know, I'd love to know your thoughts on our programme.

Comments (2)

  1. DannyT says:

    Good post thebeebs, nice to see more rationale than "BUILD ALL THE APPZ" which is the impression I had from the quick glance at the rewards page.

    Can't help but think though that all the points you've raised about quality aren't demonstrated on the rewards site itself. Wouldn't it be better to focus all rewards on a per-app basis and relate them to quality achievements. Thus encouraging more devs to tackle one good app than few devs smashing out lots of crappy ones?


    P.S. for context, I dabbled with but gave up on wp/win8 dev because of my perceived lack of platform traction, but am still very keen to see the platforms succeed.

  2. Andy Turner says:

    I've been thinking about this over the weekend and I wonder whether rewards should be linked to the number of downloads your app gets. So a better quality app is rewarded over time. It's also a lot more difficult for people to subvert? Obviously people can submit multiple apps too, but it's also worth making sure your app is quality and is what people want in order to get them to download it. The only downside perhaps, is if it results in 'keyword spamming' where someone publishes something like "Justin Bieber App", which is bound to get thousands of downloads before everyone realises it's rubbish.

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