In the recent past there have been a ton of applications that I’ve followed almost religiously. I’d read forum posts about how their software or service was coming along great, then they disappear off the face of the planet for months of a time, with no updates. Lynn Wallenstein and I were talking last night and we decided that there should be a standard for development communications. Right now it’s still in the early idea phase, but any input would be appreciated.
As a developer, especially one that works with insane deadlines, I know that you can’t always hit the mark. As a corporate developer, I’ve also learned that if you aren’t going to hit a deadline it’s good to to just put it out there and let everyone know what is going on. In the corporate world it is a necessity, plans need to be changed, milestones need to be rearranged. With the rise of web based services, and small application development, it’s easy to say “It free or almost free, be happy that we’re doing it at all”, this is an understandable attitude, and one I’ve often shared, but it doesn’t help the people who actually use your service, and people who want to rely on your software.
Lately I’ve noticed development teams (especially Rails) have a very hot/cold development cycle. Powered By Geek does it, as well as many others. We have so many great ideas that we want to get done, and the minute we hit a good new idea, development on our other, on going, projects slows down. Or we’ll get a client job that takes priority over the rest of our side projects, which moves all the different items we’re working on to the back burner. Fairly often this is accompanied with little to no updates on progress, or even a mention that we’re going to be putting it on hold.
A development communications standard would lay the ground work for development teams to do public communications with progress. This wouldn’t leave customers so frustrated when their favorite software mentions a linux version coming soon then disappears for 6 months, or a service that you’re really interested in stops almost all communications about the project.
I personally love the idea, both as a developer and as a consumer. As a developer, more communication with your core audience, letting them know when things are going to be done and what is going to be done, is a good practice. As a consumer, knowing when things are going to be happening and what to look for would resolve the disappointment I feel when I look at a blog entry about a feature or product I really want, only to see that it was dated 6 months ago and there hasn’t been an update since.