Why Adobe is Losing the Hearts and Minds of Developers
Posted by Bob Warfield on July 13, 2011
I’m annoyed today. That’s my problem not yours, but hopefully you will at least find my story interesting, amusing, or perhaps a cautionary tale depending on the business you’re in. If not, there’s a lot else happening on the Internet, most of it probably more interesting. If you like a good rant, read on…
It’s irony day. Not long after writing that one of the key attributes of a PaaS is helping companies secure sales leads, I’ve personally run afoul of Adobe’s App Marketplace. It’s a silly thing really, but the way they’re running it is worse than not having a marketplace at all. I see shades of the same in a lot of other would-be ecosystems whose leaders, the companies that set them up, are doing just enough to get buy, but are not really helping to do what they should be doing. First, some great examples of ecosystems that work: Apple’s AppStore and Salesforce’s AppExchange. Haven’t heard Benioff lately, but he sure beat Apple to the punch on that one, let alone many others. I will also say that while I don’t always agree with what Salesforce is doing, they’re smart people, they reach out and are reachable, and they help me to understand why they’re doing it. Plus, a lot of what they’re doing is awesome. I have less experience with Apple to go on, but have heard good things from friends.
Now on to my tale of customer service and developer relations with Adobe.
First, there are a gazillion people out there who work for Adobe and have words in their titles like “Product Manager”, “Evangelist”, or “Developer Relations”. These are people one would think should be highly approachable and interested in anything new or unique that’s happening with their platform. After all, they make their contact info fairly available. The platform I’m referring to for this article, BTW, is Flash/Flex/AIR. Many would like to sweep it under the rug and place all bets on HTML5. You’d think that in that sort of atmosphere, Adobe would want to work hard to stand out as a beacon for their developers. But it’s been a pretty foggy night and the beacon isn’t visible.
I have so far contacted no less than 5 of these folks to tell them about some work I’ve been doing with Flash/Flex/AIR. It’s not like I’ve invented Cold Fusion or anything (well of course I didn’t mean the software, they did invent that), but I happen to think it is cool stuff, and it is certainly unusual. Rather than being a flashy (pardon my pun again) bit of marketing adware, or some game, I’ve actually been building software that is more traditionally done as desktop software written in C++ and the like. It’s something that is <gasp> useful and in fact being used by professionals at some of America’s foremost manufacturers. I’ve stretched the envelope pretty far from most of what I see being done with Flash/Flex/AIR. These are rich UX apps that are for the CAD/CAM market. Just getting these Adobe products to run against the large volumes of data and high performance graphics required by such a market was no easy feat. So you’d think someone out there might think it was interesting. Might at least respond to the queries, anyway. Nope, no response whatsoever. These were all people, BTW, who are highly visible in the blogging community, giving talks, yada, yada. Probably way too busy to take time out to talk to everyone who is using their platform, and I say that in all sincerity, not trying to be snarky. They don’t know me from Adam, but you’d think there’d be someone more junior it could be delegated to, or they could dash off a quick note in response or something.
On to the Adobe Marketplace. They have a special marketplace for AIR apps and it looks like a pretty neat place. “Cool beans!” sez I. And so I promptly applied for a listing. My status as publisher was granted almost immediately, last May. And there things have languished ever since. I can go into my little control panel and see my app still sitting there waiting for review:
I marked with a red outline my submission date last May, that I am still queued for review, and the one place I could find anywhere about how to get help. Trying to get help, as it turns out, was a terrible idea. It basically just wound up annoying me enough to write this post. You see, I wound up on chat with a representative named “Neela”. She basically had nothing to offer. First, rather than reading my detailed explanation of what had happened, she assumed I wanted information on some app I’d bought that was listed on Marketplace. She was at pains to tell me that Adobe could in no way help with this and I would need to contact the developer. I then proceeded to explain that I was the developer, I was an approved publisher for the marketplace, and I very much did expect to get some help from Adobe. Each time we had a go round, the software for the chat would fill time while she dealt with how ever many other parallel chats she had going. It automatically generates little messages to keep me warm. So I’d get 3 or 4 after each of my responses that were like this:
Neelu : I'll be right with you. Neelu : Thank you for waiting. One moment please. Neelu : Thank you for the information.
Neelu : Sorry for the wait. Please do stay online. That's verbatim, BTW. And there were only 6 or so different messages, so I got to know them all quite well. Classic Eliza-style simulation of a human. Eventually, Neelu came back again:
Neelu : Please contact marketplace to get help on this. Bob: Marketplace provided this chat. How else am I supposed to contact them? Neelu : I am sorry, we don't have any information, you need to contact with the individual developer who develop the software.
LOL, as you can see, things go circular after a bit. So my last response was that I would do what she recommended after I got done writing a blog post about the terrible customer service Adobe was giving me. I got a one word response back, “Okay”, and then the chat window unilaterally closed itself leaving me sputtering in its wake without even a chance to escalate. If you’d seen my beet-red expression, you would have been laughing your heart out at me.
My guess at this point is I never will get listed. Maybe if they’re monitoring social media enough to see this blog post. I know I’m not wasting any more time on them, and you shouldn’t either.
This is why developers ask themselves why they should spend money on tools rather than using free Open Source all the way.
Adobe, dudes, if you are listening, you just broke my guitar loading it into your airliner. You know where that leads. What were you thinking?