Finding A REALbasic Developer

When we were done talking about the project I asked how he got to me.  Knowing that I wasn’t the first, second or even third developer he contacted I was curious.  He had found his original developer through the NUG list and when that one fell through, the first developer pointed him to a second developer.
Due to an illness in the family the second developer was unable to get the project done in a timely manner so had to decline the project.  At this point, the client Googled for REALbasic programmers and found the third developer who talked to him and then sent him my way.

Does that seem way to hard?  Should it not be easier to find a REALbasic developer?

So here’s my list of resources for finding a REALbasic Developer.  These are fairly generic so don’t think I’m just plugging BKeeney Software.  🙂

Here’s My List:

• Use the Find a Consultant page on the REALbasic website.  This will send you out on a mail list for people that want to talk to you.  I’m on the list and I know of several other really fine developers that are on the list.

• Use the Association of REALbasic Professionals Find a Developer service.  This service is available to paying members of the only professional association for REALbasic developers.  Another ARBP feature is the web links section (currently woefully incomplete) that contains a listing of REALbasic blogs, consultants and other related RB sites.  As the site matures and develops, these features will be handy.  (Full Disclosure:  I am one of the founders of ARBP and am the current president).

• You can post on the REALbasic Forums.  Look around and see who is answering a lot of the questions.  If they’re not consultants I bet they can point you to one or two that are.

• You can Google for REALbasic Developers, Programmers, and Contractors.  As evidenced by the client it doesn’t always work.

So how would you find a REALbasic developer?

REALbasic and FogBugz

I’ve submitted 42 bugs since early May.  Of those 13 are closed or should be.  That’s roughly a 30% close rate.

13 of those are enhancements or feature requests to the IDE or frameworks.  That still leaves 16 entries that are truly bugs and that’s still a whopping 38% open rate.

I’ll be generous and say that half of those that I consider to be bugs aren’t.  That’s still a 19% open rate.

So how many things have you sent off to FogBugz?  Do think RS has been ‘responsive’ to bugs?  Is ‘quality is job 1’ really an appropriate mantra?

To me it seems that the past couple of releases have been mostly bug fixes which is great, but are they fixing the truly important bugs?  If not, what ARE they spending their development time on?  Cocoa?  ORM?  What?

What’s your take on bug reporting vs. fixes?  Do you think they’re getting better?  Worse?  The same as they’ve always been?

The New RS Referral Program: Less For More

Here’s the text, verbatim from the email:

Consulting Referrals Program
•    Developers who provide REALbasic and REAL SQL Server consulting services will find new business opportunities from consulting leads available only to Consulting Referrals Program members
•    On average, members receive over 90 consulting leads per year or about 8 leads per month
•    There are developers in this program that make more than $100,000 a year from these leads
•    12 months of leads for only $900 – Save $100

The old program cost $600 per year and provided you with a support incident.  In my four years in the program I’ve not once used a tech support incident so that’s not really an issue, though it was nice knowing it was there if I should ever need it (thankfully the combination of my immediate network of RB friends and the RB forums is good enough for nearly everything).

As many of you know, I have been a long-time advocate of the developer program for its referrals.  I’ve mentioned it in every one of my Real World talks, in RB Developer and on this blog.  I mention this so that you don’t get the impression that I don’t like the program because I think it’s the best way to get leads.  I believe I’ve used the phrase “like shooting fish in a barrel” to describe the process (however after watching the Mythbusters episode on that I’ll have to revise my phrase).

I find the new pricing and feature list less than desirable.  Why?  I’m paying more for less features.  While I never used the tech support incident I always knew it was there.  Secondly, all Real Software is giving me an email.  Yes, a stupid email with a lead that’s not been qualified as being good (there are still the occasional ‘help me learn RB’ leads which are useless).

So from a business standpoint, the cost of the program doesn’t both me.  A good sized project pays for it.  That statement assumes that you (the reader) are charging enough money to recover the cost – but that’s a different argument.  From a sales standpoint the biggest qualification (they want an RB application) has already been answered.  So from that aspect it’s an okay, but not great, sales lead program.

But $1,000 a year for emails seems a bit excessive.  I talked to many developers over the years that thought $600 a year was too excessive for them.  Certainly $1k a year is even more excessive.

There are quite a few things that I wish RS did to help me with this program so I could feel most justified in spending the cash upfront:
•    I would like to know how many developers are in the program.  If there were 50 or 500 it would make a difference in how I approach the leads;  I think posters would like to know that too!
•    None of the leads are qualified other than that they think they want REALbasic.  I know I’ve talked to more than a few leads through the program that really didn’t know what they wanted and I’ve talked them into NOT using RB because it just didn’t fit their needs;
•    There is no follow-up to see if a lead panned out or not.  So it’s not like I can go check an RS webpage and go, gee, that lead still doesn’t have a developer, or that project is closed, I won’t bother to check with them;
•    There’s no feedback from the poster to see how well the program worked or how well the developer worked.  This is a quality control issue.  Think about how much more powerful if RS could say, “Over the past year, we paired developers up with leads 75% of the time and of those, 95% were happy with the results;
•    Sort of related to the first item, there is no listing of developers in the program, how many developers they have, years of experience or anything that a poster would like to know.  A regional setting would be nice as well.  I’m busy with over 100% capacity right now (and don’t even bother to read the leads these days), but if someone from Kansas City called me I’d at least talk to them and evaluate their app.  But alas, unless they’re smart (you have smart customers?) they probably won’t think about Googling for REALbasic developers in Kansas City.

Now, if RS comes back and says that they’re implementing some new features/services, then I’m cool with the new plan and its new cost.  Right now they do no work for their leads other than have a web page so I’m not sure how they can justify the additional $400 per year.  At that point I just call them greedy bastards because I’m being charged more for less.

Another issue that bugs me:  The developers in the program are selling REALbasic for Real Software.  I have no doubt that they get calls from people looking for developers and they simply point them to their web page.  It’s up to the individual developer to sell the poster that REALbasic is a good choice for them.  So RS is charging us (twice!) for selling REALbasic for them.  Gee, wish I had that luxury in one of my products.

Isn’t it in RS’ interest to have as many developers in the program as possible?  Increasing the price raises the barrier to entry and causes fewer people to be in the program.  It’s already a problem that there aren’t enough developers responding to leads.  From my own anecdotal evidence, at best, two developers will respond to a lead and it gives posters the impression that there are NO RB developers.  Perception is reality.

Since my consulting business is operating at 100% (heck we can barely find time for any internal projects) $600 a year wasn’t a big deal because of the support attached to it (though ultimately a waste of money).  However, it’s harder to justify $1k a year for leads-only when I don’t need them.  Will I pony up the money if the work dries up?  Maybe.  Some of it depends on if someone comes up with an alternative to the RS Find a Consultant program.

I have two possible solutions:
•    Put the Referral program back to $600/year with no support;
•    Charge $1k/year but bundle it with the Personal Support plan (which is $450/year).

So am I right?  Am I pissed off for no good reason?  Do you have other gripes?

Nice To See That They’re Asking

I find this very encouraging.  It says, to me, that Real Software is serious about listening to its users.  It suggests that they’re at least thinking about making some changes to RBScript in a future release and want feedback before they do it.  That’s a huge and very welcome change in my opinion.

Obviously Real Software will take care of itself first and foremost, but if they’re going to do work for themselves, they might as well ask the users how they’re using it and how they’d like it to work.  We all know that once you go in and start working on a major piece of code it’s always easier to do it all than to revisit it again in six months.  Can you remember the details of code you wrote six months ago?

I  encourage you RBScripter’s to take the survey at

Since I’m not an RBScript user I’d love to hear your take on the survey and what sorts of information you gleaned from it (if any).

What The Hell Were They Thinking?

In December 2007 I wrote in my wish list that I wanted them to start using a modern bug tracking system.   Let’s be honest, the old one sucked so I wish everyone would stop moaning that they liked it.  We put up with it, but once you use a real bug tracking system instead of the one they wrote and half implemented, you’ll realize how bad it was.

With that said, those making the decision to kill access to the old were smoking something.  Not everyone is using the most modern version of REALbasic.  Heck, there are more than a few developers still using RB 5.5 so removing access to it was a very bad decision.  Okay, so now they’ve brought it back as read only.  That should have been the plan all along.

FogBugz may be awesome.  I sure can’t tell from RS’ comments.  Can’t search for bug reports and workarounds?  I can’t believe that Joel Spolsky would implement a bug tracking system that you couldn’t search.  Come on, the guy wrote a good portion of Microsoft Excel.  He knows his stuff.  He’s good.  And his bug reporting system doesn’t have public vs private bug reports?  I can do that in my free Mantis bug tracker.

So yeah, RS dropped the ball on this one big time.  So instead of the sh**storm they’re dealing with now, this simple forum post (or one like it) would have prevented some of the outrage:

To All REALbasic Developers:
It has become increasingly obvious over the past several years that the Feedback System (i.e. the Feature Request/Bug Submittal System) for REALbasic and REAL SQL Server is not adequate for our internal needs, nor the needs of our customers.  The Feedback System does not have many of the modern features that we, and our customers need and are now demanding.
After a lengthy evaluation process, we have chosen to use FogBugz, an industry leading bug tracking and reporting system.  We feel that using FogBugz will allow us to meet the increasing demands of not only our customers but our internal developers as well.  Starting April 22, 2008, FogBugz will be the only method of submitting bugs and feature requests to Real Software for all of our products.
This change is not without some drawbacks.  Since the feedback system contains many years of bugs that are no longer relevant we have decided that none of the existing feedback system reports will be migrated to FogBugz.  There is so much old data, however, that we felt that it would cause more problems than it solved.
In addition, the current FogBugz implementation does not allow a public search of bugs, nor is there a way to add yourself to an existing feature request or bug and therefore we will have to write some additional tools and reporting mechanisms into the system.  We understand that these are must have features for many of our users so please be  assured that we are trying to implement these features with the help of the FogBugz developers as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, we do not currently have a timeframe for these to be added back in.
In the meantime, the old Feedback System will remain in place in read-only mode so REALbasic users using older versions may still search and view existing feedback reports.
We understand that this will place hardship on some of you that depend upon existing functionality of the feedback system and we apologize.  If you have any questions or concerns, I will try to answer any and all questions in the forums.  Thank you for the patience and understanding.
Someone Thinking Ahead

Real Software, we (us developers in the real world) depend upon you to make tough decisions on our behalf in order to make your products better.  However, you still have to keep in mind that we’re developers too and we have to make tough decisions for our products as well.  This week’s situation has the appearance that you are out of control or, even worse, aren’t fully thinking through the implications of your decisions and how they affect the user base.

Mars Leaving

“…a great disturbance in the [REAL]Force. It was like a million voices crying out in unison, then suddenly silenced.” – Will B. on Mars’ blog.

Where do you begin on this one?  It’s a sad day for Real Software that someone with that level of experience leaves the company.  It happens.  People come and go.  In the IT industry it’s been my experience that getting five years out of a talented developer is almost impossible.  I’m sure that Microsoft made a good offer from a money, benefits and long term stability perspective and the fact that it’s in Mars’ backyard doesn’t hurt either.

Yes, it will hurt in the short term though it sounds like RS has known about it for a while as Aaron has been shadowing Mars for months.  In the long term, new blood can be good for any product.  Different ideas from a person with a different background is good.  From my perspective, I just hope that Real Software’s testing program gets to work double-time on any language and compiler changes – don’t expect the beta testing program to find subtle compiler bugs!

It does concern me that in the past couple of years that there has been a lot of people leaving.  Thankfully, there has not been a huge letdown in RB features but one has to wonder how departures affect things like Cocoa, Swordfish and release quality.  New people make mistakes because they don’t have a history of the project.  Mistakes also happen when junior developers implement new features that were designated to be worked on by a veteran.  It’s not a criticism, it’s just a statement.

So, good luck to Mars.  I hope he does well at Microsoft and helps convert them to the good side of the force.