Dreamforce: developers front and center

When I think about Salesforce.com developers I think Heroku. It is much, much more. The magic comes from openness.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

I am a latter day convert to the idea that developers are the 'new kingmakers.' As I am watching this story unfold it is clear that the most thriving communities are ones that are open in the broadest sense of the word. Code, access, resources and community are all needed in equal measure. But when I think of Salesforce.com I tend to think Heroku and CloudSpokes but not much else. Silly me. To correct that misapprehension I sat down with Adam Seligman, chief Salesforce.com developer wrangler. Some of the stats he threw out are mind blowing:

  • 800,000 developers in the community
  • On a good day 1,000 new developers sign up
  • No-one gets to attend events unless they bring code
  • 290 developer sessions at Dreamforce
  • Developers are contributing to the Salesforce.com core
  • 2.5 million apps on the AppExcahnge
  • Standing room only at the opening session with fire marshalls threatening to close them down. 
  • Develop in whatever code you like (almost)
  • All code resources are free to develop
  • Opensource is actively encouraged
  • Citizen developers are building more apps than professional developers
  • No need to be a Salesforce.com customer to build code

Impressed? I was and it is these last two items that intrigue me. 

Seligman said that while the number of professional developers in the world is pretty much static, the number of apps being developed is sky rocketing. Part of that must come from efficiencies and ease of code creation. However, Seligman suggested that a significant element of that must come from what he calls 'citizen developers.' These are people who are likely business analysts that need to build a modest piece of functionality that ties custom objects together. That makes intuitive sense. More important, it implies the long standing geek v suit problem is starting to go away. Ingram Micro confirmed that saying nothing gets coded on Salesforce.com unless there is buy in and contributions from end users. 

But it is the last statement that really fascinates. I met with CloudApps, a British vendor that develops on the Force.com platform. They have an interesting sustainability solution that uses game mechanics to encourage adoption and use. They said that buyers don't need to have any Salesforce.com in their landscape. They only need a Force.com license. How cool is that? 

The advantages are obvious. Salesforce.com gets some revenue while buyers get an oportunity to see what the platform can deliver without having to think about touching their main business systems. It's a smart way for Salesforce.com to seed the longer term market as there is an expectation that at some point at least some of those customers will wish to consider Salesforce.com's sales and service cloud offerings. If they've already been exposed to what the Force.com offers then that is one more proof point the customer doesn't have to consider. 

What's not to like? There are big lessons here for other developer community managers to learn. It will be interesting to follow how this community grows. 

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