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Dear RIM, We're Developers Too!

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by , 09-29-2011 at 10:49 PM (2894 Views)
Written by @Blackberrytheme (BlackBerry Theme Park)
September 28, 2011

I wrote this quite a while ago but decided to attempt to communicate directly with RIM and try to create some positive change. With the exception of one person that I can always count on to try valiantly to help me make some headway, I got literally nowhere.

I have been sitting idle on the sidelines watching the public statements made by a few application developers release public letters/blog posts/rants or whatever you’d like to refer to them as, you know which ones I am talking about. It’s time that the theme community spoke up, because your complacent disregard for us will hurt your consumer business if not potentially destroy it if it doesn’t change. I have been a BlackBerry user since the release of the Pearl 8100, which I bought on my own so that I could do my job better. My company used an Outlook Exchange web mail setup and my new BlackBerry allowed me to maximize my professional efficiency by sending and receiving emails in the field at the point of contact rather than waiting until I got home. This added efficiency shortened response times by at least 24 hours and helped me be the best at my job. Shortly after I became a BlackBerry user I discovered themes and was immediately enraptured, my excitement developed into a craving for themes a real addiction. One day the discovery of Plazmic Theme Studio changed my life forever. I won’t spend too much time on the evolution but during the process of learning to develop themes I learned a plethora of skills that Ii had no training for, from graphics editing and design, to web design, to SEO, and more. Somewhere in this process I also became an evangelist for the platform, every member of my family with a cell phone is carrying a BlackBerry, almost all my friends are BlackBerry users, I have even interrupted Best Buy employees and lobbied for the platform while they were being swayed towards Apple or Google products.

One of the reasons I am writing this post is that I am not anonymous, we’ve met. I have been to 3 conferences as a member of the press. I have reviewed multiple products that you have sent to me and while I admittedly don ‘t blog as much as some of your other press sites, I feel that I give my all in these reviews and provide an honesty that’s not always available when the author is concerned about keeping butter on their bread. I have always been honest about my feelings in regards to the BlackBerry platform cheering as well as jeering but always maintaining my strong desire for BlackBerry to remain on top.

Since the very beginning being a Theme Developer has felt like being the illegitimate child of an ashamed parent, when’s it going to change RIM? You release public statements and ask us constantly to help you tell the world that it doesn’t suck to develop for BlackBerry yet you gave me beta theme development software at the 2010 BlackBerry Developers Conference that turned my brand new BlackBerry Torch into a brick. If I weren’t an advanced user I wouldn’t have known how to use software made by OTHER USERS to salvage my device, please don’t step over the irony that 3rd party software recognized a phone that YOU MADE but the software YOU MADE was useless in the process of recovering my device to a usable state. Speaking of Devcon, do you have any intentions of offering any clinics that will benefit someone who has actually made a theme before?

I have always been frustrated with Theme Studio and Composer, but I recently learned how to write my own SVG file from scratch. Upon completion of my first hand written SVG I achieved clarity, wow your software sucks BAD!! Did you know that a simple composer file with 5 icons that will utilize device application order exports an SVG with 1,871 lines of code!?! I just completed a fairly complex SVG with 6 icons, an intricate animated control panel, and all of the meters and banner elements coded in as well that came out with 640 lines of code. I don’t think I need to explain how it could adversely effect a device that has a limited amount of available memory and processing power, trying to read thousands of code lines that are completely unnecessary to render a UI for the user. On top of all the excess code, the file created by composer doesn’t even render properly. It cuts off the edge of the icon as well as the notification. I wish I could say that efficiency was the limit of the frustrations encountered with Theme Studio and Composer but its just the tip of the iceberg. Theme Studio crashes more than any software application I have used…. EVER! It has gotten to the point where I not only save almost every single change I make, but I close the application and open it fresh in between each and every theme file that I get into. Even with these precautions I have to use the Windows task manager several times a day to close Theme Studio because it locks up. Oh and lets not forget about the simulators that don’t run outside of Windows XP, what gives? Is it really fair to expect us to jump through all these hoops just to get your software to function?

Now lets discuss, support and documentation. There is none. There is an SVG that provides some documentation, it hasn’t been updated since OS 4.2…. you’re getting ready to release OS 7.0….. but I’m sure nothing has changed right? Not that it really matters because the document contains no reference to any practical examples, usage scenarios, or even reference any elements that we’d like to include in our themes. Android has a beautiful web based documentation of all the elements that you can use in their nicely supported and frequently updated SDK, you should check it out. You do have an official support forum for BlackBerry Themes & Animated Graphics where I can go to answer questions for people that are so new to the scene that they’ve never heard of CrackBerry and listen to the crickets on a quiet summer evening. Ultimately I’d love to see an Eclipse plugin for theme development but I realize that would alienate a massive portion of current developers so I would be happy with stable and current software.

The good thing is that the product of this situation is that some of us Theme Developers have started congregating in an effort to share knowledge. I would like to start documenting the things that I have learned so that hopefully more avid fans either continue to or start making themes as well. I am literally begging you to stop ignoring us and bring us into the fold. How much revenue has passed through App World since you allowed the submission of themes? I quit my job to develop BlackBerry Themes full time 2 years ago, so I am pretty sure there is a substantial amount of money being spent across the industry. At least enough for us to get some valid tools and support, WE’RE DEVELOPERS TOO!




  1. devcellent -
    devcellent's Avatar
    I believe that RIM understands that they need more developers to produce Apps like they have for Android or iPhone. However, I think that they didn't realize it early enough. I hope they catch up. I really wish RIM would't have the same fate like another Canadian tech icon Nortel! If Apple could make a come back so can RIM!
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