Interview with quicksite – Organizer of the Devvy Awards Part 1 of 2
Perhaps, you know about this ambitious project that XDA member quicksite created a year ago. The whole idea of the Devvy Awards circulates around a tribute to Windows Mobile operating system, which has marked the basis for all the further development on touch screen devices, but this idea not just finishes with a voting for the best applications around WM, it also opens the door for continuing this work to other operating systems as well. The Devvy´s awards will start on WM but it will cover Blackberry, Android, Palm, Windows Phone 7, and iPhone OS, so this a long term great project with the intention of acknowledging to those creative minds behind the applications/themes/skins, etc that we use everyday.
Let´s get into this interesting interview, which will be divided in two parts:
orb3000: Hi quicksite, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk about the Devvys. So, how was this whole idea born?
Quicksite: Well, it was December of 2009, and I was looking at the typical end-of-year lists that various tech magazines and sites assemble for the 10 most important applications of the year. As I was noting various websites assessments of the best apps of 2009, it occurred to me, “Well, who are you to decide what are the best apps?” And I was thinking to myself, you’re just a tech magazine, and although your editors and staff writers are often highly familiar with the software applications, at the end of the day, they aren’t out there actively searching for ALL the applications that are out there, nor are they immersed in the whole application development arena. So that, to me, they lack the qualifications to be assessing what the best applications are for any given operating system.
Now, just as there are with the film industry and TV, you have all sorts of “Best Of” kinds of lists. There are People’s Choice Awards, there are awards bestowed by prestigious organizations, such as the Foreign Press Association Awards, for their 10 best movies of the year. And there is validity to those kinds of lists. But amidst all this thinking, I thought, “But what’s missing is the peer-to-peer award.” Where the people that are actually creating the works themselves nominate and then vote on what they consider to be the best in class across many different types of categories. Just as they do for the Grammy’s and the Music industry, the Emmy’s and the TV industry, the Addy’s and the Ad business, and nowadays the Webby’s for Websites. And I thought that it was important that there be a similar kind of basis for the determination of what merits being noted as one of the best applications of the year. I looked around and it was important to me that there be this kind of the peer-to-peer based recognition system.
So, the first thing I did was to go look to see if one existed. And I searched all over the web for a day or two, and to the best of my abilities determined that there were no organizations of touchscreen application developers who, in an organized fashion, were evaluating the whole application development for that year, nominating amongst all that was created in that year, and then voting on them for recognition in that year. So I simply decided, “Well then I’m going to create one.” Because the largest touchscreen development community on earth is right here at XDAdevelopers.com, and and I’ve been a member of this community for four years now, so this seems as good a place as any to see if this idea has merit and can fly.
orb3000: What problems have you faced during the first stages?
Quicksite: There have been whole categories of problems. The first being overall suspicion and resistance to the idea of an awards program. It’s in many ways contrary to the whole culture of XDAdevelopers.com, where the focus has always been on problem solving without any expectation of gain, reward, monetary remuneration, or even recognition. So, I knew from the very start that there would be people who would automatically denounce it as a cultural invasion of the “sacrosanct pure space” of XDA developers, and that any type of awards system for application development would, by its very nature, be unfair, would focus on the “most popular”, would exclude good work that simply wasn’t known about, or would just be unnecessarily competitive. But since I was prepared for that, I took it head on by putting a poll to the first and only thread that I’ve had here on the site, anticipating these kinds of perceptions, and enabling people to check off that kind of reaction to this idea. And I found out that the percentage of nay-sayers was really tiny. So I engaged each of the few people who were negative, to ask them what their concerns were. And by being 100% transparent throughout the entire process, I believe this immediately dispelled concerns of exploitation or a “cheapness” of having some silly competition, and that in fact there was some very substantial thinking behind this whole idea. And then support actually began to be generated.
The second category of problems was a complete lack of time on my part, and lack of any resources or money. I’d come up with the name Devvy’s and I knew from my deep background in marketing design and communications that this was a solid brand name, and that it could sustain the building of credibility from Day 1 and become respected as a very important voice in the touchscreen development community for years to come. If these Devvy Awards were approached from a high-quality perspective all the way down the line, from graphic elements to every aspect of how the awards would be developed, eventually they would be presented to the industry at large – but slowly, one operating system at a time. Or it could go fast and dirty, planted in the backyard of XDA Developers, have a quickie poll, take a vote, and call it a day – and that would be the Devvy Awards. For me the first choice was obvious, and thus to develop a brand for the Devvy’s required time and money. And I have been very willing to put in both to make sure that it’s done right. But it has still been a struggle.
Category three was grossly underestimating how much time would be needed to poll the XDA community for nominations for Windows Mobile. So, I have to laugh at my own outrageous optimism because I actually believed when I came up with this idea around December 20th of last year that I could round up the nominations by the end of December, and have a vote and announce the winners by the beginning of 2010. Total joke. I grossly underestimated the planning time that would be necessary just to organize things to put this before the community here in an organized way and have people respond. So, the nominations were announced to begin in January, then pushed to February, then March, then April, and this led to the biggest problem of all, which was: my fear of a credibility gap. People had heard about this project starting, and yet months had gone by, so when was the voting going to take place for Windows Mobile?
orb3000: We know you have the top five operating systems on your Devvys program: Blackberry, Android, Palm, Windows Phone 7 and iPhone OS – do you plan to launch the whole OS Devvys award this year?
Quicksite: I plan to launch the call for nominations of all 5 operating systems, beginning at the very end of December, but that nominations process will extend into January, and the votes for these 5 operating systems will occur in January. This is similar to a lot of the award-systems in many industries, where they wait till the end of the year to collect the nominations, and then they compile the information and actually vote at the beginning of the new year and announce the winners sometime in the early part of that new year.
orb3000: In previous talks you mentioned that the Windows Mobile Devvy Awards are kind of a tribute, can you explain more?
Quicksite: Yes. It didn’t start out that way. In December 2009, as far as I knew, Windows Mobile was continuing as the operating system for Microsoft touchscreen phones. So my belief at the beginning stages of the Devvy Awards about a year ago was that the WM division of the Devvy Awards would be at peer level to Android, iPhone, Blackberry, and Palm. But all that changed dramatically when Microsoft finally premiered in February 2010 what was now being called Windows Phone 7. We all learned that it was the death of WM as an operating system, and a complete ground-up new operating system for Microsoft’s touchscreen phones. Thus, this presented an instant dilemma. Here I’d planned to introduce the Devvy Awards with WM as the first of the 5 operating systems, and featuring the outstanding achievement awards for application development in WM for 2009-2010. But with Microsoft’s decision to kill off WM, I also knew that by the time the Devvy’s hit the marketplace, WP7 would be in existence and WM would be considered obsolete.
So, I had a solution, and it hit me very clearly. Absolutely, positively, the work for Windows Mobile had to be recognized and awarded as planned. Because we had a huge list of nominations from XDA filled with outstanding applications, many of them ground-breaking. So, my thought was: the show must go on, but the show would have to change. My solution was to turn the Windows Mobile Devvy Awards into Tribute Awards for the entire operating system’s run for the past 6-7 years, in honor of its being the first touchscreen operating system to drive a touchscreen phone and PDA appliance. Because Windows Mobile, for all the clunkiness in its user interface, was a fantastic operating system. As testified by this site, and the 2 million members who made this site their home for 6-7 years, to develop applications, roms, themes, etc. So I think in many people’s minds, the operating system had never failed, the failure was in the user interface.
And instead of addressing that, 2-3 years ago, when Apple changed the game with finger-based navigation, Microsoft just failed to innovate on the graphical interface to this operating system. While all the tech press maligned Windows Mobile for not innovating, software developers continued to develop on this platform. And they kept that operating system robust, they built finger-friendly navigation performance on top of that operating system, filling in where Microsoft left off. And so, WM as a platform is deserving of recognition for starting this multi-billion dollar touchscreen industry, even if they are now killed off. And, WM application developers are deserving of major tribute for the innovation that they pioneered and squeezed out of this operating system, despite inherent deficiencies left out by Microsoft.
We hope you enjoyed the first part and expect the second one soon. If you liked it, please leave a comment and step in to the Devvy´s page to find out more about the project. Thanks