Friday, 27 June 2014

ExactTarget - the worst DX ever.

What is DX and why does it matter? DX stands for 'Developer Experience'. It refers to the experience that developers like me have when implementing, or integrating with, technical products or services. It matters because a product owner's failure to assist developers with implementation has some negative side effects.

Firstly, implementation may be slower than desired, with cost and time implications for client. Secondly, developers, particularly freelance or contract developers like myself, will actively discourage future clients from using the product again, and will instead hope that a competing product performs better. Thirdly, the client will also remember the bad DX and will try to avoid the product when next given the choice, perhaps in a new role at a different company. Finally, it will annoy some developers so much they might just blog about it in an attempt to save their kinfolk from a similar fate.

Enter ExactTarget. I was recently tasked with implementing their MobilePush product into an iOS and Android app. The documentation on how to achieve this was sufficient, and I had it up and running in basic guise within a day, managing to register devices for push notification and send messages to them. But then I started having problems. Firstly, I couldn't set up locations because despite my client paying for it it hadn't been enabled on their account. It took me about 1hr of head-scratching to first suspect this, and then to get confirmation of it took ET 14 working hours, and then another 4.5hrs to rectify. In total this is nearly 3 working days. When I was finally given access to locations I couldn't get them to work - my entry and exit message have never been received on either of my opted-in devices. 6 further working days later I am yet to get a satisfactory explanation as to why this is - have I done something wrong with the code? Am I doing something wrong with the messaging GUI? Is there something wrong at their end? Did they forget to switch something on? I have absolutely no idea, because every time I request help it takes hours, sometimes days, to get a response, and when the response comes it hasn't addressed the problem sufficiently, or tells me to do something I've already done. Then I have to respond and wait another Xhrs/days.

ExactTarget's non-support smacks of a company going through growth pains. Their technicians (the people that can really resolve problems) are probably not in the UK, and their Solutions Architects (the 'technical' people that we deal with) are probably unleashed onto customers and developers with rapid (insufficient) training and little actual technical ability/tools/permissions to troubleshoot for developers, leaving them hamstrung by cross-time-zone comms with their probably over-stretched under-resourced technicians.

I have little doubt that there's someone at ExactTarget who could probably understand and diagnose the problems I've been having within the space of a short phonecall. Unfortunately this isn't going to happen as a) they don't do this and b) this is my last day on this contract and I'm having to leave my client with what I believe to be a correct and working implementation but with little evidence that this is the case. I wish them luck getting the outstanding issues resolved.

Monday, 23 June 2014

iOS push notification prompt no longer appearing

Today I was having trouble getting my app to prompt me for push notification preferences even when uninstalling and re-installing. It seems that the OS remembers these preferences (and others) for 24hrs even after deleting an app, so the only way to circumvent this and pretend you're on a completely clean install is this:
  •  Delete your app from the device.
  •  Turn the device off completely and turn it back on.
  •  Go to Settings > General > Date & Time and set the date ahead a day or more.
  •  Turn the device off completely again and turn it back on.
  •  Re-install app