Given the recent discussions I thought this article from 2015 quite interesting, especially considering the interest and influx of FileMaker developers following Tim Dietrich’s very public move:
Matt Petrowsky - ISO FileMaker Magazine:
This post is a response to my friend Tim Dietrich’s post about “Goodbye, FileMaker” http://timdietrich.me/blog/goodbye-filemaker/
All of these variances are coming from perspective. Perspective of what YOU know in relatation to what’s known by those who you know. It’s what you discover and what you’ve outgrown.
As a technology, FileMaker has definite pluses and minuses. It’s handling of data structures like arrays is abysmal. It’s lack of fundamental features like patern matching (regex) is almost unforgiveable. It’s presentation of UI without having to mess with data binding is second to none. It’s platform agnosticism is the stuff of dreams. Pros and cons, pros and cons.
The most difficult thing, I think, we are facing as FileMaker developers is plain and simple communication. FileMaker, Inc. is currently VERY bad at this. FileMaker, the company, has fallen behind the times regarding their level of communication with their developer constituency. The expectations of most all developers, at least those outside of FileMaker, is pretty close to real-time with regards to what’s happening and what’s coming. Any open source project, and even many closed source projects, use anything from a company blog to the available wiki or issue queue on GitHub. Even the closed lip Apple provides public insight into what coming and what they are working on. So, that “FileMaker’s a subsidiary of Apple” remark you’re about to pull out doesn’t hold water. The “We’re working on it. We’ve shown it to a select group of people at an expensive event and it will be here some time in the future.” REALLY doesn’t work anymore.
Software, as it used to be, is not this secret magical reveal like it once was. Developer’s aren’t wowed by features much anymore. The mindset has shifted to “Tell/Show me how your platform is going to sustain time and competition and keep me updated.”
FileMaker, in my opinion, DESPERATLY needs a well respected evangelist. Subjectively, from many developer’s who I’ve spoken with, the perception is that FileMaker is withering. It’s trying to decide what it wants to be and to whom. I don’t personally know where FileMaker is financially as a company, but developers, like most all people, like to put their bet on a winning technology. It doesn’t have to be the number one horse, but you don’t want to bet on the last place finisher. This is the type of question I hear many developers trying to answer.
The tech still seems solid. Where the tech goes in the future is dependent upon the decisions a developer makes today. If a top FileMaker developer were to now advise people to go with Node and Sails* because they’re no longer confident about the future of FileMaker, then this becomes a BIG problem when compounded by the number of developers who jump ship.
Here’s why. FileMaker may stick around for many more decades to come, because it’s infrastructure type software (not something you typically change quickly), but it may eternally be mired down by the perception that it’s not powerful because as soon as top developers become discouraged, they leave the platform. What do you have left? Less knowledgable developers creating mission critical software which simply makes FileMaker look bad. It’s seems like the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis https://en.wikipedia.org/ /Legalized_abortion_and_crime_eff to me. If the people/developers who make your software look good leave, and don’t bring in newer developers, then the writing is on the wall for the future of your platform.
That, to me, is the real problem that FileMaker faces as a company. Developer frustration. People will forgive technical shortcomings and come up with solutions around it (ala plugins) but if they don’t feel like the company building the technology is solid, then they will find something else - hedging their bet on their technical skills investment. Losing a developer like Tim, removes the types of contributions which make a platform more healthy. It’s the fundamental premise of open source.
FileMaker, if you’re listening, and you’re one of the decision makers, then open your ears to the market. The market will tell you what they want. Right know, they’re telling you some things need to change for them to become more confident - that is, of course, unless you don’t consider developers of your development platform your market. From my perception, developers make your platform look good/appealing, not your casual FileMaker user. I sure hope FileMaker doesn’t fade into the software graveyards of history. Personally, I really like it and I hope they listen to what their developer market is saying. The time has passed when the number of limited alternatives has kept any one developer totally loyal to one specific platform.
- From the asterisk above about Sails JS (one of HUNDREDS of various frameworks): Building highly scalable software in things outside of FileMaker has become MUCH, MUCH easier in the modern software world. Frameworks galore allow you to plug-n-play with web services all over the place. The threat to FileMaker used to be the browser. This is not the case anymore. Developing a mobile application and hooking it up to a backend is easier than you may think. Yes, it does take a bit more knowledge and effort, but it’s certainly NOT rocket science! Do you own research and seriously ask the question “Where does FileMaker fit 5 years from now? Especially, if things become even easier in other environments?” Go watch the video on http://sailsjs.org as an example and be informed!