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The Developers Union (thedevelopersunion.org)
123 points by hs86 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

I was hoping this was an entity for independent software developers to group together to have access to health, dental plans, maybe a network to find bookkeepers, lawyers, etc.

Seems like there is a greater movement towards the freelance economy, but these things still suck to deal with when you are independent.

Professional organizations provide access to health and other insurance plans. ACM for CompSci. IEEE for Electrical Engineers. I recommend ACM for you.

ACM also comes with free access to Safari Books Online which gives me electronic access to 95% of all professional books I'm interested in.

I was a member of both, years ago, but both had recently dropped the health insurance when I joined. (They still offered other kinds of insurance which I didn’t care about.) Has that changed?

> ACM also comes with free access to Safari Books Online which gives me electronic access to 95% of all professional books I'm interested in.

That's probably my only real gripe with unions. I want the benefits and collective bargaining (of course), and I like the courses they occasionally hold, but I have no desire to effectively donate money to parasites like O'Reilly.

Thankfully my local union (Sveriges Ingenjörer -- Sweden's Engineers) doesn't have the O'Reilly agreement, but I'm still stuck paying for crap such as https://www.nyteknik.se/.


Owns Safari, publishes a bunch of mediocre programming books.

You might try the Freelancer's Union (https://www.freelancersunion.org/)

I was hoping for a lot more to.

I was hoping for a global union with a broader scope.

This union could defend workers in areas of the industry where abused are public knowledge, like the video game industry or workers sold like meat by IT service companies.

Defending and organizing freelance workers is also a goal, individually and isolated, it's really hard for member of this group to have any weight.

It's also very common to have companies asking for very long hours. Just for reference 48 hours per week/8 hours per day is the baseline from the ILO. And the same could be said for workers that have to take on calls at night or over the weekend (ILO set a 24 consecutive hours rest time per week).

Gender equality is still somewhat of an issue, specially since the industry is mostly male, it's still can be an hostile for women to work in.

Another subject that is not directly linked to the self interest of workers, but in my opinion deeply important, is: the social responsibilities of the companies we are working for.

Tax evasion is really common for tech companies, specially the bigger ones. These taxes are our roads, our schools, social services, police and the list goes on.

Personal data collection is becoming critical. Some companies are collecting personal data in a scale never previously seen. Limiting the collect to what is necessary, ensuring the data is not sold, making sure it's properly secure and displaying clearly and transparently what is collected and why, all of this is really important. Workers having a say in it is important specially since they see the collect from the inside.

Lastly, Internet and tech companies are increasingly important as free speech platforms. Twitter and Facebook were instrumental in the Arab spring for example. These platforms must act ethically, they should not influence people for their self-interests and they should not be a place of censorship. (all this is analogue to journalism ethics and standards in fact).

In most cases, being a tech worker is far from being the worst job ever. The pay is generally good, the working conditions are far from horrible and the job is far from stultifying. There are still some abuses however and these must be dealt with. But we cannot ignore the social impacts of our jobs, this should be the other great subject dealt with by a tech workers union.

You call it The Developers Union

From the FAQ: >Is this a union union with dues and stuff?

>No, this is a non-union union created to bring developers and supporters together for better App Stores for all by focusing on issues that best serve those who create and use apps.

Nice execution, you're doing terrific. /s

> We believe that people who create great software should be able to make a living doing it.

> Today, we are asking Apple to commit to allowing free trials for all apps in the App Stores by the tenth anniversary of the App Store this July.

> After that, we'll start advocating for a more reasonable revenue cut and other community-driven, developer-friendly changes.

And what will you do when Apple refuses? The app store reached rock bottom long ago, and they are OK with it. Apple can enter any market they want to and roll over you.

What do protestors do when the government refuses their demands? Keep lobbying or give up.

They strike. Don't think we'll see that here, though.

and other forms of civil disobedience

For example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objection_to_mil...

Doesn't Apple already offer free trials directly? For apps that don't want to go the subscription route, I've also used plenty that offered trialware via IAP upgrades...

Just seems like a pretty small thing to start your big 'union' with.

[1] https://developer.apple.com/app-store/subscriptions/

This is for the Mac App Store, which doesn't do subscriptions as far as I'm aware. And this isn't just about free trials: upgrade pricing is difficult as well.

This is not just the Mac App Store, the Mac App Store does have subscription apps (1Password for example) and they specifically say on the website that their first goal is to get Apple to do trial licenses - upgrade pricing is not mentioned in their immediate goals.

This appears to be for all the App Stores. It refers to “App Stores” (in plural), and many of the apps listed in the “supported by” section are iOS apps.

Both iOS and macOS don’t do free trials, while macOS doesn’t do subscriptions.

It's says the tenth anniversary is this July, which matches up with iOS, not Mac.

Because the statement as a whole is referencing both. Subscriptions are exclusively a macOS problem.

Confused... they just refer to "App Store"... and I thought Developers already controlled freemium distribution via Free+In-App purchase(?)

Developers with high quality apps or games and promotional ‘klout’ should advocate for a single trivial change:

- Ability to filter to ONLY show apps that are Paid, with no IAP.

I have found paid apps, especially games, with no IAP, to be higher quality and no broken game mechanics.

I give developers that make that choice my money. I purchase these high quality games and apps just to be supportive of the model. When they release sequels, I purchase those too.

I’m annoyed Apple added a filter for “Price” with only “Any” or “Free” instead of “Any”, “Free”, “One Time Purchase”.

I’m annoyed the “Paid” and “Free” tabs both are littered with IAP.

There’s a ethos difference between recurring IAP to keep using or playing and one time IAP for one time feature unlocks, such as Omni’s Basic and Pro versions. I’m even ok with annual subscription like Ulysses, but that should be classified differently too.

Really the filter should be something like: One Time Permanent Purchase (including permanent feature upgrades), Recurring Subscription, Pay-to-Play (including virtual currency and metered usage), Free.

The Trial option asked for by The Developers Union would allow reclassifying apps using IAP to mock Trial period, back into One Time Permanent Purchase category, to signal their high quality.

All I will say is that this protest should be happy that Steve isn't in charge anymore, he would not react well to something like this being "demanded" of Apple. I think realistically Apple will just ignore these folks the way they operate today, I just doubt they can impact such policy change but who knows...

In the end of the day its good to see groups of people try to fight for change they believe in. So no matter how I feel about this specific efforts chances of success, its inspiring to see them try. Even if this fails it might encourage other people to join forces and use collective efforts to push for reforms.

If nothing else as the big corporations take more control away from us peons this (union type efforts) is our last way of having any say in the big picture, so we need more, not less of this kind of activism.

Hasn't OmniGroup solved both the free trial problem for Mac and for iOS using in app purchases? I know when I bought OmniGraffle for iPad there were upgrade options, and I used the free trial.

That's not to say asking Apple to improve this is bad, but is the first ask not a solved problem?

Frankly, the in-app purchase style of free trials leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, it's not compatible with family accounts, so I can't buy a game via in-app purchase on my account for my kids to play on theirs. This means that either I need to buy it for each of them, or have them use my account. In the end, I just don't buy it at all.

That's an interesting point. We haven't moved to a family account yet in our family, so I haven't experienced that. I still do it the old way of logging in on my wife's devices.

It strikes me as odd that app purchases are available across a family account but in-app purchases are not. I wonder if they plan to change this.

Do not cede control of an important aspect of your business to a third party^. In the case of app store distribution you find yourself in a principal-agent problem[0]. The agent in this case are the FAANG's of the world who are interested in having a wide array of quality third party apps available at little to no cost for their customers. You as the software developer want to extract as much utility[1] as you can out of the users of your software as possible. These goals are often at odds and since you are not in control of the decision making process you will lose. Some may make it rich, but the vast majority are set up for failure.

^Unless you have a really good reason to. ex: payment processing

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal%E2%80%93agent_proble...

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility

Yes, this is a good example of “commoditize your complements” in action, with us as the complement.

I don't think most developers are unhappy about the 30% cut, they are more likely to be unhappy about the "services" they are getting for 30% cut.

App Discovery, Fake Apps, IAP Refund, No Trials, Long Review Times, all of these have been long standing problems and Apple has made little to no improvement in those areas. And it is likely Apple thinks the amount of complain are minor, but if you look at it from a different angle, most of these complaints comes from Apps Developers, not Game Developers. And the vast vast majority of IAP, or App Store Revenue are in fact gaming. Take out gaming and you see how many developers are unhappy with the current situation, especially for Indie developers.

I completely forgot about it this until I saw this, but I actually tried to do the same thing in 2011 after Google ripped me off:


Stranger days.

So, between the lines: Money.

1. Trial apps promotion: because once the regular new app promotion ends, so do most of the profits for apps that can't quite make it.

2. More money, in form of apple reducing publishing taxes.

Like watching an abused spouse returning to the abuser hoping it will be better this time round...

This describes customers' relationships with most large technology companies.

And what are they going to do when Apple ignores them?

Leave the app store? Start writing software for Windows Phone? Raise cabbages in Sto Lat?

You just had to type "Windows Phone" there didn't you? You couldn't think of any other type of phone.

It's generally understood among mobile developers that much of the money is on the Apple platform, not that other one.

Or at least, it was, the last time I had coffee with my mobile developer friends.

What's Sto Lat?

This sort of thing is why I will not buy an iOS device. They're nice pieces of hardware but I refuse to support their model of complete lock-down.

The double standard is kind of funny. There is no way Microsoft or even Google could ever have gotten away with this, but for some reason everyone swallows total device vendor lock-down when it comes from Apple.

Conversely, the complete lockdown appeals to me. I do not have the resources to ensure that none of the software I run is secretly working against me, either by leaking my hard drive, screen state, clipboard, et al; or mining crypto on my electricity bill; or etc.

iOS can’t eliminate everything, but it helps minimise the risks, by making sure all the apps (if not websites) take a safe-ish approach.

Yes, there is stuff I want to do that doesn’t fit that model. I buy extra devices for that stuff, so my secure stuff remains somewhat secure.

It's a devil's bargain. In the long term it means that innovation is restricted, massive taxes are levied, and peoples' livelihoods are captive to the whims of the Apple App Store.

The times I've dealt with the App Store have horrified me. The US Internal Revenue Service is more responsive and has superior customer service. I am not exaggerating. We've had apps approved then denied requiring appeal on later minor updates because some reviewer spotted something and checked a box. We had to appeal to get past that, and the whole thing has a very arbitrary feel to it. Your software is at the whim of something resembling a Terry Gilliam bureaucratic dystopia.

I think the devil’s bargain slowly built up with the internet’s overwhelming importance. Back when I was on a PowerPC Mac, I had no fear of any random apps… but apps came on CDs and new viruses were biennial.

Now? I’m not even happy to intall Ubuntu from the official website because of Bug #1359836 reported about 4 years ago and not yet closed. My “tax” is a choice between Apple, anti-virus, or virus. The risk of state actors adds to that regardless of my choice.

I was an iOS developer myself before looking after parent with Alzheimer’s, so I know Apple’s rules. Also read the developer agreement and kept up to date with all changes by diff-ing the PDFs.

I’d be pleasantly surprised if the IRS turns out to be easier (non-zero chance I’ll end up in the Bay Area at some point). Perhaps my apps were the equivalent of a 9-5 job, but other people had apps the equivalent of houses straddling state and international borders with one part being exclusively used as a home office-factory for a startup in autonomous home defence laser-based dazzling turrets, which had just been given startup investments from outside the USA and had remote workers who may or may not have been technically contractors? :)

I'd like to see these developers make great software first, instead of yet another todo app.

Then I might be convinced to actually use the App Store.

This is long overdue and I'm hopeful that it extends beyond app stores. The primary leverage here will (inevitably?) be an SDK that allows all apps that are members of the union to be disabled remotely by vote should companies overstep.

I find it interesting that they are starting with the low-hanging fruit of something like free demos. I don't think Apple realizes the burden that things like managing two versions of an app (free/paid) or implementing in-app purchases imposes on developers. Apple has lost touch with developers in how it emphasizes enterprise approaches for things that could have much simpler APIs. They have hundreds of billions of dollars, so why force developers to deal with push notification servers? There's a lot of buck-passing and not a lot of service happening.

The red tape has been reduced in recent years due to better Xcode integration of things like provisioning. But I personally find the way that they've implemented entitlements for all of their niche services to be overly pedantic. I recommend scrapping all of it and moving to a data-driven approach where all entitlements are available and it becomes more of a fill-in-the-blank approach. As in, generate sane defaults and provide tools to do this stuff for us instead of throwing manuals at us. Look to things like Unity and Steam for examples of how to accomplish a lot with a little.

Calls for satisfaction have largely fallen on deaf ears, hence the need for a union like this. I don't mean to pick on Apple, I still think they are doing better than most companies, but they certainly have the resources to treat their developers as well as their users. Also to the original poster: drop the "the". It's cleaner :-P

> The primary leverage here will (inevitably?) be an SDK that allows all apps that are members of the union to be disabled remotely by vote should companies overstep.

That sounds like a good way to piss off customers, rather than piss off Apple and Google. If an app stops working, do you think people are going to blame Apple/Google or the company that actually pulled the trigger on disabling their favorite app?

Gaining the sympathy of the public is an important elements in organizing a strike. For brick and mortar business, a strike shuts down the business and prevents serving customers. This isn't much different. I would think tho that the SDK shouldn't disable local functionality, just remote functionality. Disabling e.g. a calculator app on a phone seems too invasive and over the line to me.

>This is long overdue and I'm hopeful that it extends beyond app stores. The primary leverage here will (inevitably?) be an SDK that allows all apps that are members of the union to be disabled remotely by vote should companies overstep.

And then Apple can issue refunds for non functioning apps and ban developers forever. Also, if these apps are popular, expect class action lawsuits. In the US law there's a thing which is called a promissory estoppel (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/promissory_estoppel.asp) and it can be argued that if you buy an app, you expect that it keeps working.

P.S. I am not a lawyer

That's their (Apple's) prerogative yes, but typically when a workforce unionize, everyone unionizes. So the threat of lawsuits is more Apple's concern than developers'. Of course if it gets to that point, then arguably the app store itself is going to be in trouble and everyone could find themselves out of a job, which has certainly happened in the past.

I'd also like to point out that there's some antitrust stuff at work here too, because the app store probably shouldn't be coupled to a specific company/device in the first place. The idea that every app developer everywhere is beholden to Apple, Microsoft (and now Google and Amazon) is just as much of a problem today as 30 years ago. 30% (this might be 15% now?) or more is being skimmed off everyone's profit margin, which is stifling innovation across the board. I think that's what we're really talking about here, and why it's threatening to the status quo.

I'm not saying any of this is good or bad, just that, there are many ways to structure the economy of the future and we're in one that favors multinational corporations with a trillion dollars of combined wealth. Meanwhile individual workers have almost no solidarity, which leaves them with little or no recourse for handling grievances. I'm just surprised that with the unprecedented concentration of intelligence on forums like these that any thought of organizing seems completely out of the question. That's quite a code smell and a rather large untapped market when you stop and think about it.

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