Facebook’s Mobile DevCon is just what the company needs right now

By Richard Nieva , written on March 12, 2013

From The News Desk

Since Facebook’s IPO, the company has pledged to put mobile first, but as of now, results have been mixed at best, and often the company looks like its in head-scratch mode when it comes to mobile.

But today, the company did something very logical. The social network announced three conferences called Mobile DevCon coming up next month and in May, in New York City, London and Seoul. The company describes the event as really technical, full of coders. They will be learning best practices on how to build out apps on Facebook’s platform for iOS, Android, and the mobile Web.

It won’t be a miracle or a cure-all for the company, but it will at least give Facebook three days to spend time with mobile developers, with the hope that osmosis does its thing. “We want to make sure people are bringing their laptops, cracking them open, and working on code while they’re there,” said James Pearce, a member of the developer relations team, during a video announcing the event.

This is exactly the type of low-hanging fruit the company has to go after if it wants to foster the mobile-first culture it swears it has. Not to impugn the art of conference planning, because it is an art. But as events go, this one seems pretty simple: get some developers in a room, line up a few speakers, feed them lunch, provide office hours, drink booze with them and call it a day. Repeat. You’re not charging for admission, but I think a multi-billion dollar public company can swing it. And the ROI you’re getting from educating and engaging with developers is worth it. They are, after all, making your platform worth a damn.

The company announced the events directly on its developer’s blog. In a show of zero subtlety, during the video announcement, Pearce explained the event wearing an Instagram t-shirt. When Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the News Feed redesign last week, he mentioned that owning Instagram gave the company a good rapport with developers, since the Instagram team is essentially third party developers using the platform, but in-house. I’ll buy that. It’s kind of like when executives at a company are required to own a certain amount of stock. Investors often favor that because it usually means they have some semblance of aligned interests.

The question is, though, why isn’t there an event in Silicon Valley? Perhaps the company wanted to spread its resources out across the globe, and it thinks that the developers here don’t need any help. A Facebook spokesperson says there are no plans to hold Mobile DevCons in other cities.

But not having an event in Facebook’s backyard is a mistake. Developers in the Bay Area need to fill the void of not getting an F8 conference since 2011. (Unless, of course, Facebook is planning an F8 it hasn’t announced yet...)

A few months ago, I wondered what Facebook had done with its marquee conference. Back then, I said holding an F8 would have done the company a lot of good because it probably needed the conference more than ever. I was wrong. Now the company needs the conference more than ever.

In the meantime, holding these three Mobile DevCons is the right move. It might allow the Hacker Way to really seep back into the company. “It’s a great opportunity for us to improve the platform, by listening,” said Pearce.

Listen well, Facebook.

[Image courtesy Átomo Cartún]