Yahoo Store developers and RTML templates

Learning how to become an accomplished Yahoo! Store RTML developer is quite a challenge. The template editor with its set of built-in templates and 80 or so RTML operators is used nowhere else. Yahoo! provides little documentation on RTML, and their tech support will not provide any help if you use custom templates. Creating or modifying templates can only be done online with a peculiar template editor, which goes against the normal programming paradigm of writing code in PHP or ASP. Yet even with the advent of catalog manager and store tags, the editor has remained popular with merchants and developers alike.

Why?

Because the end result is good (or perhaps good enough). A few templates can generate 1000s of different item and section pages with the single click of the Publish button. As far as the merchant is concerned, she can maintain the catalog with online forms without knowing HTML. EDIT page > enter or change content > Hit Update. Simple enough.

But back to the Yahoo Store developer

How does the Yahoo Store developer learn about the whole RTML thing? Certainly a lot of persistence and trial and error help. We may also have helped recently with our books and seminars. But another way is to look at the work performed by other developers.

Let’s assume a merchant hires developer A to implement a custom design which requires the use of custom RTML templates. Developer A does the work and enters the templates into the merchant’s editor. Time passes and for whatever reason the merchant decides to hire developer B to implement some additional functionality. Just like that, developer B gets to see and learn all about A’s work, techniques, custom templates, etc. What may have taken A months to figure out is now made available to developer B instantly and at no cost.

Since there is no way to protect the RTML “source code”, Yahoo Store developers have to accept that their techniques will eventually become known to other developers. I think this is also the reason why so many developers all sell the same services: breadcrumbs template, text navigation links, click to enlarge image, etc. And I am certainly not excluding myself here. Some developers figure out how to do something and eventually other developers will start offering the same service. Again, I guess that this goes with the job.

Developer B cracks open the champagne

Developer B has just had the good fortune of learning a great deal more about RTML. But what should he do with that knowledge? Of course he will use it from now on. I don’t have a problem with that because as I said earlier, it goes with the territory. I also happen to think that it is more important to know WHY breadcrumbs should be used as opposed to knowing HOW to implement them. But should developer B actually publish any part of A’s work to the public?

Will the creator of the original breadcrumbs template please stand up

Certainly, if B came up with an original idea she can choose to share her idea. Or, if it’s not her idea, then maybe an attribution to the original creator should be acceptable. If however she doesn’t know the original creator or if she “knows” that this is common knowledge in the Yahoo! Store developer community, then is it OK to publish if no one else has written about this before?

I guess it comes down to personal choice. However, if the information is not original and cannot be attributed to developer A, the way the information is conveyed should reflect this.

Open-source RTML templates?

I think there are actually similarities between the Open-Source community and the Yahoo! Store developer community. Just like in the OS community, knowledge spreads amongst Yahoo! Store developers for free or little cost, albeit at a slower pace. Information wants to be free – especially if it benefits developers and merchants. So, it’s inevitable for RMTL “secrets” to remain so for long.

The bottom line

If you want to stay ahead of the curve as a Store developer, you just have to keep innovating and be prepared for more competition. Just like any other business…