Report finds iOS apps riskier than Android apps!

I recently read this article that states that iOS apps are riskier than Android apps.  I make a point of not trusting news articles…  I’m an Android developer, so I like hearing Android doing well.  And it would be easy to just rejoice that Android is awesome, but instead I decided to look a little deeper.

First, the PCWorld article itself But let’s face it, Android @ 83% vs iOS @ 91% hardly makes me feel good.  It is akin to saying, all your data is stolen 9 out of 10 times on iOS but only 8 out of 10 times on Android.  So… you’re telling me all my data is stolen?  Great.

Second, what does ‘risky’ even mean?  So I decided to pull down the report and take a look myself.  Here were the things they considered risky…

  • Location Tracking
  • Access Address Book
  • Access Calendar
  • Single Sign-On (via social network)
  • Identify User (UDID)
  • In-App Purchases
  • Ad Networks

Really? These are the scary ‘risky’ behavior you are basing things off of?  Some I would consider the price of wanting a free app (in-app purchases, ads).  While others may be considered features, depending on the app function (location, address, calendar, single sign-on).

My conclusion?  More FUD, carry on, there’s nothing to see here.

Startup Weekend

A week ago I attended my first Startup Weekend in Provo.  The experience was good overall, but for none of the reasons I expected.  And in the end I had plenty of disappointments, even though I was glad I went.

The Ideas

From the onset I was really excited to hear the great ideas from other people.  I have worked on a lot of fun projects, (from Face Morphing to Augmented Reality and from Kid’s Games to Voice Changers).  I have a notepad full of ideas, and always love to hear ideas from other.  So I was super curious to hear each of the different pitches.

But to be honest the ideas I was underwhelmed.  There were only three ideas that stuck out to me as being interesting enough to work on.

  1. Love Journal – This was interesting since the pitch was given by Nate Bagley.  Nate had spent a year of his life interviewing couples to find the keys to a successful relationship.
  2. Draw-A-Doll – Jethro’s idea to turn kid’s drawings into sewn dolls.  I really liked the idea, but I didn’t want to spend my first Startup Weekend working with a friend as I was worried it would taint my experience.
  3. Mouth Music – An idea to turn your mouth into an instrument.  I had all the skills to make the project a success, I’ve worked on voice manipulators in the past, and was probably the most qualified person in the room to make it happen.  It didn’t make it past the first round, but I was apprehensive about repurposing old code I had already written for the competition anyway.

With so many pitches, I was really hoping to hear a variety of amazing ideas.  But to be honest I came away from the first part of the weekend disappointed.  Day to day, I hear a lot of ideas.  It seems like everyone has an idea for an app, and (not having the skills to make it come to pass) they really want to share it with me.  Since I’ve heard so many one minute pitches in my life, perhaps I just set the bar too high.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a variety of good ideas.  But I was looking for both a good idea, and something I was interested in working on.  In the end I picked Love Journal.

The Skillset

After picking the idea of Love Journal, which later was changed to be called the Love Note the work began.  We looked around the room to assess what kind of skill-set we had.  The goal was to build a moderately complex mobile app.  The breakdown of the skills was interesting…

4 Non-Technical
2 Graphic Designers
3 Web Designers (1 of which is new the field)
1 Android Developer… Me.

From the very beginning I was worried about the amount that we would be able to accomplish.  Nobody had mobile design experience, and I was the only mobile developer.  And the main focus was a mobile app.  But I decided to go in with full throttle and accomplish as much as I possible could.

I threw my headphones on and started working my tail off.  Luckily it turned out one of the graphic designers (Richard Austin) had a good handle on the mobile design, and between the two of us we were able to put together a pretty snazzy looking product with nice animations and good functionality by the end.

The Work

In the beginning I was pretty optimistic.  I knew the project depended upon me so I was working my tail off.  For the first 8 hours or so this worked out great.  But as time went on I started to get more and more discouraged.

The first discouragement was realizing I wouldn’t have the proper backend support.  I tasked a couple of the designers with building me one, but they didn’t seem to know where to start.  So I took the task on myself.  But as time went on, and the hours ticked by I started to lower my expectations further and further, and started to add more and more hacks and shortcuts.

My second discouragement came later in the day when much of the rest of the team just stopped working.  The non-technical members had worked hard, but ran out of things to do.  They were goofing around, watching videos, and chatting on Facebook.  All while my stress was going up realizing the amount of incomplete code that still needed completing.  I really felt the weight of the team on my shoulders, but I didn’t feel the support I was hoping for.

The Company

I love competition, and when I go, I go to win.  That was my attitude with this weekend too.  So there was a big disappointment not being part of a winning group.  On the flip side of things I am really glad I went.  I met some really awesome people.  And, the goal for me of the competition was to meet people, so in the end the experience was well worth it.

Honestly, I’d go again in a heartbeat, even with all my disappointments.  As a developer I don’t always get to interface with the non-technical crowd.  Getting to meet them, hear their side of the story, and learning from them was invaluable.  I run a business on the side, and I know that the business lacks in marketing, business strategy, ect.  I know I need to connect with people that have those skills, but it isn’t something that happens often for me.

If getting away for a few days and working my tail off is the only way to get to know great people, then perhaps it is a price worth paying.

The Food

The most surprising piece of the competition was how greasy gross the food was.  I guess I should have expected as much, but the whole experience left me feeling fairly ill.  It really felt gross by the end of Saturday.  I guess I have a good wife that cooks fairly healthy and treats me well better than I deserve; but I can’t imagine others didn’t feel that same way by the end.  It took me the better part of the next week to rebound from the lack of sleep and gross internal feeling.

All in all the experience wasn’t what I expected at all.  I really wish there were better ways to get in contact with potential entrepreneurial individuals.  But I’m not aware of where they may be.  So until then I’ll probably keep attending just so I can meet great people.

Face Morphing

I took a short stroll down memory lane today as I was browsing some of my old Image Processing work.  There was a lot of really cool things I worked on, but the one I loved the most was Face Morphing.  Below are a few samples from the project.

Take a guess who the combinations were in the comments below:

1. Image

2. BradSarah_0.500000

3. brycarrey

4a. 1_3_faces_list_0.500000

4b. 1_15_faces_list_0.500000

4c. 1_19_faces_list_0.500000

5. sarahashley

6. sarahjulia

And just for fun, here’s an atlas of all the people I used, mostly family, but a few friends as well:

faces_list

Goodnight Lad (Animations)

Note: The Kickstart for this has begun, you can find the site here:

I just received the final version of the animations I’ve been waiting on.  They turned out awesome; I am really excited about them.  I still have a ton of items on my to-do list before I’ll be ready to start my campaign, but I couldn’t help be share as this all comes together.  I’d love to hear what you think.

For reference, here are the pages without animation.

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1 Million Goofy Downloads

1m_DownloadsGoofyBooth passed 1 Million downloads today!  It is one of the apps I am most proud of, and super excited that it passed 1 Million in under a year and a half.

Below are some interesting notes about Goofy Glass:

– Rating = 4.18.  My highest free app.
– Biggest Country = Russia, 70% of my users are Russian.
– Total Version Updates = 14.  Bug fixes, new features, and more support.  With more in the pipe.
– Original release date: Sept 8th, 2012.

Check it out on the play store:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.givewaygames.goofyglass

Running RPG

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Drewski Mac via photopin cc

I wanted to share another active project of mine that I’ve given the nickname ‘Rev’.  The idea is to merge the world of running with the world of video games.  You see, for me video games were always super compelling.  In games you get to assume the role of an interesting character, there are challenges, quick growth, and many mechanics that motivated you do to do better.  On the other hand while I love running it is hard to get out the door, hard to keep pushing myself while I’m out there, and the results are slow at best.  So I wondered if a game could be built that would be so interesting that I just couldn’t keep myself from running.  That is project Rev.

From the onset, I’ve always believed that Rev needed to be treated differently than any other project I’ve worked on.

1. Users cannot use traditional inputs (while running).  

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Alfred Hermida via photopin cc

Normally users interact through touch.  It is a natural simple way of interacting with an app.  But this completely breaks down while running.  The moment you make them touch their phone on a run, you’ve lost the magic.  It takes away from their run, and can be dangerous.

This essentially leaves audio as the only feedback.  We did think of using Google Glass as well as smart watches and other wearable tech.  But it is more of an extra, or a fun feature, the major feedback has to be through audio.

So we tested this, and we found that not only is audio important but it is critical.  There is a fine line between too much audio blaring in your ear and too little audio driving you further.  We found that a robotic voice is slightly frustrating, but since there are lots of numbers being thrown around the robotic voice is important.  We’ve approached this problem by recording as much as we can, but leaving a robotic personal assistant voice that gives stats and other useful information as you run.

2) The game needs to push you, but it should never encourage you to stop running.  

In a traditional game you give a player a challenge, and if they fail they lose a life and start over.  If we followed this traditional pattern then in the middle of a run we’d send a user home!  This is definitely not allowed.  Yet, on the other side of things we need to challenge them.

We approach this problem by removing the concept of life completely, and put the focus 100% on the enemy.  By running faster, you do more damage, and slower you do less damage, but you always do *some* damage.  This allows us to focus completely on time.  It may take you much much longer to finish a level, but you should be able to finish any level no matter how fast you run.

This also makes it easy to provide rewards such as stars for breaking certain times.  Best of all we will always encourage you to run, and even if you aren’t fast you can pass every single level without a problem.

3) The game needs to learn from your running habits.

The last challenge we’ve faced is making sure that anybody can play the game.  In a traditional game you play a character, which means as long as the character is powerful you are powerful too.  This doesn’t work with running, if you run a 15 minute mile, chances are you won’t ever get to the speed of a 6 minute mile runner.  But we want to encourage both to run.  So we have to learn from each user!

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woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

One of the ways we do this is by making all attacks relative to a users average speed.  We keep track of their average, max, and min speeds with a weighted average over time.  This gives us the freedom to create levels where we can encourage them to run faster than they normally.  We can also encourage running fast in intervals which leads us to a nice interval training style of run.

Anyway, Rev is still a long way away from seeing the light of day.  But listen back soon, we plan on sponsoring runs and we will need lots of alpha and beta testers to help us out in the end.

Goodnight Lad First Prints

2014-02-12 (1)The first prints of my book arrived today!  They turned out great.  The quality is actually higher than I expected and the illustrations look fantastic in print.  There are a few minor issues I’ll want to fix before pushing out a larger batch, but nothing to dampen my excitement.

2014-02-12

Now I am just waiting on the 3D animations.  I received a video of them a couple days ago and they look beautiful.  It shouldn’t be long before it all comes together, look out for my kickstarter campaign that is just around the corner.

Spot! Animals

level_selection_Zoo_view

As a kid I loved Where’s Waldo.  It was the perfect game that never got old.  Each page was jam packed with tons of items, and it took hours to find all of them.  Where’s Waldo and I Spy were the inspiration for my latest app.  Today I announce another project I’ve been working on called Spot! Animals.

It is a seek & find app for young kids where they search for animals at the zoo, ocean, safari and more.  It is simplified slightly to make it easier for young kids, but there is still many things to find and plenty of replay value.  I’ve already had Logan come up and tell me over and over ‘animals, animals’.  It is always good to have happy customers before it has even launched.

This will be the second app that I’ve contracted nearly all of the work from scratch.  That includes paying for all the development, art, and music.  This is fun for a couple of reasons.  First  of all it is a fun and new experience to take a step back as a developer and jump into the manager roll.  And second because it is fun to have grown my business to a point where I am able to do that.

Print

On the other hand it is hard at times to let other developers design and write the code.  I know it is important let go, but it is hard when I know I’ll probably end up putting time into bug fixes and polishing the app after all is said and done.  I’ve also grown a respect for management in general.  I’m surprised how much time it take

s to find good talent, give a complete vision, and follow up to make sure everything gets complete.

Anyway, the game will probably be released in February 2014, so wish me luck as I wrap things up.

Advice From Three Years of Android Development

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Three years ago I started my foray into Android development.  I had followed and played with Android off and on for a while before that, but that is when I started my first app that would eventually get published.  I’ve learned lot’s over the last three years.  Below are some of the lessons I wish I knew when I had started.

1) Iteration –

You will never get it right the first time.  There are so many factors to a really good app:
– Is it a good idea, will it resonate with people?
– Will it work on the huge variety of Android devices?
– Will it be found by potential customers that are looking for it?
– Will you make money off of it?
– Will your users take the time to rate it, write about it, and talk about it?

The fact of the matter is, if you are a single-person operation you can’t answer all those questions before you launch.  Worse yet, you’ll probably spend a lot of time thinking and stressing about them.  But, after you launch, answering those questions becomes a lot easier.  Users will quickly let you know which devices are broken.  You will also find out if it is well downloaded, enjoyed and rated.

The fear is that you’ll lose that first bump, that your app will be marred by bad reviews and never dig itself out of the hole it first started in.  But it turns out that those first days, weeks, even months aren’t really that important.  Your app’s growth will be slow and steady, and you’ll have plenty of time to fix those issues.  Even if your app is downloaded lots, it will tend to maintain that velocity and you’ll have plenty of time to overcome bad reviews and issues.

But only if you iterate.  If you let it sit, it will never get better.

2) Go small – 

Everyone says go big or go home.  This couldn’t be further from the truth as a single app developer.  The best apps are developed by large teams that contain artists, businessmen, designers, developers, and a whole lot of money.  You can not compete, no matter how hard to try.  But the app marketplace is full of customers, and that gives you an advantage that most domains don’t enjoy.  To date there are over a billion Android activations, so even if your app will only be found by 1 in a million, you are still looking at one thousand downloads.  And trust me, you can do much better than that.

The goal is to find a niche market, and build a super simple app.  Don’t add any extra features.  Don’t try to compete with the big kids.  Just keep it simple, well designed, and with a single purpose in mind.  You save time, but get to test the waters a little before investing a lot.  And if you plan to iterate it is easy to add more later, assuming it is well accepted.  Your customers know better what they want than you do, and when you give it to them they’ll be super pleased to have their voice heard.

3) Confide in experts –

No matter how good you are at one thing you are terrible at many others.  When I first started I assumed I could do it all myself.  I’m a great developer, I’ll let that part shine through, but I can also handle the art, music, and business side of things myself.  It turns out, I’m really bad at art.  I mean, my art may be passable in some circles, but the moment you see an experts art nothing else compares.

Don’t get me wrong, to some degree you’ll end up wearing all of the hats.  If you are a single-person operation with no money you don’t have any other choices.  But the moment you can defer your expertise to others.  And the moment you have money iterate with it.  Go find artists to redesign your apps, marketers to improve your listings, and even other developers to alleviate some of the workload.

Find what you are expert in, and focus on that piece.

4) Throw it away – 

Sometimes you will believe you have a great idea.  You will put time, effort, and hours into it.  And one day you’ll wake up and realize that it doesn’t jive.  Perhaps it isn’t a good idea after all.  Perhaps it is too much effort, or puts you in league with the big kids.  Perhaps the people you confided in didn’t follow through, or were as expert as you hoped.  Just throw it away.

It will be hard to do.  Because you’ll have invested so much time and effort into it that you will feel obligated to follow through.  But it turns out that the cost is much higher than the reward in those cases.  Familiarize yourself with the sunk costs principle, and try to recognize when your costs won’t be rewarded after all.

But the good news is, if you are planning to iterate, throwing away isn’t terrible.  You can throw away a piece and iterate over it again.  You can throw away an idea, and start a new one.  Throwing it away shouldn’t be looked at as a terrible idea, but rather a price you paid to improve the quality of your idea or app.  You paid it because you didn’t know the answer, but now that you do you can create a better version.

All in all I believe this experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  But I think if I would have known those four points from the beginning I would have stressed less and enjoyed more.

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5) Be Patient

Of course you want your app to be successful.  And it will hurt when you only see a small number of download a day.  But those small numbers add up and will compound with time.

When I first release Palette Painter it was only getting 1 or 2 downloads a day.  That grew quite a bit as I iterated over and over.  But it capped out at about 300 downloads a day, a small number compared to many other apps, even many of my other apps.  Yet those 300 a day have slowly added up, and Palette Painter now has a grant total of 49,000 fairly active users.  While still small compared to my other apps it isn’t a tiny number.  And due to the nature of the app people spend more time in that app, and the revenue is just as high as my other more successful ones.

I almost gave up after Palette Painter.  But I now believe it is probably my most successful app so far.

Goodnight Lad

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I’m always looking for fun ways to learn.  Over the past decade many new methods for learning have been discovered.  Not only is information more quickly available, but there are many great new ways to explore it.  Interestingly, while technology has taken off, traditional school learning has stayed much the same.  Today I’d like to share one of the projects I’ve been working on: An augmented reality children’s bedtime book.

The idea is that you would have a traditional print book that a child could read and enjoy like normal.  Point a smartphone at it and the world becomes alive in a beautiful interactive 3D scene.  You could see the child rolling in 3D as if floating above the book.  You can interact with it, and even have it read to you.  It is a fun new twist on reading that hopefully will encourage kid’s to want to read and imagine many worlds they can’t see.

Unfortunately 3D modeling is fairly expensive for a single developer like myself.  The story is  written, the book is  illustrated, the code tested, and I currently have a group working on modeling the first page.  My plan is to hopefully garnish interest from others who believe this is a fun new way to learn and to run a campaign on Kickstarter.

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I’m really hoping this project pans out, all the pieces are in place for it to turn out wonderfully.  But more than this project I imagine a really cool future of learning. Imagine text books where the math jumps o ut of the page and comes alive.  Or where you can see the anatomy, geography, or astronomy in 3D as you learn about it.  It would encourage you to get up and to circle your book, to view learning from a whole new perspective.

Anyway, it is one of the many projects I’m working on.  I should be getting 3D models back soon, and I plan to update with more pictures once I do.