22 Jun

GitHub – Announcing GitHub for Mac

Pull requests, merge button, fork queue, issues, pages, wiki –– all awesome features that make sharing easier. But those things are only great after you’ve pushed your code to GitHub.

Today we’re happy to announce GitHub for Mac.

via GitHub – Announcing GitHub for Mac. It’s very nice looking and does a fair bit of abstraction towards the intricacy of dealing with Git on a daily basis. Should be an awesome tool for people who need to use a version control system but aren’t sure how to use Git. GitHub for Mac also uses the wonderful open source project Chamelon, which lets you build an app that targets the Mac and iOS devices with the same code base.

19 Jun

The Filter Bubble – Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee weighs in: “There’s danger in the filter bubble”

The filter bubble phenomenon, I think that noun is applied to the idea that a search engine can get to know you and so it can get to know the source of things it thinks you’re interested in. You will end up in a bubble because you will reward the search engine — you will go to the search engine — it feeds you things which you’re excited about and happy about and it won’t feed you things which get you thinking.

. . . As a result, you end up being dedicated to your tribe. You will never understand as a Yankee why the Red Sox were so ‘cachuffed’ to beat you a couple of years ago. As an Israeli you will never understand why you’re upsetting the Palestinian people. So, there’s danger in the filter bubble… Once you’re bracketed as somebody who buys pretty expensive stuff, the web won’t show you the cheap stuff and so you wont believe that the cheap stuff exists. You’ll have a twisted view of the world.

So I think that’s a really interesting thing. Somebody mentioned the Web Science Trust. [This] discussion is very much what I call a web science issue, if you look at this sort of thing you really have to look at humanity connected as a very large system and you have to use a lot of different… you have to use sociology, psychology, you have to use economics and you have to use mathematics as well as computer science to figure out the web and figure out what the implications of this will be.

via The Filter Bubble – Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee weighs in: “There’s danger in the filter bubble”. For a long time I went back and forth on worrying about this and I’ve settled on worrying about it, I’m just not sure of a solution. There are unfortunately a variety of factors that cause someone to even in the face of contradictory evidence to stick with their already decided opinion or as Tim Berners-Lee calls it their tribe. So even if search engines and social media sites steer people towards information that was more neutral, who knows if it would make a difference. While the internet makes it easier to gain access to information outside of your normal world view (ie. what you observe and see in people around you) data-mining makes it easier to only display information that validates and connects with you, and for a business displaying information that connects tends to be a stronger model.

19 Jun

Mika Mobile – Android

With Battleheart having been on sale for a few weeks, I feel I’m equipped to offer up some impressions of the android market from a developer’s perspective.

Still, despite those disclaimers, Battleheart for Android has become a meaningful source of revenue, and has proven that the platform isn’t a waste of time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a polished, high quality product is more likely to be embraced on Android than on iOS because the quality bar on the android market is so pathetically low. Here’s some interesting data: on iOS, user reviews for Battleheart average 4.5 stars (4000 total ratings), which is quite good. On Android it’s a stunning 4.8, with 1000 ratings. So not only is it reviewed more highly, it’s also reviewed more often, with a huge percentage of android users taking the time to rate the app. I think the lack of competition makes quality apps really stand out, and generates a lot of enthusiasm from app-starved android users.

The technical side of supporting android isn’t so bad, but it is a bit of a nuisance. 95% of the heavy lifting is handled by Unity, the game development engine we use to develop our apps. Actually porting the game only took about a day. Still, some devices don’t handle our shaders in a consistent way, some devices just plain crash for no apparent reason. These kinds of issues are few and far between though – the main thing I had to concern myself with was simply making the game work properly at various screen sizes and aspect ratios, which I had been doing all along, so it was trivial to get it up and running.

The most frustrating part about developing for android is actually just dealing with the deluge of support e-mail, most of which is related to download and installation problems which have nothing to do with the app itself, and everything to do with the android OS and market having innate technical problems. Do some googling for “can’t download apps from android market” or similar wording, and you’ll see that this is a widespread chronic issue for all devices and all OS versions. There are numerous possible causes, and there’s nothing I can really do about it as a developer, since its essentially just a problem with the market itself. Based on the amount of e-mails I get every day, download problems effect 1-2% of all buyers, or in more practical terms, somewhere between two and three shit-loads. I have an FAQ posted which offers solutions for the most common problems, but lots of people can’t be troubled to read it before sending off an e-mail demanding a refund.

Mika Mobile – Android. It’s nice to see that Android has the potential to support developers, though the download and market problems really need work. Probably the most common complaint I hear about across any phone or any maker.

18 Jun

The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out

You’d think it’d be fun, wouldn’t you? Writing about “The Simpsons” and such for money. It’s every slacker’s dream job. And I was making $35,000! I remember that I crossed a certain threshold, soon after I got my new job: I stopped buying “Sensor” brand razor blades, and upgraded to “Schick Quattro” brand razor blades. This was exciting. The “Quattro” had four blades instead of the measly two blades of the “Sensor,” plus a sideburn trimmer on the back, plus it vibrated to supposedly aid the shaving process. This was the big time.

Some people struggle to write for their whole lives, and only dream of ever getting paid for it. And here was I was, Mr. Big-Shot-Razor-Blade-Man, getting paid a real salary. I could sit at home and write in my pajamas while eating take-out food; and that’s what I did. I was so grateful.

But this was part of the problem. We — by which I mean me and my fellow employees — were all so grateful. Which allowed us to ignore — or willfully overlook — certain problems. Such as the fact that AOL editors forced us to work relentless hours. Or the fact that we were paid to lie, actually instructed to lie by our bosses.

via The Faster Times – AOL Hell: An AOL Content Slave Speaks Out. Highly depressing read, both into the writing practiced at AOL and what this business considers important (just generating stupid trivial trash to generate pageviews).

17 Jun

Ars Technica – Apple quietly drops special subscription requirements for iOS apps

Apple revised its App Store review guidelines this week, noting (among other changes) that apps are no longer required to offer an in-app subscription option. Content providers can continue to offer outside subscriptions that are accessible via an iOS app, so long as no external links to outside purchasing mechanisms are built into the app. If subscribers can pay for content within the app, it must use in-app purchasing APIs, though content providers are now free to set whatever price they like.

These changes should address one of the major complaints about Apple’s subscription requirements, allowing content providers to set pricing to account for Apple’s 30 percent take. Also, it clearly spells out that services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Kindle, and others can continue to give its users access to content paid for via subscriptions that are handled outside the app or the App Store.

These changes don’t address the other major complaint that content providers have, namely that they won’t be able to collect detailed demographic information directly from subscriptions paid for via in-app purchasing. However, Apple allows latitude for developers to optionally request the information from users as long as the requested information and its transmission and storage are covered by a privacy policy compatible with Apple’s own.

While the timing of the changes comes a few weeks before the previous June 30 deadline, it’s also worth noting that they were published just one day after the Financial Times announced its strategy to offer subscribers access to its content via a Web app, which bypasses Apple’s App Store requirements and its 30 percent commission entirely. While some publishers already announced plans to support Apple’s previous in-app subscription plan, Apple’s changes may encourage others to produce native apps instead of Web apps. While Web apps offer cross-platform compatibility and don’t require Apple’s approval, native apps tend to have better performance and integration with iOS’s native user interface.

via Ars Technica – Apple quietly drops special subscription requirements for iOS apps. I’m glad Apple cleared this mess up. The new rules feel much more balanced for both publishers and Apple.

16 Jun

BBC News – Capital One to buy ING online bank

Capital One says it plans to buy the US internet banking arm of ING in a move that will make it the seventh largest US bank by assets.

Capital One, best known for its credit cards, will pay $9bn (£5.5bn) in cash and shares – $6.2bn of that in cash.

The deal will also leave the Dutch banking and insurance giant with a 9.9% stake in Capital.

The move is the latest step in Capital One’s plan to branch out from its credit card lending roots.

It will raise $2bn in new capital and $3.7bn in new debt in order to finance the transaction.

via BBC News – Capital One to buy ING online bank. I’m a huge fan of ING Direct, been using them for years so I hope this doesn’t hurt them in any way.

13 Jun

TechCrunch – Groupon Was “The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner”

Since she wrote the post, she’s heard from other businesses who have had similar experiences. “What was the saddest part of it for me was that this had had happened to a lot of businesses but because no one had ever said anything we all just assumed (and myself included) we just assumed we were bad business people. That we just didn’t know what we were doing. If everyone loves Groupon so much, we must be wrong.” She estimates that she lost $10,000 in hard costs. Other businesses she heard from claim far greater losses.

The Groupon experience has soured her on similar forms of marketing. “Our most successful advertising is through Facebook. And that’s free. Even offering deals through Facebook, which is also free.”

via TechCrunch – Groupon Was “The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner”. The more I read about Groupon the more I want this business to just go away.

More readings:

12 Jun

Ruk – How to replace 30 laptops (and $10,000) with 150 sheets of paper

That’s a single page of a simple 5-page index to District 12, a district with about 2,000 addresses and 3,100 electors. To find the right poll, the advance poll worker just asks the elector for their home address, scans down the alphabetical list of streets to find it, and then scans for the right number (we experimented with replacing address numbers with address ranges, but the complexity of poll geography meant that the result was more confusing than helpful).

Twenty-seven districts, a five or six page index for each district, and about an hour to create the report means that the entire “system” (if you can call it a “system”) cost less than $100, requires a few minutes of “training” and is guaranteed not to crash.

A good day at the office.

via Ruk – How to replace 30 laptops (and $10,000) with 150 sheets of paper. Sometimes technology is the wrong solution.

10 Jun

Mac Rumors – Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions

Apple has quietly changed its guidelines on the pricing of In-App Subscriptions on the App Store. There are no longer any requirements that a subscription be the "same price or less than it is offered outside the app". There are no longer any guidelines about price at all. Apple also removed the requirement that external subscriptions must be also offered as an in-app purchase.

via Mac Rumors – Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions. Good news for publishers and services like Amazon’s Kindle and Netflix.

07 Jun

NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple

The Financial Times on Tuesday introduced a mobile Web application aimed at luring readers away from Apple’s iTunes App Store, throwing down the gauntlet over new business conditions that Apple is set to impose on publishers who sell digital subscriptions via iTunes.

A number of publishers have expressed their displeasure with Apple’s plan to retain 30 percent of the revenue from subscriptions sold on iTunes, and to keep customer data from such sales, beginning at the end of June. At the same time, mobile applications are a fast-growing source of new readers and revenue, so publishers have been reluctant to pull their applications from the iTunes store.

via NYTimes.com – Financial Times Introduces Web App in Effort to Bypass Apple. The first big name publisher to switch to a web app for publishing and not deal with Apple’s 30% cut.