Monthly Archives: July 2010

Mike Lee

I like this paragraph from a “long post by Mike Lee”:

“On any project, whether it’s a band performance or a team shipping, there’s a time to curse, and a time to praise. Someone who gets those in the right order is an inspiring leader. Someone who gets them backwards is just an asshole.”

As I mentioned on a recent “Core Intuition”: episode, I have a really hard time remembering who I meet unless I read their blog, or follow them on Twitter, or have heard about their reputation. None of these were true when I first met Mike Lee, walking to pizza one night at C4[1]. I didn’t even know at the time that he worked at Delicious Monster. But it didn’t matter because he essentially opened with: “I was hit by a car last week.”

Bam! World’s toughest programmer indeed, and now I’ll never forget his face or the conversation. We can’t all be as relentlessly passionate and memorable as Mike, but there is a lesson here in personal brand: finding what sets us apart from every other programmer and letting that shape our voice and the projects we work on.

iTunes password caching

“Mike Rohde racked up $190 in iTunes in-app purchases”: without knowing it, blaming an app called “Fishies”: by PlayMesh for tricking his son into purchasing virtual items without a password prompt. He was obviously pretty upset — I would be too! — but calling it a “scam” probably goes too far. So what really happened?

It is fairly well known that after the App Store prompts for your iTunes password, you can download more apps for a certain length of time (at least a few minutes) before it requires a password again. What seemed less clear is that this applies to in-app purchases as well.

To be sure, I ran a test to confirm the behavior:

  • Download a new free app from the App Store (I downloaded the current number 1 iPhone app, Farm Story Summer).

  • Enter your password to confirm the download.

  • As soon as it finishes, go to another completely different app (in my case it was Iconfactory’s Ramp Champ, which I had downloaded months ago).

  • Purchase an in-app virtual item.

  • It prompts for whether you want to buy the item (the standard Apple prompt), but without requiring a password.

What must have happened to Mike is that he bought something, entered his password, and then handed the iPad over to his son. His son played the fish game and clicked a bunch of random stuff (likely got the Buy prompt), but because the whole concept of virtual currency is kind of confusing, and because it didn’t ask for a password, the app happily let him make all the purchases.

I doubt the developer of this app did anything wrong. A reasonable argument could be made that iTunes should either not cache passwords at all, or keep a separate cache for app downloads vs. in-app purchases, or maybe always prompt for a password on in-app purchases. My kids and other kids I know have also used this backdoor trick to sneak a couple app downloads, but usually it’s a few bucks, not $190. Consumable virtual items (that you can keep buying over and over) make this problem much worse.

On “episode 60 of This Week In Startups”:, Jason Calacanis interviewed ngmoco founder Neil Young about the mobile game business, focusing on the hit iPhone/iPad game “We Rule”: I was stunned to learn from the show that some individuals spend not only hundreds of dollars but up to $10,000 on in-app purchases in We Rule. Neil Young was happy to take their money, but something feels wrong here, like a gambling addiction gotten way out of hand. Or maybe just kids running up their dad’s credit card bill.

iPhone 4

Alright, it’s been 2 weeks. How does the iPhone 4 hold up?

For me, there was less urgency to this launch then for previous iPhone releases. I wanted the 3GS on day one (video recording!) and of course I waited all afternoon for the original iPhone (shiny!). Likewise I couldn’t wait for the iPad. This time I viewed iMovie and FaceTime as the killer apps. Sign me up!

But I wasn’t willing to wait all day. I tried the same approach that had worked great for the iPad: show up late in the day after the madness has settled down. No luck this time. I waited about half an hour, then came back before closing and waited a couple more hours to get a voucher for the next day. Total wait time about 3.5 hours over 2 days and 3 visits.

To get it on day 1, most people waited 6 hours. I’m sure “John Gruber’s story on Flickr”: was common too.

This was Apple’s most poorly-managed launch I’ve been to. The 3GS line was pretty fast. For iPad it was extremely quick — in and out in half an hour. I mostly blame the extra step of requiring activation in-store, but there were enough problems that I think this whole thing was mismanaged somewhere.

Some of the inconsistent messages I heard depending on which Apple Store employee I talked to:

  • AT&T activation is not the bottleneck / yes it is.

  • We are selling 30 phones every 10 minutes / no idea how long the wait is.

  • We’ll shut down the line at 7pm and give out vouchers / staying open until 2am.

  • Vouchers will allow you to skip everyone else in line the next day / you’re guaranteed a phone but have to wait in line.

I also “collected a few tweets about the launch”:

Anyway, the phone. It’s the best phone I’ve ever seen. No question.

Now that some time has passed, I think I can comment on the reception issue. It’s real. Outside my house, I don’t notice it. But my street is a notoriously bad dead zone, and while I don’t get any more dropped calls than I used to, I can no longer hold the phone in the palm of my left hand when using mobile Safari. It’s pretty frustrating because I’ve been holding the phone this way for 3 years. It’s awkward to break the habit.

Having said that, I’ll close with the same thing I told strangers who came up asking about the phone. It’s easy to overlook the reception issue because of how great the rest of the phone is, and all existing iPhone users will love the iPhone 4. Eventually I’ll just cave in and buy a bumper.