Monthly Archives: October 2010

Laughing at the guidelines

Apple’s announcement yesterday of a Mac App Store is big news. As soon as the event was over, journalists reached out to developers to get feedback on what it means for existing Mac shops. Reading the variety of responses is fascinating to me, and I contributed some quotes for articles in “Macworld”: and “Cult of Mac”: There’s also a “write-up on Ars”:

Here’s “Wolf’s take on the guidelines”:

“My fellow Mac developers are laughing at the Mac App Store guidelines. They’re reporting that apps they’ve been shipping for years — a number of them Apple Design Award-winning — would be rejected from the Mac App Store. These are proven apps, beloved by their users. The current guidelines are clearly out-of-touch.”

Every developer I’ve talked to uses at least some private APIs on the Mac, often to work around bugs or limitations in current APIs. It’s disappointing that the Mac App Store is shipping before 10.7, because 10.7 would be a good opportunity to find out why developers still need private APIs and bake support directly into the next version of Mac OS X to solve common issues.

Can you imagine such rock-solid apps as BBEdit or Transmit being rejected from the Mac App Store? It’s going to be a lonely launch day full of hasty iOS ports if Apple doesn’t show some common sense when approving Mac apps.

Free 1-star reviews

Before I released “Tweet Library”:, I talked to everyone who would listen about the price. Several people suggested I go with a free app, but use in-app purchase to upgrade to the full version. Two apps that handle this well include “Twitterrific”: and “SimpleNote”: Countless games also take this approach.

It’s the closest thing the App Store has to demos, but it comes at a cost: anyone can leave a 1-star “too expensive” review of your app without even upgrading to the full version. At that point they are not even rating the app they downloaded (a free, limited version that probably works just fine); they are simply commenting on a portion of the app they didn’t want to buy.

There are two ways to give me feedback about Tweet Library:

  • Email support, post to Twitter, or write on your blog about the software. This is free.

  • Leave a review in the App Store. This is $9.99.

I’m very comfortable with this model. The quality of feedback I get in email is extremely high, whether the customer has bought the app or not, and the App Store reviews aren’t cluttered with pricing rants.

Tweet Library 1.0

If you purchased, tweeted, blogged about, rated, or mentioned Tweet Library thank you. I’ve been very happy to see how well it is being received. I built this app because I wanted to do more with Twitter, but I didn’t really know until it was released if anyone else would care.

The truth is, I released it a tiny bit too early — there are a few annoying bugs that I’ll need to fix soon for 1.0.1 — but it was a long development cycle, and faced with getting burned out on a project the only thing I know how to do is ship it. Then I can use the reaction from real customers to tell me if I’m on the right track and where to go next.

I’ve already blogged about the pricing and viability of third-party Twitter apps, though I hadn’t officially announced the app yet:

“When Twitter for iPad shipped it jumped to the number 1 spot in free apps, but maybe you don’t have to compete directly with that. Maybe if you hold your ground somewhere in the top paid list, that’s enough to find an audience.”

Tweet Library has only been out for 3 full days, and I don’t want to jinx it, but so far this theory is holding. The app went to #2 for top grossing iPad apps in social networking in the first day. I didn’t expect that, but at $10 I can see how it might happen. Then it also climbed to #2 in top paid iPad apps in the same category, and stayed there for a couple days before dropping to #3 as I write this. The only other Twitter apps in any of the top 10 lists for iPad are Twitter’s official app and TweetDeck, both free.

Let me repeat that because it kind of blows my mind a little: Tweet Library has been the best-selling iPad Twitter app since it was released.

How did I successfully ship an app in a crowded market at literally 2x the price of any other app? Two things:

Refuse to compete on price. I felt so strongly about this that I was willing to launch and fail. If the App Store couldn’t support $10 Twitter apps, then I would bow out. I saw in a comment on TUAW that someone would wait until the price lowered, but I hope to avoid the pricing gimmicks common to the App Store. There’s no intro price for Tweet Library, and the price is not going to change. I believe consistency is the best long-term plan for app pricing.

Market the app as something new first and yet another Twitter app second. I believe the key to selling Tweet Library is to focus the marketing around what makes it special: archiving tweets, curating tweets, filtering tweets. Yes, you can also post to Twitter and see mentions or reply to DMs, but that is just the price to get in the door. Tweet Library doesn’t do those common tasks perfectly yet, but customers seem willing to cut me some slack because of all the other unique features that the app offers.

So, up next I’m going to fix bugs, and I’m going to add features, and I’m going to listen to customers. I’m sure it will soon drop out of the top 10 and other Twitter apps will take its place, but I feel like the launch was strong enough to prove that I’ve got something. I intend to carve out a little niche in the Twitter market and execute on it.

EE tweets

I submitted my new iPad app to Apple earlier this week. It hasn’t been reviewed yet, but Ryan Irelan has been using the beta to curate a “collection of ExpressionEngine conference tweets over on the EE Insider blog”: The app may still only be in the hands of my friends and beta testers, but it’s great to see how it could be used in the real world.

So that’s one feature of the app: grouping tweets together around topics, events, conferences, categories, whatever, and then publishing them with one click so they can be shared with friends and indexed by Google. There’s more of course. I’ll be getting the marketing web site up soon, and a screencast too, hopefully before the app is approved! Although I’m quick to complain about App Store review delays, in this case I’m counting on a week delay so that I can get my act together.