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Original author: 
Nate Anderson

The ghost of Steve Jobs will not be pleased to see this.

Zack Henkel

Robert Silvie returned to his parents' home for a Mardi Gras visit this year and immediately noticed something strange: common websites like those belonging to Apple, Walmart, Target, Bing, and eBay were displaying unusual ads. Silvie knew that Bing, for instance, didn't run commodity banner ads along the bottom of its pristine home page—and yet, there they were. Somewhere between Silvie's computer and the Bing servers, something was injecting ads into the data passing through the tubes. Were his parents suffering from some kind of ad-serving malware infection? And if so, what else might the malware be watching—or stealing?

Around the same time, computer science PhD student Zack Henkel also returned to his parents' home for a spring break visit. After several hours of traveling, Henkel settled in with his computer to look up the specs for a Mac mini before bedtime. And then he saw the ads. On his personal blog, Henkel described the moment:

But as rendered in my browser, I realized I was in for a long night. What I saw was something that would make both designers and computer programmers wince with great displeasure. At the bottom of the carefully designed white and grey webpage, appeared a bright neon green banner advertisement proclaiming: “File For Free Online, H&R Block.” I quickly deduced that either Apple had entered in to the worst cross-promotional deal ever, or my computer was infected with some type of malware. Unfortunately, I would soon discover there was a third possibility, something much worse.

The ads unnerved both Silvie and Henkel, though neither set of parents had really noticed the issue. Silvie's parents "mostly use Facebook and their employers' e-mail," Silvie told me, and both those services use encrypted HTTPS connections—which are much harder to interfere with in transit. His parents probably saw no ads, therefore, and Silvie didn't bring it up because "I didn't want [them] to worry about it or ask me a lot of questions."

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Facebook Owns Your Phone (Fast Company)
Over the last couple of years, Facebook has packed its mobile apps with much of the same functionality as operating systems like Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, or Amazon’s version of Android for Kindle Fire. It has not, however, launched the Facebook phone that once seemed inevitable. That's because your phone already is a Facebook phone.

facebook apps

According to comScore, Facebook already owns 23 percent of time spent in apps on Android and iOS. It also owns Instagram, one of the apps with which mobile users spend the second most amount of time (it's tied with Gmail and YouTube at 3 percent). The more time the company controls on its competitors' phones, the less important it is that it doesn't have its own devices. Read >>

What's In Your Wallet? A Facebook Card? (The Huffington Post)
Facebook announced a major addition to their Gifts product on Jan. 31— Facebook Cards. Facebook Cards, as the name implies, are physical, multi-use gift cards that users can order for friends directly through Facebook. Facebook Cards uses the existing Facebook Gifts infrastructure to allow a user to send a Facebook Card with a credit from a participating retailer. The recipient is prompted to enter their mailing address (more data!) in order to receive the physical card. Facebook sees it as a multi-use, multi-retailer product. This nudges it up close to, but not fully into, the mobile wallet space. For one thing it's still a physical object and for another, Facebook has no immediate plans to allow users to load up dollars or deals, but this could change rapidly. Read >>

Facebook Can Totally Undermine Apple And Google (Wired)
We’re in uncharted territory here since platforms-on-top-of-platform configurations are relatively new. Yet we do have one related industry example that could shed some light on this case. It’s one of Japan’s leading mobile social game developers: GREE. GREE makes up to four times more average revenue per user (ARPU) than Zynga. And Facebook has far more reach than GREE. Given that social applications, and particularly games, are the most popular and highest revenue generators of all mobile applications— a Facebook multi-sided platform similar to GREE would divert a lot of value away from Apple’s and Google’s smartphone platforms. Read >>

Wall Street Rethinks Facebook Earnings (Reuters)
Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser upgraded Facebook to a "Buy" rating, calling Wall Street's reaction to the results "downright dazed." The stock market incorrectly interpreted Facebook's "mobile revenue figures as a negative when in fact they are part of a story that we can see as qualitatively more favorable," Wieser said. Shares of the company finished regular trading the day after earnings down 0.8 percent at $30.98. The company reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday and said mobile advertising revenue doubled to $306 million, suggesting it was making inroads into handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. Investors were looking for at least $350 million in mobile advertising revenue, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a note to clients.  Read >>

Developing A Strategic Social Media Plan For Your Business (Ahain Group)
After you’ve taken time to discover how customers would like you to engage on social media, you now need to develop a social media strategy that will generate meaningful and real returns for the business. The 10 steps in developing strategic social media are:

  1. Align with the business
  2. Discover opportunities
  3. Define goals
  4. Identify KPIs
  5. Assign values to KPIs
  6. Decide on channels
  7. Determine tactics
  8. Select analytics
  9. Roll out strategy
  10. Measure and refine

Quantifying an ROI from social media is only possible after you’ve developed a strategic plan that will make measurement both clear and easy. Read >>

Super Bowl, Commercials, And Social Media (NetBase)
Now that the game is over, here is what NetBase found about Super Bowl commercials during the last 24 hours:

  • Go Daddy (249,273 mentions: 14.67 percent positive)
  • Doritos (137,509 mentions, 90.87 percent pos)
  • Pepsi (47,176 mentions, 69.99 percent pos)
  • Volkswagen (31,052 mentions, 84.08 percent pos)
  • Budweiser (24,658 mentions, 83.37 percent pos)
  • Dodge Ram (19,619 mentions, 77.66 percent pos)
  • Taco Bell (19,783 mentions, 93.20 percent pos)
  • Calvin Klein (16,532 mentions, 75.17 percent pos)
  • NFL (Leon Sandcastle) (12,700 mentions, 91.54 percent pos)
  • Blackberry (10,773 mentions, 55.36 percent pos)

most buzzed about football commercials

The graphic compares 8 of the 15 most buzzed about commercials by mentions, sentiment and passion intensity. The amount of chatter about a brand is indicated by the size of the bubble, while the placement of the bubble shows the sentiment (from top to bottom) and the intensity of passion (from left to right). Read >>

How To Measure Social Media ROI (Jason Fox)
Is it enough to have a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, and a YouTube channel? To be putting original content onto each platform on a consistent basis. To be monitoring for comments and likes that you can connect with and create relationships. Maybe venturing out into less common social media channels like Pinterest or Google+. To be collecting Fans, Friends, Followers, and Likes with a reckless abandon. Possibly promoting an occasional Facebook post to maximize exposure. Is that enough? Perhaps it is to much. The only way to know for sure is to measure social media ROI:

social media solutions

No matter how you are using Social Media there is a way to measure its value.  Whether you interested in a general overview or you want to create a closed loop marketing campaign.  There is a system that will help you to Measure Social Media ROI. Read >>

Twitter Blew Out Facebook In The Super Bowl (Business Insider)
As the Baltimore Ravens were narrowly beating the San Francisco 49ers, Twitter featured in 26 out of 52 nationally aired advertisements, while Facebook only featured in four, and Google+ was not mentioned at all. YouTube and Instagram were mentioned once each, according to the website In last year’s Super Bowl, Twitter and Facebook tied with only eight mentions each out of a total of 59 advertisements. For Twitter, the change from eight mentions to 26 represents a gain of more than 300 percent. For Facebook, it is a 50 percent drop. Read >>

The Social Credit Card? (The Huffington Post)
BarclayCard tapped the power of the crowd (their card members) to collaborate on building a better credit card experience. They launched a community where card member could exchange ideas, vote on product features and earn "credits" for their participation. The result is BarclayCard Ring — the world's first community-designed credit card. Benefits include:

  1. Full transparency — insight into how Barclaycard Ring makes money, including metrics on Ring's financial performance.
  2. Continued influence over the offering — a chance to guide Ring's benefits, rates, rules and penalties through an idea submission and peer evaluation system.
  3. A share of Ring profits — including options to donate profits to community-chosen charities.
  4. A robust social experience — topical forums, ask-and-answer, idea-sharing, polls, blogs, and credits earned for community participation.

If your social strategy doesn't include new ways of thinking about how your social customers fit into your business, it better. 2013 will be a game-changing year for social media. Brands like Barclaycard who are serious about social will make sure of that. Read >>

Social Media Is Changing The Way You Fly (WFAA)
Airlines no longer just make money taking travelers where they want to go. Some carriers now show up where their passengers already are. Southwest has six employees dedicated to social media, often only during regular business hours. The airline created its team by drawing employees from different departments, including customer service, marketing, and communications. This team doesn't just respond to questions, comments, and criticism on Twitter. Southwest employees also rebook flights, track bags, and issue travel vouchers all in 140 characters or less. Airline customer service has always been a thankless job. But its presence on social media continues to evolve as the power of participating for passengers does, too. Read >>

Social Media vs. Email: Which One Is Best For Your Business? (Publicity Mag)
The following infographic shows the peculiarities of social media and email. The stats are a bit dated, but you can get a fair idea about the power of both tools. Read >>

social media vs email

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TEDxHackney - Dr David Hamilton - Why kindness is good for you.

After completing his PhD, David worked for four years in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. During this time he also served as an athletics coach and manager of one of the UK's largest athletics clubs, leading them to three successive UK finals. Upon leaving the pharmaceutical industry, David co-founded the international relief charity Spirit Aid Foundation and served as a director for two years. He is now a bestselling author of seven books published by Hay House and also writes a regular blog for the Huffington Post.

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Most apps fail. This cruel reality has led many disillusioned developers to conclude, often subconsciously, that succeeding on the App Store is like striking it rich in the gold rush: you just need to get lucky.

The App Success Formula.

The idea of luck is a dangerous sedative to ease the pain of failure. Pain is a good thing. It shows something is wrong. If my app fails, I want to know why. Instead of blaming forces beyond our control, why not look at what folks like tap tap tap and Tapbots are doing to succeed again and again and again.

While applying this formula flawlessly is nearly impossible, working towards it will dramatically increase your chances of success. These concepts are based on the iOS platform, but many of the principles apply to other platforms as well.


Any successful app rests on the foundation of a solid idea, because the idea determines the ultimate potential of the execution. Avoid the temptation of jumping straight into execution after having an epiphany in the shower. A little bit of research up front can save you a lot of pain down the road.

Find a Vacuum


Phill Ryu (@phillryu) has an impressively consistent track record of top apps: Clear, The Heist and Classics, to name a few. His secret for validating ideas is pretty simple: find a vacuum. The App Store houses a plethora of quality, user experience and innovation vacuums. Vacuums are cool because they inherently want to be filled. A few examples:

Clear, Tweetbot and iTranslate Voice.
Clear, Tweetbot and iTranslate Voice.

Clear: among thousands of to-do apps, Clear filled a user interface (UI) innovation vacuum. Entering a crowded category seems counter-intuitive, but the biggest categories provide the biggest opportunities if you can innovate within them.

Tweetbot: Twitter bought Tweetie and dumbed it down to appeal to the masses. Tweetbot filled the Twitter power user vacuum.

iTranslate Voice: The release of Siri intrigued the world, instantly generating a vacuum for apps like iTranslate Voice that behaved like Siri but offered different functionality. Every new technology introduces a new vacuum along with it.

For sure, the low-hanging fruit is gone, but there are still tons of vacuums out there, particularly in the design department. Find a vacuum that you are passionate about and fill it.

Show Me the Money

Most apps don’t make money. If revenue is important to you, it is worth exploring what kind of apps make money and what kind of apps don’t. Building on Marco Arment’s theory of two app stores, I postulate that three categories of apps make money, and one category doesn’t.

Apps can be divided into categories by profit per user and number of downloads.
Apps can be divided into categories by profit per user and number of downloads. Large view.

Hit Apps:

  • High volume, low price;
  • Appeal to almost everybody, targeting impulse purchasers who browse the top charts and featured lists;
  • Huge launches based on intense marketing campaigns;
  • Require tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of downloads to generate significant profit.

Examples: Clear ($3) and iTranslate ($1).

Premium Niche Apps:

  • Low volume, high price;
  • Target a serious niche;
  • Users find the app through thorough research and are willing to pay big bucks to improve their lives;
  • A large profit per user makes traditional customer acquisition methods (i.e. pay-per-click ads) viable and scalable.

Examples: OmniFocus ($10) and Proloquo2Go ($190).

Premium Hit Apps:

  • High volume and high profit per user;
  • The only viable space for funded startups that need to turn a big profit;
  • Rare but rewarding.

Examples: TomTom GPS ($50), Pandora (monthly $3.99 subscription) and freemium games that make a huge average profit per user through addictive add-ons and credits.

Most Apps Fail:

  • Low volume and low profit per user;
  • Even if such an app garners some attention, the limited appeal and low price limit significant success.

Developers read inspiring stories of app millionaires, look at the astounding number of devices being sold every day and develop grossly optimistic back-of-the-napkin download projections for their relatively niche apps. They conclude that if they could only capture a fraction of a percent of the market, they could sell their app at $0.99 and make a fortune.

It just doesn’t work that way. The brutal reality kicks in when the first day of sales generates six downloads, mostly from friends and family. The app idea might have scratched their itch, but it was just too niche to be a hit.

Your app idea probably falls into this category. Don’t ignore this.

Building an app that makes money is hard. David Barnard, the brilliant mind behind App Cubby, suggests that the future of sustainable revenues may lie in true freemium, scaling the cost with the value derived. Generate lots of downloads and creatively find ways to let users who find more value pay more for it. These kinds of creative monetization ideas are relatively untested for non-game apps, but that’s what makes this industry so exciting.

Make a Statement

No, I mean, literally, write something down. Whittle your idea down to its core and create one sentence that defines your app and its target market. Apple does this for their internal apps and you should do it too.

For example:

“Grades shows college students what score they need to aim for on their next exam.”

If you cannot explain the basic value of your idea in one sentence, it’s too complex. Mobile apps need to focus on doing one task extremely well, because your target market must instantly desire your app after seeing one screenshot.

After defining the app’s core, check every feature idea against this core and remove the cruft.


Apple’s culture revolves around design excellence. It’s no coincidence the apps Apple showcases are always well designed. Design is the most critical component in building a successful app.

Don’t Make Me Think

Like websites, apps are incredibly disposable. If an app doesn’t make sense immediately, users feel little pain in deleting it. The title of Steve Krug’s popular book encapsulates our task as usability designers: don’t make me think. Like a well-designed doorknob, the interface itself implicitly explains its own use and value.

A few points to that end:

Kill the Baby
Every cool feature idea inevitably adds complexity to the app. Strip the app, the screens and even the elements within each screen to their essence. Good design is more about saying no to good ideas than it is about generating them.

The to-do list app on the left let cool features get in the way of the core experience.<br /><br />
Clear (right) questioned everything and only the essence survived.
The to-do list app on the left let cool features get in the way of the core experience.
Clear (right) questioned everything and only the essence survived.

Consider UI Conventions
Users have certain expectations about how the UI on their devices should behave based on the conventions they see in the operating system and the primary apps they use every day. Pay attention to the UI guidelines (iOS Human Interface Guidelines, Android User Interface Guidelines) and be sure to understand a convention before ignoring it.

In an attempt to look unique, the grade input interface on the left neglects basic navigation conventions. A similar screen from my app, Grades, applies a unique skin to familiar iOS interface conventions.
In an attempt to look unique, the grade input interface on the left neglects basic navigation conventions. A similar screen from my app, Grades, applies a unique skin to familiar iOS interface conventions.

Think Like a Human
Users have models in their head about the way the world works. Don’t design according to your database or programming limitations, but according to how the user thinks about things.

RedLaser’s scanning interface initially required users to take a picture of the barcode they were interested in (left). The app went viral when they changed the interface to match how a real barcode scanner works. Hover, beep, you're done (right).
RedLaser’s scanning interface initially required users to take a picture of the barcode they were interested in (left). The app went viral when they changed the interface to match how a real barcode scanner works. Hover, beep, you’re done (right).

Don’t Make Me Work
Users are lazy. They don’t want to read instructions and they hate typing. The best apps figure out the absolute minimum the user needs to do for the app to function.

TripIt is great but the opening screen offers little motivation for users to sign up. If an app works without an account, let users explore the app and sign up later; otherwise provide an appealing walkthrough to entice users to sign up like TuneWiki.
TripIt (left) is great but the opening screen offers little motivation for users to sign up. If an app works without an account, let users explore the app and sign up later; otherwise provide an appealing walkthrough to entice users to sign up like TuneWiki (right).

Do Usability Testing
Don’t let eye scanning and focus groups intimidate you. Do whatever you can! Most basic usability problems surface by simply getting the interface in front of some potential users. Ask a few questions (“what do you think this app does? How might you do X task?”), and watch them. Do it early and often throughout the entire design and development process.

Get Emotional

The sliding pane opening animation in Weightbot, the humorous copy in Everyday, the satisfying ascending charms when you check off items in Clear; though offering little utility, these tiny details elicit a powerful emotional response. These apps exhibit a personality. You either love them or you hate them, but you definitely don’t forget them and you are much more likely to share them.

Usable isn’t good enough any more. The best apps go the extra thousand miles to pay attention to the details that make an app enjoyable. Simon Schmid wrote a thorough treatment on emotional design, but here are some basic points relating to apps.

Visuals Matter
Beautiful apps sell better, are more enjoyable to use and feel more valuable than bland apps. Though beauty can be found in rich gradients, textures and shadows, strive for the subtler attributes of elegance, readability and tasteful layout. Use skeuomorphism (UI that mimics physical objects) only where it enriches the experience and doesn’t distract from it. If you’re unfamiliar with basic graphic design principles, The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams is a great place to start.

Paper for iPad by Fifty Three.
Paper for iPad by Fifty Three.

Experiment With Sound
Sound in a UI is a delicate, powerful and largely unexplored tool. Experiment to see if sounds can improve your app.

Tapbots’ apps beep, click and buzz just like you would expect from robotic controls.
Tapbots’ apps beep, click and buzz just like you would expect from robotic controls.

Touch Is Magic
Apple’s engineers don’t stop working until their products feel right. It’s why the first iPhone’s bouncy scrolling “scrolls like butter.” If an object doesn’t respond immediately to the touch, it reminds you that you are using a computer and not actually directly manipulating the object.

All pictures and objects in Our Choice can be directly manipulated with your fingers.
All pictures and objects in Our Choice can be directly manipulated with your fingers.

Gestures can provide a powerful connection between the interface and the user but can also be frustratingly undiscoverable if not implemented correctly. Experiment with new interactions and don’t stop working until every interaction, transition and metaphor makes sense and feels right.

Spice Up Your Words
Users generally dislike instructional copy, error messages and notifications. Why not make their day by writing quirky, witty or maybe even humorous copy! Users will appreciate the unexpected pleasure.

In my latest app, Languages, a witty error message not only softened the blow of a download error, but made people want to tweet about the experience.
In my latest app, Languages, a witty error message not only softened the blow of a download error, but made people want to tweet about the experience.

Animate With Class
Whether it’s elements moving on the screen or transitions between screens, animation can express personality and give users a sense of continuity and polish as they navigate the app.

Users opening Weightbot for the first time enjoy watching the bot unlocking itself.
Users opening Weightbot for the first time enjoy watching the bot unlocking itself.

Don’t Neglect Your Icon
The icon is most people’s first impression of your app. It also occupies a space on users’ precious home screen. The best icons are simple but memorable; they stand out without being garish. The icon should look beautiful at large sizes, yet iconic enough to be recognized within an app folder on the home screen.

Clear’s icon stands out using a bright color scheme and one simple shape. The icon on the right has too many conflicting colors and shapes to be recognizable or attractive.
Clear’s icon (left) stands out using a bright color scheme and one simple shape. The icon on the right has too many conflicting colors and shapes to be recognizable or attractive.


Your technical choices influence the experience of the app, and thus, its success on the App Store.

Go Native

The “build once, deploy everywhere” method is a terrific recipe for mediocre apps.

To start, the method itself is a myth. Different operating systems have different UI conventions and patterns. With the exception of games where a custom interface is desired, one interface that deploys to all platforms results in a foreign experience on each platform.

Facebook tried HTML5 for years. When they recently switched to native code, they were able to improve performance by 200% and increase their average user rating from two stars to four stars.
Facebook tried HTML5 for years. When they recently switched to native code, they were able to improve performance by 200% and increase their average user rating from two stars to four stars.

At very best, we can build once and optimize everywhere. Apps like Zipcar have successfully used this approach. Unfortunately, Zipcar is an exception to the rule of suboptimal apps built using this approach. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Build once, optimize everywhere encourages a bottom-up design approach where the programming heavily constrains the design of the app. It stifles design innovation by tempting you to cut corners in order to satisfy the lowest common denominator.
  • Technologies like PhoneGap essentially turn your app into a browser window that runs JavaScript code. Avoid these. JavaScript apps tend to feel slow, choppy, unnatural and error-ridden because JavaScript just isn’t ready to match native experiences.
  • Tools like Appcelerator compile native code. These perform much better but still lack the flexibility and robustness of pure native code. Since you do not have direct access to the code that is running on the phone, errors can be more difficult to locate and squash. They can also make it difficult to implement new technologies right away, giving you a disadvantage against competitors who can tie into new technologies from the day they are announced.
  • The bottom line: choose your technology based on the design, not your design based on your technology. Design your apps for the various platforms first. Then see if something like Appcelerator is capable of executing those designs without compromise.

For an in-depth view of cross-platform trade-offs, read Aral Balkan’s comprehensive treatment on the subject.

Code Quality Matters

While perfectly-formed, well-documented code does not directly affect the user, it certainly affects your ability to push out timely, robust updates, something that can be critical to continued success.

In addition, laggy, bug-ridden code definitely affects the user. The user doesn’t care if there is a good reason why the app crashed or deleted their data — it’s still the brand’s fault. I have seen cases where this alone has stolen the thunder out of the launch of otherwise promising apps.

Hourly rates can be deceiving. In the time it takes a poor coder to build one component sloppily, a quality coder can build three components robustly. If you decide you don’t like the poor coder, a new coder will most likely have to start from scratch because the legacy code only makes sense to its author. On the other hand, quality code can be reused and built upon easily.


If you have a marketing department, good for you, but grassroots marketing by a developer or a designer can often be even more effective. Believe me, when I started, my name didn’t mean anything to anybody that mattered. Now my work has been featured by Apple, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, Fox News and dozens more. All this without spending a dime on marketing, aside from a few website costs.

Start Early

Many developers think of marketing as something to do after an app launches. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A huge launch is critical, especially for inexpensive apps. If your launch does not propel your app into the top charts, the app will most likely fade into oblivion almost instantly amidst the thousands of apps launching every week. An app that is not on a top chart is nearly invisible to most consumers.

After the launch, a review here and there doesn’t help much to propel your app up the charts. It’s just the way the App Store rankings work. Ranking algorithms constantly change but they are roughly based on sales in a window of time, say four days, weighted towards the latest day. This means that marketing you do today will not affect your ranking a week from now, making fragmented press all but worthless. Only concentrated marketing blasts work. The launch constitutes your number one chance to show your app to the world in a concentrated way.

With this in view, App Savvy author Ken Yarmosh characterizes the marketing of apps as a crescendo. Marketing an app should start at the very beginning and continually develop as it consummates in a huge launch blast.

Make Friends

Connections are everything. They power your marketing machine. No connections means no warm doors, and, with thousands of apps vying for press attention every week, a warm door is gold.

I have created Twitter lists of Apple employees, members of the press and remarkable iOS developers to help me find opportunities to connect. Feel free to use them!
I have created Twitter lists of Apple employees, members of the press and remarkable iOS developers to help me find opportunities to connect. Feel free to use them!

Connect With Apple Employees, Tech Writers and Influential Designers and Developers in the Community
Realize that actual human beings run companies like Apple, TechCrunch and tap tap tap. A lot of these people are really cool and love to meet and promote people with great products and ideas. Make a list of people to connect with and actively seek opportunities to do so.

Go Where They Are

  • Twitter is a good place to start — nearly every influencer in the tech industry tweets.
  • Commenting on influential blogs or emailing the author can be a great way to initiate contact.
  • Face-to-face connections are the most powerful, so be sure to hit up the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and other conferences that the Apple community tends to congregate at. Local meetups are also a great place to meet people.

Be Cool, Don’t Spam
Just because you get the opportunity to talk to someone doesn’t mean they are instantly interested in your pitch. Build a meaningful connection first. Then they’ll be asking you what cool things you’re up to. When you do show off some work, do it in the way of seeking advice and feedback rather than pitching. It comes off better and often elicits great feedback.

Give and You Shall Receive
Build meaningful connections with people by getting into their mind and thinking about their needs and wants. Maybe an influential person asks a technical question on Twitter that you know the answer to, or writes a post you have thoughts on. Be sure to respond! Do this a few times and they might just notice. Finally, remember that people have egos — be sure to let them know when you appreciate their work.

Post Interesting Stuff
Link to insightful articles and maybe even write your own blog with the things you learn about. People love to read honest journaling and analysis of apps. Websites like iDevBlogADay promote your articles to the community.

Build Buzz

You don’t want your launch to fall flat, so a few weeks before launch, start revving up the hype machine. The idea is to build up a fan base who will be the first to download your app on launch day.

Teaser websites like this one can help build anticipation and collect email addresses.
Teaser websites like this one can help build anticipation and collect email addresses. Large view.

  • Set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for your app. This gives potential fans an easy way to follow and mention your app. Use the account to post sneak peeks, updates on progress and contests. You can even use the account to follow people you think might be interested in the app. They’ll see you’re following them and might even check the app out.
  • Build a teaser website with a form to sign up to your mailing list. Include something to entice people — an attractive Web design, a beautiful screenshot and maybe even a video.
  • Create a video. Nothing builds buzz like a well-done video. The buzz behind the Clear video exemplifies that. It’s also an easy way to show the press what your app is all about.
  • Run a private beta. Your beta testers will be your biggest fans going into launch because they feel invested in the development of the app.

Get Featured

After winning an Apple Design Award, my app was featured in nearly every tech publication I had ever hoped for, but all that press combined generated fewer downloads than when Apple featured it.

So how does one get featured by Apple? Thousands of apps come out every week, and only a select few find a place on the App Store homepage.

Only a small number of apps are featured on the Apple App Store homepage.
Only a small number of apps are featured on the Apple App Store homepage.

First, the app has to be “featureable.” It must interest Apple in some way. Does it have a polished design? Does it show off the Apple platform? Is it something you cannot find on other platforms? Any of these characteristics boost your chances. The good news is that out of the thousands of apps coming out, very few feature the kind of design discussed here, making it relatively easy to stand out.

Second, you need to get Apple’s attention. Making connections within Apple can be invaluable. As a general rule, though, you need to make your own splash before Apple will make you a bigger one. Apple has an editorial team. They find apps to feature. You need to get to the places they are looking. Based on my experiences, they probably look at new apps that are “charting” — moving up the charts. For that, you need to generate a good number of launch-day sales. It takes at least a few hundred sales to chart in most categories. Besides that, think of the places you might go to find new quality apps; they probably visit the same websites.

Pitch the Press

Press reviews help establish credibility, an initial stream of downloads and visibility to influential people or Apple employees. Seek press attention at least a week or two before launch — these people are busy and you want to try to have reviews lined up to publish on launch day.

Getting the press to review your app is an important part of a good marketing strategy.
Getting the press to review your app is an important part of a good marketing strategy.

This is the part where you contact all those really great friends you’ve made within the press and tech community, giving them a sneak peek of your app and asking if they want to hear more.

After exhausting your warm doors, start cold calling. Have a story, keep it short, make it personal and don’t forget to follow up.

Build a Fan Base

The most powerful app company is one with a fan base. Sonico Mobile, a partner on our latest app, Languages, recently released an app called iTranslate Voice. The app became an instant #1 hit with very little promotion from the press or Apple. How? Sonico advertised iTranslate Voice to their 30 million strong iTranslate user base and sent out an email to their massive mailing list.

All of Sonico's apps allow users to easily follow the company on Twitter or subscribe to their mailing list.
All of Sonico’s apps allow users to easily follow the company on Twitter or subscribe to their mailing list.

A fan base takes time to develop. Be sure to make it easy for fans to join your mailing list, like your Facebook page and follow your Twitter account. In addition, consider a mass-market free app as part of a strategy to gain millions of fans. Ad bartering services like Swappit allow you to build up ad impression credits and use them all at once on a big launch.


Success is measured in different ways. The first version of Grades made less than $10,000, but it was a stepping-stone to an Apple Design Award, and dozens of invaluable connections. Now our company is positioned to launch top-selling apps like Languages, which is more than making up for Grades pecuniary issues.

Monetary success is hard, but it gets easier as you go. As you consistently produce quality apps, your brand becomes recognized by the press and Apple, your team gains critical hands-on experience and you develop a fan base. This is definitely a long-term game, but the payoff can be incredible. It’s a great feeling to know that millions of people are enjoying the fruit of your hard work. Learn the lessons, don’t compromise and make a dent in the universe.


© Jeremy Olson for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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That crazy leap that Felix Baumgartner made was astonishing.

And if you’re interested in the future of Web video, YouTube’s ability to serve up eight million livestreams at the same time is a really big deal, too.

As I noted yesterday, that number blows away YouTube’s previous peak of 500,000 concurrent streams, which it hit this summer during the Olympics, as well as last year during the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

So it doesn’t take much imagination to envision YouTube doing this kind of stuff, at this scale, on a regular basis. Which would mean the Web finally has a chance to rival TV when it comes to serving up live events with huge audiences — one of TV’s last remaining advantages over the Internet.

That won’t happen anytime soon, though. Death-defying jumps from outer space aside, there are only a few live events that millions of people want to watch at the same time. Basically, a handful of award shows like the Oscars, and big-time sports.

Even if YouTube wanted to pay up to get its hands on that programming, it’s going to have to wait, because the TV guys have the rights locked up for a long time. The next set of NFL deals, for instance, won’t be available for a decade.

But YouTube is still going to be an important platform for live stuff. It’s just that you probably won’t see most of it, unless you’re in a very particular niche.

Here’s some of the stuff YouTube has streamed live in the last year or so:

  • A concert from Psy, the “Gangnam style” guy
  • A concert from AKB48, a Japanese girl group
  • A bunch of EDM shows (that’s “DJs playing music for big crowds,” for the rest of us)
  • A concert by Jay-Z at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn
  • A World of Warcraft launch event, which featured gamers playing Mists of Pandaria around the world
  • A bunch of solar and lunar eclipses

None of these shows drew more than a couple-hundred-thousand concurrent viewers, which would make them the equivalent of a poorly rated cable TV show.

And that makes sense: Since the Internet has trained us to watch anything we want, whenever we want to, why do we have to watch when everyone else does? (A semi-secret about the live video streaming that news sites like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal* and the Huffington Post do, for instance: Almost all the viewing comes after the fact, via on-demand clips.)

On the other hand, as YouTube proved conclusively yesterday, it can now mount this stuff without breaking a sweat. Now it’s basically a plug-and-play option for any grown-up company that wants to do business with Google. And YouTube is going to make it increasingly available to the rest of us, too.

That’s the result of a year of around-the-clock work by a couple-dozen YouTube engineers, to prep the video site for the Olympics in July.

YouTube software engineering director Jason Gaedtke,who oversaw that effort, says the livestreams the company put out during the Olympics were seven times better than the standard video-on-demand stuff YouTube puts out everyday. His team is now applying the lessons it learned from that effort, and using it to upgrade YouTube’s video more broadly.

So, yes. If someone else wants to grab the world’s attention by breaking the sound barrier aided only by gravity, you’ll be able to watch it alongside a global audience of millions.

But the future of live video on YouTube is probably going to look like something else: You and several thousand other people, watching something most of the world doesn’t care about.

And that can be thrilling in its own way.

*The Journal is owned by News Corp., which also owns this Web site.

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Rian Johnson‘s third film Looper came in as my most anticipated movie of 2012. While so many other films from that list have fallen short in my estimation, I can say that Looper is an excellent film, surprising and thrilling, and a great example of science fiction. This is not a Looper review; that will come shortly.

But the artist Martin Ansin, who has done some great posters for Mondo, is kicking off the Fantastic Fest poster series with a new poster for Looper, created to celebrate the film’s place on the Fantastic Fest schedule. Along with that we’ve got The Psychology of Dream Analysis, which is a short that Johnson co-wrote and directed a decade ago, during the period when Looper first began to gestate as the idea for a short film. Check out both items below.

The Psychology of Dream Analysis, was made many years ago, before Johnson made Brick. We’re reminded of it now because it came up in a great conversation The Verge had with the filmmaker. For those who are fans of Johnson’s work but haven’t yet seen this short, it’s ten minutes well spent.

Ansin’s poster, meanwhile, was released via The Huffington Post. Here are the regular and variant versions, both of which will presumably be available at Fantastic Fest, and likely eventually online.


Oh, and while thinking about Looper over the past couple days I started wondering what happened to the rumored alternate cut of the film that would (slightly) emphasize the material shot in China. (Which is a relatively small part of the film from the perspective of running time, even as it is an important thematic point.)

I asked Johnson about that via Twitter, and he said,

@russfischer Yes, but only in China. It’s a few minutes longer.

— Rian Johnson (@rcjohnso) September 14, 2012

He later added, “The US cut is better, IMHO. It’s definitely my cut.” Hopefully we’ll see that extra material on the Blu and DVD release of the film. Looper opens in a regular engagement on September 28.

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On a warm summer day in 2002, in Charlevoix, Michigan, Richard Joseph’s bad luck began. The lawyer, husband, and father of two was walking across the driveway with a bag of garbage when his bare foot slipped in a puddle of water that had collected beneath his car’s air conditioner. His leg gave out and he landed on his back. While nothing was broken, the blow prevented blood from reaching his spinal cord. He laid there for an hour, unable to move, while his daughters watched television in the living room. By the time he was discovered, the damage had been done. He'd never walk again.

Eventually, Joseph would make it back to work at his law firm, although he couldn’t keep up his old pace. By August 2007, complications prevented him...

Continue reading…

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“YOLO” is an acronym for the phrase “you only live once”, which is often used as a hashtag on Twitter to bring attention to exciting events or excuse irresponsible behaviors. The acronym was popularized in 2011 after being featured in the hip hop single “The Motto” by Drake. In November 2012, the Oxford American Dictionaries included the slang term “YOLO” in its shortlist for the 2012 English Word of the Year.


The earliest known use of the acronym is attributed to Adam Mesh from the third season of the NBC reality show The Average Joe. Mesh launched the “You Only Live Once” (YOLO) clothing line on March 20th, 2004.[2]


The first Urban Dictionary[1] definition was submitted by user Colin on April 6th, 2004. The promotion website for San Francisco’s nightlife event YoloSF[5] was launched on November 10th, 2005. In July of 2006, the American indie rock band The Strokes launched a promotional campaign called “Operation YOLO” prompting fans to request their 2006 single “You Only Live Once” (shown left) on radio stations. The life coaching site YOLO Coaching[4] was registered on June 1st, 2007. On March 14th, 2008, YouTuber JCVdude uploaded a video titled “YOLO ‘you only live once’ JCV” (shown right) outlining his philosophy of living life to the fullest.

On October 4th, 2009, the weather forecast site Weather Underground[6] blogger Beachfoxx published a post titled “Friends……YOLO – You Only Live Once.” On July 27th, 2010, an infant bodysuit with the words “YOLO You Only Live Once” screenprinted on the front was submitted to the online retailer Cafe Press.[7] On December 16th, 2011, The Huffington Post published a photo of the American actor Zac Efron with “YOLO” tattooed on his right hand. A Facebook[3] page for the acronym has 3,725 likes as of March 5th, 2012.


The Motto

The acronym was used in the 2011 hip hop single “The Motto” by Canadian recording artist Drake featuring Lil Wayne. On October 23rd, 2011, Drake posted a tweet using the word accompanied by a photo of himself standing on a balcony.

The now defunct Twitter analytics site Trendistic reported that tweets with the keyword “yolo” rose significantly on October 24th, one day after Drake tweeted the photo from his balcony. In addition, Google Insights graph also indicates that search queries for the keyword “YOLO” began to rise drastically between October and November 2011. The song was officially released on November 29th and was followed by the official music video on February 10th, 2012. In just 21 days, the video accumulated over 450,000 views.

“Now she want a photo, you already know, though
You only live once: that’s the motto nigga, YOLO”


On November 29th, 2011, YouTuber iBeChucks uploaded a video (shown left) complaining about the use of the word soon after the release of Drake’s song. On February 29th, 2012, YouTuber ThisIsACommentary (shown right) uploaded a video titled “Yolo These Days” in which he criticized the word’s sudden rise in popularity and compared it to the word swag.

Notable Examples


On June 17th, 2012, Redditor pigpen5 submitted a post titled “This is the first ad for an Anti-Yolo campaign a friend of mine is trying to start”[8], which highlighted a picture of a woman looking at a pregnancy test with the caption “Nine months from now #YOLO Just wont be as cool as you thought it was.” Within one month, the post received over 16,000 up votes and 700 comments. In the following days, the image was reposted to the viral content site Buzzfeed[10] and the Cheezburger site FAIL Blog.[9]

On June 28th, 2012, BuzzFeed[11] published a post titled "10 Phrases You Can Say Instead of “YOLO”, which included several alternative expressions with similar meanings to the acronym. On July 8th, BuzzFeed[12] published a post titled “20 Different YOLO-stragrams”, which highlighted several Instagram photos that have been tagged “#yolo.”

On July 14th, the Internet humor site Cracked[14] published a blog post titled “5 Reasons the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Meme is Wrong”, which included an infographic with fictional characters who have lived more than once. On July 20th, the New York Times[13] published a blog post titled “#YOLO”, which highlighted several tweets mocking the use of the hashtag on Twitter.

Twitter Feed

Search Interest

External References

[1]Urban Dictionary – Yolo

[2]Alexander Interactive – Yolo Clothing launches online store

[3]Facebook – Y.O.L.O

[4]YOLO Coaching – Yolo Coaching

[5]YoloSF – Yolo SF

[6]W Underground – YOLO – You Only Live Once

[7]Cafe Press – YOLO you only live once

[8]Reddit – This is the first ad for an antiyolo campaign

[9]FAIL BLog – Parenting Fails No YOLO

[10]BuzzFeed – Anti-YOLO Campaign

[11]BuzzFeed – 10 Phrases You Can Say Instead of YOLO

[12]BuzzFeed – 20 Different YOLO-stragrams

[13]New York Times – #YOLO

[14]Cracked – 5 Reasons the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Meme Is Wrong

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