Benefits of providing customer support

Doing customer support can bring more benefits than just another happy customer.

An interaction with a customer of your application can lead to:

  • Understanding what the customers want from your application
  • Learning where customers learned about your application
  • Ideas for future features
  • Recognizing which problems return with different customers
  • Leads to other customers
  • New vectors for marketing
  • Fixing the underlying issue for the above problem or otherwise reducing this support request in the future
  • Writing an FAQ article
  • Creating a how-to-video for the issue
  • Publishing the above video on YouTube
  • Publishing an article explaining this video on the blog
  • Tweeting and posting on Facebook about the article on the blog
  • Mentioning it in the newsletter as a tip, perhaps
  • Writing an article on the blog about how customer support can benefit you
  • Tweeting about the above article

Song: App Oddity

I made another musical video. This time I remade David Bowie’s excellent “Space Oddity” with lyrics on the subject of ups and downs of indie app development. It should be more accessible to the general population than my previous video about the programming language Swift.

Lyrics are embedded in the video but here they are in full:

App Oddity

App Review to Coder Tom
App Review to Coder Tom
Take your caffeine pills
And put your headphones on

App Review to Coder Tom
Commencing countdown,
you’re logged on.
Check submission
and may Jobs’ love be with you

This is App Review to Coder Tom
You’re featured on first page
And the web sites want to know how much you’ve made
Now it’s time to go out and celebrate

This is Coder Tom to App Review
I’m stepping through the doors
And my head spins in a most peculiar way
And the App Store’s very different today

For here
Am I sitting in my basement
Far from outside world
Why do I feel blue
Is there something I can do?

Though I’m past
one million free downloads
I can’t see many sales
And I think I might've chosen wrong way to go
Tell my customers I care, 
'cause they should know

App Review to Coder Tom
Your app is dead,
there’s something wrong
Can you fix it Coder Tom
Can you fix it Coder Tom
Can you hear us Coder Tom
Can you…

Here am I lying in my basement
Far from outside world
All I feel is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

On Efficacy of Business Books

These days I’m reading what appears to be a fantastic book by Daniel Kahneman, called “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. It’s about how the intuitive and analytical minds think and interact. It’s about statistics and the fallacies of our minds with regards to statistical intuition and other thinking fallacies.

The quotes in the image are just a sample of quotes from one chapter. These specifically refer to the efficacy, or rather lack of thereof, of a specific kind of business books, those that try to teach the readers how to be successful in business by analyzing previous successful businesses, as if their management was somehow especially smart. The thing, as Kahneman explains, is that luck plays a much more important role than a specific CEO’s abilities are and eventually, over time, the companies come to some middle ground because luck averages out.

In short, read the quotes. Better yet, get the book.

Introducing Big Red Button for Apple Watch

Are you the president of a nuclear weapon wielding superpower? Congratulations! There’s an app for that.

Introducing the “Big Red Button” app for the Apple Watch — launch the nukes from the convenience of your wrist.

Targeting has never been so easy with a variety of options:

  • Select your target destinations with Siri dictation. Relies on Apple Maps. It’s never wrong
  • Tap a location on a zoomable map
  • A Favourites list of your colleagues from other countries will automatically target their location
  • Quickly rotate and let go of the digital crown to randomly select from a list of predefined targets and let it go. We call this feature “Atomic Russian Roulette”. It’s addicting, you’ll want to rotate and rotate!

Additional groundbreaking features include:

  • Approve launches by signing with your finger on the watch face or by dictating “Sure, why not”
  • Satellite view and the map update in almost-realtime after the target is hit by downloading latest imagery from military satellites. Terraforming has never been so fun
  • Feel the hearts of your enemies stopping with the fantastic haptic feedback of your new toy. (Requires an In-App-Purchase of a backdoor access to their Apple Watches)
  • Uses Force Touch technology to select the size of the warhead. Press harder to hit them harder
  • Game Center integration to compete with your foes, complete with Leaderboards and Achievements

Download now or you’ll be out of the game first!

My most successful client project

Successfully completed a client project in record time and budget by convincing the client that there’s no need for it.

Of course I wasn’t paid for the couple of hours it took me to research the idea and communicate my thoughts on it with the potential client. But it was the correct thing to do and I’d do the same again. Going for it could’ve ended very frustrating to all the parties involved.

Song: Cocoa Police

I covered Radiohead’s Karma Police with modified lyrics about some of the attitude towards Apple’s new programming language, Swift, that I saw on the net.

It’s meant to be fun. Lyrics embedded in the video. Enjoy.

App Camp for Girls and an interview at AppStories

I’ve been following the App Camp for Girls project since it started not a long time ago. App Camp for Girls is a non-profit founded by my friend Jean MacDonald from Smile. Its mission is:

App Camp For Girls wants to address the gender imbalance among software developers by giving girls the chance to learn how to build apps, to be inspired by women instructors, and to get exposure to software development as a career.

They’re currently raising funds for the project, so consider donating to this fine endeavor. While it’s already reached its initial funding goal, they’re thinking about expanding the program to additional locations, so any contribution will help.

To inspire young people to learn application development they started App Stories, where they interview developers about their first steps in software development.

There are already several interesting interviews available from developers and designers, including an interview with yours truly. More interviews with seasoned developers are going to be published on the site later, so you might want to add it to your RSS feed.

Have I already asked you to donate? Just a reminder. 🙂

Toggle hosts file for less distractions (in Haskell)

I decided to edit the /etc/hosts file to block access to some domains that I compulsory visit when working, in order to reduce my distractions. The usual suspects are Twitter, Facebook, Hacker News, and some real-world news sites.

So I edited the file and added the following lines:

# -- WORK --

Now they’re blocked. But I also wanted the option to quickly comment this section out and back again.

I could do it quickly in Ruby but I thought that it would be a great way to exercise my basic Haskell skills.

It took me quite a while to get it right — my Haskell is rusty. But after it compiled, I only had one little logical bug, which I quickly found out and fixed.

The final code is below. It also backs up hosts file (just in case) and prints the resulting hosts file. Both of these steps could be removed, as they’re not important for its main functionality.

import Data.List

-- Starts toggling the comment after a line that starts with "# --"

processLine switch line
    | length line == 0                          = (switch, line)
    | switch == False && take 4 line == "# --"  = (True, line)
    | switch == True                            = (True, toggleLine line)
    | otherwise                                 = (switch, line)
      where toggleLine l
              | head l == '#' = tail l
              | otherwise     = "#" ++ l

process = snd . mapAccumL processLine False

main = do
  hosts <- readFile "/etc/hosts"
  writeFile "/etc/hosts.backup" hosts
  let newHosts = unlines $ process (lines hosts)
  putStrLn newHosts
  writeFile "/etc/hosts" newHosts

I’m sure this could be done shorter, as everything in Haskell, but I’m just a beginner.

I then compiled the code and put the binary in my user’s bin folder.

Since it edits the /etc/hosts file, it has to be run with sudo. I added a line to sudo permissions (run sudo visudo to edit the file) to allow me to run it without a password:

jacob ALL = NOPASSWD: /Users/jacob/bin/switch_hosts

Then, I added an action to Keyboard Maestro to run sudo /Users/jacob/bin/switch_hosts using a trigger in its system menu. You could do a hotkey trigger or use a TextExpander expansion, or use LaunchBar, or Alfred, or just type it in the Terminal.

It just was this kind of day. I couldn’t do real work, but I could play a little to make my environment better for when I’ll be able to work.

Of course, there are commercial products that can help with distraction-free work environment, like Concentrate, which offers this and more. But I prefer to run less applications, if possible.

Introducing ReactiveCoreData

Lately I’ve became seriously interested in the fantastic projects that several bright guys at GitHub open-sourced. I’m talking about ReactiveCocoa and some of its derivatives, like ReactiveCocoaLayout. If you don’t know what these are, first go and read about them. I’ll wait.

While working on UI code for Cashculator 2, I decided to utilize both of above frameworks and, so far, I’m very happy with my decision. Especially I loved how ReactiveCocoaLayout allowed me to create behaviors similar to Cocoa’s AutoLayout, which I can’t use in Cashculator for performance reasons.

Like many applications, Cashculator uses Core Data for data persistence. So I had the idea of trying to bring Core Data into the ReactiveCocoa world.

Thus, ReactiveCoreData (RCD) was born. I’ve already implemented most of the basic functionality that I wanted to include in a hypothetical 1.0. Or is it 0.1. There’s also a proof of concept demo application for the Mac, which shows only a little of how to use it.

But there are also specs which verify all the functionality, which include easy fetching, insertion, performing stuff on a background context, saving, merging. All of this in the ReactiveCocoa’s signals domain, so it looks neat and can interoperate with your other ReactiveCocoa world.

A short example:

RAC(self.filteredParents) = [[[[Parent findAll]
  where:@"name" contains:filterText options:@"cd"]

This will update filteredParents property (an NSArray) to the all the Parents whose name contains text in the signal filterText (that comes from a search field, for example), sort by name and fetch.

It will fetch when either the filterText signal sends a next value or when objectsChanged signal fires (it will fire after new Parent objects were added or removed, for example).

The where: and sortBy: commands modify the NSFetchRequest that’s started with the findAll method of Parent and pass it next. Then, fetch: runs the NSFetchRequest in the current NSManagedObjectContext and sends the NSArray of the result, which gets assigned to self.filteredParents.

There’s more to ReactiveCoreData than that, but it’s a nice example.

Check ReactiveCoreData on GitHub.

I’ll be happy to get any feedback: suggestions, critique, pull requests. Use GitHub, if possible.

If you prefer to give feedback over Twitter, I’m @apparentsoft. But you better use I’m @apparentsoft over there as well.