Developing Perspective

#183: Anxiety and Inertia


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note in iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. This is show number 183. And today

00:00:14   is Friday, May 2nd. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes. So let's

00:00:18   get started. All right. So first, as a quick note, any thanks to all of you who bought

00:00:25   a t-shirt in the last couple of weeks as we've had that campaign. Those should be off to

00:00:28   printer and then on their way to your door in the next week or so. Definitely in time for

00:00:32   WWDC or the summer in general if you'd like to sport an underscore followed by a square bracket in

00:00:39   you know wherever you are this summer. All right so let me jump into the main topic today

00:00:43   and I'm going to take a quick break from the series I started a couple weeks ago about

00:00:49   unconventional wisdom and today I'm going to kind of ruminate and think about something that's just

00:00:54   just a bit more topical and something

00:00:55   I've been thinking about a lot more this week,

00:00:58   that whenever I have an opportunity for something

00:01:00   like this that's kind of fresh and live in my head,

00:01:03   it's something that seems-- those often

00:01:05   make the best episodes.

00:01:06   So I'm going to be kind of addressing and dealing

00:01:09   with some thoughts and feelings that came out of this last week

00:01:13   when Feed Wrangler hit its one-year anniversary.

00:01:17   And if you have been following this podcast for the last year,

00:01:22   you'll know sort of how significant that is for me,

00:01:27   in the sense that getting the service to where it is now

00:01:31   has taken a tremendous amount of time, energy, effort,

00:01:34   a lot of late nights early on, lots of struggles

00:01:37   and challenges, some triumphs along the way.

00:01:39   It's been a really complicated process.

00:01:42   And so getting to this point has been kind of interesting.

00:01:47   And there's a blog post I wrote about that,

00:01:49   the actual thing, which is a link in the show notes

00:01:51   if you want, talking about the actual service itself.

00:01:53   But I don't really necessarily want

00:01:55   to talk about Feed Wrangler so much as something

00:01:57   that it's hitting its anniversary

00:01:59   has made me think about a lot.

00:02:01   So obviously, there being an annually paid service,

00:02:03   Feed Wrangler is $19 a year.

00:02:05   This is the week in which, obviously, I now

00:02:08   need to manage and work through all the actual renewals

00:02:11   for the service.

00:02:11   So work out how many people are going to renew it,

00:02:13   how many people are going to choose not to renew.

00:02:16   And it's brought to a head something

00:02:20   that I've struggled with a lot, being in this kind of business.

00:02:23   I've been making my living from the app store

00:02:25   and app-related things for about five years now.

00:02:28   And the way in which I've had to make my living

00:02:30   has changed a lot over that period.

00:02:32   There's a lot of things that have changed that I

00:02:34   have had to adapt to and things.

00:02:37   But something that really hasn't changed,

00:02:39   that has kind of remained constant,

00:02:41   is this lurking sense of anxiety that I have,

00:02:44   that tomorrow will be the last day of my business,

00:02:48   that everything will just kind of collapse out of nowhere,

00:02:51   and I'll be blindsided and have to deal with that

00:02:53   and I'm in a pretty dramatic situation.

00:02:56   And if you're talking to a lot of other iOS developers,

00:03:00   I know I'm not alone in that.

00:03:03   I know that there's a lot of iOS developers who also kind of

00:03:06   struggle with that, that you have the sense

00:03:08   in the back of your mind that something's going to happen.

00:03:11   And fair enough, sometimes you think about things

00:03:13   that are kind of more concrete.

00:03:14   You think Apple will change policy.

00:03:16   You think Apple will change the search algorithm for the App Store.

00:03:19   You know, you think about a new competitor arriving, you know, those types of things.

00:03:23   But you also just kind of worry that customers are just going to disappear one day.

00:03:27   That they're going to stop finding your app.

00:03:29   That, you know, that whatever has been working so far will suddenly stop working.

00:03:34   And there's an anxiety that can be kind of crippling.

00:03:37   And it can be something that for a long time I really struggled with.

00:03:41   That you kind of have this anxiety where every morning I would get up, come downstairs,

00:03:46   is go to the office, and the first thing I would do every day

00:03:49   is I would open up AppBiz, pull down my sales reports

00:03:53   from the day before, and hopefully make sure

00:03:56   that things hadn't fallen off a cliff.

00:03:58   That was genuinely a fear that I was having to manage.

00:04:02   And for a while, I remember I tried a couple of services

00:04:05   that would send you emails in the morning

00:04:07   when the sales reports were available.

00:04:09   And I very quickly found that I had to turn those off, because it

00:04:12   created this sense of anxiety that I'm constantly

00:04:17   worried about what's going on, what's

00:04:19   happening with my sales.

00:04:21   And the funny thing is-- and as a brief aside,

00:04:24   that anxiety is a funny thing when you're independent.

00:04:27   Because before I was independent,

00:04:29   before I had just had a regular job,

00:04:31   I never really felt that way.

00:04:33   I never really felt that one day my boss is just

00:04:36   going to come down and ask me into his office

00:04:39   and then let me go.

00:04:41   It just wasn't really something that I thought about.

00:04:43   Maybe that's just being arrogant, but I think the reality is being independent, there's

00:04:47   such a direct connection between the work you do and the output that comes out of it,

00:04:52   that everything just gets magnified and these feelings just become much more real.

00:04:57   My guess is the reality is the odds of my business failing were actually pretty simple,

00:05:01   similar to the odds of me being laid off at any one point.

00:05:03   I mean, maybe not exactly the same, but they're certainly more similar than I probably gave

00:05:07   credit in either direction.

00:05:10   So in order for me to stay sane, in order for me to do this business for this long,

00:05:16   this is something that I've had to manage.

00:05:18   This is something that I've had to think through and try and kind of wrap my head around how

00:05:23   I can think about the anxiety that your business is going to fall apart.

00:05:26   Because obviously in some ways that's useful.

00:05:29   Hopefully in some ways that's motivating.

00:05:31   In some ways having a sense that things could all fall apart motivates you to continue to

00:05:35   work hard, to find opportunities, to exploit those opportunities.

00:05:39   There's a certain oomph that that gives you, having a little bit of fear, having a little

00:05:47   bit of edge, that if I got too complacent, if I felt like things would always be like

00:05:52   they are or my business would always grow without any effort, I'd be complacent.

00:05:56   I'd stop trying quite as hard, probably.

00:05:58   I'd be resting on my laurels.

00:06:00   Whatever analogy or cliché I wanted to apply to it, it wouldn't probably be good.

00:06:05   But on the flip side, if I don't manage it in a useful way,

00:06:10   and you can kind of let it overtake you a little bit

00:06:13   and be kind of a crippling fear, rather than being productive,

00:06:16   rather than just giving you an edge,

00:06:18   it's taking away the enjoyment of your work.

00:06:21   It's taking away a lot of the positives of this type of work

00:06:26   and the opportunities that you have

00:06:27   and the flexibility that you have.

00:06:29   So I've had to learn to manage this.

00:06:31   And the thing that I found, which

00:06:34   was when I do-- and sort of the way that I manage it now

00:06:37   is-- what I'm going to kind of very pompously refer

00:06:40   to as underscore's first law of business dynamics.

00:06:43   And that is that on any given time frame,

00:06:46   the rate your business will decay roughly

00:06:48   matches the rate it grew to get there.

00:06:53   And this is a very vague anecdotal principle,

00:06:58   but that I found to be incredibly comforting

00:07:01   backed up time and time again by my own experience, especially in the App Store.

00:07:05   Maybe it applies more generally, but especially in the App Store.

00:07:09   And to kind of put it another way, you know, what goes up quickly will come down quickly.

00:07:12   What goes up slowly will come down slowly.

00:07:16   And really what that means is that there's an inertia to the App Store.

00:07:21   There's kind of a general sense of inertia that things have to overcome, that things

00:07:27   don't take unprecedented downward moves unless they were preceded by an unprecedented upward

00:07:34   move. That's what I've seen time and time again. I'll launch an app and I'll have a big spike,

00:07:41   this rapid rate of growth, and then followed by the exact mirror of that almost exactly,

00:07:49   of a very rapid fall off on the other end. That kind of fits. The business decays at the same

00:07:55   rate that it grew. And then the interesting thing though, once you're out of those periods,

00:08:00   once you have any sense of stability, if I look at a time period and my business remained roughly flat

00:08:06   for the last month, there's a good chance it'll remain roughly flat for the next month.

00:08:11   And then, you know, the next month, and you can kind of have the sliding scale as you think about

00:08:16   this, that when I look at my, you know, I look at my business, this is kind of consistent. This

00:08:23   seems to be what happens. These things tend to average out. And while there can be a lot

00:08:29   of intraday volatility, while overall there can be a lot of ups and downs that might be

00:08:34   a little unsettling, but generally speaking, things tend to fall off slowly. I mean, the

00:08:39   funny thing, I can even look at it, I have some apps that are part of my portfolio that

00:08:43   recently, back in their day, did pretty well. And they're just kind of in the App Store

00:08:48   still work, they look all right, but I haven't put a lot of time, energy, or effort into

00:08:54   updating them. And their sales will decay over time, but it's a very measured and linear

00:09:02   drop-off. It's never been a cliff. I've never seen that experience, unless it was preceded,

00:09:10   like I said, by a period of rapid growth. And so that's comforting to me. That's something

00:09:16   that as I look forward now, for example, at Feed Wrangler, I can look at my sales, I can

00:09:23   look at my renewal rates, I can look at all these types of things, and I can start to

00:09:28   get a sense of where I'm coming from.

00:09:33   How many people have found the service and started using it in the last couple of weeks?

00:09:38   And then maybe that's most likely the kind of people and the rate that'll be finding

00:09:42   it in the next two couple of weeks.

00:09:44   kind of thing on renewals. You know, what percentage of people renewed the first day?

00:09:47   Okay, well, there's a good chance that's similar to the people who are going to renew the second

00:09:50   day and the third and the fourth. And it can put my mind at ease that I'm not going to

00:09:54   have one day wake up and everything just is in shambles, that everybody's asked for their

00:09:59   money back. You know, obviously, there's no accounting for the news, I suppose. You know,

00:10:03   if something crazy and dramatic happened, you know, you never know. But you can't worry

00:10:08   about those types of events. Things that you can't predict are by definition things that

00:10:13   aren't really worth worrying about in a lot of ways.

00:10:15   Because you can worry about the things

00:10:17   that you have control about, and the rest you just hope for.

00:10:22   So anyway, I know it's a bit of a rant,

00:10:24   but I hope that's useful.

00:10:26   Because I know I hear from a lot of other iOS developers

00:10:28   that this is something they struggle with, too.

00:10:30   That you're worried about how you're

00:10:32   going to make this sustainable.

00:10:33   And the reality is, the average may not

00:10:36   be what you want it to be.

00:10:38   Your apps may not make the amount of money

00:10:40   that you hope they would, or that

00:10:41   would be sustainable for your business.

00:10:44   But it's rarely going to be a dramatic falloff.

00:10:46   It's more likely to be a much more gradual, a much more steady falloff.

00:10:51   And so you can look at where you are now, and if that's enough for you, then great.

00:10:56   If it isn't, well, then you're going to have to work on a way of either adding another

00:10:59   app on top of that or by growing them up gradually over time or whatever it is.

00:11:04   But don't have quite so much anxiety about, you know, sort of dramatic falloffs because

00:11:09   Because that's what you worry about, and it doesn't really get you anywhere.

00:11:15   For a while I definitely had to catch myself with feed wrangler, where I thought, what

00:11:18   happens if nobody renews and the service just kind of ends?

00:11:21   And the renewal rates maybe are, it's complicated to work out exactly if it's what it needs

00:11:28   to be or what I want it to be, but it's good enough.

00:11:31   At least it seems fine now, and it's certainly not zero.

00:11:33   And so that kind of worry that I had wasn't helping me make the service any better.

00:11:38   If I want to worry about making this-- increasing revenues

00:11:42   on Feed Wrangler or any of my apps,

00:11:44   it's like the thing I need to be doing

00:11:45   is putting time, energy, and effort into making

00:11:47   those products better.

00:11:48   And that's probably going to be far more productive than

00:11:50   spending that time worrying.

00:11:52   All right.

00:11:52   That's it for today's show.

00:11:54   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:11:56   complaints, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith,

00:11:58   david@developingperspective.com.

00:12:00   And as we-- I guess we're heading into our rundown

00:12:03   towards WWDC.

00:12:04   I think we're about 30 days out.

00:12:06   I'll probably be doing a couple of-- the next couple of shows.

00:12:09   Might go back to the then conventional wisdom theory,

00:12:13   but then I'll probably be doing a couple of pre-WWDC shows.

00:12:16   So if you have any questions about WWDC itself,

00:12:18   in terms of if you're going and you've never been before

00:12:21   and you have things that you're worried about or concerned

00:12:22   about, let me know.

00:12:23   I'll be happy to kind of address those.

00:12:25   I won't be there this year, but I'll be in town.

00:12:27   But I've been many years, and so I'm happy to address that.

00:12:30   And then just generally about talking

00:12:32   about what to expect and kind of what I'm hoping for as we

00:12:35   head into the summer.

00:12:36   Exciting.

00:12:37   All right.

00:12:38   Have a good week.

00:12:38   Happy coding.

00:12:39   I'll talk to you later.

00:12:40   Bye.