Developing Perspective

#174: A Livelihood


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

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

00:00:08   an iOS and Mac developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 174. Today is

00:00:14   Wednesday, February 12th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's

00:00:18   get started. All right, a couple of different things I'm going to be walking through today,

00:00:21   but a lot of them are coming out of the experience of this weekend and the floppy bird saga that

00:00:27   ensued. And I'm not necessarily going to go into all the details of that, because I imagine

00:00:30   if you were on the internet at all, or have an iPhone, you were part of this, where this

00:00:35   gentleman from Vietnam, Thần Nhộn, put together a very simple application, published

00:00:40   it I think a couple months ago, and then all of a sudden it just sort of blew up and became

00:00:43   this wild, kind of viral success, and then had this very kind of tragic end. And just

00:00:50   because there were a couple of lessons that I wanted to kind of unpack from that. I'm

00:00:55   not necessarily to talk about the specifics of it, but just try and pull out some broader

00:00:59   lessons and some things that worried me and things that made me think about. The first

00:01:04   thing was just kind of how unsettling it was over the weekend to see the hate or the way

00:01:14   that people were reacting and responding, both personally to this gentleman as well

00:01:19   as just generally how there's this, this, you know, this sort of this Twitter and I

00:01:24   guess in general, this this internet mindset of that grows up around having a very short

00:01:28   attention span, feeling like, you know, there's you're instantaneously expected to sort of

00:01:32   be passing judgment on people to understand as I'm trying to pull out, you know, these

00:01:37   deep motives and passing judgment and being, you know, why they do things, why are they

00:01:41   doing this thing? Are you pulling all this information out of, you know, 140 character

00:01:45   message from somebody you don't know. And I just found that very unsettling over the

00:01:50   weekend. And some of these people that I trust and admire were talking in ways about somebody

00:01:56   they didn't know. It just seemed very, I don't know, it's worrying or inappropriate, but

00:02:02   at the same time I don't necessarily want to be on the flip side, hypocrite of saying

00:02:05   passing judgment on other people, passing judgment of other people. But it just seemed

00:02:09   very unsettling to me. And it was kind of depressing over the weekend to see how much

00:02:13   people were just very willing and open and able to just immediately sort of go after

00:02:17   somebody and be, you know, sort of acting and assuming as though they knew this guy,

00:02:22   knew what was going on, knew his motives, knew what was going on in his life personally.

00:02:27   And that somehow that gave them the ability to judge and explain what was going on in

00:02:35   his life or what he should be doing or those types of things.

00:02:38   And that's not to say there's no place in the world for criticism.

00:02:41   I think that by and large, the praise publicly criticized privately kind of approach that

00:02:49   I think is more like a conventional wisdom, I think is a great place to start.

00:02:53   So trying to understand that people are complicated, they're fragile, they're valuable, and the

00:02:58   way in which the words that you used towards them or about them are important.

00:03:03   They're not just, you know, you can't just say whatever you want and expect that there

00:03:09   is no implication and there is no impact. And I mean, there's no greater example of

00:03:13   this, I think, and to get a sense of just how dramatically and negatively this gentleman's

00:03:20   life was impacted by the words of others. It's just kind of as a sobering example and

00:03:24   a reminder, I think, and something that I wanted to talk about on the show, because

00:03:28   it's where I can be a bit more nuanced and honest about these types of things. It was

00:03:34   just something that I was, as the weekend was going on, and I was seeing more and more

00:03:37   I mean, somebody just deleted Twitter off my phone for a while and just like got away

00:03:41   from it because it was just very depressing and sad that, you know, the community I follow

00:03:45   and the people that I think about, you know, who are all very interested in, you know,

00:03:50   app development, who here's somebody who's had this wild success out of something that

00:03:54   he made.

00:03:55   And whatever you think about, you know, its individual merits on a variety of measures,

00:04:01   it still was something that he made that was wildly successful in creating a tremendous

00:04:04   amount of interest and popularity.

00:04:07   And that, you know, it's like, I don't know if it's jealousy, I don't know what it is,

00:04:10   but to then feel like we have to just attack that and tear it apart, that doesn't seem

00:04:15   productive.

00:04:16   That doesn't seem useful, you know, like projecting into someone else's situation, and then like

00:04:19   passing judgment on how they're responding to it.

00:04:22   That isn't really productive.

00:04:23   I mean, the productive things to try and think about, and this is what I try and do, is to

00:04:26   say, "What if that happened to me?

00:04:28   How would I respond?"

00:04:29   You project yourself into their situation, and then try and learn something from yourself.

00:04:34   It reminds me actually of one of my favorite books, it's The King of Torts by John Grisham,

00:04:40   which I won't necessarily go into, it's an interesting read.

00:04:43   But it's a story of this guy who's a lawyer who through a variety of means comes into

00:04:48   a lot of money all of a sudden through his work and how that gradually sort of eats at

00:04:53   him and destroys him.

00:04:54   What I find useful about it is that it's a way to kind of think through how would you

00:04:59   respond to that situation, what would that be?

00:05:01   And if that's something that you're driving towards, and I know a lot of, you know, it's

00:05:04   something that I think about less and less, but for a while, I know when I was starting

00:05:07   out, my goal was to make money.

00:05:08   That was what I wanted to do.

00:05:09   It was all about, you know, sort of all about the Benjamins, I suppose you could say.

00:05:13   And the reality I think that I've come to is how sort of insidious and destructive that

00:05:17   kind of a mentality can be.

00:05:20   And so just some things that I've been thinking about that sort of came out of what happened

00:05:24   this weekend.

00:05:25   And there is one thing that I've sort of, I think, more germane to this audience that

00:05:29   also came out of it.

00:05:30   it's an article by Jeff Vogel, who is, as best I can tell, someone in the game industry

00:05:35   who's gone through experiences like this before of having a lot of negative public

00:05:39   sort of negative reaction personally towards him for the things he's created. And one,

00:05:45   the article is definitely worth a read and it's linked in the show notes. But I definitely

00:05:49   thought that it was interesting that he had this, this observation about why bigger companies

00:05:55   have PR faces to them. And while that can often come across as impersonal, as cold,

00:06:02   as calculating, et cetera, there is something about it that is intrinsically valuable. That

00:06:08   creating a separation between the public and the creator is valuable insofar as having

00:06:17   direct interaction with your customers, which is one of the biggest attributes of being

00:06:20   independent.

00:06:21   That if something goes wrong with one of my apps or with one of my services, people contact

00:06:25   me directly. You know, they're not emailing, you know, they're not even support@crossforward.com,

00:06:29   which is, you know, some people do. There's a lot of people who will email me, you know,

00:06:33   David@developmentperspective.com, they'll reach out to me directly and have some choice words for me.

00:06:38   That's, that's good. And that's bad. I mean, I can be more responsive, I can be more

00:06:43   reactive to my customers, which I guess has a value which could be useful. But at the same time,

00:06:48   if you aren't thoughtful about the boundaries that you're drawing around yourself and the way

00:06:52   way you interact with, I guess, your public or your customer base or whatever you want

00:06:56   to call it, you might kind of go crazy because human nature is to always sort of emphasize

00:07:03   the negative. You know, you can have the classic thing is you can have 50 or 100 people say,

00:07:07   "This was great. This was great. This was great." Then one person says, "I hate it.

00:07:11   It's terrible. I wish you never existed." And you're going to hold on to that far more

00:07:16   strongly than you will anything else. And that's just human nature. That's just the

00:07:20   the way that we react to the world.

00:07:24   And so, I mean, in my own life, that's things that I've had to do where I have put--

00:07:28   I have someone who does my first tier customer service for me,

00:07:31   so they can filter through a lot of that where it's not personal for them.

00:07:34   It's not something that they've put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into in quite

00:07:38   the same way, so that when someone criticizes it in an aggressive, unkind way,

00:07:42   it doesn't affect them in quite the same way.

00:07:44   And you just have to be very thoughtful about this.

00:07:46   be careful because this is the extreme, exaggerated form of this, what happened with Floppy Bird,

00:07:53   but the same thing applies, I've seen, for many, many people, that you can get, sort of creating

00:07:59   this direct connection between you and your audience is very much a double-edged sword,

00:08:03   that you have to be very careful about how you apply it, or you'll end up just in a really,

00:08:07   really bad place. And that's just somewhere I've been, and it's a lesson that I wanted to

00:08:12   to reiterate here just to make sure that people think about it. And you have to be thoughtful.

00:08:17   And it's easy when you're starting out when you're smaller to just sort of enjoy it in

00:08:22   some ways. But if you're not careful, it could come back to bite you later.

00:08:28   One thing also, this is more of a tangential lesson, but it's something I wanted to talk

00:08:32   about is how -- one of the things that I noticed most dramatically in this, and there's a lot

00:08:37   of squishy lessons, there's a lot of things coming out of this situation that I think

00:08:41   are useful and things I just talked about even. But there's one thing that I came out of it that

00:08:46   I definitely wanted to emphasize. And it was the most concrete example I've ever had of something

00:08:51   that I've thought for a very long time, and I think I've even done past episodes about, is

00:08:55   the importance of never, ever, ever, under no circumstances, ever, ever, ever share

00:09:01   revenue numbers publicly. There's something that's unique about throwing out numbers about money

00:09:10   publicly because people's natural reaction is different to when you talk about the revenue

00:09:17   that you make than it is to almost any other attribute or metric or measure of your application.

00:09:22   And I think it's to do that when you talk about money it is directly comparable to other people's

00:09:28   situations. That if I can say an app has so many downloads, now if you're an app developer you

00:09:34   might have some kind of comparison to that personally, but by and large it's a bit more

00:09:38   complicated and nuanced. Whereas if I say I'm making X dollars from an app in whatever

00:09:43   period of time, people are going to immediately compare that to what they're making and can

00:09:48   directly say, you know, sort of hold on to that. And in my experience, that's all people

00:09:54   will talk about. You know, it's fascinating how out of all the articles that were written

00:09:59   about Don Nguyen, every single one of them immediately starts talking about, as soon

00:10:04   as he mentioned what he was making in advertising revenue, that's all they were talking about

00:10:07   It was always in the first couple paragraphs.

00:10:09   It's always talking about how much money he's making, how much money he's making, how much

00:10:12   money he's making.

00:10:13   And part of me wonders how this would have gone if he hadn't done that.

00:10:17   If he had just, even if he had just said, "Yeah, the app's very popular.

00:10:20   It's doing very well."

00:10:21   And that would be frustrating as an audience in some ways, and especially as the news media,

00:10:24   you know, because the news media wants that sensational headline.

00:10:27   But it's something that I've seen over time and time again, that as soon as there's a

00:10:31   money number thrown out, that it's all people can latch onto and focus on, and it's almost

00:10:37   never productive. You know, there's just it's a very venomous type of a thing for people to do,

00:10:41   because either they're saying, oh, you're not making nearly enough, or you're making way too

00:10:45   much, or whatever. It's this very direct and comparable thing that everyone can sort of latch

00:10:50   on to. And this is coming from somebody who tries very hard to share numbers and stats and results.

00:10:56   You know, part of what I think has made this podcast and some of the work I've done popular

00:11:00   in the community is that I try very hard to share numbers. And I know it can be frustrating

00:11:04   when I publish things that have no y-axis.

00:11:06   That's the classic example.

00:11:07   You have a growth chart, or you have an example of something

00:11:10   I'll talk about in a minute.

00:11:12   You'll have these charts and graphs

00:11:14   that have no y-axis numbers.

00:11:15   But I think that's an important distinction to make,

00:11:18   and an important line to draw that you

00:11:21   want to try and, as best you can,

00:11:23   to not share things like that publicly.

00:11:25   It's just some advice that I have,

00:11:28   something that I've tried very hard to do myself,

00:11:30   and that I've seen time and time again that whenever you do,

00:11:33   it either will come across as bragging or it'll come back to bite you,

00:11:36   and neither of which is a great situation.

00:11:38   Alright, one other thing I wanted to talk about briefly,

00:11:41   just more as a pointer,

00:11:42   if you've listened to this show for a couple of weeks,

00:11:45   you'll know I've been doing a series about localization,

00:11:47   and I've been talking about localizing Pedometer++.

00:11:50   I just wanted to mention, and there's a link in the show notes,

00:11:53   that I've done a bit of a breakdown on the impact of localizing the app

00:11:56   now that I have reasonable data before and after,

00:11:59   and by and large, it's been very successful.

00:12:01   You know, my downloads in non-US countries are up by about 300%.

00:12:06   Overall downloads up by about 50%.

00:12:09   And who knows if that would apply to you and your app and your app's situation.

00:12:12   But generally, I was very impressed with it.

00:12:14   And if you want more details, go look in that blog post in the show notes.

00:12:18   And then lastly, it's just something that I was kind of curious about.

00:12:21   And I was hesitant to do this.

00:12:23   But it's something I've been thinking about for a while.

00:12:25   And I figured, well, I'll just do it.

00:12:26   because the quantitative part of me is just so curious and sort of itching about what

00:12:33   the impact would be. And that is, I listen to a lot of podcasts and in dozens and dozens

00:12:38   of shows, often probably a couple times a week, I hear something along the lines of,

00:12:41   you know, please go read us on iTunes. It's very helpful. Please go read us on iTunes.

00:12:45   It's very helpful. It's great for the show. It's important. And it's something I've never

00:12:50   done as far as I know. There's, I think there's 48 reviews in iTunes right now for the show,

00:12:54   I appreciate, which I enjoy reading. I think Developing Perspective is actually my best

00:12:58   reviewed thing I've ever created, which I'm kind of proud of. But it's something I've

00:13:02   ever really solicited. But I've always been curious if that was actually true, that when

00:13:07   all these hosts are saying go to iTunes and rate it, that that is actually important.

00:13:10   And so I was curious, and just as a bit of an experiment, if you would humor me, if you

00:13:14   enjoy the show, if you listen to the show, you know, if it's something that you were

00:13:16   able to do, if you could go to iTunes and write a review for it, I'm just very curious

00:13:21   if that would actually have any impact on the audience and the downloads, on whatever

00:13:25   for the show.

00:13:26   And there's enough of you who listen to the show that I think it would have a pretty dramatic

00:13:29   impact if you all went and in the next few days wrote a review.

00:13:33   If it's going to do anything, I think it's a large enough sample size to potentially

00:13:38   see if there is actually an impact.

00:13:40   Because I've always been wondering, I've always been curious if when people are saying that

00:13:44   it's just about building brand loyalty, that if you go and write a review about something

00:13:48   and you're putting your words and your affirmations about something publicly, you feel more connected

00:13:53   to it, which may be true, I don't know, or if there's actually a tangible and measurable

00:13:57   impact on something else coming out of that. So if you have some time, there's a link in

00:14:02   the show notes to get it in iTunes or if you just go to iTunes and search "development

00:14:05   perspective," I'm sure you could find it. And I'd appreciate just you taking that minute

00:14:09   just so I can kind of run this experiment and put my mind at ease about if there's actually

00:14:14   something to that. And that's it for today's show. As always, if you have questions, comments,

00:14:18   concerns, complaints, compliments, whatever it is, you can find me on Twitter. I'm @_davidsmith.

00:14:24   You can email me, david@developingperspective.com. And otherwise, I hope you have a great rest

00:14:28   of this week. If you're on the East Coast of the US, I hope you stay warm in this crazy storm that's

00:14:32   about to come and hit us. And otherwise, happy coding, and I will talk to you next week. Bye.