The Glass Effect

Developers Union

I agree with @daveverwer’s take on Developer Union. I’ll go a little stronger though; the demand for free trials is based on what worked for indie dev shops, but it’s rooted in the past and it’s not something the modern Apple will respond positively to.

As Dave points out, free trials actually are an option now, and making a fuss over a variation of free trials feels shortsighted. Additionally, a demand without anything to back it up is toothless. How many of the 500+ apps on the list will actually leave if Apple doesn’t comply? Finally, the lack of big names on the list of signers. Where’s Panic? Where’s Omni? Where’s Marco Arment? Where’s John Gruber? These are banner-wavers for the indie community; this feels like it should be right in their wheelhouse, and they’re not putting their name to it. Why is that? Especially Omni, considering Brent’s involvement.

PS, that site is awful for searching for a specific name or company. Maybe by design; show a large grid of icons/avatars and don’t focus on individuals.

Anyway, I do understand the motivation, but I think the execution is critically flawed. Overall, the concept of grouping a large number of people with similar goals should show some results, but I don’t think they’re going about it the right way on this one. Maybe I’m wrong and this will work out. I actually hope it does, but I don’t expect it to. I’ll be paying attention though.

Have you ever taken an assessment or personality test or something, and it gave you a result you definitely didn’t expect? Happened to me today. As part of my ongoing obsession with business and personal development books, I picked up Born to Build, by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal. As part of it, it gives you a code to do Gallup’s Builder Profile 10 assessment test, which then ranks you on 10 different qualities of a “builder” (essentially, an entrepreneur), as well as an “alpha builder” type, one of three overall roles that indicate what areas you’re more likely to be successful in.

Anyway, while reading through the 10 different builder talents, I automatically put myself into a few categories. Then, having gone through the assessment, the top four were… not what I expected. Number one, which I expected to end up as “Confidence” or maybe “Knowledge” or “Independence”, actually ended up being “Selling”. (FWIW, Confidence, Knowledge and Independence ended up being 5, 6, and 7 respectively).

Selling was a surprise, until I read further and thought about it more. I’m drawn to sales and marketing content, almost exclusively. I listen to Dave Ramsey, read Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, all essentially sales and marketing people in different fields. My dad was a salesman. I guess it’s always been there. Maybe it’s time to embrace it.

New Job, New Blog

I thought it would be nice to switch things up. Since most of my blog posts are pretty small anyway, I’ve switched over to hosting with Manton Reece’s service instead of my old self-hosted WordPress setup. It’ll be nice to have Manton worry about the maintenance and upgrades for me. I have imported the half dozen articles from the old site, so their content is still available.

Secondly, as of early February, I’ve taken a full time job at Breezy HR as their Mobile Architect. We have a great, popular and growing product and some awesome mobile apps, and it’s my job to make them even better.

So, now that I’m a full time developer again, I’ll probably be talking a little more development content and less business. That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my views about apps and business; in fact, Breezy is a great example of a company doing it right, and doing well because of it. But talking about my day to day development tasks and the issues that relate is going to be more forefront in my mind, so that’s what will get written down. I may also take the opportunity to talk more about personal stuff: My wife and kids, cars, boats, cooking, and whatever else strikes me. Maybe I can even get a blogging habit going.

Starbright, as a company, still exists. I won’t be doing any consulting work through it, but I do have some small side projects I’d like to ship one day, so keep an eye out for that.

As always, you can reach me on Twitter, @Skroob.

Annual Report

Well, it’s been almost a year. What have I been up to?

Starbright is now my full time concern. Starting out, I’ve been doing more “app building” than “app business building”, but that’s all right for now. I firmly believe that building app businesses is the way forward for my industry, and I’ll carry that banner as far as I can.

I think at this point, almost everyone with a smartphone has had an idea for an app. Most will talk about it with their friends, and leave it at that. Some will seek out a developer and see what it takes to turn their idea into a reality. Too many of those developers will quote a price to build and release the app, and that’s the end of it for them. They’re hired guns; there to do a job and move on to the next.

I understand the mindset. I lived it for years when I ran my previous company, Pocket Sevens. These days, though, just having an app isn’t enough. The novelty is gone for consumers, and unless you get extremely lucky, you won’t even make enough to cover the cost of that hired gun developer.

Change your mindset. Build an app business instead. Don’t think that it’s easier my way; it is absolutely harder in so many ways. But it also has the distinct advantage of being far more likely to succeed. Your app idea is the start, but you need to refine it, build on it, refine it again, expand and reduce and rethink and reconsider every assumption you’re making and the ones you don’t even realize you’re making as well.

You can make a living in this industry. If you want help, I’m here. My job, my goal, my passion, is helping people build their app, build their business, and build their success.

What's Interesting These Days?

There’s only a few things holding my interest these days. Family, of course. Sailboats. I love sailboats. In fact, if it wasn’t for the next thing, I’m pretty sure all I would be thinking about is sailing.

However, I’m fascinated by the business of apps. For the past decade I’ve been building the apps themselves, but the really interesting part for me is the business part. How does someone build an app and sell it in the modern marketplace? And not just sell it, but sell it enough that it maintains the business. Is it even still possible? Lots of people say no, but I think they’re wrong.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not easy. But business never is. And mobile apps are a mature marketplace now, and just like any other mature marketplace, there’s things that work and things that don’t. I’ve spent lots of time reading, researching, taking notes, and I think I’ve put together some interesting ideas.

In the next few months, I’ll be launching my new consulting company, Starbright, where I’ll help people build sustainable mobile app businesses. I’m also beginning work on my very first book, tentatively (and creatively) titled “Sustainable App Business”, that will serve as the reference for all the material I’ve learned about how to make sustainable apps. And finally, I’m working on some tools to support some of the ideas I’m basing the company on.

If you want me to help with your app business, I’m doing a number of trial runs at no cost to prove out my concepts, so please get in touch via email, Otherwise, watch this space for more. And if you want to talk sailboats, I’m always down for that.


Considering that I went a little heavy on the boat metaphors in the last post, I figure it wouldn't hurt to keep it going in this one, especially since the topics go together.

In Trimming Sails, I talked about intentionality being the key to accomplishing goals. The other side of the intentionality coin though is discipline. Doing things with intentionality gets you going, doing things with discipline keeps you going.

My boaty metaphor for this one is maintaining brightwork. Brightwork is essentially exposed metal and wood on a boat; on a modern sailboat, you’ll mostly see it in wood toerails, handholds, companionways, and other trim. Maintaining all this wood that’s exposed to the elements all the time isn’t fun or easy work, but it’s the difference between a boat that looks good and a boat that looks disused.

It’s not easy to stay on top of it. It’s far easier to let it go for a day, week, month longer than you should. But when you grab a handrail in high winds and come back with a massive splinter, you’ll wish you’d had the discipline.

Do things with intentionality and discipline, and that’s how you win.

Trimming Sails

I think that intentionality is the most important factor in actually accomplishing anything in life. I  have been trying to pay attention to how I do things lately, and I have noticed that when I sit back, relax, and let things go on their own, nothing happens. When I’m intentional, taking deliberate steps to accomplish a goal, any goal, including writing blog posts, that’s when things happen.

It reminds me of sailing. With your hand on the tiller, your sails trimmed, that’s when you get where you’re going. Sometimes slowly, but you’ll get there. If you don’t pay attention, you let the wind and currents take you where they go, and chances are it’s not where you want to be.

Too much, I’m letting the wind and currents take me. I’m not moving as fast as I want to, so I let frustration hold the tiller. But intentionality will get me there, and my favorite part of sailing has always been the relaxing journey. So this is my reminder to myself to keep control and stay on course. Not only will I get to my port of call, but I’ll probably have a pretty nice tan.

Cynicism in Tech

I am still surprised at the level of cynicism I see from people in technology. During the Apple event that just finished, where they announced the 4-inch iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, my Twitter stream was filled with snark, doubt, anger and attitude about every product, service and initiative they announced. Including, at the beginning, as they talked about the environmental and recycling initiatives, and the health initiatives, ResearchKit and CareKit, the complaints were about being bored, why aren’t they talking about new products, and so on. Of course, as soon as they did move on to new products, none of them were good enough either. The watch bands are nice, but nothing special. The watch price drop is cool, but what it REALLY needs is thinner faster better hardware and software. iOS 9.3, no mention of the developer that they “sherlocked” Night Shift from. iPhone SE, too expensive, still starts at 16gb, people have been begging for a 4-inch iPhone 6s but they just took the 6s and shrunk it down. iPad Pro, camera bump, so expensive, nobody uses iPads. And so on.

I shouldn’t be surprised by the cynicism anymore, but I still am, and I’m not sure why. People seem to want to be blown away by every announcement these days, and that’s simply not the way things work. It actually never was anyway. For me, technology is a tool, a means to an end. It helps you achieve your goals, but it isn’t a goal for its own sake. I’m a pragmatist, while it seems many of my friends, and many of the people reacting to Apple events on Twitter, are futurists. Tech for tech’s sake. If it’s not making revolutionary jumps, what’s the point of it?

For me, I like the incremental upgrades. I like making software for devices people use. I like the steady, predictable, business-supporting path that we’re on right now. Cynicism doesn’t do much. Maybe it makes you look snarky and cool to other cynical people on the internet. Maybe everyone is just trying to get a laugh. But I think the attitude you put on reflects on who you are, and just ripping on everything doesn’t feel very good to me.

Apps are a business

If you have any interest at all in mobile apps, you should read this:

I’ve said for a long time that if you treat your business like a business, you can be successful in any market. The mobile app market isn’t a gold rush, the way it was in 2008 or 2009. You can’t just put any old app up on the store and expect the world to beat a golden path to your door. You have to market it, the same as you would in any other mature market.

There’s more to “marketing” than just advertising, of course. You need to make an app that people want to use. That accomplishes what it’s supposed to. That fits into the user’s life in a meaningful way. If you make something, get the attention on it, and it still doesn’t do well, you might have to accept that you didn’t make something people want.

I know this won’t be the end of the “you can’t make money in the app store” meme. But at this point, that attitude is an opportunity for you. The people saying that won’t try. If you choose your market, choose your strategy, and build something people want, you can build a real business in this industry.


It turns out I’m a planner. I feel like I probably knew that, but I’ve never really admitted it as a driving part of my personality before today.

Here’s the story. I hate the carpet in my living room. It’s original to the house, which is about 12 years old right now, so it’s “builder quality”. Which means, not great. It wasn’t in the best quality when we moved in two years ago; now add three cats and a four year old half-daughter/half-tornado, and it’s essentially ruined.

The living room has been making me uncomfortable for a while now, and I never really tied it to the carpet in there before. I just didn’t want to use the room for some reason. While doing a family clean the house day last weekend, I started picking up in there and realized just how awful the carpet had really gotten. So I started thinking about what would be better.

Nicole and I had talked about putting wood floors in “someday”. I started researching. I pulled up a little corner to see what was underneath: concrete, of course. #floridahouse. I sure can’t afford to redo the whole open plan main floor anytime soon, so whatever I do will have to go with the tile for now. Maybe once the kid had gotten a little older, I’ll do the whole place, but for now I want something that would look good, not cost too much, and something that I could ideally do myself over a weekend. I decided on a laminate floor.

Here’s the interesting part though. Once I made the decision, I started loving the room again. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t actually done anything, I had a plan. Maybe not even a plan, just a direction to go in. I don’t know the first thing about installing floors, I don’t know what color or style will look best in the house. But I know that the clock has started on the horrible carpet, and now all I see in there is potential.

It didn’t hit me until driving into the office this morning that it was the plan that made the room livable again. Instead of letting the problem overwhelm me, I can start sorting through the options for the solution. Now that I realize that about myself, maybe I can use it.