5.6 Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind
In practice, this rule is blatantly disregarded by thousands of apps that routinely violate it by sending promotional push notifications. It has become a widespread standard practice, even among small developers with lapses in judgment.
It’s not hard to figure out why this rule isn’t enforced — it’s mostly unenforceable. A violation isn’t likely to be caught by Apple’s reviewers in the few minutes they spend with each app.
Apple would need some sort of violation-reporting mechanism on each notification, which would add ugly clutter to the UI and would require a staff at Apple to go through each report and reliably act on abuses, neither of which Apple is ever likely to do.
And this afternoon, Apple itself violated this rule:
Regardless of the cause, this is clearly a promotion, will annoy thousands or millions of people, and is in direct violation of the least-enforced rule in the App Store.
If Apple won’t enforce its own standards against spamming and annoying customers — which really isn’t good enough — the least they can do is practice the rules themselves and be a good example.
The market is flooded with longform producers, even as the model for how to succeed is still yet to be cracked.
“Longform” is struggling to be sustainable long-term because it’s a fetishization of a romantic notion that the market’s actions don’t support in reality.
People want to have read “longform” (whatever that means), but if presented with either attentively reading a 10,000-word article or checking social networks and munching on some listicles, longform usually loses. If there’s a paywall in front of it, it gets even worse. You can monetize people’s good intentions even if they’re not backed up by consistent actions, but not for long.
Rather than fetishize length, which is completely misguided, focus on quality. Length isn’t the problem that most people are looking to solve in their online reading, but we will always have an infinite appetite for high-quality material, and it’s increasingly difficult to find.
The big Honeywell is fantastic for an entire house’s worth of humidification, but it’s big, loud, harder to clean, and gets more expensive over time with filters.
The little Venta is fantastic for a bedroom, with much quieter operation, cheaper consumables, and easier cleaning (take it apart and put most of its pieces in the dishwasher with a bowl of white vinegar), but it evaporates much less water and is more expensive up front.
And both are far better than ultrasonic and steam humidifiers. Cool-air evaporative humidifiers with fans blowing through wick filters are the way to go. For more on that, see the original.
Matt Galligan of Circa News made a lot of great points with useful data in The Right Way to Ask Users to Review Your App. In short, they still ask, but with inline prompts in the content rather than modal dialogs to be less disruptive.
But they use the increasingly popular two-step process of first asking a question along the lines of “Do you like us?”, then funneling the app-haters into sending private feedback emails and only asking the app-lovers to proceed with a review.
That’s fine if it works for you, but I find these two-step prompts disingenuous and don’t feel comfortable using them:
Only asking for ratings from people who first claim to like you feels a bit like ratings manipulation.
Affirming that you like the app, then following up with “How about a rating, then?”, feels like a heavy-handed sales trick. An innocent-seeming question unexpectedly becomes a quid pro quo.
When we all started complaining about “Rate this app” dialogs in 2011, and then reignited the discussion last year, the most common developer excuse for leaving them in was that the prompts worked, and the developers needed them to get enough ratings. Like most assumptions about what app developers “need” to do, I couldn’t wait to challenge that with Overcast, and I think the results are now worth sharing.
My strategy to get good App Store reviews is simple:
Make an app good enough for some people to love it. By nature, you’ll lose some people along the way, but that’s OK: an app that strives to satisfy as many people as possible will usually only get people to kinda like it, not love it.
Accumulate a huge surplus of goodwill from those customers with a combination of step 1, usefulness, delight, and adding more functionality over time.
Make it easy to rate the app with a button that’s never annoying or in the way, like in the Settings screen.
Overcast barely “asks” for reviews at all — it simply includes this section in the Settings screen, and not even on top:
I get and cache the review count server-side from the iTunes Search API, and if the number is below 50, it prepends “Only” to the count.
That’s it. I have never asked anyone to rate Overcast except with that screen. The results speak for themselves:
Granted, that’s the “All Versions” count. The “Current Version” count is substantially lower:
…but the current version is only three days old. If a method of asking for reviews is getting 99 reviews in the first three days after a minor bugfix update, without annoying anyone, I’d call that a huge success.1
Sometimes it’s worth challenging assumptions.
For those wanting percentages, Overcast currently has about 100,000 monthly active users and 37,000 daily active users, according to Crashlytics Answers. ↩︎
Another great iOS 8 feature crippled by capricious, unwritten, after-the-fact policies.
Again and again, I ask: What is Apple protecting itself or its customers from?
One hand isn’t talking to the other: engineering makes great features available to developers that could be used to build amazingly useful and powerful applications, then the App Store bans anything beyond their most trivial uses.
This sure feels like the ramifications of an internal turf war. I hope the higher-ups at Apple realize how important it is to resolve this quickly, because their devices, users, and developers are all suffering unnecessarily.
Imagine what great developers like Panic could do on iOS, and how much more powerful iOS devices would become, if Apple only stood their ground on policies that mattered.
By Cromulent Labs, developer of the Launcher app that Apple initially approved, then rejected for misuse of Notification Center. Emphasis mine:
During [a conversation with someone at App Review], I also asked specifically why Launcher was removed from the App Store after 9 days when other similar apps are still available weeks later. The answer to this question was the most interesting and informative response I had ever heard from them. They basically said that Launcher was a trailblazer in uncharted territories and that they felt that they needed to make an example of it in order to get the word out to developers that its functionality is not acceptable without them having to publish new specific guidelines. And they said that the fact that they aren’t seeing hundreds of similar apps submitted every day is proof to them that taking down Launcher was successful in this regard.
This was a pretty big revelation to me. After Launcher was rejected and the press picked up on it and started writing articles which painted Apple in a bad light, I was afraid that Apple might be mad at me. But it turns out that was actually the outcome they were looking for all along. They acted swiftly and made me the sacrificial lamb. And after that, removing other apps with similar functionality became a low priority for them.
This is a disgraceful, disrespectful, and cowardly way to create and enforce policies, and it’s burning a lot of developer motivation to work on iOS.
What does it say about Apple’s priorities when app review spends its time policing developers for building features that are innovative, useful, and entirely opt-in anyway?
At around the same time, Twitter announced that their app is now spying on users in a new way, using a public API for a purpose it was clearly not intended for. I would argue that this practice, if not against the letter of the Review Guidelines, is much more harmful to users. It’s stuff like this that should warrant action from the app review team.
What’s more harmful to consumers: invading their privacy, bombarding them with push-notification ads, or Today widgets that can launch their app to complete a task?
Two headphones that you wouldn’t expect to be as good as they are: a decent-sounding, moderately comfortable on-ear headphone that’s also practical and fashionable, and pretty good sound in an ancient sub-$100 studio-monitor headphone.
If Sony sold the MDR-7506 with no other changes except a short, straight, clicker-equipped cable (or with a socketed cable so we could swap in our own), even if they doubled the price, it would be a better portable headphone than every official Sony portable headphone I’ve tried.
Apple warns against “running to the press” saying that it “never helps,” but we all know that it does help. And developers will continue to do it because Apple’s suggested channel of communicating doesn’t work.
And it’s even worse for the vast majority of iOS and Mac developers who don’t have any Apple contacts or developer-relations representatives. You don’t just get an Apple rep when you sign up — you just need to wait until, hopefully, one contacts you, then you hold onto that email address.
For most developers, that never happens. It took me five years — all of Instapaper, all of The Magazine, and the beginning of Overcast’s development — before I knew anyone relevant inside Apple.
Bryan Irace’s proposal for an iOS-standard in-app browser component, like the standard Mail-compose sheet.
I’d love this. I’ve tried just kicking people out to Safari for links, but they hate that — everyone wants built-in browsers. I’ve written a handful of them over the years, none of which were as good as Safari, and none of which were good uses of my time.
The main problem is that they’ve each had some customization to look or work better in the app, and a system-standard one wouldn’t have been as good. iOS 8’s extensions mitigate this somewhat, but not completely.
Mathias Meyer of Travis CI, on why they abandoned their uncounted-vacation-days policy:
When people are uncertain about how many days it’s okay to take off, you’ll see
curious things happen. People will hesitate to take a vacation as they don’t
want to seem like that person who’s taking the most vacation days. It’s a race
to the bottom instead of a race towards a well rested and happy team.
Exactly. I’ve never heard of an employer in the tech business with one of these “open” vacation policies whose employees actually took as much vacation as they would have in a traditional accrued-vacation-days policy.
What usually happens instead is that the workaholism culture in tech startups takes priority, and it becomes politically unwise to ever take a vacation, especially a truly offline one.
The tech business is proud of its workaholism, but it really shouldn’t be. It’s a sign of immaturity and poor management, not drive.
Ged Maheux searched the App Store for “Twitter” and found Twitter clients ranked horribly below a bunch of spam and garbage apps, most having little to nothing to do with Twitter.
You can see similar ranking problems with almost any common search term. I searched earlier today for an iPad Instagram client — the iPad App Store search list for “Instagram” is just as spammy and unhelpful as this. I was only able to find what I was actually looking for by searching Google and asking people on Twitter.
The most capricious App Store rejections stem from an idealized image of how iOS devices “should” be used, enforced by the Apple marketing division (which app review, and all of developer relations, is under). It’s hard for me to reconcile that idealized image with what we see in reality in App Store search and Top lists.
Gawker/Valleywag gossip writer Sam Biddle, who has written sensational, inflammatory, abusive articles about people in tech for years as if we’re trashy celebrities (who also don’t deserve the abuse, but at least they’re accustomed to it), comes so close to a bigger revelation in this marvelously introspective piece:
I’ve been asked many times if I would post Sacco’s tweet all over again, and I still don’t know how to answer. Would I post the tweet again? Sure. Would I post the tweet knowing it’s going to cause an incredibly disproportionate personal disaster for Justine Sacco? No. Would I post the tweet knowing it could happen? Now we’re in dicey territory, and I’m thinking of ghosts: If you had a face-to-face sit-down with all of the people you’ve posted about, how many of THOSE would you do again? We’re wading through swamps and thorns, here.
Please, Sam. Wade through those thorns. It really is that bad. Every time, there’s a human on the other side that you’re trivializing, misrepresenting, and ruining — all for just one more post, among many, to feed the endless machine today.
Is this really the kind of work you want to devote your life to? That’s a choice you make, and it’s not your only option.
Great initiative from FastMail to develop, open, and spread their modern successor to IMAP. This is badly needed — I hope it catches on with client and server developers.
The good news for such an effort is that there are very few influential email hosts left (and FastMail is one), and even fewer email clients. The bad news is that it’s very hard to get the remaining few to do anything.