A Few Podcast Appearances

It seems that the way I am able to keep Developing Perspective to 15 minutes might be that I guest on other people’s podcasts and ramble on for hours. I was on three podcasts this last week.

  • The Prompt - #52: Koala Consortium • Myke and Federico invited on to talk about the improvements we saw in the App Store at WWDC. Specifically how they addressed or help with the issues I outlined in my Towards a Better App Store series.
  • The CocoaConf Podcast - #2: WWDC 2014 Reflections • I spoke with Daniel Steinberg about how I stay focused and seek out opportunities based on the WWDC announcements. This was recorded before WWDC but the reflections I made apply well to the massive changes announced there.
  • Release Notes - #57 • Charles and Joe asked me to talk through the business aspects of building a diverse product lineup. Rather than focusing on a single product line I have built my business on having a wide and diverse catalog that in aggregate allows me a dependable income.

I should probably also mention that last week’s episode of Developing Perspective outlined the approach I take each summer to dissect the WWDC announcements and work out what I should adopt.

David Smith




» A Fundamental Tension

David Marsh’s guest editorial on Touch Arcade is worth a read:

In a perfect world we would not put ads in any of our games. The unfortunate truth however is that ads are an important part of being able to deliver people the apps they love for free.

I see this tension between providing quality user experiences and building a sustainable business as the biggest challenge our industry currently faces. There aren’t any easy answers.

David Smith




Opportunities, not Obligations

As I sit firmly within the glow of WWDC’s announcements I’m struck by how different this year feels than years gone by. There is a different feeling in the air and a welcome change in the overall morale among the developers I meet.

Apple did so much this year to knock off our longtime wish-lists. Extensions, Photos, Metal, Scene Kit, CloudKit, Document Pickers, Handoff, Analytics, Beta Testing….it is Christmas morning. But it isn’t just the changes that I think have us all walking around with grins on our faces, it is what those changes now allow.

When I left WWDC last year I felt like I had a long todo list of things that I needed to do. Apple had made a lot of changes (most notably to the appearance) of iOS 7 that were a lot of work to adopt but that didn’t fundamentally change my apps. I couldn’t wow my customers with the resulting changelog, it felt like the same app but in a different dress.

This year is the opposite. I don’t have a todo list of things that I need to do, I have a list of things I want to do. This year Apple has taken the lid off and given us everything that we have been asking for. It is now our responsibility to step-up and take advantage of the new opportunities created.

This year I head into a busy summer overwhelmed in the best possible way with amazing opportunities, not with obligations that I need to adapt to.

Bring it on.

David Smith




Introducing Audiobooks 6.0

Five years ago I had a week’s spare time between consulting projects. I took the opportunity to see if I could try and build an app in a week, the result was Audiobooks.

In a store that is more known for giving apps 15-minutes-of-fame, Audiobooks has so far stood the test of time. Five years later the app continues to be one of the most popular audiobook apps in the store and has garnered nearly 8.5 million downloads. To celebrate its fifth birthday Audiobooks today is getting a major update to version 6.0.

Long-time Audiobooks users will notice the top to bottom overhaul of the appearance of the interface. If I’m honest the iOS 7 design update that I shipped last fall was a bit lukewarm. My own experience and concept of what a modern iOS app would look and feel like wasn’t fully developed. Now with the benefit of nearly a year using iOS 7 the visual design of Audiobooks finally can feel truly at home. Along with the improved graphics I was also able to add cover art for most of the nearly 8,000 audiobooks in its catalog, including the 6,672 free titles.

Podcasts!

The part of the update that I am most excited about is the addition of podcasts to the catalog. I love podcasts, simple as that. I likely listen to 20-30 hours of podcasts a week. They are one of my favorite forms of entertainment. As such I’m always looking for ways to introduce them to new listeners. If you’ve met me in-person you have likely experienced this first hand. For the 6.0 update of Audiobooks I decided to try and leverage the wide customer base it has to hopefully advance podcast listenership into a new audience.

The fusion of audiobooks and podcasts is a natural one. Both seek to provide you with an enjoyable audio experience you can take with you everywhere. The content and format might vary between them but if you enjoy listening to an audiobook there is a good chance you’d also like listening to a podcast.

This update, however, isn’t just about shoehorning a traditional podcast client into the app. I started from scratch on how I could simplify and boil down the essential podcast experience before I added it in. Most podcast clients (my own included) start you off with a screen listing thousands of shows to choose from or worse an empty search box that you need to use to find your own way. Most of these start from the assumption that you already know how podcasts work and have a few in mind before you even start. I wanted to address a different need.

What if you don’t know anything about podcasts to begin with?

The new podcasts area of Audiobooks assumes you know nothing about what a podcast is. It begins with a brief overview of what a podcast is in layman’s terms. Then below shows you a few dozen recommended, topical episodes to try out. I am continuing to refine this curation but my goal is to provide a short, rolling list of podcast episodes that appeal to a broad audience. The list is intentionally sparse. My goal is to not overwhelm you with a paradox of choice. I want to eliminate the possibility of being disappointed with your selection.

I’m not trying to replace or compete head-on with the traditional lineup of podcast clients. There is no concept of subscriptions, notifications, playlists, etc. You pick an episode, give it a listen and then grab another. My hope is that this will whet my customers appetites for a fuller experience and then motivate them to seek out a more robust experience once they too fall in love with podcasts.


Audiobooks is free.
David Smith




My Travel Coffee Kit

Over the last few years I have assembled what could quite rightfully be called an over-the-top travel coffee kit. I use this when I am staying at a hotel to make my morning brew. The kit has grown and expanded over the years but has pretty solidly settled on its current configuration. I share it here in case you might have a bit of space in your bag and want to mimic it.

Motivation

Before I dive headfirst into the kit itself it probably makes sense to explain a bit about why I have a kit like this in the first place. The superficial reason (and the one I am rightfully teased for) is that I enjoy a very particular type of coffee, prepared in a very particular way. Maybe I’m a snob or I’ve just gotten used to something and am too much of a curmudgeon to change.

The real reason however is more subtle. I am a very reluctant traveller. I don’t like waking up in a hotel bed, thousands of miles from home. I find the whole experience of being away somewhat unsettling. What I have found, however, is that if I can match and mimic my home routines while I travel I feel much more grounded. Waking up in a strange bed but then going over to the sink and doing the same routine that I would do at home helps ease my travel discomfort. It might be a bit silly but bringing along this little part of home has had a dramatic impact on my enjoyment of travel.

The Kit

The kit I travel with is comprised of seven parts. While it may look pretty large when laid out, it is actually quite compact when packed carefully. The Aeropress fits snugly into the kettle, the grinder handle detaches and the cups stack neatly into each other. It easily fits into my overhead-sized suitcase for short trips or in my checked bag for longer ones. You could pick and choose many parts of the kit but this is what I’ve found works best for me.

The Scale & The Coffee

The most essential part of the kit is the coffee itself. Typically I will bring along a stash sufficient for the duration of my trip. Right now this is home roasted Tanzanian. I put this in a zip lock bag. I use a sealed bag rather than the typical vented coffee ones because I don’t want my clothes to smell of coffee. You can also pretty easily pick up coffee at your destination if you prefer.

I make my morning coffee using 12g of beans per serving. I used to just guess at how much coffee to use but have found more consistent results by weighing it out each time. This Pocket Scale ($7) does the job perfectly. It is extremely compact and battery powered. The cover also conveniently can be used as a little tray to hold the beans while being measured.

The Kettle

The next thing you need to make good coffee is clean, hot water. While every hotel room in the US has a coffee maker that in theory could be used to heat your water (run without its coffee/filter) the resulting water is putrid. I find that bringing along a small electric kettle is very worth its size. I find that a 1-liter kettle ($9) works well here. It is enough water for making a few cups if you are traveling with someone but still small enough to be reasonable to travel with.

One of the advantages of traveling to Europe is that this can be left at home. In my experience most european hotels will have a kettle rather than a coffee maker in their rooms.

The Grinder

To grind up my coffee I use a small, hand cranked grinder ($37). The particular one I use (the Hario Skerton) is slightly bigger than it needs to be but I like the way it feels and the smoothness of its mechanism. It provides a very consistent grind and the effort required in the grinding isn’t too bad. Additionally it is also pretty quiet (as grinders go) so it won’t disturb the neighbors. If space is a concern Hario also makes a slightly smaller version, the Mini ($27), which I’ve also heard good things about.

The Aeropress

Of course the centerpiece of this whole setup is an Aeropress ($26). This is my preferred method of brewing coffee wherever I am. It lets you get really rich, flavorful cups with minimal mess or fuss. Also, since it doesn’t require electricity it is perfect for traveling. I brew using the Inverted Method which I find is more consistent than the directions you find on the box. The inner cavity of the plunger works perfectly as a filter holder. You can easily fit as many filters as you’d ever need for a trip.

The Cups

Lastly you’ll need somewhere to put the coffee. While most hotel rooms will have a foam or heat-safe paper cup for you to use the trouble is you likely can’t aeropress directly into these without crushing the cup. So I bring along a basic travel mug ($9). I will use this to press the coffee into and then depending on my schedule either enjoy it from that or transfer it into a disposable cup. I often bring along a few disposable cups just to make sure that I’ll have some with lids. Whenever I can I’ll use my reusable mug. However, when I’m going somewhere that carting it around after the coffee is finished will be annoying, I go disposable.

Conclusions

Bringing this along with me when I travel has greatly improved my sense of nervousness while away. I have found that especially when I’m traveling to conferences as a speaker it was an essential way to overcome my pre-speech jitters. Feeling like at least some small part of my day is familiar and under control is fantastic. The whole kit together cost me around $88, which for the resulting improvement in my travel comfort was a small price to pay.

David Smith