Your app got a bad rating in the AppStore?

August 24, 2009

Here is the solution: hire this great PR firm – Reverb Communications, and they will create a storm of fake positive reviews, their interns and possibly employees will be posing as fake users and give your app 5-star ratings everywhere!

While this is not something new – shareware developers still do it sometimes on and used to do it on, but a glorious PR firm? Can’t they earn their buck in an honest way? Maybe they can, but we should not count on that.

Can Apple stop that?  Yes, they can, because others have been doing that successfully. Stephen Kaufer, who is Founder & CEO of TripAdvisor (great site) describes in Founders At Work (great book) how those hotel owners and managers are submitting fake reviews all the time to push their hotels’ ratings higher. While Stephen doesn’t give all the details how they distinguish fakes, they obviously do a good job at it, at least from my standpoint.

Now, will Apple stop that? Well, they won’t. This is an entirely different story, let’s just say they’ve got other things to do. But we – developers can help here. It is relatively easy to write an AppStore crawler that will datamine the information about reviewers – the ratings they give, the apps they review, the texts they write, the dates of reviews, and so on. This program would easily identify most offenders in the same way the TechCrunch guys did manually. It is not a commercial project, of course – but it could be good for a student course work, or maybe even for graduate work. Anyone?


MobileNoter goes into beta status

August 22, 2009

We just started shipping our MobileNoter for beta-testing. It’s not as exciting as a first sale, but it’s still a great day. This is our second product launch in 3 years. The first was AvailSuite – small business management software. The overwhelming feelings ignited by the first customer and the first sale are absolutely unforgettable.

We’ve learned many things from developing our first product. One of them is being quick. We spent more than a year working on AvailSuite before shipping it to the customers. It’s much shorter with MobileNoter. Another thing is that we are actively measuring customers’ interest in the product now. We do know that there are a lot of people who really want to access and use OneNote on their iPhones. There are even people who say that they would buy iPhone once there is OneNote software for it. Yay, we are helping Apple to sell more iPhones!

Virtual phone numbers are accepted by registrators

August 20, 2009

If you are a startup, you are more than likely not to have an office. You are also very likely to have a Skype online phone number or Google Voice phone number. These virtual numbers are extemely easy to manage, forward to your mobile, etc. – all for just pennies. Everybody knows the benefits of global VoIP operators.

However, sometimes you need to register your company and the phone number for some useful services. For example, when you want to receive a code signing certificate, or register with a payment processing service, they would ask you to send a proof of your company identity (like Articles of Incorporation) and also a proof for your phone number – a phone bill to either your or your company. They used to demand a landline phone number, then they started accepting mobile numbers, and just recently they started accepting virtual phone numbers.

I was able to register with our Skype online phone number recently. Moreover, because has so poor order/bill history management, I ended up simply sending screenshots of a few webpages with the Skype account details and payments. After some arguments they accepted that proof. Of course, they did call the number a couple of times. This exact trick didn’t work last year. So, it’s really cool that you can get by a virtual phone number, sending a virtual bill, and they are still happy.

Cease and Desist Letter from some lawyers

August 8, 2009

While working on our product, we just received a scary letter from Richard Law Group. They are unhappy that we describe our software as “iPhone client for OneNote”, saying that we are confusing customers, making them think that our software is somehow coming from Microsoft. They also demanded some of our web domains, saying we are violating Microsoft’s trademarks. I won’t give much more details about their statements and demands at this time, because the story might not be over just yet. However, while finding out how domain name disputes are resolved, I came across a wonderful site of the National Arbitration Forum: Domain Name Disputes.

It gives a lot of information: rules, polices, etc about how these domain name disputes are resolved. If you haven’t gotten into a dispute with anyone, you should still check it out. It clearly shows that you should be careful when picking a name and domain for your new wonderful product or service. If it is even remotely similar to anyone’s trademark, you might expect that they will go after your domain eventually. Especially so if you are successful. It will also give you a pretty good idea about what arguments and reasoning work during the disputes. You may read it here about how that Richard Law Group actually won the case about, which was then transferred to Microsoft. “Respondent asserts that Complainant is a large corporation which is used to getting its way” – this is a hilarious argument, but it’s not working.

Apple fights AppStore spamming?

August 6, 2009

All of a sudden, Apple just pulled the plug on one of the worst spamming offender – Perfect Acumen. I didn’t review statistics on this one, but it is said to be (or, used to be) #3 developer in the number of apps in the AppStore. While Apple says the reason for the ban was that Perfect Acumen’s apps violated someone else’s copyrights, it’s a no-brainer that the infamous app developer got Apple’s attention precisely because of its spamming strategy.

Hooray to Apple. They should really go after Brighthouse Labs next.

Just registered in the iPhone Developer Program

August 4, 2009

It took Apple exactly a month to approve our application. I am not particularly amused – people have been telling stories about 2 or 3 months it took them to complete the registration. Sometimes the only thing that moved the process on would be calling Apple. They beat me though – I received a voicemail from Apple Developer Connection asking to call them back. I did just that and 20 minutes later we are admitted! We didn’t have to submit any documents except for the Articles of Incorporation. You’d think it’s small, but we are also a Microsoft Partner and we have never been asked to submit anything like that. You just sign the Partner Agreement with Microsoft and you are in.