Tag Archives: apps

There’s no such thing as a “free” app, so get over it and pony up!

In this article, I’m, not just on a proverbial hobby-horse but whipping it frantically as I gallop wildly into the Valley of Death. I may even end up offending some readers but hopefully make some new friends along the way. So saddle up and join the posse!

One boy and his horse

Imagine getting the following e-mail from someone who wants you to provide therapy services for their child.

Dear Therapist

I am the parent of a child who cannot speak and really needs help. I saw that you offer therapy services to people like my child and I’d love to have access to them. However, I am really surprised that your therapy services are so expensive and think that you should provide them free of charge. Other people provide free therapy services and there are also many people who are not therapists who provide free therapy services in their spare time.

I’d be happy to provide a recommendation of your therapy services to other people if you were to provide them to me for free. Otherwise, I am afraid I will just have to blog about how expensive your therapy services are and go somewhere else. It seems so sad that children in desperate need of help are denied access to therapy services because of people wanting to make a profit from their disability.

Now I’m guessing that your response is likely to be along the lines of “no,” based on the notion that at the end of the day, you’d like to be able to eat, stay warm, and maybe feed your family. You might also be wanting to pay off the huge loan  you took out to train for years to become a therapist in the first place – because those greedy folks at the college expected you to pay for your education! And if you were to give free therapy to this client, the “recommendation” would result in everyone else wanting free help, and that’s not usually a sustainable business model.

OK, so why not copy the email into a document and do a search-and-replace that changes every instance of “therapy services” to “apps.” Hell, why don’t I make it even easier and do that for you below:

I am the parent of a child who cannot speak and really needs help. I saw that you offer apps to people like my child and I’d love to have access to them. However, I am really surprised that your apps are so expensive and think that you should provide them free of charge. Other people provide free apps and there are also many people who are not therapists who provide free apps in their spare time.

I’d be happy to provide a recommendation of your apps to other people if you were to provide them to me for free. Otherwise, I am afraid I will just have to blog about how expensive your apps are and go somewhere else. It seems so sad that children in desperate need of help are denied access to apps because of people wanting to make a profit from their disability.

Sounds familiar?

So how about another stark contrast just to hammer home a little more how ridiculous we all are – and we’re all guilty – when it comes to value and pricing with apps.

Hands up anyone who buys at least one coffee per week from a local coffee store.

Hands down.

The nice people at Statistic Brain estimate that the average price on an espresso-based coffee in 2012 was $2.45, and a brewed one was $1.34. So if you drink an espresso-based coffee each week for a year, you are out-of-pocket by $127.40. More sobering is that there’s a good chance you drink more than one a week, and just having two takes you up to $255 and tax.

So remind me again; why do we whine about paying 99 cents for an app? Why do we jump through hoops to badger, harass, cajole, and even blackmail app developers into giving us freebies? If I’m happy to spend $250 per year on something as trivial as a cup of non-essential coffee, why will I not spend $1 on an app that is apparently “essential” for a child’s education? Is coffee more valuable than education?

Our sense of “value” and “worth” has gone totally to pot when it comes to apps. It defies belief that consumers somehow believe that either it costs nothing to create an app or that app creators are making money out of the wazoo from their yachts just off of Miami Beach. We are, in fact, victims of Crapponomics, the naive misunderstanding of how apps work from an economic standpoint.

Why did this happen? Why is it that when an app developer asks $1.99 for something that took weeks of work we are shocked at the effrontery to ask such an outrageous price and invent some form of “special case” as to why we deserve a freebie?  Let’s take a look at Crapponomics 101.

Crapponomics graphic

1. The apps “anchor” was originally free.
In Economics, there’s a concept known as the “Anchor Point.” As the name suggests, it’s the selling price at which you drop your anchor when you bring a new product or service to market. Once an anchor is set, new folks tend to cluster around your safe harbor and drop similar anchors. And when people start purchasing products, this anchor becomes the standard against all other similar products are measured. The average price of an app in 2012 was $1.58, which is 87 cents cheaper than a cup of espresso-based coffee.

The best anchor point for a consumer is usually free. If I want stuff, and the stuff costs me nothing, how bad can that be? Well, the obvious thing is that there’s a little thing called quality that gets factored into the equation, but you’d be surprised (or not) how much quality will be sacrificed on the altar of Free.  And in the early days of iPhones and iPads, the majority of apps were free – which became, and remains, the anchor.

2. Most apps are for marketing, not profit.
In his seminal work, The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins argued that human beings are basically the gene’s way of making new genes. We are, in fact, merely hosts for DNA, and the name of the game of Life is for DNA to exist. In a similar fashion, apps are just the tablet device’s way of creating more tablet devices. Apple, Samsung, and even Microsoft, don’t need to write apps because what they want is to sell tablets [1]. The purpose of the free Angry Birds games is to sell angrier and more expensive birds; the purpose of the free United Airlines app is to get you to buy tickets on United Airlines; the purpose of the free Pandora app is to get you to subscribe to the full Pandora service. Folks will pay for more birds, better airline seats, and more music but still begrudge the 99 cents for an app designed by a professional clinician and software engineer to help a client improve. And that’s because we mix up the free app with the for-profit app, and forget the value of expertise and quality.

3. We see apps as “things” and not a piece of intellectual property.
Ask yourself why you want an app in the first place. Usually it’s because it offers you something that would take you a long time to develop yourself (if at all) and will in some way help your clients succeed. So why are you reluctant to pay someone for taking the time to do all that work for you? Is 99 cents really too much to ask for the hours and hours a developer has put into it?

The problem is that most folks look at apps the same way they look at cans of beans on a shelf; you find the ones you like, stick ’em in your basket, and pay at the counter. But many apps – particularly those for therapy and education – have taken someone a long time to create. What you are buying is their years of experience in their field of expertise, their time designing the content, their cost to employ a programmer, and any royalties they in turn might be paying “behind the scenes” for things within the app [2].

4. Apple are not a charity and take their cut.
Folks who create apps know that despite the image that St. Stephen of Jobs carefully crafted to portray Apple as a caring, sharing, warm-and-fuzzy group of lovable kooks sticking it to “the Man,” they want 30% of everything that goes out via iTunes. Everything. If you write an app for an Apple device, you cannot sell it other than via iTunes – and that’ll cost you 30% of your selling price. Every 99 cent app that we begrudgingly pay for nets the developer 66 cents. Does anyone think to harass Apple because they get 33 cents for distributing? Nope, the developer gets the blame.

And how about that “freebie” thing? Well, Apple are kind enough to offer developers some free codes that they can use for promotion purposes, but after that, if the developer wants to give one away, they have to pay for their own app – and Apple still gets the 33 cents! That “free” app you are so adamantly demanding costs the developer (a) 66 cents in lost income and (b) 33 cents real money to Apple [3].

5. You have to sell millions of 99 cent apps to buy a boat.
Another basic rule of Economics is that to make a profit you can either sell millions of very cheap things at a small margin, or a few very expensive things at a large one. The Crapponomics assumption by consumers is that app developers make money by following the former route; millions of apps at 99 cents = sun-kissed beaches and mojitos in Hawaii.

But there are two underlying assumptions here that are inaccurate. The first is that the sort of apps being developed for therapy and education do not sell in millions. Not even close. The second is that there are not significant profits to be made from an app; simple math soon whittles down the margins. For a 99 cent app, Apple takes 33 cents, leaving 66 cents. Of that 66 cents, there’s usually at least two people to pay – author and developer – so that takes it to 33 cents each. Take out something for the IRS (like Apple, tax folks want their pound of flesh and you stand no chance of getting a “freebie” from them!), maybe a little for marketing, and that “dollar an app” profit has shrunk down smaller than a guy’s nuts on an Alaskan winter’s morning.

Think of the value, not the anchor
So do you still think paying 99 cents is too expensive? Or $1.99? Maybe even $4.99? Remember, that 99 cent app is supposed to make it easier for you to provide a service – for which you WILL be charging substantially more than 99 cents.

If a “life-changing” app costs $4.99, who in their right mind would quibble with that? Has the value of education and therapy reached the point where folks will pay more for a couple of pints at the bar than they will for their child’s future? I suppose that 60-inch LCD TV from  Best Buy is a “good investment” but the $99.99 for an AAC app isn’t? Where has our sense of value gone? I suppose paying Verizon Wireless $40.00 every  month for a data plan is normal for our wired life but hounding the developer of a $2.99 app  for a free copy balances that out.

We need to realize that when we buy an app we are not paying for the virtual equivalent of a can of beans but the skills, knowledge, and time of an experienced educator or clinician. Only then we will begin to stop the decline in the undervaluing of therapy and education as a whole.

Sometimes, there just isn’t an app for that.

[1] From Apple’s perspective, even the sale of the tablets isn’t where the big money resides; that’s coming from their greatest invention; iTunes. Although most folks would suggest that the iPod, iPhone, and iPad are Apple’s best inventions, it’s their delivery system that was their masterstroke. In order to get anything into your iDevice you need to download from iTunes, and Apple makes money on every download. Every app, book, song, movie, or video earns them cash, and that’s pure genius.

[2] Most app authors are in the true sense “authors” and not “writers.” They don’t actually write programming code for a device, and often have no idea about how code works. In a similar fashion, when Snooki claims to have “authored a book” she is being truthful; someone else actually “wrote” it based on Snooki’s ideas (whatever those may have been.) What this means is that the “99 cents” you pay  is now starting to get split many ways, and the author isn’t getting anything near 99 cents.

The average cost to develop and app has been estimated to be anywhere between $8000 and $200,000.  Here’s a good article called The Cost of Building an iPad App. Ideas for apps are cheap – we all have them – but software engineers are not, neither is your time. You might think that if you are designing an app in your “spare time” then it’s free, but the only reason you have “spare time” is that you’re already being paid for a job! The real test of the cost is to quit your real job and then go to the bank to see how much they will lend you to design an app.

[3] My standard disclaimer here is that I have no problem with any company making a profit. Apple developed the iTunes distribution system and have every right to recoup their development efforts by charging people to use the system. Although I may not want to say, “Greed is Good,” I’m OK with saying, “Making a profit is just fine.” My beef is more that for some reason, people seem to see Apple as the good guy and app developers as trying to gouge customers by charging for their apps. Folks seem happy to demand free 99 cent apps but don’t expect apple to give them a $700 iPad. Why is that? And Apple are the ones who force up app prices by asking for 30% of the selling price and only providing a limited number of free codes. So why don’t people rail on Apple about this? It seems that the richest company on the planet gets a “pass” but struggling app developers get the hassle. If Apple doesn’t give free $700 iPads, Verizon doesn’t offer free $40 monthly data plans, and Best Buy doesn’t let you walk off with a free 60-inch TV, why should an app seller give away a free 99 cent piece of software? Stop picking on the little guys!

Using the Pulse app to follow your favorite blogs

There was a time not so long ago when sitting down at the end of the day with a newspaper to catch up with world events was relatively normal. If you then watched a 30-minute new broadcast on TV, you were pretty much up to date.

In the 21st century, there are now more sources of information than you can shake the proverbial stick at, and there is no way to keep up with everything if you want to lead anything resembling a Life. So one way that technology can help you is to use a piece of software called an aggregator [1]. This is a single program that collects and displays in one location all the different sources of internet-based information that you might normally have to skip through to get you daily dose of news.

The one I use as my personal daily newspaper is Pulse, a multi-platform software that gathers up the latest information from a variety of media sources and pops them on-screen in an easy-to-view form.

Pulse icon


A great feature is that you can set up different pages (or tabs) for different sources, and this means it’s easy to have a simple BLOGS page just so you can follow your favorites. For those of you with iPads, here is a step-by-step guide to how to add a BLOGS page to Pulse.

1. Download Pulse for iPad/iPod.

2. When you first download Pulse, it takes you through setting up your first page and gives you lots of pre-chosen selections, such as Reuters News, BBC News, Lifehacker, GQ, and many, many others. Just choose a bunch so you can get up and running quickly and get a feel for the interface.

3. Once you are up and running, you can start adding your BLOGS tab by selecting the Cog icon for iOS app or the Stack icon icon at the top left [2].

Pulse home

Choose Settings Button

4. Select the ADD A PAGE option from the screen that pops up.

Add a new page

Add new page

5. Now touch the button for BROWSE THE CATALOG.

Bowse catalog


6. From the pop-up window that appears, click on the Search Box.

Search box

Click the Search box

7. Now type in either the name of the blog you want to add or the actual blog address. HINT: If you type a blog address then add “/feed” that can work better than just the address alone.

Type in the name of the blog you want to add

Type in the blog

8. When you see the blog appear below the Search window, touch the blue + sign and it will change to a check mark.

Checked blog

Checked blog

9. Your chosen blog is now on your new page, which you can see if you look behind the “What’s New” window.

Blog is added

Blog is added

10. Click on the X to close the window and you will end up on your Home page but now have a new tab next to HOME.

Blog added

Blog added

11. The final touch is to press and hold on the tab where is says “Page 2” and yo can then edit it and type in BLOGS (or whatever). You now have a dedicated blog page where you can go ahead and add as many as you like.

Signing up with Pulse

If you want to go the whole hog and have your Pulse data available to you on any device, you should sign up for a Pulse account. This is incredibly painless as all they ask for is your e-mail and a password. That’s really it!

1. Click on the Pulse ME button button to get to the sign-up/login screen.

2. Choose Sign Up to create a new account with Pulse.

Sign up screen for Pulse

Sign up

Once you are signed up, you can now access Pulse from any platform for which there is software. Other than the iPad, I have tested it on a Droid 3, Samsung 7″ Tab, Samsung 10″ Tab, and the on-line version at the company’s pulse.me website [3]. Although there may be some difference in the interface, which is essentially because of scree size, it is pretty slick to be able to access all the same information regardless of platform.

And a final word: thanks to Speech Dudes follower @abbiem (Abbie Moran) for prompting us to produce this article! You can check out her new blog at Thinking about Language.

[1] The use of the word aggregator as a collector of information from various sites dates back to 1995. However, in the 16th century, it referred to “a collector or compiler of medical remedies.” It comes from post-classical Latin aggregator meaning “compiler,” which in turn derives from the Latin verb aggregare, “to cause to flock together, or join together.” The prefix ag– is really just a variant of the common prefix ad– meaning “toward or to,” and the root element is the Latin grex meaning “a flock.” Speechies will recognize the process whereby the /d/ at the end of the prefix /æd/ becomes a /g/ when followed by /grɛks/ – assimilation. Non-speechies might like to try saying “adgregate” and you’ll see why “aggregate” is much easier!

[2] At the time of writing, Pulse is moving to its 3.0 version. The cog icon is being changed to the “stack of papers” icon (it’s impossible to find the name of a picture if you don’t know what it is!) so if you have a pre-3.0 version you will see the cog.

[3]  It works on Windows XP with Firefox (v. 18.0.1), Opera (v. 12.14), Chrome (24.0.1312.57), but I had problems with Internet Explorer 8 (v. 8.0.6001). Internet Explorer 9 (v. 9.0.8112) on Vista works fine.

The Dudes Do ATIA Orlando 2012: Day 3. Of Data and Describbling

The great thing about starting a day on a bad note is that usually, it can only get better. This morning’s “bad note” was to make a pot of coffee using the water from the faucet in the hotel room. Big mistake. Huge. I’m pretty convinced that all hotels have special filters installed that turn perfectly acceptable water into something that tastes as if it’s just dripped off an industrial sludge compactor, and to which is added a selection of chemical cleaners that are banned by the United Nations. Call me cynical, but the fact that they also strategically place bottles of water right next to the faucet  and charge more than a cost of gas. Seriously, $5.00 for 1/2 gallon of water. This also explains why the “water-powered car” has yet to be invented – it’d be too expensive to run!

Bad coffee face

Must... try... to... swallow...

After at least two mouthfuls of the warm, brown liquid that was clinging hopefully to the side of my cup, I decided to use it to descale the sink and poured it down the drain. There! Better now.

The day did, indeed, improve because I’d managed to schedule more sessions than meetings, so I had the pleasure of sitting back to listen to presenters and describbling notes in my notebook.

Describble is a real word, even though my spell checker disagrees. Honestly. It’s in the Oxford English Dictionary, and that, for me, is a working definition of “real” as far as words are concerned. [1] It is, however, not a particularly popular or well-used item. In fact, it is credited as being a nonce word. And for those for whom nonce is new, it means “a word apparently used only ‘for the nonce’, i.e. on one specific occasion or in one specific text or writer’s works.” [2]

Geeky as I may sometimes seem to be (although technically I’m more of a nerd than a geek) I still find that my favorite piece of technology for a conference is a pen and a notebook. I can still write faster than I can type or swype, and there’s also something vaguely satisfying about seeing brown ink dry quickly on cream paper, watching the light momentarily flash off of the wet blaze as you describble quickly across the parchment.

Notebook and pen

Low-tech "tablet" or "notebook"

And I describbled a lot at the presentation by Deborah Witkowski entitled Data Collection in AAC: Gathering Performance and Outcomes Evidence. Debbie talked about the difference between standardized evaluations and profiles/inventories, and how it makes sense to be eclectic in your choices. In AAC, she stressed that “measurement” is not just counting words but looking at access, vocabulary, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. She also encouraged people to do two basic things before implementing any therapeutic intervention; (a) take a baseline measure and (b) determine you measure of success. This may seem obvious but once of the current issues with the iApp approach to AAC is that there is little to no data being collected. The “baseline” is typically “we downloaded this app” and the measure of success is “Bob is now communicating” but with NO specification as to what “communicating” is; and I have seen YouTube videos where folks push the iPad against the child’s hand and say “Look, he said it!”[3]

Debbie provided her slides as a PDF so we have them available for you at the Speech Dudes Box account:

Witokowski 2012 Data Collection in AAC

Today was an 8:00 to 5:00 day, which is not different from a normal day, but somehow at a conference, by the end of several sessions, you feel a little drained. Sitting down and listening seems like an easy thing to do but oddly it uses energy. Well, something must be using up energy because by the time I was back at my room around 5:45 p.m. I was pretty much ready for a nap. Or maybe I’m just old.

…but not too old. By 7:00 p.m. I was revitalized and ready to eat, although not ready to take a long trip somewhere. So, we went to the hotel’s Tropicale restaurant for a delicious Shrimp Bisque, followed by a Seafood Pasta, generously loaded with chunks of salmon, swordfish, scallops, and crab claws, all washed down with ice-cold, lime stuffed Coronas. On the way back, we called in at our friends’ villa and spent the rest to the evening chatting, laughing, and helping to clear the refrigerator of beer.

I’d forgotten all about the morning coffee.

[1] I’m also one of those who recommends the Urban Dictionary as a source for current slang and entertainment, but a word’s presence in the UD doesn’t classify it yet as a “real” word for me – more of a “hopeful monster” ready for being tested against lexical natural selection.

[2] It’s also been used more recently (since the 1970’s) to mean a sexual pervert, particularly a child molester. It may derive from the earlier nance or nancy, a word to describe a homosexual male, which in turn comes from 19th century slang for buttocks. Once again, the Dudes have access to facts you didn’t even know you wanted to know!

[3] There’s a whole minefield of issues out there with regard to “over-the-counter” AAC, where parents skip any evaluation of their child and use YouTube, iTunes, and “the nice man at Best Buy” to decide what app is best. One step toward improving the situation is to determine measures of performance, preferably built into apps. Of course, many app “designers” won’t want this because measurement not only shows success but also failure. The importance attached to success makes us loath to see failure as a critical measure; and knowing something is NOT working is as valuable as knowing it is.

All Apped Out – Quit With the Updates!

The Dudes are as enamored with technology as anyone else – perhaps even more than some. But we’re also cynical enough to be critical of bogus claims and bad practice, and that includes refusing to jump on the portable app-based fanboys’ bandwagon. So if something sucks, it sucks, and we’ll call it out.

Which brings me to the current rant: incomplete apps. Hand up anyone out there with a mobile device that uses apps? OK, hand down. Now hands up all of you who have more than 50 apps? Hands down.

If you found yourself waving to both these, then you are also aware of a the fact that in the new world of apps, there is the phenomenon of the “constant updates.” By that, I mean that no app ever stands still for longer than a month at best without the need to be updated, either manually or automatically. But even more insidious is that we – without being asked or told – have come to accept this as standard practice. No longer do we demand a piece of software that (a) works and (b) will work for a year or so, but we are content with software that (a) sort of works and (b) needs updating every month – or in some cases every two weeks.

Pause for  moment and think about that. Constant updates. No “finished” program.

This leads to the situation where we all turn our smartphones, tablets, and even desktop computer in the morning, only to find messages that a piece of software either needs to be updated or has been updated automatically. For example, only a few hours ago I booted up my laptop to find a message from the good folks at Adobe that my flash player needed to be updated. Again. I seem to recall this happened a few weeks back. My Droid told me that “Weatherbug” had been updated, and my iPad told me there was one app that had a new version.

And all in one morning.

So given that we live in a world where apps are prolific – and will become even more so – we’re going to have to get used to the idea that nothing is finished, and that if you have any problems with the software, getting help will be hard. Why? Because unless  you are set up so that all your software is set for “automatic updates,” who knows what version you may be on and what the latest version is.

Frustrated computer user

"Version 4.21? I don't think so!"

Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, on the upside, we might imagine that constant updating ensures customer responsiveness: if Kimmy is using version 2.5 of “StutterStopper” and sends an email to say that a certain error is occurring, the developers can crank out version 2.6 with the fix and then expect everyone to update to the new version. That is, until Molly discovers an error in 2.6 that results in 2.7.

But this is little more than beta-testing “on-the-fly.” And Kimmy’s problem in 2.5 may not have fixed other as yet undiscovered problems. You might also find that the fix that gave rise to 2.6 has generated new problems that didn’t previously exist in 2.5! It’s called “The Butterfly Effect” and a bugbear of all software development. And the faster the fix, the more likely a Butterfly error may occur.

In reality, the genie is out of the bottle. This IS the way of things in the app world so we need to get used to it. All I’m asking is for developers to resist the impulse to churn out new versions so often. Hold back, collect a list of a hundred bugs and update them all at once rather than update a hundred time.