What I… (December ’15, January ’16)

After skipping the December issue of What I… (because the “season of bliss” is always a very busy time for me), it’s now back at full force, with a combined issue for December 2015 and January 2016 ;)

… Did

SiriMote IconReleased SiriMote 1.0 (website, blog)
SiriMote lets you control your Mac with your Apple TV Siri Remote and is compatible with any app that supports your Mac’s keyboard’s media keys (play/pause, next, previous, volume up, volume down).
The response has been overwhelming, with coverage from MacStoriesAppleInsider, iDownloadBlog, LifeHacker, a feature on MacUpdate and many more, resulting in 20 downloads per hour in the first week.
I would have liked to have SiriMote run in the sandbox (and thus be available on the Mac App Store), but due to the API it uses for sending the keyboard events (CGEventPost), I wasn’t able to. Perhaps I’ll find another way to go about it in a future update and release it on the Mac App Store. I’ve definitely filed an enhancement request through Apple’s bug reporter.

Got a call from a member of the press
As a first time for me, I got a call from Nicolas (from ifun.de) regarding the release of SiriMote, who was interested in whether or not SiriMote would support the Remote’s touchpad at some point.
It’s very nice to connect to members from the press this way – I usually only ever get in contact via email or twitter.

Pomodoro Method
As you’ll see below, I started using the Pomodoro Method and I’m convinced it’s got me more productive.
Basically, you set yourself a timer for a fixed duration (let’s say, 25 minutes), after which you’ll take a short break (5 minutes), and repeat three times, at which point you take a longer break and then start over. You can change the intervals of course, but I found 25 minutes work well for me. 

Released SiriMote 1.1 (website)
In January, I released an update for SiriMote to support Microsoft PowerPoint presentations (start/stop a presentation, go to the next/previous slide).
It uses AppleScript (I would have liked to use the Scripting Bridge instead, but I don’t own Microsoft PowerPoint so I couldn’t create the necessary Scripting Bridge header files).

Drawing the Apple TV Siri Remote in Code (twitter)
In the current version of SiriMote, I use a schematic image of the Siri Remote I found in Apple’s online documentation.
Since I prefer to have it resolution independent, I decided to draw it in code using NSBezierPath. It turned out pretty well and taught me a little bit more about NSBezierPaths, especially how to draw half a circle for the curved line that’s part of the Siri-button icon.

Mac App Store Promotion: Get Productive (blog)
From January 21st to 28th, Apple had a promotion of selected Mac and iOS Apps.
I was lucky enough to have Yoink selected for the promotion. It went very well – click the link above to read the blog post all about the details :)

Newsletter (subscribe)
I’ve started a newsletter for all things Eternal Storms Software, letting you know (at a low frequency – once a month at most) what’s going on behind and in front of the scenes here at Eternal Storms Software. Perhaps you’d like to join the Eternal Storms Software Newsletter :) Thank you.

… Downloaded

Focus App IconFocus (Mac App Store)
A Pomodoro-Method app with a tiny todo-list-manager.

Twitter App IconTwitter for Mac 4.0 (Mac App Store)
“Don’t call it a comeback”? OK, I’ll call it a catastrophe.
The 4.0 release was simply that – a catastrophe. However, they remedied most of the issues I experienced with 4.0.2, so all is good again.

Veertu App IconVeertu (Mac App Store)
A virtualization software without a lot of crud and stuff nobody needs. It’s bare bones, but works very nicely.

DuckTales: Remastered App IconDuckTales: Remastered (iOS App Store)
I loved the GameBoy game, although it was too difficult for me to ever finish it.
This time, I’m doing my best to finish it – it’s just as hard to beat as I remember.

Rails App IconRails (iOS App Store)
Remember Flight Control? Rails is like that, only with trains and, it seems, a little bit more complex.

… Read

How to Work 40 Hours in 16 (click)
In December, I began using the Pomodoro method. This blog post made me try it, and I must say, I love it.
I often procrastinate, and this method helps me procrastinate more productively :P

Sketch Leaving the Mac App Store (click)
Something has to be done about it. It’s not the first high-profile app to take this step, Panic’s Coda and Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit preceded it (along with others).
Phil Schiller taking over the App Store makes me wonder if there’s a change on the horizon, perhaps at this year’s WWDC – Schiller has always been very fond of the Mac after all.
We need to be able to do demos, upgrades, analytics and video previews on the Mac App Store.

Apple’s Q4 Financial Results (click)
Macs still on the rise (compared to the overall market) – something I love to hear!

Fix your Posture (click)
3 exercises to fix your posture at the workplace.

Ways To Improve Productivity When Working From Home (click)
“Keep your family from disturbing you” is the hardest part, but something you have to follow through on if you do work from home.

… Watched

The Babadook Movie PosterThe Babadook (iTunes)
Terrifying and gripping. To my girlfriend and me, it’s one of the best horror flicks of late.

Bajirao Mastani Movie Poster, with my GirlfriendBajirao Mastani (Wikipedia)
An epic, historical Bollywood movie. Good music.

Dilwale Movie PosterDilwale (Wikipedia)
Whenever a new movie with Shah Rukh Khan comes out, we have to go see it. But when it includes Kajol as well, there’s no holding back for my girlfriend ;)
A love story with lots and lots of twists and turns.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie PosterStar Wars: The Force Awakens (iTunes)
Hands down the best movie in the franchise. BB-8 is the absolute star of the film.

… Ate

Spicy Lemon RiceSpicy Lemon Rice with Tamarind Date Chutney and Chapati

… Went to See

Star Wars: IdentitiesStar Wars: Identities. My girlfriend (on the left, “Ma’ka”) and I (on the right, “Brzl”) went to see this exhibit on December 31st and were simply blown away.
So many cool things to see, actual movie props, so much background information – very much worth a visit.

Post-Mortem: The Mac App Store’s Get Productive Promotion

Get Productive Mac App Store Banner

From January 21st to January 28th, Apple ran a promotion on its App Stores: Get Productive.
I was lucky enough to be asked to participate on the Mac App Store with Yoink, my app that improves and simplifies drag and drop on the Mac.

I thought I’d share my experience with this promotion and some of the stuff that went on behind the scenes.

Getting Invited

It started at the beginning of January, when I received an eMail from a very nice person at Apple, asking if I was interested in putting Yoink on sale for a promotion to happen later in January. I didn’t think too much before responding that I would love to participate – after all, when Apple asks you to participate in a promo, you participate in that promo, there’s no question about it.

It’s not the first time the app partook in a promotion.
In February 2013, Yoink was part of a three-weeks-long productivity promotion on the Mac App Store called “Get Stuff Done” (Yoink was part of the third week – “Utilize”):

Get Stuff Done Week 3 - UtilizeYoink in the Mac App Store’s 2013 Promotion “Get Stuff Done – Utilize” (image credit: macrumors.com)

Thankfully, Yoink did pretty well in that promotion and I think that may have helped in making Apple consider it for this promotion, too.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t have any access or connections to the powers-that-be of the Mac App Store.
However, I do contact them (very rarely, mind you) through iTunes Connect ahead of time if I have a substantial update coming out with information about what’s new and what technologies are used in the update. I do not recommend contacting them about every update you put out – that can only be bad for you, I’m sure.

Pushing my luck, or: Trying to get ScreenFloat included

I realize I should be counting my lucky stars getting one app featured in this promotion.
The thing is, I really believe that another app of mine – ScreenFloat, which takes screenshots and puts them in front of all windows so they’re always visible as a reference to whatever you’re working on – would have been a good fit for the theme of “Get Productive”.
In my mail to Apple, I mentioned ScreenFloat, described it in one sentence and asked if it would be considered.
They did, but the app apparently didn’t make the cut. Since that was what I was expecting anyway, no harm was done and as far as I can tell, they didn’t find it too pushy. Quite the contrary; they seemed very thankful for the suggestion.
I did not receive information about why it was not included, but I have a guess:
I think perhaps the reason they decided not to include ScreenFloat in the sale was its lack of localization – ScreenFloat is localized in English and German, whereas Yoink is available in English, German, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Europe), French and Italian. Or maybe that it hasn’t received an update in a while (although I am working on version 2.0 these days).

Holding Back an Update

As you’re probably aware, when you release an update on the App Store, its current reviews vanish, the star-rating is averaged over all versions and the new version has 0 (zero) stars.
I was about ready to release an update for Yoink when Apple contacted me, and I knew I had to postpone releasing that update, since if I released it, no stars would be shown next to the app, and I think it does make a difference – it looks much more enticing with stars than without:

Yoink Listing without StarsYoink listing without stars on the Mac App Store

Yoink listing with StarsYoink listing with stars on the Mac App Store

I generally dislike withholding an update to my apps (as I regularly fix bugs and I don’t like knowing that a version with bugs that I have already fixed internally is still out there for users to use), but in this case, I had to make an exception.

It came as a blessing in disguise anyhow since it gave me some extra time to test the soon-to-be-released update and make sure the new Force Touch integration was working as expected.

The Effects of the Promotion

I am more than happy with the results of the promotion. Then again, there’s bound to be a big impact on sales when Apple puts your app (along with other developer’s) in front of (potentially) all Mac App Store users.
Apple calls users to action beautifully (see the first image of this post) – a nice banner with icons of popular apps along with the tag line “limited-time prices”. I know that gets me pushing the Purchase button.

Impact on Sales

As expected, I noticed a significant jump in sales during the promotion.
I’m uncomfortable sharing numbers (something I need to overcome, other developers have shared their numbers and it’s always been helpful), but here’s the curve before, during and after the sale from iTunes Connect:

Yoink Sales through the Get Productive PromotionYoink’s sales graph before, during and after the promotion

James Thomson, developer of PCalc (Mac / iOS), which also participated in the promotion, has also shared his curve on twitter.

Mac App Store Ranking

When the promotion began, Yoink was not in the Top 100 of the Top Paid category in the US at the time.
On January 21st, the app started rising, went to the 43rd place, and on January 22 had its best spot at position 13. It hovered around that spot until the end of the promotion a week later.
It rose to the Top Paid Top 10 in several countries, including China, Japan, Germany and Austria.

Reviews

I did not see a significant increase in the number of reviews – however, the ones I did receive during the campaign were written in China – something I attribute to the fact that, with a recent update of Yoink, I localized it into Simplified Chinese. I haven’t gotten many reviews of Yoink in that country before, so that’s a safe bet.

Support Requests

Surprisingly, requests for support (by mail, twitter or facebook) didn’t come in in the amounts I was expecting and I think that’s a good indication that Yoink is working reasonably well.
Not getting support requests can mean two things: No one purchases it or the software is working more or less without major problems.
Regarding the amount of copies sold, I take not seeing a big bump in support requests as a good thing.

Sponsored Tweets

Yoink's Sponsored Tweet on Twitter

As I mentioned on twitter, I gave Promoted Tweets a try. I put €200,- (around $215) into it and I think it’s safe to say that it’s the most expensive way for me yet of reaching people. On the other hand, the targeting is first-class.

Twitter Promoted TweetPromoted Tweet views (highest: around 14.500 views)

I hand-picked 100 twitter accounts that I thought were relevant to the Mac community (developers, app-accounts, bloggers, journalists), chose interests that I thought were relevant to Yoink and let it fly.
I reached 55.813 people, resulting in 4.142 “engagements”, a conversion rate of 7.4%.
For $215, I can get banner ads on websites that yield 170.000 views and up, but the engagement rate there is much lower.
What is an “engagement”, exactly? It’s a click on the tweet, a click on your profile, a click on the image, a click on the link, a “like” or a retweet. So the engagement rate of 7.4% itself is more or less meaningless.
According to Twitter, I received 35 direct clicks on the link. Thirty-five. That’s an engagement rate of 0.06%. Pretty expensive advertising indeed.

Promoted Tweet EngagementsPromoted Tweet – Engagements

The funniest thing is that some of the people “liking” the tweet ended up blocking me as “spam”. One reply of the two I received was this image:

Spam ReplySpam, anyone?

I ended up on a couple of lists with the specific purpose of blocking me, since I had an ad on twitter. Granted, those were most likely Twitter users who weren’t ever inclined to purchase my software and there are no hurt feelings, I just found it funny.
Seems some users on twitter don’t realise there’s advertisement and figured I spammed them somehow.

The Link for the Sponsored Tweet

In the beginning, I ran a tweet with a link directed to Yoink on the Mac App Store, which later on I discovered was a bad idea.
Most of the users I targeted with this tweet use Twitter on their iOS device and when you open a Mac App Store link on iOS, you receive this:

Mac app in iOS App StoreYoink in the iOS App Store

When you click on “Learn more about this App”, it does take you to the app’s website, but that’s another tap most users are not willing to do.
I changed the link to take them directly to Yoink’s website and only lost about 4.000 views. My bad. (I filed a radar to improve the “Mac Apps page in the iOS App Store” here).

I didn’t like linking directly to my app. I’d rather have linked to the sale, the promotion page where all apps are shown. As far as I can tell, however, that is not possible as of yet (I filed a radar for it, too). It is definitely something that could be improved for future promotions.

Maybe the sponsored tweet may have raised the awareness of Yoink among some users, but I don’t think it was worth it. Perhaps an even more targeted audience would have helped.

TL;DR

Being featured by Apple seriously helps you in getting new customers for your app and I’ll do it again any time they invite me.
Sponsored tweets? Quite expensive for little to no effect (in my case – mind you, it was my first sponsored tweet and I might not have targeted it right. Next time, I might go for a sponsorship of a popular blog instead).

Newsletter

If you enjoyed this blog post, perhaps you’d like to join the Eternal Storms Software Newsletter where I write you once a month at most about what’s going on with my apps and on my blog :) Thank you.

Get Productive – Mac App Store Promotion

Get productive app store sale 02

Get Productive with First-Class Mac Apps

Apple has launched a promotion on both the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store and I’m happy to be able to tell you that Yoink is part of it :)
Here’s a partial list of apps included in this Mac App Store Promotion:

  • Yoink ($2.99 instead of $6.99)
  • 1Password ($24.99 instead of $49.99)
  • Things ($24.99 instead of $49.99)
  • 2Do ($24.99 instead of $49.99)

… and many more :)

9to5mac has some more information and also lists the deals available to you on the iOS App Store – you can check them out here!

Yoink – 57% off for a limited time as part of the Mac App Store’s Get Productive promotion!

Enjoy :)