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  1. jonemo's Avatar
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       #1  
    There is an ongoing stream of complaints about developers not making free apps available internationally, most recently surrounding the release of IPK Fetcher. I am involved in the development of an app that commits this "crime" and would like to explain what might make developers do this.

    First of all: I am a German currently living in the US, so I know both sides' views well. The app I am involved with is Cardsender, free and only available in the US. While I don't make decisions about availability, I am the one who suggested doing this. Why?

    Let me start by pointing out that App Catalog ratings are extremely important. Only apps with high rating get popular, you are doomed if many people rate you low. We observed that for a year in the iTunes App Store and for a couple of months in the webOS App Catalog. The trouble is: Only few people take the time to rate you well. The incentive to leave a terrible rating is much higher. And boy, are there many reasons to trash our postcard sending app: For some people it didn't download properly. Some people complain that it doesn't send ecards (1 star for this). Other people complain that USPS took two weeks to deliver the card. Some people even complain, that the card did not arrive after they put a wrong address on it! Do you notice a trend? None of these complaints relate to the app itself. People give you 0-star and 1-star reviews for things that have nothing to do with your app.

    This brings me to the next point. Unfortunately, there seem to be many dumb users out there. We had our German Kartensender App in the iTunes App Store worldwide for a while. The description stated clearly that postcards are sent from Cologne, Germany. People wrote us emails saying "My card took two weeks to arrive because it was sent from Germany! You suck!" Literally. Others wrote: "Your website is in gibberish, where is the English website!?" Others complained about payment methods: "What's that Direct Debit ****. That only works for German banks!" They are right. In fact it said so in the app description, in the app and right next to the payment button. The app was obviously targeted for Germans. We released it worldwide because we thought some users might appreciate it. Instead, many users took this as an opportunity to give us 1-star-ratings (there is no 0-star rating in iTunes).

    So when we ported the app to webOS, we wanted to do everything better. US users would get their own app that supports US-typical payment methods, is in US English and has the cards printed in the US (making delivery times faster and printing/postage costs cheaper). And German users would get their own app with German direct debit, German language and printing in Germany. We also have apps in the pipe for the UK and Ireland and are working on Spanish translation. The plan is to provide each country with an app targeted at their specific market. Note that this goes well beyond the localization that are available as part of the SDK which can mostly be overridden by the user.

    Of course this plan sounds too perfect to work. First came a fellow German who lives in California. He wants to use the German version of our app. We had to tell him "No" because there simply isn't a way to give him the German app without making it available to all US users (who would then come and complain that everything is in German). And then there is a problem with Palm. The Palm-problem is so ridiculous, it deserves its own paragraph:

    We submitted a (free) Germany-only version of our app for review to Palm as part of the Early Access Program in December 2009. By the end of January, the Early Access Program was over and everyone was merrily getting their apps published in the App Catalog. We figured, something was wrong with our app. So we asked. And got a standard reply about them being busy. So we asked again. And again. Until we finally found out, why our app is still not in the German App Catalog: The Palm reviewers do not have a German device with a German SIM card and are therefore not able to review our app. Let me repeat that: After months of selling Pres in Germany, Palm does not have the capability of testing apps that are written for German users. At the time of writing this (March 2010) our app has been waiting for two and a half months just to be reviewed!

    So if you are German and you are complaining about the low availability of free apps in your App Catalog: Please don't complain to the developers. Instead complain to those users who keep us from publishing apps worldwide by rating them low because they don't like foreign languages. And (more importantly) COMPLAIN TO PALM about not releasing apps that are made for you and you only!
    Last edited by jonemo; 03/03/2010 at 09:43 AM. Reason: Some unfortunate phrasing, see later post by me.
  2. #2  
    Thank you for this perspective. That brings up some really good points that I had not thought of.
  3. stbxxl's Avatar
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    #3  
    Hi,

    I am this "German dude living in California" and I don't know why I am called this way. When I saw Cardsender and the German equivalent Kartensender I was immediately interested. I plan to send postcards to both, US and German friends and family members. So as a customer using this service I asked politely how I can get Kartensender; nothing else.

    After reading your post I can understand your frustration with the program release progress put in place by Palm (or not). But keep in mind that as an user I am not aware of those problems going on in the background.

    Anyway, I have sent several postcards already and I am quite happy with your excellent program. The cards to Germany just took longer to arrive as they were sent from the US rather from Germany - but I am ok with that.

    Just my 2c.
  4. jonemo's Avatar
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       #4  
    Quote Originally Posted by STBXXL View Post
    Hi, I am this "German dude living in California" and I don't know why I am called this way.
    Hi STBXXL, I did not mean this in any negative way at all. Maybe my feel for the English language is wrong with respect to this. My intent was to make this post sound colloquial and not to talk bad about a valued customer as you are one. I changed the phrasing above because I really didn't want to step on your toes.

    Just to reiterate that part of the story: You asked to get access to the German app and we decided to say no. To give YOU the German app, we would have to give it to EVERYBODY in the US. And for reasons stated above, we are not going to do this. I do encourage you, however, to use IPK Fetcher to pull the German app that we currently have in web distribution.

    Again, apologies if my phrasing conveyed a wrong message.

    Jonas
  5. stbxxl's Avatar
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    #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by jonemo View Post
    Hi STBXXL, I did not mean this in any negative way at all. Maybe my feel for the English language is wrong with respect to this. My intent was to make this post sound colloquial and not to talk bad about a valued customer as you are one. I changed the phrasing above because I really didn't want to step on your toes.

    Just to reiterate that part of the story: You asked to get access to the German app and we decided to say no. To give YOU the German app, we would have to give it to EVERYBODY in the US. And for reasons stated above, we are not going to do this. I do encourage you, however, to use IPK Fetcher to pull the German app that we currently have in web distribution.

    Again, apologies if my phrasing conveyed a wrong message.

    Jonas
    Thanks for the clarification. As noted above I am quite happy with this service.

    Of course I have looked for the German version already using IPK Fetcher. But for some reason I didn't find it. The only version I can see is Cardsender 1.1.0 - but I have version 1.1.4 already. I will give it another go later tonight.

    Cheers.
  6. #6  
    Thank your for your post from a developer perspective!!

    I understand your arguments, but this is exactly the reason why I uploaded my tool here:
    Let me repeat that: After months of selling Pres in Germany, Palm does not have the capability of testing apps that are written for German users. At the time of writing this (March 2010) our app has been waiting for two and a half months just to be reviewed!
    It is supposed to wake someone up..

    Let me assure you, I am not complaining to the developers, I never have!
  7. #7  
    I can understand your pain. Palm is messing things up badly. Developers are unhappy, (german) customers are unhappy...

    Regarding that bad reviews: Isn't every app victim of this? So while your reviews are not quite perfect, they can still be ahead of the competition?

    Greetings from Aachen, Germany...
  8. #8  
    Sorry for the stupid question, but, instead of making different apps, isn't it possible that the app is one only worldwide and somehow it figures out the best way to process users requests based on the destination of cards or the source of request?
    As a user living in unofficial country, and perhaps a really little one, I guess I will never get apps if all developers process it this way.

    More than this, I think that if an intelligent customer reads the characteristics and limitations of a product clearly stated in the product description, and then reads some stupid user comments, maybe he is also intelligent enough to exclude stupid users comments from his evaluation and decision whether to buy the app or not.
    I had an android device, many apps to choose from, and stupid evaluations are pretty easy to detect, u cannot avoid them regionalizing ur product,cause stupid people exist anyhow and the incentive to evaluate the app in case of bad experience will be anyhow higher for users with bad exp than for those with good exp. Screaming should be left to users.

    Lastly, surely Palm should give more attention and as a customer I am also waiting them to solve my little problems with Pre since 4 months, so...on this I can understand u.
  9. #9  
    This just proves once again the world is full of morons It seems like many aren't even capable of reading and understanding texts properly, what a shame.

    I understand your reasons jonemo and I'll give Kartensender a try for sure, but there are other examples where I don't see any good reason the Apps should not be available to Germans. And if it's only due to Palms constraints in the testing why should we not grab the Apps via this tools while we wait? I for one thank Blacklight for his App, I installed the Trials of Assassins Creed and Asphalt 5 manually and it wasn't fun at all finding the IPKs

    Cheers (drinking coffee ) and greetings from the Ruhrgebiet!
  10. #10  
    Love your app jonemo. Looking forward to using it.

    Lots of great points about international app distribution here, but I want to touch on the issue of stupid users rating apps:

    We need moderation. As in, moderators.. in the app catalog. Which is of course totally unrealistic. I suppose the only way to make it work is crowd-sourcing--the ability to rate a review as helpful or unhelpful. So that once a review is rated unhelpful 5 times (or SLT) it can be removed. There is way too much bull-crap in the reviews. *sigh* .... And here I am preaching to the choir, when it's Palm that would have to do this. Maybe they'll end up reading this thread at some point though.
  11. #11  
    Yeah, what I noticed as well: 1.4 broke some Apps but instead of waiting until the developer has a new App in the catalogue many rate the App zero stars...

    Jesus, that's ridiculous. I agree with ryran, we need a way to give good reviews more weight by upvoting them.
  12. philbw's Avatar
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    #12  
    In regards to the ratings issue I think that a "developers response" option really needs to be implemented. That way when someone gives a bad rating it can be clarified if the user is making the mistake. Also a "do you agree with this rating" option for other users to thumbs up or thumbs down would make it more useful. Perhaps if 10 or more users don't agree it would omit that rating from adding to the average displayed in the listing. Of course if something really is bad then a bad rating should be there. We just need a better way to filter out the "user error bad ratings."

    - Phil -
  13. #13  
    Sorry to repeat myself here, but I still have some doubt on this topic...and i cannot get through it on my own, so it'd be good maybe to get some more precise info.

    If I have other free apps, and in Germany too there are other free apps, how can it be that Palm had, as it has been stated, a Simcard to review the other apps, but not this one? there is a missing point here....some intermediary step maybe i don't get...someone can explain me?

    Second, I agree with people who said that there should be a filtering system for scores and reviews given by other customers. Similirarly i believe that developers should count bit more on the intelligence of people that are their market. Of course dumb people are here and there, but not distributing a product that clearly states its limits and specificities because one is scared of getting a bad score by some customers is also as dumb as giving a bad review to a good product just because we were unable to understand how it worked.

    My poor opinion. I believe the more an app has access to customers, the more it is used, the more it is understood, the more its reviews are in line with its real value. Again, description should clearly state limits and specificities, and once it does i believe that intelligent customers don't care and are able to evaluate dumb customers reviews.
  14. jonemo's Avatar
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       #14  
    @dl1ely: You ask if not every app is victim to the same amount of reviews that punish an app for something that's not part of the app. I would argue no.

    Many apps are simply a software. Not many things external can go wrong with it other than the install or download not working.

    Start adding a web service to your app. People start complaining about errors that are due to bad network connection. Now add a postcard sending service. The payment gateways might screw up or USPS (or any other postal service) might have delays, e.g. due to weather. These are things the dev has no control over.

    My point is that it's pretty easy for a flashlight app to be top of the ratings everywhere all the time. What can possibly go wrong with it?! Getting an app that provides a pretty complex service (for a dirt cheap price) to the top of the ratings is near impossible because there are so many external things that can go wrong that you can bet on getting these bad reviews that you can't do much about. And lets face it: Being on the top of the ratings list does at least quadruple your downloads.


    I would also add my 2ct to the discussion about rating reviews or commenting on them. I think, it's not going to work. If it only takes 10 people to hit the "thumb down" button on a review to make it go away, I will find these 10 people. On the iTunes App Store there is already an industry for buying reviews and gaming the ranking system. I think, the best solution would be to simply force everyone to give a rating. This way all the happy customers would express their happiness. If an app is good, they would easily outnumber the grumpy and confused people who currently get a disproportional representation in the App Catalog and iTunes App Store.
  15. jonemo's Avatar
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       #15  
    @memfel: The info, that there is no testing device comes right from our developer liaison contact @palm.com.

    My guess about all the other apps in the German Catalog: All the apps in the German App Catalog are also available in other countries. The reviewers probably just review it as any US Pre user would see the app. I guess they don't bother checking the German localization.


    I can give you a great example why not to trust in the intelligence of the average user to keep your app afloat. Take the Cardsender iPhone app (targeted at the US market). It hit the App Store a while ago. It got a low but decent number of daily downloads. There was one 4 star review. Then comes a 1-star review. It says the card never arrived (can't say it's wrong but so far we never lost a card), we never replied to his support email address (we reply to all email and check the spam filter daily) and he paid one dollar more than advertised (that's technically impossible and we see in Paypal that no one paid the amount he claims to have paid). Yet, the download count dropped to near zero and so did the number of cards sent. Now you tell me what the intelligent user would do in this case? Exactly, get some other app.
    Last edited by jonemo; 03/03/2010 at 03:17 PM. Reason: Changed 0-star review to 1-star review. There is no 0-star review on iTunes.
  16. #16  
    Would be then good to know if there are some only Germany submitted apps. There should be some more than just one, since if I am not wrong I read somewhere that O2 itself, the german distributor of the Pre, created some specific apps for Germany.
    But surely you have better info availability and access than I can have.

    Another idea about the rating...i recall from android that probably some data were collected from the app at each use, maybe this can be done also for webos apps (just collecting how many times an app is used) so that the scoring reveals also this? I guess the more an app is re-used, the better it is. But maybe this is too difficult.
    Surely no secure system is really at hand and easy to implement, always there's a need to rely on trustworthiness of involved agents on both sides, developers and customers.
  17. #17  
    jonemo,

    I think you are over complicating your app by doing one app for each country and one language. It seems to me that the best way to handle your issues would be to have only one app for WebOS and have a language selection option on the first run of the app. You can make you app language neutral (by not including words in the actual app code). Instead place your text in a separate file. One file for each language. The correct file could even be downloaded after the language selection in order to reduce the size of the app.
    As for which country the postcard is sent from...have your servers determine which "mailing station" it's sent to based on which is closer/cheaper to the destination.
    The only issue would then still be payment options. This could be solved by including many payment options in the app and allow the user to choose which one to use. You could even mark certain options with the country name that they apply. Or if you don't want to give the user that many options simply ask when the app is first run "Select the country where your payments will originate" Then only show options for that country.

    With these ideas implemented you can simply have one app and no need to limit downloads by country.
  18. jonemo's Avatar
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       #18  
    Hi aewilliams,

    Since you are the second person already to come up with this, I will give you some details on why we chose to have different apps for each country.

    First, let me point out that we are already using the localization features of webOS that you hint to. If you get our German app you will be able to switch it to English language.

    The decision to have different apps per country is a marketing decision. The option was to either have a complex app that the user can configure versus having a set of highly targeted apps which work out of the box and don't require any decision by the user. Based on our experience on the iPhone platform, we decided to go the latter route. If you give the user a chance to make a mistake, there will be users who make it. Every extra button on the way to checkout is an obstacle.

    Take the example of payment options you mention: Different countries have widely varying payment options. E.g. Paypal Mobile is only available in US, UK, Ireland and Australia. Germans like paying by direct debit. Our credit card gateway only makes sense in Germany. Swiss post payments is only useful to Swiss people. You suggest including all payment options everywhere.

    There are two reasons not to do this: Firstly its a design consideration. Having 10 payment options each with a list of supported countries and currencies is difficult to display on a small screen without using scrolling and keeping the minimum required button size. Secondly, we tried this on the iPhone. We made our app available in German and English for all of Europe. We had an ongoing stream of users complaining that direct debit does not work in the UK. That's despite the Direct Debit button in our app being labeled "German banks only". The same applies to Paypal. Paypal mobile only works for users with US, UK, Irish or Australian Paypal accounts. There is a short text explaining this right above the button that says "Pay by Paypal" in our app. Despite only including Paypal in our US versions, we still get the odd email of someone complaining that they can't pay. Replying to customer support emails is work that needs to be paid for. We love providing great customer service and we hate having angry customers, even if it's their own fault.

    I could write a similar paragraph regarding pricing. To cut a long story short we decided to go for a flat rate price in Germany and a two-tier pricing in the US. Anything more complex and users end up frustrated.

    And as I pointed out above: It's the frustrated users who rule the ranking and sales success of an app, not the happy users. You can change that by ranking and reviewing the apps you like.
  19. #19  
    @jonemo,

    I can echo your sentiments. Ratings are everything, and you as a developer must do whatever you have to in order to protect this. With my app, I have only one, but have spent a LOT of time revamping it to alleviate these kinds of issues.

    You must keep it simple. The more options, the more room for error, and it will happen. It's even more frustrating when users do not even know the basic mechanics of how to use their device (like deleting a record).
  20. #20  
    I'd add just one thing. Probably all this talking is about a really specific app, that even more is made to send a product, therefore requires payments do be done.
    The title of the thread: "Free apps...."....so what about all free apps, that make all they have to do for free?
    when it comes to these apps I don't see any reason for them not to be made available in every country.

    Coming to ratings: world is far from perfect, on average the mechanism should work properly. Best is when there is market for more similar apps, so ur app can be compared, the simplest and the best one comes out for sure, even with dumb voting people around.

    Maybe one thing to consider, since we customers are dumb sometimes, is to put really short and clear informations and instructions. First use is the most important to understand how it works, some guide step by step would probably solve most of the issues that have been discussed here. It's not necessarily a matter of where to click, but sometimes it's a matter of telling how to make the choice of the right spot to click.
    And maybe, as suggested before by another user and somehow by me too, what if all these choices are in the app, but simply guided. Or, even better, origin and destination may be potential sources of info to automatically present the proper choices to the customer.

    However, it's ok also to have more apps, but then I ask u an important thing: what about customers having a pre and not living in official countries? they will not have the chance to use ur app it seems. they'll have to wait for a translation in their language?they'll never get apps if this is the way it works....
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