entrepreneurship games industry marketing and PR programming project management recruiting startup advice

LFG: I’m looking for CTO/TechDirector/Head of Mobile/Consulting roles in CA, TX, London, and Asia

TL;DR: experienced CEO/CTO/TechDirector with long background in programming, sales, and business management (Corporate, iPhone/Android, Games, Education) looking for strategic roles in USA, UK, and Asia.

After a year-out to do a post-graduate degree in Education, I’m looking for something new and exciting to do next. My primary goal is to boost a company or team rapidly and show significant outcomes – increased revenue or other KPI’s – either through Consulting or full/part-time senior leadership.

advocacy games industry games publishing marketing and PR Unity3D usability

6 ways to massively improve the #unity3d AssetStore (for #gamedev’s)

Six months ago I tweeted a handful of obvious ways that you could make the Unity Asset Store greatly more profitable.

One of the Unity folk reached out to me, claimed that Unity was highly invested in improving this and asked for specific suggestions. So I wrote longer, detailed versions of each tweet and emailed them.

It’s been six months. No response. So … for Unity’s competitors, maybe looking to make/improve their own Asset Stores (or newcomers hoping to unseat the incumbents), here’s six obvious commercial improvements.

I’ve cut a few paragraphs I wrote to Unity about who I think their 3 main audiences are on the Asset Store; I included them as a “here are the assumptions I’m making” – I have no idea what their real audiences are. So I omitted that here.

NB: I’ve made the formatting webpage friendly, added some details, but this is essentially an info dump. I was too busy at the time to sugar-coat it – I figured that if Unity wanted to talk, I’d talk to them, and in person I’m really quite friendly and gentle. But at the time we were working 24/7 getting ready for a major exhibition, so this is a bit … terse.

entrepreneurship marketing and PR startup advice

Your Pricing Models dictate your business success

Many businesses underestimate the power of a clever Pricing Model. I’m selling a new product at the moment (we’re helping schools teach children to program), so pricing models occupy a lot of my head right now.

Startups are so unsure of what model to use that they often say “anything, so long as we get sales”. They usually focus on simplicity (with a “new” product, a complex pricing model can tip people over the edge and make them “give up” on buying).

Which is fine, but a cunning pricing model can work wonders.

amusing marketing and PR Web 0.1

HSBC’s web team: WTF?

Why does the login URL for internet banking:

…redirect to the newsletter for global investors:


Do you *want* people to think your website has been hacked?

Or do you just not know what a cool URI is?

I think your VP Marketing / Marketing Director needs a slap upside the head…

android community entrepreneurship facebook Google? Doh! marketing and PR startup advice

Google’s Strengths & Weaknesses in 2012

In the past, I’ve had terrible advice from brilliant people. The best way to avoid that is to be careful to research the brilliant person and tailor your questions to avoid their weaknesses.

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting a bunch of people at Google London’s open day. I started by writing down a list of known strengths/weaknesses based on my knowledge and experience of the company and the people. Earlier this year I had some in depth meetings with Facebook, which gave me a fresh perspective on the similarities and differences. I think the list itself is interesting – modulo: it’s only my personal impressions:

google strengths

[comments in brackets to clarify some non-obvious points for anyone reading this]

  • innovating on the Web
  • bringing native tech to Web and making it as good as native
  • software development
  • worlds biggest/most popular search engine
  • …? focus on curation ?… [Page ranking etc is subtle curation]
  • tech brand associated with “quality”
  • massive scale advertising
  • algorithms for automating heuristic tasks (imperfect, vague domains)
  • enormous scale data manipulation
  • throwing hardware at impossible problems to make them possible [Street View]

google weaknesses

  • community [in general, but also specifically: Google Groups]
  • consumer marketing [many Googlers have said “we don’t need to; the brand is enough”]
  • building products that people want, rather than products Google staff enjoy [Wave, Buzz, Google Voice]
  • understanding consumers [Android]
amusing marketing and PR

Unity: spamming game-developers?

So far this week, from Unity3d, I’ve received:

  1. A “personal” email asking me to respond if I want to know more about Unity4.
    • When I replied, I got an auto-responder saying “I’m away for two weeks and will not be responding to email”; which reminded me this account manager had told me they’d be leaving a few days *before* I received the email “From” them
    • So, I re-forwarded my email to the named “in my absence, speak to” contact – no response
  2. A few days later: a new “personal” email, again asking me to respond to their marketing push for Unity4, but this time from the “in my absence” contact
    • This despite no response to my email I’d already sent about the last such email from Unity
    • And, again … when I replied … no response

If someone’s on holiday – no problem there, of course!

If someone’s ignoring your emails *responding to their marketing* … and then “personally” sending you marketing emails days later … that’s mildly offensive.

If the company is sending out fake emails that pretend to come from people who – by the sounds of the auto-responder – were already out of the office and not responding to email … that’s definitely offensive.

I think Unity needs to do some a bit of work re-thinking their spamvertising – sorry, I mean – their marketing.

amusing marketing and PR

Autodesk made an awesome iPad app…

…but they decided that only people with a Credit Card registered in USA or Canda are allowed to use it (even though it’s free).

So. I’m going to repay that smack-in-the-face by not linking to it, nor naming it.

Autodesk marketing: #FAIL.

amusing iphone marketing and PR

Toshiba’s “failed vs. Apple” marketing

I feel sorry for Toshiba; they make good products, but their marketing
seems to belong to a much smaller, poorer company.

Take this advert, from April 2012, when Apple is already far along with shifting their whole laptop lineup to “ultra thin” MacBook airs (rumour suggests the non-thin models will continue to be phased out next cycle – doesn’t matter so much for this post, but if true, it adds extra emphasis to the post):

…and compare it with Apple’s photo from the same period:

Apple’s problems

The iPad 3 is considerably heavier and thicker than the iPad 2. This is a pain for users, but for Apple Marketing it’s a disaster. They’ve been fighting to prevent people equating “iPad” with “low power, low utility, inferior Laptop”. The iPad 1 had a fair go, but struggled. The iPad 2 went a long way to achieve it with it’s ultra slim/light/long battery life.

With other companies (e.g. Google) we’d assume that Apple did intensive market research on iPad 1 vs iPad 2, and found that weight didn’t factor into the purchase decision much. Given this is Apple … I expect it was an internal decision instead. They decided that the sheer awesomeness of the Retina display meant the pain of the weight + thickness would just have to be accepted. Personally, I agree: the Retina makes such a huge difference that it’s a no-brainer to buy an iPad 3.

(NB: even with the considerable increase in weight, and in battery quality, the iPad 3 has a considerably shorter battery life than previous iterations)

So, what does Apple do?

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Apple redefines Reality

All previous Apple marketing for iPad/iPhone has included side-on photos on the front page. iPad 3 is the first to use an isometric view – not just on the front page, but *everywhere*.

APPLE LESSON 1: If it’s bad, hide it.

The photo they use is EXTREMELY poorly positioned. The iPad 3 is contorted, the image is squished by perspective, the flower image looks terrible.

But you won’t notice any of that (unless you’re a product-photographer). No, you’ll notice HOW THIN IT LOOKS!

Apple carefully chose the angle to use perspective to hide the actual width of the product. It’s just shallow enough an angle to make it appear that you’re seeing the width – but just deep enough an angle to hide most of the width. (recall that the iPad 2 and iPad 3 both have a very deep bevel on the underside).

Apple also carefully chose the lighting: white iPad 3, ultra bright lights (my gut feel is these are even brighter than normal in Apple ads, which is very bright to start with), even the photo of a delicate thin flower (see what they did there?) is itself over-exposed a little. The iPad itself seems to almost … disappear … on the advert.

APPLE LESSON 2: If it’s really bad, make a photo that lies.

Toshiba: Fat, dark, and ugly

Let’s revisit Toshiba’s photo:

  1. the angle TRIPLES the width of the lid
  2. the angle DOUBLES the width of the base (look at the extreme bottom right edge – the base appears to mirror around the white hilight stripe)
  3. the inside is DARK, with HEAVY, THICK, DIRTY lighting
  4. the shadow underneath the laptop is ALMOST AS THICK AS the laptop itself, and coloured DARK BLACK

OK, so I could forgive poor colour scheme – marketing had no choice in that.

You could (maybe) forgive the stupid choice of perspective – maybe the laptop just looks ugly at any other angle. Or maybe they “needed” to show the ports on the side (if so, they failed: the lighting is so bad you can’t see the important ones).

But … who in Toshiba Marketing approved a photo with a black shadow underneath that makes their “thin” laptop look considerably thicker than it is? There’s no excuse for this: it’s a terrible photo (should have been rejected during the photo-shoot) – but it’s a catastrophically bad piece of marketing.


amusing marketing and PR programming security server admin system architecture web 2.0

Ruby on Rails dead. All sites p0wned. GitHub shoots the messenger?

Two things here: if you run any Rails site, check out the security hole ASAP if you haven’t already. You might be safe – but given that even GitHub wasn’t, I’d double check if I were you. (The Rails community seemingly isn’t patching it – and there’s nothing recent on the Security list. Which leaves me going: WTF? The evidence is right there on GitHub of how bad this is right now, in the wild).

Secondly … what just happened? Apart from doom and gloom and “the end of every unpatched Rails site on the planet”, there’s a fun story behind this one. As someone put it “it’s the whitest of white-hat attacks” (i.e. the “attacker”‘s motives appear extremely innocent – but foolish and naive)

It seems that GitHub got hit by the world’s nastiest security hole, in Rails – trivial to take advantage of, and utterly lethal. The hole appears to allow pretty much anyone, any time, to do anything, anywhere – while PRETENDING to be any other user of the system. So, for instance, in the attack itself, someone inserted arbitrary source code into a project they had no right to.

Hmm. That’s bad. It effectively destroys GitHub’s entire business (it’s already fixed, don’t worry)

But it gets worse … it’s a flaw in the RoR framework, not GitHub itself (although apparently GitHub’s authors were supposed to know about the flaw by reading the Rails docs, as far as I can tell from a quick glimpse at the background). Rails authors have (allegedly) known about it and underestimated how bad it is in the wild, and left Rails completely open with zero security by default.

So, allegedly, the same attack works for most of the web’s large Web 2.0 sites – any of them that run on Rails.


Who was the perpetrator of this attack? Ah, well…

made an impossible issue, a post that GitHub’s database believed was created 1,000 years in the future.

Classy. Dangerous (high risk of someone calling the police and the lawyers), but if people won’t believe you, and *close* your issues, claiming it’s not that important, what more amusing way to prove them wrong?

Whoops, shouldn’t have done that

I can’t state this strongly enough: never attack a live system. Just … don’t.

Any demonstration of a security flaw has to be done very carefully – people have been arrested for demonstrating a flaw allegedly *at the owner’s request*, because under some jurisdiction’s it’s technically a crime even if you’re given permission. In general, security researchers never show a flaw on a real system – they explain how to, and do it on a dummy system, so no-one can arrest them.

(why arrest the researcher? Usually seems to be no reason beyond ass-covering by executives and lawyers, and a petty vindictiveness)

Homakov appears to have been ignorant of this little maxim, hence I’m writing it here, let as many people as possible know: never attack a live system (unless you’re very sure the owners and the police won’t come after you)!

GitHub’s response

On the plus side, they fixed it within hours, on a weekend. And then proceeded to tell every single user what had happened. And did so in a clever way – they put a block on all GitHub accounts that practically forces you to read their “here’s what happened, but we’ve fixed it” message. They could have kept it quiet.

Which is all rather wonderful and reassuring.

On the minus side, IMHO they rather misrepresented what actually happened, portraying it more as a malicious attack, and something they fixed, rather than what it was – the overspill from an argument between developers on some software that GitHub uses.

And they initially reported they’d “suspended” the user’s account. Normally I’d support this action – generally it’s a bad idea to let it be known you’ll accept attacks and not fight back. But in this case it appears that GitHub didn’t read the f***ing manual, and the maintainers apparently (based on reading their tickets on the GitHub DB) refused to accept it was a serious problem – and apparently didn’t care that one of their own high-profile clients was wide open and insecure. The attack wasn’t even against GitHub per se – it was against the Rails team who weren’t acting. IF it had e.g. been a defacement of GitHub’s main site, that would have been different, both in impact and in intent. Instead, the attack appears to be a genuinely dumb act by someone being naive.

Seems that GitHub agreed – although their reporting is a bit weak, it happened days ago, but they never thought to edit any of their material and back-link it.

“Now that we’ve had a chance to review his activity, and have determined that no malicious intent was present, @homakov’s account has been reinstated.

…and it’s pleasing to see that their reaction included a small mea culpa for being unclear in what they expect (although anyone dealing with security ought to be aware of this stuff as “standard practice”, sometimes it’s not security experts who find the holes):

“We haven’t been as clear as we should have been on how to responsibly disclose security problems, and for that I’m sorry. To prevent future confusion about security-related account suspension, and to make explicit our stance on responsible disclosure, we have added a section entitled Responsible Disclosure of Security Vulnerabilities to our Security policy.”

Rails’s response

I’d expect: shame, weeping, and BEGGING the web world to forgive their foolishness. I’m not sure, but it’s going to be interesting to watch. As of right now, the demo’s of the flaw are still live. I particularly like one commenter’s:

drogus closed the issue 5 days ago

kennyj commented

5 days ago

“I’m closing it (again).
@drogus was close it, but it still open.
github bug?”


kennyj closed the issue 5 days ago

“github bug?” LOL, no – massive security flaw :).

computer games games industry games publishing marketing and PR

MS XBox Europe: man puts elbow in own ear

…or at least tries to, when Chris Lewis comes out with quotes like this:

“you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage”

Wait, what? An “even playing field” is one which “plays to [Microsoft’s] advantage” ? Hmm. Talk about a crushing sense of self-entitlement…

“we just want what our consumers want from us.

If [developers don’t give us free stuff which we don’t pay for], Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360”

Wait, what? Are you saying that what “our consumers want” is to be prevented from playing the games they want to play (“Microsoft … not allow the content to be released”)?

I’ve seen a lot of bullsh*t over the years from weak-willed Marketing department employees who feel that “not saying a bad word about their boss’s / employer’s incompetence and greed” is the right way to do a job, but … this is especially bad.

I think Chris needs a bit more practice at the technique of:

“say what the person you’re trying to brown-nose wants you to say, no matter how much it makes you look like a pathetic, stupid, snivelling idiot”

amusing marketing and PR web 2.0

52 card MOO – Part 1: The Challenge

I’ve known MOO for 6 years (back when they were PleasureCards), and I’ve been using them as my primary business / personal cards for most of that time.

Back when they only did the PleasureCard form-factor, it was always fun to find a fellow MOO customer. Shared conversations were easy with strangers, usually over the great reactions we get from non-MOO users.

Ever since they first integrated with flickr, one concept has come up again and again in those conversations:

“What about a custom 52-card deck made using”

Rounded Corners…

MOO just introduced a new option on their cards – Rounded Corners. This is a trivial thing.

…unless, like me, you still want to do that 52-card playing deck. Now much easier!

Also, they recently upgraded their Flash uploader / composer software, and seem to have fixed most of the bugs that plagued the last version I used, back in 2010.

What do we need to make this work?

The Spec

To make a deck of playing cards, we need:

  1. At least 52 unique cards, ideally 54-58 (2-4 jokers, plus 2 blanks in case a card gets damaged)
  2. All cards have an identical back
  3. All cards have a unique front (except for the blanks, which share the same empty image)

Also, to make this more than just a vanity project, it would be great if we could also have:

  1. The “identical back” has some (subtle) text – maybe just the URL of the author/company, plus their twitter handle

MOO’s current features

  1. 52-58 unique cards: FAIL: they do a “maximum” of 50
  2. identical back, full-sized image: SUCCESS (it’s a new option: full-image instead of contact details)
  3. unique front: SUCCESS (this is MOO’s raison d’etre)
  5. TEXT on the identical back: FAIL: their flash uploader won’t let you (“Computer says No”)

So, I sent an email to MOO support, outlining the above, and making some suggestions about how I could make this work – but asking if there’s an easier way?

My plan (in brief):

  1. Online, it says a “max” of 50 cards. That’s probably not a hard limit – is there a way I could get 60, if e.g. I do a large enough order size? You guys do orders in multiples of 50, 100, 150, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000. I could do 60 cards (only a slight wastage over the 58), and make my orders in multiples of 600. i.e. 10 complete sets.
  2. There seems no reason to prevent me putting an image and text on the identical back – it’s just that your loader won’t allow it. Any way around this? I could bake the text in, but then it would be a massive pain to change – I would do fewer print runs. Support FAIL

I reached out to MOO, explained how I could achieve this with manual pain, working around the missing features. Also, asking if they had better ideas of how to do it – or if there was a way around the 50-card-limit?

MOO’s response:

Thank you for getting in touch with the MOO Team.

You can have multiple images on one side of the cards in a pack, you can’t specify how many of each but the systems will divide the designs as equally as possible.

The other side must remain exactly the same for every card in the pack.

You can upload a logo to the left right top or bottom of the side of the cards with the text on (contact info etc).

basically, if you were to upload 52 different designs (cards) and 2 jokes, your total uploads to a pack of 100 would be 54. The remaining 46 would be repeats of the first 46 to be uploaded.

I hope the above makes sense.

Some observations:

  1. I’ve bought literally thousands of MOO cards over the years, and I know very well how it works. I didn’t need a re-hash of the facts I’d already included in my original email! I’m surprised he didn’t see from my account how many cards I’ve ordered in the past
  2. He’s simply wrong about the logos; go on the website right now, and you’ll find that you can put a full screen image on both sides of the card.
  3. No real answer about my core request. Is it impossible to do 60 cards instead of 50? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?

Understandable, but overall I’m disappointed by that response.

I’m doubly disappointed that MOO featured the following on their website, 2 years ago:

…but apparently isn’t interested in other people doing this for themselves.

What now?

I can still do this, it’s just going to be a LOT harder (I’ll have to do lots of things manually that MOO could automate easily). I’ll document it as I go, it’s a fun challenge. Part 2, coming soon…

games industry marketing and PR

MMORPG marketing: try not to lie to bloggers

ATTENTION: all game marketers: don’t do this…

Hi Adam,

Although we do not know one another, I notice we share many contacts on (Karl Blanks, Ben Jesson, Jason Duke, Paul Billinghurst to name but a few I’ve had the pleasure of working with).

Funny; I don’t recognize those names?

I guess if you’re one of those people who just adds every person in the world to your LinkedIn, maybe you’d not have noticed. I don’t do that – I know all my LI contacts personally. I even wrote that on my LinkedIn Profile – all you have to do is read it and you’d see!

I do not have a premium LinkedIn account so could not send you an inMail.

Why not? You work in marketing/PR. How cheap are you?

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you in this way, but I recently stumbled upon your website –

I work for [redacted to spare his shame] and we’re just about to launch a Facebook version of our online MMORPG, [redacted – I’m not going to promote their game].

I’m reaching out to influential bloggers within the gaming space and consider you to be one of the top, most active out there. Our Facebook version of the [redacted – I’m not going to promote their game] is due for release on the 1st September 2011.

If you’re interested in reviewing the game or fancy an inside scoop prior to release, please let me know and I will forward you our press release.

Many thanks,

[redacted to spare his shame]
Online Marketing Manager
[redacted to spare his shame]

Flattery will get you everywhere. Except when you’re trying to trade off someone else’s reputation, where it won’t. The blatant mail-merge aspects of this email immediately turned it into a rejection, headed straight for my Spam folder.

I don’t promote titles until/unless I’ve actually played them, or I know the authors extremely well. He might have done a good job to drop the fake “we share friends” line, and pre-creating an account for me.

Putting the “you can review this if you want to” right at the end really doesn’t sound good; over-worked journos may be more interested in a pre-written article, but voluntary bloggers generally care more about the personal value of what they write. IMHO and IME; YMMV.

computer games games design marketing and PR

Papa Sangre devs: are you sure it’s not because…?

“[with Android] We just can’t get complicated applications functioning with any kind of speed (if at all) … it’s not because we’re stupid or don’t know the platform well enough”.

(From this month’s Develop – an article by the the CCO of Somethin’ Else)

Develop is trade-press, for professional game developers (mostly coders, IME). No further explanation was given.

Kind of hard to believe, considering our own experiences on the platform. I asked a few others for their considered opinions. First three reactions:

  • “WTF?”
  • “Bollocks”
  • “Bullocks”

Hmm. I’m intrigued to know what they can code on an iPhone 3GS, but not on the more powerful Android phones from 2010 (let alone the ones from 2011).

marketing and PR

100 examples of corporate Facebook sites

The focus is on facebook pages that drive commerce – which I assume means: revenue – somehow. A handy list for anyone looking for corporate FB examples:

That link is tenuous in many cases (how does “running a competition” drive revenue?), but no more so than a lot of modern marketing campaigns.

computer games games publishing marketing and PR

Indie games: how to reduce your sales, #53

There were a few games that came up in the 10 games you should have played session at GameCamp which I’d never heard of / played. One of these was SpaceChem – sounded interesting (the 5-second description was something like “great game which teaches you how to do real Chemistry”).

Someone else mentioned this game to me today, in passing, which reminded me to go check it out. I went to the website, looks vaguely interesting (although the site design is very ugly – normally a big FAIL in web-marketing – I’m happy to ignore that since I’m after a *game* here).

The only info I’m allowed to see about the game – no screenshots etc – is an embedded Flash video that’s taking ages to download, so long in fact that I gave up.

So I try to get the demo instead.

“requires mono”

Oh, FFS. Forget it. No, I’m not going to download 500MB (or however much it is these days) and endure extra debugging, manual configuration, etc just to install your game.

If this is a commercial operation (and it is, judging by their huge “buy now for $15” text), then it’s a waste of time to release a Mac version that’s any more complicated than “drag one icon to install”.

The Apple Mac Store is *live*, people! It’s even less hassle to buy things there (the “drag icon” bit is done for you automatically).

More generally, if you’re going to release games, don’t tie yourself to a 3rd-party platform that requires a large download and isn’t pre-installed by default on desktops.

games design marketing and PR programming

“Do I look fat in this?” … “You do now!” (Kinect FAIL)

Here’s an excellent idea: use Kinect to display clothes on people in real-time, inside a fashion retail shop: (Scrub to 0:25 – first 30 seconds is moronic marketing-person bumf)

This has huge potential:

  1. Much much faster than browsing – potential for more positive purchase decisions in less time
  2. Less space lost to changing rooms – fewer rooms needed for same number of customers (space is often at a premium in retail outlets)
  3. Show an enormous range of stock while keeping very little on-site
  4. Show every size, rather than just the sizes that are in stock on-site

But hey – wait a minute – look closely at the person who’s posing in each case. Why does the on-screen person look like they weigh twice as much as the person who’s in front of the camera?

Ah. I see. It’s that recurring problem again: marketing companies that don’t know where to hire skilled tech staff. Here we’ve got 3D model wrapping apparently done by someone who’s never heard of Convex Hull. This is basic Computer Science (IIRC it’s taught in almost every CS undergrad course today) – wrapping string (or cloth) tightly around a solid object is an interesting and very common problem.

OK, it’s version one; “we’ll fix that in beta”; etc. Except … you’re demoing this to:

  1. women
  2. in a fashion store
  3. in public
  4. when they’re about to pay money
  5. for clothes

…and you’re making them look:

  1. uniform weight (which for short, young Muscovites is – according to the video – usually “much larger than reality”)
  2. saggy (look at the video – they failed to register / stretch the clothing for the head/neck-to-knees length; in most cases, the women’s busts are aroudn their waists, and their waists are around their knees)
  3. masculine (most women’s clothing hangs; it’s soft, flexible; here, the Kinect models have no physics, not even primitive struct-based bending, let alone springs. Doh)

All of which put together makes this a FAIL. Technologically it’s all fixable, but from a sales/marketing perspective it’s enough to send many people screaming. Fingers crossed that the company (ARDoor) manages to make huge sales anyway – the potential here is enormous, and some of what they’ve done looks great (I like the simple interface, and the giant “Smile!” instruction).

bitching marketing and PR

London Digital Agencies: Stop spamming, please

Why is it that these days every time a London-based “digital agency” or “mobile agency” gets hold of your email address, they IMMEDIATELY sign you up to their spam mailing list? Even some outside London have started doing this too.

YuzaMobile is the most recent example – why do it? It doesn’t benefit them: their spam has just thoroughly convinced me that I never want to let any of my clients or partners anywhere near them. They have a cavalier disregard for basic comms etiquette.

How did they get my email?

Well, I sent a single personal email to one of their directors who I’d met at an event.

How does that square with “spam me now, please!”?

I have no idea.

amusing community games design iphone marketing and PR

Top steps tips viral mobile iphone success profit

Did that get your attention?

In the last day or so, I’ve seen a barrage of crap on this topic – much of it ACTIVELY destructive (it’ll make your iPhone apps less successful than if you didn’t do it!). I’m not going to hotlink most of them – they don’t deserve the attention – but some of them mix bad with good, e.g. a guest post from someone with some good points, but also glaring inaccuracies.

So, some myths:

Thursday is the best day to launch an app

No. It’s one of the worst days. Why? Because every idiot who ever read “Thursday is the best day to launch an app” … now launches their apps on Thursday. Duh!

Facebook and Twitter sharing will make your app “go viral”

Virality is based on value, not on the presence of a corporate logo. Find some *real* iPhone developers, and ask them what happens if you launch an app with sharing in it.

Only apps that are already spreading virally, and heading for major success, ever benefit from this integration.

i.e. don’t bother until you actually need it; in some cases, for big apps, where you’re confident of 100,000 initial downloads … you may need it at launch. Most apps don’t.

Choose carefully every word in your iTunes description

Nope. Ask any experienced developer how many of their users read the iTunes description, and they’ll probably laugh at you. There’s a really, really good reason for this (but this is a post on what NOT to do, not what to do).

Check-in makes your app as popular as FourSquare

Um … WTF? How stupid are you?

“You need check-in on everything. Let your users check in to articles, blog posts, events, places, shopping items, videos, or even slide share feeds ☺.

People love to tell their friends where they are and what they are doing, so just make it easier for them.”

Who’s that from? Oh, yes – a company that doesn’t actually make apps, but sells a product to churn out crummy identikit apps, where “check-in” is one of their features.

No. In general, it just annoys people. Unless it’s part of the app’s core activity – but in that case, you never had an option to “not” include check-in. (also: why are you even trying to compete with 4square? Have you any idea how tough that is?)

Chart ranking is everything

Again, this is from the school of:

“I am a marketing person who doesn’t make apps, and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Nor do I bother to ask anyone who does”

…because this info is several years out of date (i.e. a lifetime in App Store terms). In fact, for the last 10-18 months, chart ranking has been largely irrelevant in a lot of sectors – largely due to the surge in FAAD and their ilk.

Engaging with “the community” will give you huge sales

Sad but true: first you need a success before you even have something we’d call “a community”. You need a substantial number of downloads – AND daily actives. “Ten of your mates downloading it once” does not a community make.

Variant: for games, pandering to the TouchArcade community

Ask a game developer how easy / successful it is to promote your game on TA.

Again: back when almost no-one was doing it, this helped enormously. But that was years ago. Now … good luck getting any visibility amongst the sea of other developers doing exactly the same thing.

And finally…

If you feel you want even more “gotchas” and things to avoid, have a look at Jake Simpson’s very recent (February 2011) experiences of trying many of these – and more! – and having them fail miserably.

NB: Jake’s experience was particularly harsh, and actually goes more negative than I think is accurate, in general. At some point, I’ll do a followup that looks at the good parts (things you SHOULD do, that never seem to get old).

But, let’s be clear: mostly, this is standard Marketing. If you’ve hired someone to do your marketing who even bothers to read these sites, you made a mistake. Instead, find someone who’s good enough at marketing to invent the tactics they need all by themself. Preferably, hire someone for their skill at marketing “strategy”, not for their knowledge of “tactics”.

games industry games publishing marketing and PR startup advice

Social Games are “evil” (a.k.a: Indie Marketing 301)

I reckon this is just a case of indie developers (finally) starting to
understand the concept of “marketing” in a bit more depth than the 101

With my PR hat on, this is great stuff: highly contentious (and
potentially dangerous) quotes – and yet, nowhere near as
career-damaging as declaring that a certain console is ****.

“Evil” is emotive, but just vague enough that you can get away with it in ways
that you can’t when you target billion-dollar brands. *ahem*.

I’d also add that – in true marketing style – this whole conversation
is about 6 months behind the curve. Which is about right for a
mass-market promotional piece – people at the coal face have moved on,
but Joe Public is still intrigued and yet to catch-up. Anyone who
still thinks Zynga is the company from “that SF Weekly article” is
living in dreamland. FB games moves much, much faster than that.

community marketing and PR mmo signup processes startup advice web 2.0

Skype: failing at customer support at scale

I had a serious customer-support problem with Skype recently, relating to money they’ve taken from me. It’s proved excessively difficult to get a response from them – surprising, considering their size, their brand, and the fact it’s a paid-for service. It raises some interesting questions over Customer Support / Community Support, and how they can/should be scaled.

FYI, the initial complaint is over what looks like a scam – if you pay for Skype, but don’t use it frequently enough, they cancel the service but keep the money. It was probably buried somewhere in the smallprint, but I certainly don’t remember that as part of what I signed-up for: “pay now … get screwed later!”. Whether or not it’s legal, it’s certainly dishonest (they give no explanation, it’s NOT part of the marketing materials, it’s just “policy”). It feels like theft.

Their website was useless. So, I asked them about it…or, at least, I tried to.

  1. Reply-to-email: I replied to the email they sent me where they said they’ll be taking my money but NOT providing the service. They sent it from “”; this is a fundamental abuse of the email system, a sign of amateurish support teams. FAIL
  2. Email-to-support: I tried forwarding that + my question to the standard email address – I’ve been using Skype for 5 years, and I thought this address existed. Eithet my memory is wrong, or they’ve deleted it since. It doesn’t exist at the moment – you get a mailserver error. FAIL
  3. Google for “email support skype”: I tried again, emailing the support address that Skype’s own employees have sent emails from – right now, on, you can see example emails sent from “” (maybe this was what I remembered from years ago?). But if you send an email to that address, you get an email back saying: “Thank you for your email. Unfortunately this email address is no longer in use.”. FAIL

500 million accounts … too many?

Skype’s customer-support is unusually weak here; this is a paid-for product, and they’re actively blocking people from getting support. That’s not how support works; that’s what you do when you don’t have a support team – usually because you’re too poor to afford it AND you have no paying customers. Doing this with paying customers is surprising. Especially for a large product/brand.

I remember in the very early days of Skype they already had 50-100 employees for what was a comparitively small operation. IIRC, a big chunk of that was dedicated to support, and a big chunk to marketing – only a very small part was tech. I’d assumed that with their 10’s of millions of users, they had a highly automated customer-support system.

Today, they have well over half a billion user accounts – and it would seem that even their automated systems have failed. Why else would they put a block on industry-standard email aliases? And deliberately shutdown their own support address?

Obviously, those addresses would be flooded with spam and FAQ emails … but *all* commercial customer-support systems are specifically designed to handle those probems – and at large scale, too.

My guess is simply that whichever commercial system they use wasn’t architected to a high enough quality, and is incapable of handling Skype’s uniquely large customer base. This isn’t a criticism of that system – there are very few companies in the world with so many users of a single product. i.e. there’s very little demand for a product to be so carefully engineered.

But it begs the question: why hasn’t Skype put something better in place? Surely they have the resource and the skill to source or architect something better? Or is it a company policy to provide second-rate, low-quality support – even for their paid customers?

What Would Facebook Do?

…hopefully, I’ll post on this in more detail later, but briefly: they *eventually* went to specialist external vendors to provide the scalability they needed:

  1. Facebook was incapable of reliably delivering messages to users for most of the past 3+ years
  2. I’ve run several groups large and small, and found that approx 30% of all messages DIRECT to *opt-in* users went undelivered in the FB messaging system
  3. (speaking to other people who ran facebook groups, or had huge numbers of Friends, the experience was commonly repeated. e.g. I know a few people who had to setup multiple FB accounts because they had “too many friends” to fit on a single account)
  4. Facebook recently (last 6 months) replaced their internal, proprietary messaging with an external, specialist system from a company that specialises in high-volume messaging (according to the vendor; caveat emptor)
  5. Reports from other people who still use Facebook for large groups / large numbers of friends suggest the “lost in the post” phenomenon is now cured

Incidentally, I don’t/didn’t think much of Facebook’s tech team (although quite possiby it’s improvements in that team that have lead to fixed like the one above). It’s very hard to be sure, going on just public info, but I used to read their blog, and their posts about performance and architecture were for a long period … amateurish.

On some core subjects, they betrayed a deep lack of experience and understanding – and apparently no effort being taken to correct that, but rather they preferred to “hack” away with band-aid solutions. Great fun for them, but not appropriate for a billion-dollar service, IMHO.