Thursday, January 27, 2011

MetaExtension part 3

Had an idea to integrate the suggestion system with the chrome web store, so that you could suggest extensions for a host straight from the extension page. Turns out that you can't alter chrome store pages with chrome extensions. Possibly to prevent people from ... not sure what. Faking high ratings or something through their extension?

MetaExtension part 2

I have coder's block about how to do the submission system for MetaExtension (a free extension for Chrome that shows a small icon in the address bar whenever there are relevant extensions available for the site you are visiting). I've listed several options, but none of them make me feel like aha this is it.

My goals:
- Good quality lists
- Good coverage, at least some extensions for all popular sites
- Efficient, not requiring hiring / spending own time

Way 1:

Wiki style. Anyone can just edit the list for a site.
> Someone could spam all the lists with their app.
- Well wikipedia has this same issue?
- Or could limit that one app can only appear in N lists.
> What if there isn't anything yet for a site? Maybe right-click menu could "edit this site" then.
> Could still have admins too, but their job would just be to look at changes.

Quality: neutral
Coverage: good
Efficient: yes

Way 2:

Submit & approve.
> There will be less submissions because you can't see the effect right away.
> Need admins to approve the submissions.
> There needs to be some interface for admins to rearrange the apps anyway.

Quality: good
Coverage: bad
Efficient: no

Way 3:

Submit & upvotes.
> Users could see extensions immediately.
> Everyone needs to have an account.
> Still need to protect against spammers upvoting their own stuff.
> Probably wouldn't be a critical mass of users for upvoting to have any point.

- Popularity isn't necessarily the best way for ranking. Some app could be very relevant
and useful for a site, but not that popular. Some very very popular app could be then
only slightly relevant to the site and rank higher because of popularity.

Quality: good
Coverage: neutral
Efficient: yes

To avoid getting blocked by this issue, I've decided to make an initial list focusing on coverage myself for the top 1000 sites and then release the app with a very basic submission system and see what happens.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Random update

Still working on the Chrome extension. Like always, it turns out to be more work than I expected. The extension itself is just the tip of the iceberg, underneath lays the database that somehow needs to be maintained. The database will indicate which website is related to which extension. I can seed it myself, but need to get people actively curating the lists. There are thousands of extensions and apps, can't do it all by myself.

Still getting basically no income from anywhere. I'm basically a hobo now, except I happen to have some savings. The three iPhone apps are bringing in about $1 / day total. Facebook apps are bringing in $0.05 / day. MySpace something like $3 / day. I think in the end of the month I'll make an income report and post it.

I want to continue learning pixel art, but it's tough doing it without a good reason. I wasn't so happy with where the pixel art comic was going. The storyline seemed really dull, although I was pretty happy with the art itself. I should probably attempt to make some minimalistic game. What's the most minimal pixel art game I could make?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I heard you like Chrome extensions

I'm working on an extension that will show you which extensions to use on sites that you visit.

Currently not sure how to get a good quality database done. There are thousands of extensions. I'm scraping the Chrome extension site to get an initial list, but it looks like it will need some serious curating. Probably need to enlist some help on this one.

On the mailprop project I've had some signups to the mailing list, but so far haven't pushed any posts to the list. Still trying to come up with a better way to get signups. It doesn't seem very scalable to go to industry events or contact industry members directly. As a test I started from the promotional products industry. Bought google adwords on related terms, trying to address people in that industry through those. It's not working, since I don't believe people in these industries actively search for these terms.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fleshing out a new idea

Searching online for an advertising agency and seeing a ton of adwords bought for different companies, I started thinking about what happens if a customer clicks on such an ad, but then discovers that this particular agency doesn't actually offer the services they need. Will that sales lead then be wasted? Instead would it maybe be better to capture the customer's need and broadcast it to several different companies, which could then buy that lead if they want.

I know that is business as usual in the US, but I hadn't heard of anyone attempting the same in Finland (although later I found some). I quickly fleshed out my own idea in a currently Finnish-only service called Mailprop ("mail" as in e-mail, "prop" as in proposal / RFP). Instead of having everything happen on the site itself, I made it more e-mail based inspired by Jason L. Baptiste's posting on email newsletters.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your Japanese Name for iOS, part 26

Previously I wrote that I would attempt to tweak some features and then promote the app to users of the Facebook version. Well, I did that and it seems to have little effect. I'll get maybe ~500 users out of the promotion, very poor. I was hoping for something between 5000-10000 new installs from the promotion since I had ~700k users on the Facebook version.

This is the message I sent:
Still remember that app on Facebook that translated your name into
Japanese characters? Well, it's now out for iPhone / iPod touch.
If you have one of those devices, use this link to get it for free:


Using the app you can turn your name into Japanese characters and
even use it as your wallpaper on the device.

Alternatively you can use the free Facebook version here:

I'm not sure if the click-through rate of this message was really bad or if delivery was just really bad. I can send email to users who have agreed to receive email from Japan Name on Facebook. Since most users signed up way back in the day when email was still checked by default, I assumed a large portion of them would have email enabled. Not sure if Facebook has made some changes since them to retroactively disable that option from older apps.

Well, my plan called for abandoning this project if the new features and this promotion fail, so I suppose I'll have to think of something new now.

Pixel comic #7

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Your Japanese Name for iOS, part 25

Sent updated version 1.1 of Japan Name to Apple. Updating was very painless, just had to increment version number in the info.plist file, create a new version in iTunes Connect and then use application loader to send the new version. The new version will get checked before approval though. New version is about 1/3 the size of the old one, which should increase downloads a bit. New features are using translation as wallpaper or sharing by email.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Katakana Vid #2

KatakanaVid, the pocket katakana reference is now available in the app store. I'm pretty satisfied I got this little app done and submitted this quickly.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Your Japanese Name for iOS, part 24

Recoded the vector drawing routine to allow fitting characters more accurately. Now I can create a drawing that snugly fits any bounding box. Had to do some offset & scaling math, did not enjoy. Now I can use this routine to create paths that can be then turned into images that can be attached to emails or saved as wallpaper. Still need to rasterize.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Your Japanese Name for iOS, part 23

It seems income from ads for the app has settled around $0.30 / day. That's pretty disappointing, considering it seems to outrank other similar apps. The "fill rate" for the ads is only about 30%, so most of my inventory is wasted. If KatakanaVid gets accepted, I can advertise it with house ads and maybe get some value out of that blank 70%.

Shouldn't waste too much time on the app, but there's still two things I should do with it. First I should add share by email. It probably won't go viral, but it's possible I can get a small boost to usage. Then after that's in place, I can use the Facebook version to promote the app and hopefully get a nice one-time boost.

If those fail to have any impact, I'll abandon this app and work on something else.

Pixel comic #5


Pixel comic #4


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pixel comic #3


2011 income goal

My goal for 2011 is to have a variety of income sources that combine to make a somewhat predictable and stress-free $100 / day. For example:

25% from a variety of iPhone apps, some paid, some ad-based
25% from ad-based Android ports of those apps / other Android apps
25% from ad-supported informational sites on the open web
25% from MySpace / Facebook with both ads and virtual currency

Stuff currently bringing in some money:
- Coolest Friends on MySpace
- Japan Name on iOS
- In-Between on iOS

I'm still quite far from my goal, but it's the first week of the year. It will be a lot of work, but should be doable.

Honestly from experience I know that there isn't really such a thing as "passive income". Things change and require updating. Sometimes you hit gold and get one thing making $1000 / day instead of a hundred things that combine to make $100 / day, and then of course you run with what you've got. But as a motivational tool, I think pursuing a variety of small things is a good psychological trick to get yourself working harder. And who knows, it might even be possible.

Katakana Vid #1

I'm making an app so I can learn how to do video playback and how to use UITableView. One of the first things a new student of Japanese does is learning katakana characters. I have a video for each character that we shot a year ago. Those videos have been used on Japan Name on Facebook and also in the Japan Name iPhone app. Now I'm going to use them the third time and bundle them into a simple app that lists each character and lets you view the videos for each. I imagine this might be used by some students as reference. I can probably charge a bit more for this, so I'll try the next tier of $1.99 on it. If it sells a copy a week, that would be fine.

Update: Submitted it to App Store today!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pixel Forklift

How to make pixel art? Just use unreasonable amounts of time.

For comedy value, below is the first version I did with no reference material. Picture of the world in my head is clearly lacking.