Under the Radar

Under the Radar 28: Wear Your Own T-Shirt


  welcome to under the radar our show but

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar is never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started so today

  what I wanted to talk through is and the

  broader concepts but something that

  started from a sort of my initial

  planning for getting ready to go in a 10

  WWDC this year where one of the things

  that I was thinking about is the

  interactions that I tend to have at the

  can at the actual convention at the you

  know on the floor and something that has

  happened several times is I'll you know

  be walking around and I'll just randomly

  bump into somebody and start to you know

  chatting and it's like as we start

  talking eventually we get to a point

  that they're like oh wait you're the guy

  who did pedometer plus plus like I love

  that app or something like that where

  you have this interaction where it's

  like eventually they do sort of it did

  this there's this discovery of a comment

  and like a common ground it's almost an


  yeah it's and that accidental nature of

  it is the problem is the problem that I

  wanted to talk about today because what

  I've been thinking about is like well

  what most companies do when they're

  encounter this kind of a thing it's like

  if you walk around WTC you will see

  people wearing like 1password shirts and

  you know they work fragile bits or

  you'll see you know companies with omni

  shirts on or whatever and you'll know

  they work for Omni and so if you like on

  here and when we talk to someone who

  works there like you know how to go how

  to go about doing that but it feels

  weird in some ways at least initially it

  started feeling weird and I was like try

  and like make shirts that say you know

  it's like my apps and have like

  phenomena or plus plus or sleep plus

  plus or under the radar even or even

  just my name like put on it and it it's

  weird because it feels a bit like like

  like self-promotion in that way feels a

  bit odd and the more I've thought about

  this I need to probably not think about

  it in those ways but it seemed like an

  interesting topic to talk about because

  I struggle with this with this weird

  tension of it's like if I were if I was

  working for a bigger company and I was

  going to a convention

  that company said hey you know here's

  you know five t-shirts that have a

  various products on it would love it if

  you could wear them during the thing and

  you know see if that can you know start

  a conversation help a conversation along

  like I wouldn't feel weird about doing

  that it would be like yeah totally you

  know I'm a team player let's do this

  but when it's like me promoting myself

  it feels a bit weird and that tension is

  a strange thing I think in some ways

  it's unique to being an indie but I

  think a lot of people probably struggle

  with this type of thing when your brand

  is more personal rather than sort of

  more corporate yeah I mean this is I

  think a lot of this plays into what I

  think would probably be like the

  stereotypical geek personality that many

  people in our industry I think us

  included I have which is you know it's

  it's hard for people with this

  personality type to self-promote it's

  hard for them to like brag about

  themselves and promote promote their

  work a lot of times and this is

  something I had to just get over over

  the years honestly and I'm still not

  great at it but it's it's really hard

  for certain personality types to to be

  willing to do that and I think what it

  what helps to to distinguish here

  between like times you should and

  shouldn't do that or wet we know when or

  where you shouldn't shouldn't do that is

  to recognize that there are lots of

  situations in which you know like like

  walking around WTC tons of people there

  are wearing their own t-shirts like

  there that is if there's ever a time in

  place to wear your own t-shirt of the

  app you make or the company you work for

  it's at a conference full of other

  people doing the exact same thing like

  the the cost of you doing that the risk

  of you doing that is absolutely lowest

  they're at during that week and there's

  also you know situations like like if

  you are at a you know a tech meetup or

  you know it just any place where you're

  where you're know you're gonna be

  stranded by other software developers or

  other people in your in your business

  who are probably going to also be doing

  the same thing like that's totally fine

  and in fact

  not only are you like you know not only

  will will the world tolerate your

  self-promotion during that time but as

  you mentioned like for purposes like

  starting up conversations or trying to

  meet people who make the apps you like

  it's actually helpful you actually

  you're actually helping people find you

  who want to find you or who are

  interested in your in your app or or who

  know who you are or who want to know who

  you are so it's like you're actually

  helping help by by being self

  promotional in certain contexts such as

  those kind of you know real-life

  gatherings of similar types of people

  and that you know it's just one of those

  things where you just kind of have to

  you just kind of had to think of it from

  the other person's perspective of like

  if I wear a shirt that identifies me as

  the maker of this app or that or as the

  host of the show or whatever is the

  other person more likely to think I'm

  being like an arrogant jerk or more

  likely to recognize that from for people

  who want to who are who are who are

  interested in saying hi to me and and

  will and that'll make their job actually

  easier and they will appreciate that

  rather than trying to guess wait is that

  underscore there's just a line on a

  shirt but that could be an underscore or

  it could just be like a line because

  it's kind of hard to put your name on a

  shirt so I you know like there are so

  many contexts like that in which you're

  actually helping the other people by

  doing that yeah and it's it's an

  interesting thing too because I think

  about the tension your soul I can

  examine that there's a similar example

  that's also a bit of a tension is like

  the degree to which you talk about or

  like mentioned when people say nice

  things about your products right it's

  like similar in this way where if

  there's this strange tension around you

  notice it's like if someone writes a

  nice review of one of one of my apps do

  I like you know put that on Twitter put

  on my blog it's like that feels a little

  weird like retweeting when people say

  nice things about you like that's a

  little gauche I guess like it's not

  great but I think it what I've been

  trying to work through is why that feels

  weird versus what I'm increasingly

  coming to grips with about being fine

  with of the like it's good for people


  know who you are and to know what you're

  associated with and like that's just

  building a brand versus being it's like

  what can you start to get to the

  question of what kind of brand do you

  want to be and that's I think the more

  interesting place to or like I need to

  get comfortable with like the first step

  like I am I am a brand like I have a

  following online I do things in a public

  in a public way like I make apps that

  are used by hundreds of thousands of

  people like that's an important thing

  and I need just be okay with that and

  it's like okay well what kind of brand

  do I want to be because even big

  companies have different brands that

  makes like they have different

  personalities to them like there's ones

  that are very kind of like a casual or

  very formal or very inviting and you

  know even down to the things like I'm

  thinking about like I'm working on that

  you know what what design should I have

  for like my shirt and it's like well

  it's probably gonna be kind of geeky

  like I'm going to make something that's

  a little bit that that's not just like a

  picture of an app icon like it's going

  to be a little bit silly and that

  probably speaks more to like the

  personality of my company in my own

  personality and I think that works but

  it's like an important thing that I

  really if it's kind of bad in some ways

  like I've been doing this for so long

  but I'm still have these like these

  basic elements of marketing that I'm

  just not really comfortable with or have

  really thought through I mean I think it

  really does have a lot to do with the

  context you know as I said earlier like

  you know there are some context in which

  people actually are being helped by by

  your marketing and you know - like your

  example of like do you retweet things

  that are complimentary in the context of

  people who follow you on twitter who are

  going to see this they don't need that

  that that is not really helping them to

  hear how awesome you are because they

  already follow you they already think

  you're awesome they don't need to see

  everyone else thinking you're awesome

  and you're retweeting that and it just

  makes you look arrogant but if you have

  a page for your product like a webpage

  or even like people who could use the

  description field on the app store for

  this purpose put-put

  endorsements they're like put positive

  reviews like the way people pull out

  call quotes like like you know people

  like people do a movie posters

  and you know put in the ellipses so

  everything sounds good you know I think

  like if if prominent people or

  publications or anybody really says

  something nice about you yet maybe don't

  retweet it but put it on your marketing

  page because in that kind of context

  that is not only appropriate but can be

  helpful to people who are visiting to

  kind of see like you know who else has

  vetted this app who you know is are

  there any big publications or names that

  I've heard of who've said nice things

  about this like that's actually useful

  information in that context so I think

  you know it's it's tempting to just step

  back and say well I I don't feel

  comfortable doing any of this so I'm

  just gonna let people find my stuff but

  people won't find your stuff like that's

  not how this works and that's that's

  kind of it's it's almost a naive view of

  like how how this world works now that

  it's very tempting to to think it's a

  very appealing notion to think that you

  know I can just put something good out

  there and it'll it'll get found people

  will find it and sometimes that does

  really happen but it really helps a lot

  if you can grease the wheels a little

  bit if you could get a lot more people

  to look at it first and the way you do

  that is is some kind of promotion some

  kind of telling people what you're about

  and I think the line that has to be

  drawn is figuring out when such

  promotion would be considered

  inappropriate and not doing it in those

  places but then finding the

  opportunities where it is appropriate or

  where it is even helpful and trying to

  focus your efforts there and that's that

  isn't always an easy line for a lot of

  people to find you know and certain

  certain products make an easier harder

  certain personality types make that

  easier or harder to it to figure out

  where that line is but there are places

  where it is totally appropriate to

  market yourself and to market your app

  and it isn't really if you think about

  it it isn't even really that hard to

  think about what those places might be

  you know obviously there's conferences

  and person things and I would say

  anywhere where like you're going to a

  meeting and everybody like passes out

  business cards that's not that's not

  what I'm talking about that's just

  waste of paper but that is actually a

  thing I've been wondering it's like

  should I have business cards like I've

  met business cards in years I I think in

  our business the answer of generally is

  no yeah but like this is every now and

  I'm like I wonder if I'll at some point

  I'll run into somebody who would be

  important to be able to for them to know

  like reach back out to me and it's like

  I have no I have nothing to give you is

  like I can write my name on your hand

  like that's all I've got like it's not

  it's not great but it's the same kind of

  thing because like there are

  opportunities like that like what you're

  just saying it's like having those

  contexts where it's completely

  appropriate to interact in a marketing

  way and say like it's like I'm this

  person here's my app and I have

  something to hand to them like it's if

  you went to a trade show and had a booth

  like you'll have things to hand out to

  people because it's a context rupee if

  someone wants to receive that you want

  to be able to give it to them right

  exactly and that's like there are so

  many contexts like that in which your

  self-promotion is welcome or helpful and

  so for instance we talked in the past

  about about pitching the press on your

  app this is a great example of this kind

  of thing where you know a web site that

  posts links to things and reviews things

  every day like daring fireball or Mac

  stories or I'm or these sites need

  things to post every day you're not

  putting them out by suggesting hey might

  want me and maybe check this out that I

  just made it it solves this problem like

  that you're not like you know I mean you

  can be you can do it badly in a way this

  seems spamming but if you just do it

  like a human in a respectful way it

  tends to be welcomed and that isn't to

  say that they are guaranteed to to link

  to you to cover you to give you a

  positive review but you have to at least

  do the first step of like letting people

  know about your app because sites like

  that need things to post every day so by

  you promoting your app to them you are

  not annoying them you are helping them

  do their job like that so and so find

  places we're hearing about your app will

  help people do a job in a way that is

  not spammy or annoying yeah so like for

  me like you know blind the email blasts

  when people blast email all over me I

  don't I don't appreciate that very much

  and one of the main reasons is because

  like the the lists that people tend to I

  assume by often include bad addresses

  things like overcast support a dress a

  hat like that's not an appropriate place

  to send promotional stuff about your

  service to make developers lives easier

  but you know if like people run websites

  that review apps and there's no there's

  a contact form there or there's an email

  address there for like hey hey send your

  you know PR inquiries or whatever here

  like that is the appropriate place that

  they're asking you to do that there so

  find places like that and and use that

  to your advantage because honestly in

  this business you have to be some degree

  of self promotional because there's so

  much out there there's so many other

  apps there's so many other services

  there's so many other consultants no

  matter what you're doing in the in the

  mobile app development business it's

  crowded these days and you have to stand

  out somehow there are so many people out

  there who don't do any reasonable amount

  of self-promotion who can't do it right

  or who don't do it right if you can just

  do that correctly at all you don't even

  have to be great it just just be ok at

  it and that will put you in like the top

  5% of pretty much everybody else out

  there doing the exact same thing as you

  so that helps a lot and I would even

  argue that if you're the kind of person

  who who is just really having a hard

  time with self-promotion and who really

  can't do it I would argue that you're

  probably better off working for a

  company than working on your own because

  it's such an important part of working

  on your own that if you can't do it

  someone else should be doing it for you

  yeah and I think that's a great part

  like aspect that I need always need to

  remind myself about where just because

  like I got into this business to write

  software like to sit open Xcode and work

  in there and just because that's what

  I'm good at and just because that's what

  I like like doing most doesn't somehow

  mean that the other aspects of running a

  software business like go away that like

  they're not going to like somehow like

  oh well that's what I do so I'm just

  going to do that it's like no there are

  many aspects to running a business that

  I have to do and like some of them I can


  like I have an accountant who files my

  taxes for me because that's in a very

  vital important part of my business but

  it's something that I really don't want

  to do that's something that she is way

  better at doing than I am so I have her

  have someone do that and so when I think

  about something like marketing which is

  a which is really but all of this is

  like this is promotion and publicity and

  marketing like it there are it's a

  division within a bigger company it's

  even if it's not something that I want

  to do or feel qualified or skilled at

  doing it's still something that's

  important for me to get you know develop

  that skill get better at etc because

  it's not gonna if it doesn't happen it's

  not like that's fine it's problematic

  for my business and in in a big way -

  its key of having the mindset after that

  if I don't do this then all the work I'm

  doing in Xcode is in many ways kind of

  diminished because fewer people are

  going to benefit from it you know fewer

  people are going to see the products I

  make and that's like I'm sort of like

  shooting myself in the foot and so it's

  like it has to be done and so it's like

  yeah it's these thing weird things are

  having to relieve think about how can I

  get better at this like how can I find

  be ok with and like under you know with

  marketing myself what are things that I

  should be doing that I don't you know

  like a lot of my apps don't have good

  really great websites or social media

  presences or things like there are

  aspects of them that I think about that

  I'm like should I be doing more in that

  should I not like does it matter

  and maybe in our business like

  specifically in the app store I don't

  know the degree to which you having a

  good website matters but it's definitely

  something that I know I have to keep

  reminding myself because my default is

  never gonna be oh like focus ton on

  marketing because that's not what I'm

  like good at or skill that and got into

  this business to do in the first place

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  all right so I think it's interesting to

  to consider you know all these these

  marketing angles and everything as you

  know what's appropriate and what's not

  obviously we can talk about this

  academically and and it seems like I

  have a slightly easier time than you do

  or at least I

  I started earlier the path towards self

  promotion so you know at as you as you

  know all the same things I do you know

  as you can think about the same things

  rationally what are the irrational

  pressures or fears or conflicts that you

  feel about this that other people might

  relate to that you know and and can you

  talk about maybe like just like the

  feeling side of this like once you know

  what you should be doing what still

  stops you from doing it and what might

  be a way that you could overcome that

  yeah the one that comes to mind the most

  and I think this is it's like at the

  core of so much of these challenges is

  that feeling of

  it's like putting yourself out there

  where I mean I still do every time I

  write up an email to the press I always

  have this feeling of like I can be so

  proud of my app and what it does and how

  well it works

  and I'm sitting down to write this to

  somebody and I get nervous and worried

  and like what if they don't like it what

  if they hate it what if they are gonna

  you know reject me or be mean to me or

  whatever like you can give these various

  like you know sort of visceral feelings


  that and I think around marketing and a

  lot of these kind of like self

  promotional things there is certainly an

  element of that of this whenever anytime

  that you are sort of really sort of

  putting out your name in a way in a

  public obvious way intentionally drawing

  attention to yourself it's like you're

  also setting yourself up for the

  possibility of someone not liking you

  and I think the thing that you have to

  at certain point come to grips with is a

  like there's always going to be people

  who don't like you like no matter how

  likeable you are there's always going to

  be that and there's a certain amount of

  just like you have to get Bo be okay

  with that and not like get your you know

  your value from other people like you

  have to you know if I look at something

  I make and I think it's good then that

  at a certain point has to be enough that

  it is a can't it doesn't have to just be

  validated externally and but then it's

  also just V being and being aware that

  that's probably also not what's gonna

  happen like the number of times I've had

  the negative version of that you are

  like I can remember them because that's

  just the way human nature is that we

  think like the impact of the negative is

  what is disproportionate the impact are

  the positive you know hundred people can

  say a nice thing and one person can say

  a mean thing and you remember that mean

  thing but overall like that's not my

  experience and it's but it's having to

  overcome the emotional part of that of

  that feeling of just like that

  nervousness and the shyness I mean and

  it's the same thing that happens in in

  life like I remember we talked about

  this a couple weeks ago with going to

  tap YouTube EDC and looks like it's that

  same feeling of when I'd see someone

  that I'd recognize it's like oh should I

  go say hi like I'd love to meet them but

  being nervous about that and being

  nervous how the conversation will go and

  all these types of things when in

  reality it goes fine like that's just

  not the that's just not the reality like

  people are generally very polite and

  very nice and it'll go well but that

  certainly is a like a genuine feeling to

  overcome of that feeling of like is this

  good enough is it going to go well

  and so anytime you're drawing attention

  to yourself like that's just part of the

  bio that's just part of it but there's

  definitely that like kind of irrational

  feeling of like oh no like what if what

  if people don't like me oh sure I mean

  and and there's not I mean that's that's

  hard for like you know III would expect

  a lot of people who like computers who

  were roughly our age probably had a

  rough time socially in school growing up

  I sure did and it's and a lot of those

  pressures like come right back to life

  feeling like you're in high school again

  or middle school again and like getting

  socially rejected or romantically

  rejected and and there's like these

  deep-rooted scars that so many of us

  have from from growing up in that kind

  of situation and so it's really hard to

  overcome that feeling but the good thing

  is as you mentioned like you know people

  are generally nice and polite because

  you know what we aren't in high school

  anymore like everyone around us now as

  like as an adult and usually they're a

  lot like us similar back and so it's the

  the chances of like getting really

  scarred and and and rejected in the ways

  that we're all like consciously or

  subconsciously afraid of I think are

  pretty low you know we're we're adults

  now we're in we're in an industry now

  we're like you know we won like this we

  won the world like we don't have to

  worry about about about all those like

  emotional pressures anymore and you know

  in this industry and the way things work

  both in person and online you're not

  likely to get rejected if the worst that

  you can generally expect is to be

  ignored or to be lost in in the shuffle

  because there's just so much out there

  and that's you can't really if that

  happens and it will it happens to all of

  us you can't really take that personally

  because it's probably not for personal

  reasons like you know if if Apple

  doesn't pick you to be featured or if a

  website doesn't pick you to to write

  about or doesn't pick your app to review

  that week it might be because they

  didn't like it and they looked at it but

  it's probably not because of that it's

  probably because they got too much stuff

  and the order slipped through the cracks

  or they weren't or whatever yours did

  that's not that kind of thing they were

  looking for that week or you know

  there's so many other reasons that it is

  generally you know

  due to if if you if you do get ignored

  or passed over for something in this

  business that it's probably not personal

  it's probably not about your app your

  app might not even been looked at that's

  the reality of of getting rejected in

  this business today is that it's

  generally due to people being

  overwhelmed not due to anything personal

  against you and so the risk of putting

  yourself out there is is pretty low

  really and I think it's also that like

  one of the most impressive things is

  confidence and whether that is true

  confidence or kind of like more of a

  fake it till you make it kind of thing

  but the like that's something that I

  think Jen like universally people find

  impressive like coming back to high

  school or whatever like it's like the

  people because like the kids who were

  confident even if they're like comet

  like confidently strange are still cool

  like in in a way that is there is that

  is like that is the thing that we're

  sort of in in many ways and this is what

  I strived I'm sort of striving toward

  it's like being confident in what I make

  being confident in so sort of like the

  person I am and being able to be

  authentic about that then it is like

  that's something that's attractive

  that's something that is interesting and

  engaging and will start conversations

  and will open doors and those types of

  things I mean in some ways it's being

  hidden it's like even just having the

  confidence to ship in the first place is

  a huge thing to have accomplished and in

  marketing there's that same type of

  thing it's like that when I run into

  somebody and they ask me what apps they

  like in the OPI Co what apps do you say

  say oh what are you doing oh I'm a cap

  so have I ever have I heard of any it's

  like not being like oh probably not like

  the non confident responsive or it's

  like oh I make an app called pedometer

  plus plus it you know and yeah start

  with that don't even start with I make


  start with I make this particular ad

  here's what it is here's what's called

  here's what it does here's why you want

  it it's exactly and having that

  confidence that like this is something

  that they were going to be interested in

  and maybe they are maybe they won't but

  it's way better and it's gonna come

  across so much more appealing in a much

  more appealing way if you start with

  that confidence versus being like oh

  well you know I do stuff

  I kind of make stuff like that's not

  appealing that's not that you're not

  promoting yourself and you're doing your

  work a discredit as a result exactly all

  right that's all the time we have for

  this week everybody see is coming up

  really quickly now so we'll be talking

  about that probably more next week I

  would imagine everyone listening thank

  you for listening and I will see you at

  WTC wearing my own shirt nice I hope you

  do too all right

  see you next week all right bye