Developing Perspective

#154: Something You Are Proud Of.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note and iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm an

00:00:08   independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. This is show number 154 and today is Friday,

00:00:13   December 13th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:18   Today's topic is going to be a little less technical and a little bit more ephemeral,

00:00:25   but hopefully something that is useful and interesting. And so it's going to be coming

00:00:28   out of the experience I had this last week around the Tempest in a Tea Cup with Feedly,

00:00:39   which is an RSS syncing platform similar to Feed Wrangler, which is mine, but who made

00:00:44   a couple of choices that I strongly disagreed with and I kind of wanted to unpack that process.

00:00:51   Not necessarily because the end result isn't necessarily quite as interesting, but I think

00:00:56   I think the process and how I got there is fairly interesting.

00:00:59   And so that's what I wanted to kind of unpack today

00:01:01   and to just talk through and to try and explain how I got here,

00:01:07   because I think that process is probably

00:01:09   the more interesting experience and the more useful

00:01:11   and practical to someone else.

00:01:12   So to start off, just a little bit of the background.

00:01:15   So Feedly is a RSS syncing service,

00:01:16   just like Feed Wrangler is.

00:01:18   It takes a collection of RSS feeds, it groups them together,

00:01:20   and lets you browse them in a consolidated interface.

00:01:23   And at its core, that's what an RSS syncing service does.

00:01:28   And they've had a variety of-- you

00:01:30   can add a variety of features to that.

00:01:32   You can do things like I do with smart streams,

00:01:34   or full text searching, or organizing them

00:01:37   in different ways, doing filters.

00:01:38   There's all kinds of stuff that you

00:01:40   can do to kind of help users navigate

00:01:41   that influx of information.

00:01:44   But at its core, what you're trying to do

00:01:45   is take the content that someone is publishing

00:01:49   in this particular format and make

00:01:51   available to your customers.

00:01:54   And over the weekend and then early in the week,

00:01:57   Fieldly rolled out a few changes, both of which

00:02:00   they ultimately reverted, which were trying in some ways

00:02:05   to push the boundaries of that and to do things that

00:02:11   are ostensibly potentially good for the user,

00:02:14   but ultimately are kind of complicated for the relationship

00:02:18   that the reader has with the writer.

00:02:20   and getting into, honestly, a few legal questions

00:02:24   about copyright and things.

00:02:26   But what they were doing is taking-- for example,

00:02:31   one of the ones-- well, the first thing they did is they

00:02:33   took the share links for-- if you're on the Feedly app

00:02:36   or on their site, you hit Share.

00:02:39   And so you're going to post a link on Twitter, for example,

00:02:42   to an article that you read.

00:02:44   And it's a Feedly link, which at first, for a lot of people

00:02:47   do that kind of thing where it's just a short link

00:02:49   that we will then redirect the actual site.

00:02:54   But what they were instead doing is they were sending people

00:02:56   to a feely.com site that had a copy mirror of the article

00:03:01   that you were sharing to.

00:03:02   Which, you know, they could say, hey,

00:03:04   you know, we're just trying to make this beautiful reading

00:03:06   experience without distracting ads or other content or things,

00:03:10   you know, because what you shared

00:03:11   was just that article, so we're just

00:03:12   going to show you that article.

00:03:14   That gets into all kinds of other problems and things,

00:03:16   where obviously they're doing that with essentially copying

00:03:18   an article and publishing it without permission, and so on.

00:03:22   Which has all kinds of problems and challenges.

00:03:26   And so what I did, though, is-- like I said,

00:03:30   they reverted all those changes and things.

00:03:32   And so I don't want to dwell too much on those.

00:03:34   But it brought to light something

00:03:37   that I've been struggling with for a while.

00:03:39   Or I was struggling with-- this may be the wrong word.

00:03:40   But it's something that I've given a lot of thought to.

00:03:43   Because it is one of the more-- it's

00:03:46   It's a fundamental question about how I want to operate my business and the way in which

00:03:49   I want to make my living.

00:03:50   And so, you know, it's something that I think about a fair bit as a result.

00:03:53   So these are, you know, the things that they were doing are certainly things that I've

00:03:56   thought about doing.

00:03:57   And I mean, I have a list.

00:03:58   I wrote a blog post this week called "Decisions Intentions," which I'll have a link in the

00:04:02   show notes too, but that kind of outlines a couple of the other things that I've thought

00:04:06   about that could go even farther in this direction, that could do things that ostensibly would

00:04:11   be good for the user.

00:04:12   and there are features that I've thought about

00:04:14   because as a reader, I would, you know,

00:04:16   sometimes would appreciate them.

00:04:18   For example, you could automatically convert

00:04:20   a truncated RSS feed into full text RSS feeds.

00:04:23   So as an example, a site like The Verge,

00:04:25   their RSS feed only includes typically the first paragraph

00:04:30   and a half of text, and then it has like a read more link.

00:04:32   And if you wanna read the whole article,

00:04:33   they want you to go and visit theverge.com to read it.

00:04:38   Just because that's how they make their living.

00:04:39   They make their living from selling advertisements

00:04:42   on the verge.

00:04:44   And so fair enough.

00:04:45   They've made a decision that that's

00:04:48   how they want to make their money,

00:04:49   and so that's how they're going to monetize it,

00:04:51   is that they need you to be going to their site,

00:04:53   not just looking at their RSS feed.

00:04:55   But I could very easily, from a technical perspective,

00:04:58   just go and scrape all the sites that do that,

00:05:00   and include the full text right in my RSS feed.

00:05:04   I could strip out advertisements directly from feeds.

00:05:07   I could, in Pod Wrangler, I could

00:05:09   so it automatically removes sponsorship messages.

00:05:11   I could cache copies of content from behind paywalls.

00:05:14   I could do all kinds of things like this.

00:05:16   And in all cases, on their surface,

00:05:19   they're fairly good features in terms of they

00:05:22   provide a value to the customer.

00:05:24   And if your goal is just to say, oh, I'm

00:05:25   just going to do everything that would make my customer happy,

00:05:28   that would be good for my customer,

00:05:30   the tricky part is that you can end into a very awkward place

00:05:34   where you're starting to make decisions

00:05:36   that you may not really be proud of

00:05:38   or that have implications for decisions

00:05:41   that you have to make down the road that really aren't great,

00:05:43   that really aren't things that you want

00:05:46   to live with down the road.

00:05:47   And so this is something that I struggle with,

00:05:49   because the business I'm in is incredibly competitive,

00:05:54   both in the iOS App Store and as well as in the RSS syncing

00:05:57   business.

00:05:58   And I think the lessons and the things that come out of this

00:06:00   apply equally in both places, and in some ways

00:06:02   even more so in the App Store, because it is so competitive.

00:06:05   And then any edge that you can get, however slight,

00:06:07   comes back in such a dramatic way

00:06:11   that it's just you're constantly facing these questions of what

00:06:15   lines do you want to skirt around,

00:06:17   what are gray areas that you want to go even more black on,

00:06:19   you know, the black side of the gray versus the white side

00:06:22   of the gray.

00:06:22   There's all these kind of questions

00:06:24   that you have to deal with.

00:06:26   And I do think that it's important,

00:06:30   though, to be thoughtful about this,

00:06:32   to try and build a business that you're proud of,

00:06:35   to do things that when you look back on the decisions you made,

00:06:40   you don't have regret about them,

00:06:41   that you don't feel like you were making poor choices that

00:06:48   have short-term gains but long-term implications.

00:06:51   Because that's really what you're doing.

00:06:53   Any time you're making these decisions,

00:06:54   and you can get in--

00:06:55   I could bring up the old things about in-app purchases

00:06:59   and the way that they can be very manipulative

00:07:01   and that whole thing that I talked about at length

00:07:04   a couple months ago.

00:07:05   There's all kinds of areas that you can get into,

00:07:07   the type of advertisements you take, things

00:07:10   that you do in terms of promotion,

00:07:14   how misleading is your marketing,

00:07:16   all kinds of things that you do that come down to questions

00:07:18   about honesty.

00:07:20   It starts to get into things that are, I guess,

00:07:22   more moral questions than they are necessarily

00:07:24   business questions.

00:07:26   But I think it's important that you think about those.

00:07:29   Because while it's important that you make a living,

00:07:32   I think it's far more important how you make that living.

00:07:36   If you listen to the show for any amount of time,

00:07:38   you'll know that it's not that I'm

00:07:40   saying you don't want to do things that make you money.

00:07:42   That if you find a way, an angle, an ability that you

00:07:47   can exploit that will give you an edge in the marketplace,

00:07:50   that will help you make more revenue,

00:07:52   that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

00:07:53   Often those are the things.

00:07:55   That's innovation in a nutshell, I suppose.

00:07:57   But the challenge comes when those things

00:08:01   coming at the expense of crossing lines that you wouldn't want to cross.

00:08:06   And the temptation is so present, I suppose.

00:08:11   I've been doing this for over five years now.

00:08:14   And there are many times throughout this experience where I've had these opportunities that I've

00:08:17   been like, "Ooh, I wonder if I did this or I wonder if I did that.

00:08:20   I wonder if that would boost my sales a little bit.

00:08:23   I wonder if I tweaked the name of an app or put an app in the store that has a confusingly

00:08:28   similar name to something else."

00:08:30   that are probably going to work, that are probably things that would make me some amount of money.

00:08:36   But ultimately, what I'm, the things that I have to keep telling myself is that I'm not doing this

00:08:42   to make money, you know, that making money is a result of the work that I do. But that's not the

00:08:47   goal of what I'm doing. I'm trying to do something that I'm proud of. I'm trying to do something

00:08:51   that where I can, you know, work or sort of work with integrity, and be an example of that to the

00:08:56   the community. And I would rather make something that I was proud of that ultimately ended

00:09:03   up failing financially or failing in the marketplace generally, that I would be to have a success

00:09:09   that I was kind of ashamed of. I'd rather not be able to have my name forever attached

00:09:15   to something that's like, "Oh yeah, that thing, it was really popular but kind of sketchy."

00:09:21   That's the thing that I want to avoid.

00:09:22   That's the place that I don't want to end up in.

00:09:26   And I think the important thing and the thing that I've learned is that it's very hard to

00:09:35   keep that integrity up unless you make lots of small decisions.

00:09:39   And this is a general thing that applies more broadly in life even.

00:09:43   But anytime you have these small little decisions that you make, where you capitulate into doing

00:09:49   the thing that you maybe shouldn't do.

00:09:53   Those add up because on the spectrum of whatever,

00:09:57   you have like sort of the right and wrong,

00:09:59   or on those choices that you have to make,

00:10:03   as normal gets closer and closer to either direction,

00:10:06   everything else will become more polarizing.

00:10:10   And so if you make lots and lots of small choices

00:10:12   that put yourself more and more onto the right side of things,

00:10:16   then when you look at the wrong choices or choices that

00:10:20   aren't as good, those will look more wrong.

00:10:23   But if you make lots and lots of small choices that

00:10:26   put you closer and closer to the other end of the spectrum,

00:10:28   then things become more extreme that way as well.

00:10:33   And that's a bit of a soapbox thing.

00:10:35   And it's just something that I wanted to talk about,

00:10:39   because I think it's important.

00:10:42   And I figured it made more sense to talk about here on the show

00:10:44   then the blog post I wrote about this was much more

00:10:46   of the business side of things, of some of the more

00:10:49   kind of business-y reasons and less--

00:10:54   it's like less personal side of that for why

00:10:57   I would make these decisions.

00:10:58   Because ultimately, there are a lot

00:10:59   of good business reasons for making these choices as well.

00:11:02   I want to make sure that I have a good relationship

00:11:05   with publishers, that it's in my interest for people

00:11:09   who write content to like my service,

00:11:12   because my service is useless without content.

00:11:15   And those are good and valid justifications.

00:11:17   And those are things that are important to think about.

00:11:19   But ultimately, there's a bigger part of it

00:11:22   that is wanting to be proud of what I do.

00:11:24   And so these are the challenges that I face all the time.

00:11:29   What lines are appropriate and good to cross,

00:11:32   and which edges are worth pushing?

00:11:34   What boundaries of-- it's like, what's

00:11:36   being innovative in a useful way?

00:11:38   Like, when I'm coming up with something, like, wow,

00:11:40   that's really cool.

00:11:41   and I'm putting it out there, that's true innovation.

00:11:44   That's coming up with something new and interesting to solve

00:11:47   a problem versus, oh, yeah, I found this interesting kind

00:11:49   of hacky way that I can game the App Store,

00:11:52   or I can find a way that I can do things like that.

00:11:54   And you can get into various-- it's like the old thing,

00:11:56   I guess, with search engine optimization, right?

00:11:58   Where it's like you have black hat and white hat search

00:12:01   engine optimization.

00:12:02   Where on the one hand, you're trying to make your content

00:12:07   indexable well by Google.

00:12:10   so that it's well optimized for searching.

00:12:13   And on the other side, it's putting things in your content

00:12:15   that are intentionally misleading to try and drive

00:12:18   traffic.

00:12:18   And those types of things are always these present.

00:12:20   And then today is maybe it's like I

00:12:23   can't worry about whether those kinds of choices

00:12:26   would potentially drive more traffic in that case

00:12:28   or make me more sales.

00:12:29   Because as soon as I consider it as even an option,

00:12:33   I've already lost in a lot of ways.

00:12:35   So that's just kind of like I said,

00:12:36   it's a bit of a soapbox today.

00:12:37   And I apologize for that if that's not really

00:12:39   what you're tuning for.

00:12:40   But I think it's important.

00:12:41   And so that's why I figured I'd talk about it today.

00:12:45   Yeah, and that's, I think, it for today's show.

00:12:47   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:12:49   or complaints, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:12:52   If you want to email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:12:54   Otherwise, I hope you have a great weekend.

00:12:55   Good next week.

00:12:56   As we're getting into Christmas and New Year's,

00:12:59   my schedule may be a little bit off, but we'll see.

00:13:01   Hopefully, I'll be able to still get a couple episodes out

00:13:03   before the end of the year.

00:13:04   And I hope your preparations for the big App Store,

00:13:08   Christmas shutdown extravaganza are going well, and that you had a good year.

00:13:12   Alright, thank you. Bye.