Developing Perspective

#116: Competing with rather than against.


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective.

00:00:05   Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing news of note in iOS development, Apple, and the like.

00:00:07   I'm your host, David Smith. I'm an independent iOS and Mac developer based in Herne, Virginia.

00:00:12   This is show number 116, and today is Thursday, March 21, 2013.

00:00:16   Developing Perspective is typically not longer than 15 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:22   All right, so first, if you didn't get a chance to listen to the previous episode in this series,

00:00:26   in this series where I had a conversation with Sean Blanc

00:00:29   about interacting with the press,

00:00:31   about what that can look like, about some tips

00:00:32   and approaches that you can take.

00:00:34   I highly recommend it.

00:00:35   I mention that mostly because I know a lot of pod catchers

00:00:37   only download the most recent feed,

00:00:39   so if you missed that one, definitely check it out.

00:00:42   Today I'm gonna talk about two things primarily.

00:00:45   The first one is about split attention,

00:00:48   and the other one is gonna be about competition.

00:00:50   So first, I'm gonna talk a little bit about split attention,

00:00:52   And this is something that I've run into this last week,

00:00:57   where I'd been cruising along focused on getting my My Recipe

00:01:00   Book update out.

00:01:01   Big update, big update, lots of big features, a lot of testing.

00:01:04   And it got basically to the point that I would think I'd put

00:01:07   out my-- internally, my release candidate three,

00:01:10   I think was what I had put out.

00:01:12   Kind of had gone through.

00:01:13   It was basically just getting really

00:01:14   ready to put those final finishing touches on

00:01:16   and then ship.

00:01:18   And then, of course, last week, Google Reader announces,

00:01:22   we're going to close down.

00:01:24   My back burner project, the thing

00:01:25   that I've been working on for the last couple of months

00:01:27   but hadn't quite gotten ready yet, feed wrangler,

00:01:30   all of a sudden gets pushed to the forefront.

00:01:32   And suddenly I find myself in this really strange place.

00:01:35   It's like, what should I work on?

00:01:36   What should I do?

00:01:38   And this is something that I've run into a lot of times.

00:01:40   How do you split your attention if you

00:01:42   have a lot of different hats you're trying to wear

00:01:44   or different things you're trying to juggle?

00:01:46   And of course, this applies to a lot of other things, too.

00:01:48   Because in addition to doing feed wrangler and my recipe

00:01:52   all my other apps, and doing things like this show,

00:01:55   you're doing Developing Perspective, writing on my blog.

00:01:57   All those things take time and effort,

00:01:59   and as I've talked about many times,

00:02:01   I try very hard to limit the amount of time

00:02:03   I spend on work stuff each day.

00:02:05   And so what do I do?

00:02:06   The reality is, and this is the,

00:02:09   it's like, it's one of those things where I wish

00:02:11   there was some way I could just like,

00:02:12   the next few words out of my mouth

00:02:14   were some amazing shortcut or hint or tip

00:02:16   that like maximizes your productivity

00:02:18   and boosts you to the moon.

00:02:20   But the reality is you just have to get comfortable with neglecting things and being comfortable

00:02:24   and tolerant of the fact that you can't do everything that you might want to do.

00:02:29   I think the sooner you accept that, and the sooner you understand that, the more productive

00:02:33   you can ultimately be.

00:02:34   Because rather than trying to take on too much and just kind of balance it all, just

00:02:39   accepting that you know what, maybe sometimes you can't do the things you want to do, and

00:02:44   lets you focus on whatever the most important thing to be doing right now is.

00:02:48   and lets you focus on that now,

00:02:49   rather than trying to think about the four things

00:02:52   you could or should be doing.

00:02:53   Just focus on the one thing you should be doing,

00:02:55   most that you should most be doing right now,

00:02:57   and just drive on that.

00:02:59   And when you hit a point where that may not be

00:03:01   the most important thing to do,

00:03:02   you can switch gears and hit something else.

00:03:04   But that's the only technique that I've ever found

00:03:06   or approached that keeps me sane and seems kind of rational.

00:03:09   And so, you know, it's like I'd started a thing

00:03:12   where I was writing articles on my blog,

00:03:14   trying to do five a week.

00:03:16   That's not gonna happen.

00:03:17   And I'll try and keep up something like, you know,

00:03:20   to increase my volume a little bit,

00:03:22   but the reality is in the range of things

00:03:24   that I'm focused on right now,

00:03:26   there's too many other things that are too important for me

00:03:28   to be continuing to put that focus there.

00:03:30   And that's disappointing.

00:03:31   I'm sad about that.

00:03:32   I was excited about starting this new kind of

00:03:34   project and emphasis.

00:03:36   And I hope to pick that back up as time or focus allows,

00:03:39   but I'm okay with that.

00:03:41   And developing that tolerance

00:03:42   and not kind of beating yourself up about it

00:03:44   is an important thing.

00:03:46   And I think the important thing is to be conscious about that, too.

00:03:48   It's not just saying, "You know what?"

00:03:50   It's like, "Oh, man, I've got so much going on.

00:03:52   I'm trying to do this and that and this."

00:03:54   It's understanding, like, "I've got a lot going on, and these are the things I'm saying

00:03:56   no to.

00:03:57   These are the things that I'm ignoring right now."

00:03:59   And just becoming tolerant and accepting of that is, I find, to be very important.

00:04:04   So the next thing I'm going to talk about is something that...

00:04:07   I don't know how to even really get into it, but it's a concept that I've run into many

00:04:13   times of competition and about entering into markets where there's lots of other people

00:04:20   doing what you do or into a market where it's entirely possible that there will be other

00:04:24   people who do what you do.

00:04:26   And so this is something I've recently just run into with Feed Wrangler, but it happens

00:04:30   with almost all my other apps.

00:04:31   Where for Feed Wrangler specifically, obviously working on an RSS platform, a syncing solution,

00:04:37   iOS apps, those types of things isn't a new concept.

00:04:40   It's something that's been around for a while.

00:04:41   main dominant player who recently exited. But generally

00:04:44   speaking, it's a very competitive market. And I would

00:04:47   think that I ran into a lot this last week was I kept, I kept

00:04:50   finding more and more and more and more services who are

00:04:53   offering roughly the same, at least conceptual service that

00:04:57   I'm looking to offer that I'm looking to build that I'm

00:04:59   getting close to building and hopefully going to be launching

00:05:02   in a few weeks. But it's an interesting thing when you look

00:05:06   at every time every time I run into a new one, I'm like, Oh,

00:05:08   man, should I still be doing this? Is this worth my

00:05:11   my time, you know, am I just going to be launching something into a market where there's just

00:05:16   no demand for what I'm doing? And for five minutes, I'm super discouraged. I'm like,

00:05:21   here's another one? You know, it's like I keep, I kept feel like I kept running into

00:05:25   into new services. And then it was like big major companies were announcing that they're

00:05:28   entering it too. And now I'm going up against dig and I'm going up against Feedly and news

00:05:33   blur. And there's all manner of these services that are out there. And it's the same thing

00:05:40   a lot with me in the app store where you'll think you'll have an idea, you'll have a problem

00:05:46   or an itch or something that you want, you open up the app store and you do a search.

00:05:49   You say, "Hey, does something like this already exist?" And you'll think to yourself, you'll

00:05:55   see the results, you'll see like three or four things, like apps that already kind of

00:05:58   do sort of what you're thinking about. And you'll say, "Oh, well, forget it." Now, the

00:06:02   real question there is how do you distinguish between the times when that is really the

00:06:06   the case that you're kind of launching something that really doesn't have a future because

00:06:12   it's very competitive. That because you're launching the next another and just another

00:06:20   one, just kind of like your Me Too app, and versus when you're launching something that

00:06:24   is really going to have some legs. And the first thing to know is that it's impossible

00:06:29   to know that ahead of time, as there's some hints and some things that I'll talk about.

00:06:34   But the reality is, you have to be doing something,

00:06:37   not just because it'll be a commercial success, I think,

00:06:41   or that you think it'll give traction.

00:06:44   The only reason you're doing it is because

00:06:47   you think there's a market opportunity

00:06:49   and you're kind of going after it.

00:06:51   That might work, but you're ultimately setting yourself up

00:06:54   for a lot of frustration, 'cause there's a lot of things

00:06:56   outside of your control that can make it not a success.

00:06:59   So if you're not doing it because you enjoy it,

00:07:01   because you like it, because it's a product

00:07:03   you'll use or like on a regular basis, it's going to be really problematic for you, I

00:07:08   think, down the road. Or, at the very least, if you're not building something and being

00:07:13   very understanding and tolerant of the fact that it may not go anywhere.

00:07:18   Two, you have to be able to answer the simple question of what is it that you're doing that

00:07:27   differentiates you from someone else? And that's a different question than perhaps saying,

00:07:33   How would you market your app against someone?

00:07:37   In what ways are you better than someone else?

00:07:39   Because better is a really subjective thing.

00:07:42   You want to have something, at least in general, I would say that it's objectively different.

00:07:45   That is, that you're doing that anybody could see and immediately understand and determine

00:07:51   that that is a difference, and if they like that difference, then you have their interest.

00:07:56   If they don't like it, then you don't.

00:07:58   But it lets you very straightforwardly differentiate yourself.

00:08:01   And so like say I like on something like Feed Wrangler,

00:08:04   right, what I'm doing there is a very similar solution

00:08:09   to a common problem, and this is something

00:08:12   that a lot of people deal with and address.

00:08:14   And there's a few parts of how I do it

00:08:16   that maybe are novel or interesting.

00:08:18   The thing that I really am driving towards,

00:08:20   mostly though, is that I want to create a platform

00:08:23   that is focused on the customer and focused on longevity.

00:08:28   focused on longevity.

00:08:29   And my goal isn't necessarily to dominate the market.

00:08:35   In fact, that's probably, in some ways that worries me,

00:08:38   if I ever had that much success.

00:08:40   My goal is longevity and quality.

00:08:43   And so that's something that I'm trying

00:08:46   to differentiate myself into.

00:08:48   And I'm trying to build up my business model

00:08:50   and my sort of support approach and the way that I do it

00:08:54   as distinct from that.

00:08:56   like I don't expect, for example, to have any level of

00:08:59   free account. It's possible that that'll change. But that's not

00:09:03   something that I really am expecting to do right away. It's

00:09:06   something that it's like, if you the kind of person who wants to

00:09:09   use the service would be using it because they understand that

00:09:12   there's an individual who cares a lot about it, who's working on

00:09:15   it and maintaining it down the road, and they're getting

00:09:18   building into that relationship, rather than into necessarily all

00:09:21   the nuances of what I'm building. And so that is kind

00:09:25   the way I think about it. And I think it's really important to

00:09:28   kind of differentiate those types of things. If is your

00:09:31   goal, it would you consider success be being being the

00:09:37   number one, or is a success being making sufficient revenue

00:09:42   that is worth it worth working on and sort of having a sort of

00:09:47   interest in it, but then also being able to have a sustainable

00:09:50   business model that lets you continue that indefinitely. And

00:09:54   And for me, the latter is what I'm interested in.

00:09:57   And so it gives me a lot of comfort

00:09:59   when I look that I'm going up against these large, bigger

00:10:03   companies, venture funded, often with very different goals

00:10:08   or business models in mind, that when I look at them,

00:10:12   I look at the resources they have,

00:10:13   I look at the things they can bring to bear on something,

00:10:16   and say like, oh, man, am I going crazy,

00:10:20   going up against somebody like that?

00:10:22   And the reality is there's a little bit of insanity about it,

00:10:24   sure. But my goal is just for a few thousand people to like what I do and to support it.

00:10:32   And if I can get that, then I'm golden. Then I can continue doing it. And that's my goal.

00:10:37   And as soon as I start focusing on that, I think it really helps me to understand what

00:10:43   makes me special and what makes the work I do different and lets me emphasize that and

00:10:49   focus on that and the way that I build things and the way that I market things and the way

00:10:52   that I communicate about them. You know, part of in some ways,

00:10:55   you and I imagine it's like this show where I talked to a few

00:10:58   thousand people on a weekly basis about what it's like to do

00:11:01   what I do to make apps to run an independent business to do all

00:11:06   these kinds of things. Part of the benefit of that is that

00:11:09   hopefully if you like what I do here, you may have some of you

00:11:11   may like what I do for an RSS reader or for a podcatcher or

00:11:16   for a recipe manager or an audio book app or a weather app. And

00:11:19   you're building the, you guys, you could call it a brand in

00:11:25   that sense that you're building a philosophy and a way of that

00:11:29   people understand about if you're getting an app from this

00:11:31   view, for me, this is hopefully what you'll get what you expect.

00:11:34   And something that I think I'd encourage a lot of people to try

00:11:36   and encourage to engender into your software that it's like,

00:11:41   what do you want to be known for? And hopefully, you can

00:11:44   define that in terms that you'll be proud of that it's not, I'm

00:11:48   known for a large user base is not something I ever really want

00:11:52   to be known for. I want to be known for quality, I want to be

00:11:56   known for attention to detail responsiveness, and

00:12:01   independence, honestly, that it's something that I pride

00:12:05   myself in, in that I have, you know, what I do, I do myself,

00:12:10   and there's benefits and there's pros and cons to that. But what

00:12:12   it allows me to do is to be very agile, I guess for abusing the

00:12:17   the term, to allow me to make quick decisions, to allow me to be very focused and kind of

00:12:21   ruthless in a lot of the ways, things that I say no to, things that I say yes to.

00:12:26   And that's kind of how I approach competition.

00:12:28   A lot of times I like to think about it, too, that I'm competing with rather than against

00:12:33   a lot of the similar apps in my categories or services in my categories, because I'm

00:12:38   not trying to take their customer from them.

00:12:42   what I'm looking for is I'm, you know, if anything, I'm trying to appeal to a different

00:12:48   set of customers in the first place. And that allows us to kind of, you know, coincide coincide

00:12:54   in a really happy place, which I enjoy. And that's kind of competition. There are a couple

00:13:00   of things I wanted to just sort of wrap up talking about. First, I wanted to mention

00:13:04   that I am going to be at CocoaConf DC tomorrow, which I think is Friday, March 22. I won't

00:13:11   I won't be able to be there for the whole conference,

00:13:12   but if you're gonna be in town for that,

00:13:15   I'll be around at least in the morning.

00:13:17   So I hope to see you there if you're gonna be around.

00:13:19   Other random topic, thought, and this is just something

00:13:22   that is probably timely for people in the US.

00:13:24   I had a lot of great experience this year

00:13:27   getting a CPA to do my taxes, and it's something that

00:13:31   for the first year ever, I did both my business

00:13:33   and my personal, and I highly recommend it.

00:13:35   It is one of these things that I think I've mentioned

00:13:36   many times on the show, that outsourcing,

00:13:38   the things that you're not good at,

00:13:40   things that you don't add a lot of value to

00:13:42   can really help enhance your time, your energy,

00:13:45   and your focus.

00:13:46   And so I did that this year, and it was awesome.

00:13:48   She, A, did a great job and found things that caught things

00:13:52   that I just wasn't aware of that I wasn't taking advantage of

00:13:54   that can help reduce the taxes I pay

00:13:57   and all those kinds of things.

00:13:58   So highly recommend it there.

00:14:00   And then I also wanted to mention--

00:14:01   there'll be a link in the show notes--

00:14:03   but one of the-- there's an interesting project Ash

00:14:06   Furrow is working on that I wanted to mention here

00:14:09   that could be applicable to a lot of you.

00:14:11   He's working on a book for beginning iOS developers.

00:14:14   And so I think it's sort of like a Kickstarter,

00:14:16   but it's on Indiegogo.

00:14:18   Anyway, check it out.

00:14:19   There's a link in the show notes.

00:14:21   Basically, he's trying to create a guide for your first app,

00:14:24   which sounds pretty interesting to me.

00:14:26   And so I just wanted to mention it here.

00:14:28   Anyway, that's it for today's show.

00:14:29   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:31   complaints, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith.

00:14:33   I'm on appnet @davidsmith.

00:14:35   You can email me, david@developingperspective.com.

00:14:38   Have a great weekend, happy coding, bye.

00:14:40   Thank you.