Thursday, July 25, 2013

The value of your opinion

I have published apps and games for Microsoft Windows Phone, and I update them in a regular basis. Most of the time is because a bug is found, sometimes is a new feature or just because I am trying something new. It helps to keep things moving and people thank you for that.

However, I never had to protect an app or a game from human stupidity. Until now.

Software developers learn  over time how to deal with the final user - in some measure - and I must admit is not easy; as programmers we are not trained to deal with them, is usually another person's job. But when it comes to phone/tablet apps, that individual is you, because as an 'indie' developer you are too close to the complete production line.

I classify the users like this:

  1. The happy mute
  2. The unhappy mute
  3. The fan
  4. The hater
  5. The stupid

The mute ones...

There are always people that either like or don't like your app or website, or tool, but they just don't say anything. This is good and bad, you don't get bad reviews, but that implies you are not getting feedback that is always good. But the worst part is the that the ones that like your app, but are too lazy to upvote it or comment about it, they just don't help either. 

The fan and the hater...

The fans and haters are a necessary part of anything that exist in the planet, but when it comes to technology, they go to the extreme, however they are easy to spot and you can easily bash them, as most of the time they arguments are pointless. Of course, they can hurt you  a bit, mainly because haters are more effusive and active than fans... but hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity right? (or so they say)

Now... the stupid.

This is the kind of user that is impossible to please, and is quite common in the mobile app business. Any app that you find in the Microsoft Store, Apple Store or Google Play, has negative reviews that are written by this type of users. People that downloaded an app, did not read the instructions or have no idea what the app is for but they go and trash the app.

I have seen many cool apps being trashed by this type of pseudo-users, like a torrent download app, that is downvoted because it does not play a song, or downloading an app that does not provide services in the country where the user is located. Even an apps like Flipboard, downvoted by a user that is trying to use it in a hacked phone that barely works, or simply because the user's phone is crashing by itself or  has no space left and is behaving slow.

There are restrictions on what is possible on the phones as in any platform, that's why many apps explicitly say on the description something like:

1) this app can not delete photos from your phone
2) this app can not add videos to your phone
3) this app can not play videos or photos from your SD card
4) this app can not control the Mars Rover

and so on..

Whenever we - the developers - hit a limitation in a platform, we either find a workaround or describe the limitation to the user. If we take the time to do so, we should be able to expect something reciprocal from the users.

The value of your opinion

I think that everybody has the right to give an opinion (even haters), however I am strongly convinced that the value of such opinion has to be taken into consideration. On the internet, there is little room for that. Although many web sites allow people to rate what others say. 

On  websites like MSN you can downvote/upvote a comment on an article - that's a start -and you can also answer to those guys. 

On 'The Code Project' you can answer back and rate with a value (1-5) any answer or comment, you are also forced to justify any score from 1-3. And the system weights the points taken based on the voter's reputation points. The system is not perfect, because some users have a million points just for spending time posting on every forum and making jokes all day, and no points for writing an article or publishing something. But still, better than the model used on the app stores.

On Amazon, people can vote and comment on other's reviews. That seems fair. And I think is simplistic enough to be used on the app stores, and we should definitely move into that direction.

You must earn the value of your opinion.

 (maybe that's why I don't vote in the Oscars)

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