Don’t take that tone with me /

Meet CARROT.

It’s another one of those iOS productivity apps we see all too often, promising to help us improve our daily tasks.

However, not many come with an ‘Or Else’ threat attached to clearing your to do list.

The app’s tone of voice is what sets it apart from the crowd. But how do you get the voice out there when you sit in an overcrowded store which doesn’t lend itself to your ‘personality’? You create app-advocates. [Appvocates? Apdvocates?]

Some app’s go viral through word of mouth and online social sharing, others through advertising. CARROT doesn’t strike me as an app that has millions for marketing itself so it takes a personal approach on Twitter (easier to do with fewer followers of course).

In a world of boring press releases and even worse, lists of update bug fixes, it’s refreshing to read a developer blog that comes across about genuinely caring about developing the app, albeit in a passive-aggressive AI kind of way.

Meet CARROT’s ‘Maker’, Brian Mueller. Mueller, based in Philadelphia, who shed some light on the development of his first iOS app when I first caught up with him.

Where did the inspiration come from? 

I started off just wanting to make a very simple todo list with gamification elements.

Most todo lists are so packed to the gills with features like priorities, multiple lists, due dates, etc, that they’re a chore in themselves to use. I don’t want to have to click through 5 different screens just to add a single task. Getting stuff done is already hard enough – your todo list shouldn’t slow you down even more. So I wanted to create something that was simple, clean, and elegant. Just pull down to add a new item, swipe right to complete it. That’s it.

The other problem is that todo lists are inherently boring. They’re a chore to use. So I wanted to create one that gave you a reason to keep coming back. That’s where the gamification elements come in.

As for the central character for the app, I was originally going to use a snobby corgi named Sir Waffles as the main character. What a mistake that would’ve been! Luckily, doing the animation for Waffles would’ve been too difficult, so I came up with this sadistic AI personality named CARROT instead. She basically wrote herself – and she’s proven very popular.

How long did it take to build the first iteration and then 1.0?

1.0 actually didn’t take all that long to develop – it was live in the App Store just a month after I first started on the project. Of course, I was staying up until at least 3am every night, so that certainly helped speed up development.

What background do you have in development?

I only just started learning how to program a few months ago. So, basically zero background. It’s been a great experience so far, though.

Is there an Android version coming soon?

I hope to get started on an Android version pretty soon. There’s been a lot of demand.

Where do you think CARROT can go in the future

I have big plans for the app in the future. 3.0, which I recently submitted to Apple for review, will include several of the most-requested todo list features: reminders/due dates, recurring tasks, and Siri integration. 4.0, which I’ve already started working on, will include some fun in-app purchases and a significant expansion to CARROT’s storyline. After that version’s done, I’d like to get iCloud sync and an iPad version out there.

 Do you have another project lined up?

  I have a couple ideas for my next app, but I probably won’t be able to start on that for a few months.

Any favourite apps yourself? 

I’m a big reader, so I’m always using the Kindle app, Instapaper, The Magazine, and Mr. Reader for my RSS feeds.

Finally, will the cat survive the server room?

You’ll just have to wait until Chapter 3 to find out!

CARROT has proved to be the one to-do list app I’ve returned to again and again, albeit partly through fear, but most likely because its unique tone of voice truly sets it apart from the rest.

You can find CARROT in the iTunes store.

2012; Year of the Kickstarter /

photo looking across the street at two people wearing jeans, each wearing a colourful set of trainers, on bright blue, ther other pair neon yellow. The photo focus is on the tarmac a meter or two in front of the people. The photo only includes their shoes and jeans up to their knees.

2012 was a huge year for Kickstarter. The New York based company this week posted their year in review, boasting some pretty impressive figures.

2.2 million people from 177 different countries pledged over $319million across 18,109 projects. This worked out at $606.76 per minute. On average this would work out at $17,615.55 per project. However, 17 projects raised over $1million! 

Across the site there were improvements for the now 3 and a half year old company. The total money collected (for successful projects) was up 238% on 2011 whilst only having 34% more backers. Only 1 in 43 Unique Users actually pledged money. 

If you’re looking to get funded on Kickstarter, Music is a good bet with the highest amount of successful projects, with 5,067. Suprisingly Dance is statistically the best performing (excuse the pun) with 70% of all projects being successful*. Fashion is the least successful category with only 27% of projects getting their funding.  

Game projects brought in over $83million – over 25% of ALL money pledged in 2012! Each successful game project raised $96,000 on average, with each backer pledging $148. To put this in context, the entire Game category raised a meagre $50,000 in 2009.

Film was also a big category in 2012. 10% of 2012’s Sundance films were Kickstarter funded and Incident in New Baghdad became the second Oscar nominated Kickstarter project.

There is a negative side to Kickstarter. For every successful project there are failures (43% to be exact). 

  Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing in more ways than one. While 11% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 81% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.

So from this the magic number for any project is 20%. If a project gets to 20%, it’s much more likely make it to 100%. Great news!

  ——-

As for me, I funded my first project this year. It’s a pay-what-you-want collection of digital comics written and produced by Ryan Estrada of South Korea. He was looking to raise $2500 and with 21 days to go (at the time of writing) has raised just under $15000. What’s been very interesting is that the larger amount that has been pledged, Ryan has had to keep up creating targets, and reasons for new backers to help him achieve them. Ryan has also been great with regular updates which come across with genuine surprise at the early success.

Creators from the UK have been able to start projects on Kickstarter since October 2012. In it’s first month alone just over £2million was pledged across 407 projects. Just 30 of these projects were successfully funded. Interestingly enough, only 39% of the backers for UK projects were UK based. 23% were from other EU countries and 23% from the US (the assumed biggest user base). 

I’m looking forward to finding a new project to fund each month and will make sure to share them once they’re received. Get in touch if you find any worth looking into.

* not 2012 figures

A Week With The Arsenal /

This week could have easily felt a lot worse for Arsenal supporters having watched their side get four points in their last two games, with neither result looking likely for most of Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon.

Coming from two goals down to get a draw at home against Liverpool and scraping a win against Stoke thanks to a deflected free kick, Arsenal’s performances did not exude confidence or class which is sure to worry ‘Le Professeur’. 

Whilst many fans were apparently hoping for a new striker to bolster the attack in the transfer window, Wenger only brought in the tidy Spanish left back Monreal in January, seeming to show support for his current squad. This public support may hide the fact he was perhaps priced out of players he wanted to get in due to the financial restrictions he imposes on the running of the club.

This support is also fairly surprising considering the last two performances this week. On Wednesday night against Liverpool the Arsenal midfield did not have the right balance with Ramsey dropping deep, filling in for the injured vice-captain, Arteta. Whilst Ramsey reportedly enjoys getting on the ball more in a deeper role and he is a very competent passer, he cannot compete with a tenacious midfielder such as Lucas Leiva, even though Lucas is nowhere near back to his 2010-11 best. Wilshere and Carzola had little to build on against Liverpool as they struggled to maintain a firm grip on the game in the middle of the park.

Saturday’s showing was better with Arteta returning and a rather lethargic looking Diaby supporting leaving Wilshere to be freer to roam. Diaby and Arteta were perhaps more influential against a comparatively weaker Stoke midfield but still only had 47% possession, a stat no-one would consider good when playing at home.

Defensive nervousness and naivety were the most common traits that Arsenal had on display in North London this week. Neither sets of defences looked strong. Mertesacker was joined by captain Vermaelen for Liverpool and Koscielny against Stoke and the oft-reported ‘incompetent’ German did well against the ball juggling Peter Crouch especially. As a unit however, there is clearly a lot more work to be done, especially with Szczesny’s young confidence deteriorating into cockiness and performances riddled with small but sometimes telling mistakes. If it is indeed Steve Bould’s job to get the defence sorted out, he seems to have a huge job on his hands. The only positive is Arsenal’s current goal difference; both Merseyside clubs have conceded more goals whilst they have not scored as many, leaving them both at least 8 goals off the Arsenal pace.  

Fans will always want a new striker as they are traditionally employed to get the goals for their team. Arsenal could count themselves lucky to have Giroud, Podolski and Walcott at their disposal, especially when compared to some of their rivals for fourth spot.

Everton mainly make do with their prolific poacher Jelavic, Liverpool have Suarez to depend on with Sturridge having recently joined and Tottenham have been limited to just Defoe up front and Clint Dempsey trying to rekindle his former Fulham Tim Cahill-esque heyday whilst Adebayor is at the African Cup of Nations. 

Whilst all three Arsenal strikers got on the scoresheet over the last few days, they need to find consistency to really challenge for 4th spot. With Podolski and Walcott filling the flanks, Giroud will need to run across the defences, dragging the centre-backs with him much more often, opening up space for Walcott and Podolski to exploit.

Wenger must be pleased he managed to get 4 points from the last two games considering Arsenal’s performances but will know his side much challenge much earlier in games and not depend on his sides apparent ability to always score after conceding to get any chance of claiming the final Champions League spot.