Flappy Bird and the purpose of the company

Flappy Bird, the infuriatingly-difficult mobile game that went from obscurity to the number one free game on iOS, taking $50,000 per day in ad revenue, is no more:

 

I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.

— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014

 

Its creator Dong Nguyen, tired of the relentless attention the game brought him, has removed Flappy Bird from the App Store.

I couldn’t help but feel that, if he had better advisors around him, someone would have advised that he start a company – and hire some people.

Apart from making money, what’s the purpose of a company?

It could be:

  • To provide a ‘protective shell’ to operate within
  • To provide tools and resources to its team
  • To provide legal protection
  • To provide a structure in which teams can operate effectively

All so that talented people can do their best work, without worrying about this stuff.

If Mr Dong had hired some talented people to look after marketing, PR, support, finances, ad networks, etc – he could get back to making games and trying out ideas – instead of feeling overwhelmed with the burden of doing all this stuff himself.

 

The black box of data

I’m on O2 at the moment, but my partner is on EE (Orange) and she just got a bill for 800Mb of data in a month – 300Mb over her normal data allowance, which she never normally exceeds.

Being tech-savvy and cost-aware, she checked her cellular data usage counter in iOS – it shows 126Mb – since it was last reset months ago. Even accounting for errors, that’s a massive discrepancy.

A call to their customer service was typically useless, the representative tried:

  • “Has anyone else had access to your phone?”
  • “Do you have a lot of background services running?”
  • “When you’re on Wifi at home, do you turn cellular data off?”

The last one, of course, is default behaviour for iOS anyway – it doesn’t use cell data if a known network is available and joined.

It got me thinking about how data monitoring in telecoms companies is a black box – it’s totally sealed, nobody can audit it or tell when there’s a fault. If they say you’ve used 800Mb – how can you prove you didn’t?

At the very least, a service provider could improve the visibility on this data: a web dashboard where you can see data by day or time of day – or free SMS alerts when certain usage levels are met.

It’s almost like they don’t want you to be able to keep track of your usage…

 

Bitcoin may still succeed, but it shouldn’t

I like Bitcoin – it’s a plucky idea. Decentralised peer-to-peer currency, pseudo-anonymity and an anarchist angle: who needs the banks, right? Its success is testament to the hunger for a non-bank alternative payment system.

Bitcoin’s unique masterstroke is also its fundamental flaw – the way that coins are algorithmically-derived means that there is a finite supply. They will run out (21 million coins is the hard-wired limit of the protocol), driving up the price of the coins in circulation.

Engineered scarcity and built-in deflation (the currency soars in value) means that Bitcoin is a commodity, not a currency.

The problem is, like gold, it enriches early adopters and concentrates power into a few wealthy institutions. It’s therefore entirely possible that we see a layer on top of Bitcoin – a fiat currency backed up by Bitcoin which becomes traded as a proxy. Ta-da! We’re back where we started.

None of this is to say that Bitcoin will fail, it may very well succeed, but if it does, it won’t be because it’s better.

Edited 28 Nov 2013: Several people pointed out that bitcoin mining will end in 2140, not in ‘a couple of years’ as originally stated.

ProductTank 2013

I’m going to be speaking at ProductTank Birmingham about Droplet, design and ‘things that are good’.

ProductTank Brum provides an opportunity for Product Managers or anyone who manages products (even if it’s not your job title), in Birmingham and the West Midlands to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience, solving user problems, Product Strategy and all the other things that get us excited.

The event is on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM, it’s FREE and tickets are here: http://producttank-brum-october.eventbrite.com/

iOS 7

After using iOS 7 for a few days, I think I get it now, and how the radical re-design fits with the company’s business objectives:

There are fewer visual affordances

Yes, ‘Find my Friends’ leather stitching took skeuomorphism too far, but at least buttons used to look obviously ‘tappable’ across iOS 6. In iOS 7, some text is tappable, some isn’t. There’s a steeper learning curve and greater cognitive overhead in working out how to use most of the built-in apps.

More functionality is hidden

Fewer ‘grips’ to slide things open, a hidden ‘Control centre’, pull down to expose search on the Home screen, the ‘swipe back’ gesture – and so on. These are, Apple assumes, power-user touches – and power-users will happily learn how to do this stuff.

Premium

The user interface throughout is smooth, slick and responsive – the transitions in particular feel classy, and the realtime ‘frosted glass’ effect works really well.

Put this ‘premium’ feel together with more ‘expert level’ functions and the high-end iPhone 5S hardware (plus a cheaper model at a lower price-point) and I think the result is:

Apple isn’t trying to make a smartphone for everyone anymore.

Any electronics co can churn out cheap Android devices and compete in a messy commoditised space it figures, meanwhile the high-end is Apple’s to own.