On walkabout in life and technology

Direct Marketing Your App to Tip Lines

In TimeToCall - After One Month, I stated that my next marketing experiment would be to send a PR style email to popular press site tip lines to see if they worked. In parallel, and unbeknownst to me, Christian Tietze was doing the same thing, just paying for it (See Sales and AppLaunch.us experience for Calendar Paste, worth a read and reminding me to post this).

The results are:

  • 12 PR messages sent (see the actual message sent at the bottom of this post)
  • 1 delivery failure (so I used a backup address)
  • 2 robo-responders indicating that the emails were received, thank you
  • 0 reviews
  • 0 posts about the product
  • 0 requests for promo codes
  • 0 responses
  • 0 sales

To be clear, I do not blame any of these folks for the lack of response (and I did not really expect any). They get hundreds of PR messages like mine every day. They are good people trying their best to sift through a morass of messy messages to find the gems that would interest and delight their readers. Either my message did not stand out, did not resonate, got nailed by a spam catcher somewhere, or was just not the kind of thing they thought would work for their readership. I’m OK with that because I understand their situation. I knew this going in to the experiment.

Unfortunately, Christian paid for his PR. I think that if one is paying, one should get a better response than free and none. In his data (see the chart in his article) I see the sales spikes he got from Brett Terpstra’s review and the press reviews he got a week later via his own direct interpersonal relationships. But I do not see any as a result of the paid press release that went out blind.

In short, the lesson learned is that blindly sending PR emails to even the best industry sites simply does not work. I think you need to have a personal relationship with someone at each place or build your own online presence for them to find and follow you.

I guess it’s time to step away from the screen and start getting to know the good folks in the press personally. First drink is on me.

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter and @hiltmon on App.Net. Mute #xpost on one.

Aside: The message that was sent

I followed the advice of the folks at the App Design Vault in The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Getting iPhone App Reviews and made it look like
Christopher Phin’s anatomy of a perfect press release example.

In order to get attention, I also

  • Referred to the post series on how it was made, hoping that would interest these writers to learn about what is behind the products they review all the time.
  • Included a Brett Terpstra quote because everybody knows he’s a software wizard.
  • I even made a press kit, so the art and assets were easily accessible.

So here it is, an image of the PR message sent:

$60 Million to Aquihire Me

So this week, Yahoo paid $30 million to acquire Summly and it’s 17 year old founder Nick D'Aloisio (just Google it).

The way I read the deal:

  • Summly and its product is going to be shut down. So it’s not the product they wanted.
  • Nick only has to hang around for 18 months to get all his money. So it’s not the founder they wanted.
  • Summly licensed its technology from someone else, so Yahoo is not getting any IP in the deal either. So it’s not the tech they wanted.

This has to be the most puzzling deal ever!

So here is my brilliant offer:

You can aquihire me for $60 million.

And for that ridiculously cheap bargain-basement price, I’ll give you a better deal with better terms:

  • You get a guy, that’s me, whose been programming longer than Nick’s been alive! I know stuff and get stuff done! You get the founder.
  • There’s no product to shut down (Kifu is a separate company), so you don’t get any disgruntled users or bad press in this deal. You get all my other products and no bad press.
  • I have no IP that’s licensed from anyone else, I can and have made my own, so no strings attached. You get all the tech.
  • I’ll stick around, for years if you like. I won’t just hang around the cafeteria for 18 months eating hamburgers and then bug out finish school or start university (Been there, done that!). I’ll focus on making your products awesomer! I’ll actually do something for you.

What a bargain!

I cannot imagine anyone not taking this amazing cut-price deal up.

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Oldest Trace of You on the Internet

For a lark, and in response to this tweet:

I started on the Internet in the late 1980’s when it was still called Arpanet. I connected our University of Cape Town UNIX boxes via UUCP to Rhodes University in South Africa which in turn used UUCP to talk to Oxford University in the UK, which in turn connected to one of the Ivy Leagues in the USA. The first message I sent was on behalf of my Professor to Donald Knuth, and we got a response. But all traces of that are gone.

I spent the early to mid 1990’s in Bulletin Boards, CompuServe, browsing Gopher sites and in the Lotus forums. Then moved on to hosted Internet in the late 1990’s. But all traces of that are gone. Or are they?

Google 1998

The earliest trace that Google could find was in a 1998-05-26 press release reported in The Age | Hard Drive, an Australian Newspaper, highlighting is my own, skipped the bumf to see the reference:


AAG Holdings chairman and Netbridge managing director Allan Brackin continues to boost his national team, now 250-plus, adding more aces to his Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney offices.


Project management specialists Jan Priest and Hilton Lipschitz join Melbourne and Sydney teams on a contract basis.


The search was performed using “Hilton Lipschitz” as the search string (quotes included), then clicking Search Tools on the results page and setting a custom range under Any Time. I ignored any references where the page was created later, for example, old school photographs from the 1980’s but published in the 2000’s.

Lotus Forums 1995

When I dug deeper, I found these gem’s in the Lotus forums which must have been loaded into Google Groups at some point, so in 1995:

Hilton Lipschitz                                             9/20/95

Michael Menta <mmenta...@ultraman.delmarva.com> wrote:
>I need some good looking notes demo prgs. and the like to show off
>notes.  Know where I can find some?
try ftp.worldcom.com, www.lotus.com or the sample templates with the

Hilton Lipschitz              || Mail: hil...@ozemail.com.au
Seltex Ventures Pty Ltd       || WWW: http://www.ozemail.com.au/~hiltonl
Glebe NSW AUSTRALIA          //  CompuServe: 100236,3672
Phone: (+612) 660 4880      //   Notes: Hilton Lipschitz @ SELTEX
Fax: (+612) 660 1442       //           @ COM TECH @ LOTUSINT (@ NOTES NET)
         "You want to be somewhere - so there you are!"

That’s one helluva message signature! And I even spread rumors:

Hilton Lipschitz                                 Oct 26 1995, 3:00 am
c...@cs.utexas.edu (Jimmy Gunawan Jusuf) wrote: 
>Hi, does anyone know what is the latest version of Notes ODBC driver? 
>I got an ODBC driver from 
>Its version# is 1.01.2203, appears to be made by Casahl Technology for Lotus. 
>I'm looking for an ODBC driver that allows writing to local Notes db 
>using VB's DAO (database access object) or from MS-Access (as attached tables). 
>The driver I have doesn't allow me to do this due to a bug in the driver. 

Try ViP if you like BASIC and want to play notes and other databases. 
ODBC and Access only work when there is a unique index and there is no 
such thing in Notes.  Microsoft - so it is rumoured - is working on 
Hilton Lipschitz          || Phone: (+612) 566 4729 
Seltex Ventures Pty Ltd   || Fax: (+612) 566 4724 
190 Bridge Road           || Mail: hilt...@ozemail.com.au 
Glebe NSW 2037 AUSTRALIA  || WWW: http://www.ozemail.com.au/~hiltonl 
         "You want to be somewhere - so there you are!" 

The Wayback Machine 1996

Which led me to The Wayback Machine and my home page circa 1996. I’d forgotten had done this one. Besides the horrible graphic work and default font, I love that:

  • The javascript hack to add a scrolling message on the browser status bar still works in 2013! Check it out!
  • I used a better software development methodology than waterfall back then (and documented it): Software Development Methodology
  • I published my first blog (?) article, but had to spread it over many pages as Australian bandwidth was limited in those days: Lotus Notes vs the Intranet (Private Internet). This page was was linked to from Lotus at the time.
  • I had a lot of hits, 7216, over the life of that article. That was a lot for 1996!
  • I was talking about coffee back then on the Home Page. Does that make the the earliest tech coffee nerd?

The site was taken down in May 1998 when I migrated to the Indaba Solutions domain.

I guess anything you do does remain on the Internet somewhere. What’s the oldest real trace of you on the Internet?

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Bjango's Photoshop Actions

I’ve already pointed out that you must have Slicy when working in Photoshop to create and manage iOS artwork or when creating assets for web sites.

The other must have not-so-secret weapon for iOS art is Bjango’s iOS and Android Photoshop Actions & Workflows. These are a set of Photoshop actions that speed up the creation and scaling of iOS artwork.

I start all iOS screen designs using the blue actions that create the necessary blank screen files (they even create a nice status bar). And I test the scaling of all icons using the green scaling actions which scale to all the required and supported sizes.

But the actions I use the most are the Scale by 200% and Scale by 50% that enable me to switch between regular and retina sizes to see how lines and curves shift.

Of course, I don’t use the slice tools as I use proper Photoshop folder and item naming to work with Slicy.

These actions are free, well maintained and can be downloaded from iOS and Android Photoshop Actions & Workflows. Installation instructions are included in the download.

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Mixing Legacy and Modern Web Development on OS X Mountain Lion

Over the past few years I have been developing modern web applications like Kifu on my laptop using Ruby on Rails, Sinatra, Octopress, and Node.js powered by Pow. But over the next few weeks I’ll be helping a friend upgrade a bunch of older legacy static (plain HTML), PHP and Wordpress sites.

I do want to keep using the same smooth workflow processes as I have now. But I do not want to clutter up my pristine OS X installation to do it. So this is how I have my modern web development environment set up, and how I have added almost seamless legacy development capability to it.

RSS Address Change

Update: This post has been updated with a new feed URL that will become the standard in future releases of Octopress. If you re-subscribed, I’d ask if you could please do it one more time. Thanks.

It looks like Google is about to kill off Feedburner, so its best if we get started on the transition. Going forward, I’ll be using Octopress' built-in RSS feed. Please re-subscribe to The Hiltmon RSS Feed at:


New subscribers will get the new link when you subscribe from my toolbar or your browser bar.

The feed at Feedburner will continue to work for a while, then redirect you to the old one (it picks up the data directly from my feed anyway). And you can always get notified of new posts by following me at Twitter, App.Net or Facebook.

I know it’s a pain to make this change, but re-subscribing means I have one less terminally ill Google service for us to rely on and you have one less channel where Google tracks you.

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Someone Else Did It Better

Over the past year I have been working on a stealth iPad app to scratch an itch of mine. Today, following a tweeted link, I found the product I was working on, just done better by someone else.

The Product

As a developer, I have a bunch of old iPhones and iPads. As a writer, I have a blog. The idea was simple: create a dashboard app to run on the old iPad 1 as a second screen to display my site’s Google Analytics using tiles so I could rearrange the view.

I had already solved the OAuth 2 issue in Spike Solutions, tested a tile UI in Spike UI Teaser and had worked through the Google Analytics API (but did not write about it). In short, I was up to putting it all together and polishing it up.

But today I learned about Analytics Tiles. It’s brilliant, just the product I was developing, but with a cleaner design, more tiles than I had thought of and a better interaction model. All in all, a better product than I was making.

As a result, I purchased Analytics Tiles and have stopped working on mine.

Thoughts and Feelings

This is the part where the writer tries to express how they feel about the topic. Here goes.

I don’t feel bad about this. A little down, maybe. A little disappointed that I did not get mine done and shipped by now. A little empty now that I have no hobby project on the go. But not angry or upset or feel the need to throw breakable objects.

You’d think I would given the hours spent agonizing over the design, writing spike code to see if it could work, solving problems, throwing away ideas and coming up with new ones. Sure, that’s time spent I will not get back or paid for.

But it was not all a waste. I love designing applications, I love solving problems, I love testing out ideas, I love programming. Which means I spent all that time doing something I really love to do. How can that be a waste?

Looking back, my iOS skills and web skills improved as I was trying new things. I could fly through the TimeToCall iPad implementation because I already had this under my belt. And I learned a lot.

I also had the time, and chose to spend my time doing this. I recently got back to it as several of my contracts fell through and was enjoying the activity.

Much of what I did I am not going to throw away either. I am sure I’ll face the dreaded OAuth 2 again, now I have a library that works. I am sure I’ll need pie and graph widgets again, I now have those ready to go too.

Since I need to find something negative to write to make this feely part of the post somewhat interesting, the only thing I can come up with is that it’s hard to compete with a 99c app, especially since the developer did a much better job than I was doing. I had not thought that the Windows flat tiles style would look so amazing, or that the multi-color idea for each site would work so well.

C'est la vie. Or for the geeks out there:

There is always a bigger fish.

Qui-Gon Jin Star Wars

The Community

One thing about being a developer is that even though we compete for jobs, clients and revenue, this community also supports and encourages and genuinely wants everyone to succeed. We follow each-other, use each other’s products and ideas, and even congratulate our competition if we think their version has a better feature. I suspect we do this because we know just how much time and effort goes in to making great products. So I really hope that InteractiveMonday has huge success with Analytics Tiles.

Go out and buy Analytics Tiles if it scratches your itch too. (Affiliate link so I may get a few pennies if you do). And I’ll go off and work other ideas (or yours if you hire me).

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Long on Apple

Chris Umiastowski in Apple investors: How to stay sane by staying long via iMore:

  1. Realize that you will never have an information advantage over the pros. Most information is geared to short term results anyway. Just don’t pay attention to short term news and rumours when it comes to investing. It won’t help you.

  2. Buy a stock for your own reasons and sell when those reasons are no longer true. This will stop you from making emotional decisions and trading on rumours.

  3. Start to notice the wording that journalists use when they talk about information sources. If the source is vaguely referenced, there is a much higher chance of the information being complete crap. Refer back to rule number 1 and 2.

Point 3 nails it!

Update: Readers, this post is presenting my agreement with a writer’s insight into the media, not investment advice.

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I'm Doing It Wrong: Dropbox Buys Mailbox

On my tweet stream today:

Anyone got ideas for a revenue-free product I can make and sell for 100mm?

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Windows Phone 8 Support Will Expire Before Your Phone Contract Does

In a seriously bone-headed move, Microsoft has quietly announced that their mobile Operating Systems will only be supported and updated for 18 months:

Microsoft will make updates available for the Operating System on your phone, including security updates, for a period of 18 months after the lifecycle start date. Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities.

Windows Phone 8 mainstream(?) support ends on 2014-07-08, a contract entered into today expires on 2015-03-18, ~8 months later! Sure, they offer ‘extended’ support, but no-one knows what that means. Whatever it means, Microsoft makes it clear that updates and security fixes are off the table in 18 months from product launch. The clock has already started.

Since almost all phone contracts here in the USA are two years long and since almost all phone users do not – nor know how to – update or upgrade their phones, this means that users of Microsoft Operating System phones will be locked in to contracts with unsupported phones for at least one quarter (soon to be one half) of their lock-in time!


Then again, anyone know how long Apple provides support for iOS versions? Or Google for Android versions? Nokia for Symbian? Blackberry? I assume it is at least 2 years or the furor would be unbelievable.

Source: Engadget via TechCrunch.

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