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Discover & Share Great Apps

There are millions of mobile apps in the app store. How do you discover the right ones for you? Powerslyde helps you find the right apps for you with a little help from your friends. Receive personal app recommendations, automatically see when your friends add new apps, and share apps with your friends with one swipe.

Stories Behind the Apps

CopQuest: Bob’s First Day

Editors Note:  From August 14-20, 1971, a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University conducted the Stanford prison experiment (SPE) which was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard.  The experiment was conducted at Stanford University. The results of the experiment favor situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution (a result caused by internal characteristics). In other words, it seemed that the situation, rather than their individual personalities, caused the participants’ behavior.

When first learning of CopQuest: Bob’s First Day, and hearing the story of the insipiration behind it, the messaging around its social importance was clear.  More importantly, it placed the player in the role of Officer Bob.  Games are a great medium as they place the player in the role of Officer Bob.  The intent is to help the player understand the decisionmaking process that Officer Bob goes through and how those decisions lead to various outcomes.  The team, Verge of Brilliance, is currently finalizing a Kickstarter to complete the game.  We urge you to check it out here.

In this Edition of Stories behind the Apps, we are speaking with Evie Powell of Verge of Brilliance LLC regarding their new app:  CopQuest: Bob’s First Day.  Hi Evie, please tell us about your app!

“The shooting of Walter Scott became available on YouTube the day before our scheduled game jam… We pulled up the video and watched it and, of course, there were many emotions that erupted in the office that day. We were ranting: outraged and baffled. We laughed. You know, laughing that incredulous laughter that really doesn’t indicate humor as much as it indicates confusion and despair. We laughed at how overwhelming evidence had to be on the side of law enforcement before any kind of justice or accountability could be seen. We were then given the theme of our game jam event: social change.” –Evie Powell

CopQuest is a game about police brutality in America. Its game narrative is based on real incidents reported in current events.  It’s lighthearted where you wish it wasn’t. Conflict resolution is almost always heavy handed. It’s unendingly apologetic, sympathetic, and lenient to a system that is desperately in need of reform. No matter how many mishaps, things never change for the better.

Please describe what your app is and why it’s different from similar apps or competitors.

From a technology standpoint the game is novel in that it features a language understanding model trained by many players/testers.  We often describe it as a text-based adventure game with a modern twist but more informal than text-based adventures in years past. The players act as Officer Bob’s conscious and suggest actions for him to take. The player can type these actions in natural written language – so a player does not have to subscribe to a set format.

The game has been featured as a museum exhibit in Seattle. The game did well at the exhibit and feedback stated that many people would like to see the game in more places. As it exists today, the game is too short. We want to make a bigger, better, more polished version to release on many platforms.

Could you describe how you designed your app icon and user interface?

The app icon features Officer Bob in a defensive stance. We are still working on the specifics to make the icon as snappy and telling as possible

CopQuest is a text-based adventure game where the player makes use of an advanced text-parsing engine to interact with the observed game elements on screen. The player controls the protagonist by commanding him to interact with his environment, for example, “try looking at the desk” or “speak with the chief”. The player assumes the role of Officer Bob Allegedly, a rookie learning the ropes on his first day as a police officer. The UI is pretty simple and we have plans to make it even simpler with a “Speak to Bob” option, where the player presses a single button and verbally suggest actions for Officer Bob to perform.

What software development tools, people, or communities particularly helped you in creating the App?

Unity Game Engine Assembla (Project Management Tool) YouTube (for research) Loggly (Data Collection / Analysis tool) Adobe Creative Suite (Art and Design) Slack (Team Communication tool) Our backers on Kickstarter Original writer and advocate: PinkTreeLeaf Friends and family Historian – Daniela Hansen Musicians – Tom Miller and Evan Witt Ending Theme Musicians – C.O.R.N. Gang

What lessons did you learn in using these resources?

It takes a community to get a message like this out to people. It’s when people truly believe in a project and what it stands for that you get to see the best in people. I hope we can continue to build a game that inspires caring and positive change.

What would you say went right and wrong with development and release?

So far the kickstarter has been a challenge. We learned that prior to launching a kickstarter the majority of your funding sources should be secure.

Also, that UI is something that needs to be evaluated across many different player demographics when making a game that is socially conscious. Harder interactions or more old school interactions are fine for the “gamer” population but non-gamers really want to get behind the message as well. We are currently investigating more ways of making the game accessible to all.

Who is on the team and what are your roles?

Evie Powell, Ph.D. – Programmer / Designer / Writer
Havilah Farnsworth – Designer / Artist / Writer
Tom Miller – Music
C.O.R.N. Gang – Ending Theme Music
Vida Powell – Biz Ops
PinkTreeLeaf – Original Writer (now just a supporter)
Evan Witt – Original Musician (now just a supporter)

What was the team doing in life and work before you started building the app?

We were working on contracts and another internal project: Mebols. Mebols is a social game that features Pod Play, where people are using several mobile devices to form one big play space. The primary contributors of CopQuest form a development studio called Verge of Brilliance LLC.  We are all about making games that create meaningful experiences.

What are some apps you can’t live without or that inspire you?

Game Dev Story – a mobile game about being a game designer. Its inspirational; Facebook; Spotify – a music app AND social network; and Alpaca Evolution – a game that captures the heart of being and indie game developer.

What platforms are you publishing your app on?

iOS, Android, Web (via WebGL). Hopefully also Ouya, Xbox, and Playstation

What is the current status of your app?

iOS – The app is currently in development on iOS and there is no link available. Go to our website to monitor its status.

Android – Ask for special preview link for Android build which is not yet available on Google Play Store. 

You can currently play the demo on a non-mobile web device here.  

 

Stories Behind the Apps – gWhiz

gWhizlogoblack - rs

Tell us about gWhiz, who is on the team and what are your roles?

gWhiz LLC was founded in 2008 by Kevin Reville and Mike MacDonald, both of whom had enjoyed success with prior startups.  Early on, they recognized the potential for mobile technology to revolutionize learning so they built a team of dedicated professionals including project managers, technical architects, developers, graphic designers, and marketers to build the company.

How is gWhiz different from similar apps?

The company’s first and most popular educational app is gFlash. This app was the first totally free flashcard app on the app store. It was also the first flashcard app to offer auto-generated multiple choice, adaptive study, flashcard content from brand name publishers (McGraw-Hill, Wiley, and others), Google Docs integration, the capability to share flashcard sets with other users via email, and a matching game. It allows users to study at their own pace and on their own time, wherever life takes them.

What was the inspiration for the design of your app icon and user interface?gflash70

The icon and user interface are a result of gWhiz’s design goal for a fast, mobile flashcard solution. Creating paper flashcards is labor intensive and time-consuming. To create cards directly on a mobile device can have its challenges too.  So co-founder Kevin Reville came up with the idea of creating flashcard content using a Google Docs Spreadsheet.  This enabled users to quickly create flashcards and upload them to their iPhones and share them.  This innovation is one of the app’s greatest features and a differentiator from competitors. It was also the inspiration for the “g” in the icon and the name.

What tools, people, or communities were particularly helped you in creating gWhiz?  The original inspiration was a stack of paper flashcards that sat on cofounder Mike gflashscreenshot2 (1)MacDonald’s kitchen table.  When Mike got the idea from his seeing his daughters flashcards in late 2007, smartphone use had yet to take off.  The first release of gFlash on BlackBerry was met with moderate success.  In 2008, when Apple released the iPhone and iPod Touch, adoption took off.  Our user community has been a great source of feedback.  We obtain feedback directly or through App Reviews.  This has helped greatly and many gFlash features are a direct result of customer feedback. Our publisher partners, McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Wiley, and others have been very helpful.  They have been in the business of education for a long time and have helped greatly by providing high quality content, advice and guidance.  We have also been fortunate to benefit from close relationships with people working in education – from pre-k to college professors; and naturally our students too!

Most importantly our friends and family have provided immeasurable support throughout the process.

What did you learn?

Our users are absolutely the best students. They excel and get good grades, usually beyond the expectations of their teachers. They are often Advanced Placement (AP) students; law school graduates; studying for the EMT exam or pilots undergoing recertification. They have high expectations and demand reliability, customization, and features that help them learn faster with better results. There is no question they have made our apps better.  For development tools we have used Xcode from the start. We have had a few challenges along the way but have found success learned to expect the unexpected.  With Android, we use Eclipse as part of the Android ADT package to develop gFlash and many of our other apps. With so many phone configurations, it can be a challenge.

What would you say went right and wrong with the release?

We were early entrants into the mobile education space and able to gain first-mover advantage.  As a result, we gained a large and loyal following among students of all ages and remained the number one Educational app in the App Store for over a year. 

What were you doing before launching gWhiz?


IMG_gWhiz Team (1)Co-founder Kevin Reville has managed the development of hundreds of applications. He has been the project manager for every key publisher partnership to date. Prior to its acquisition by The Boeing Company, Kevin was instrumental in the creation and growth of Conquest, Inc. — a premier provider of advanced large-scale systems and software technology solutions to federal and commercial users.

Mike MacDonald co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer has oversight for the overall design of new apps to ensure consistency and maintain the vision across platforms.  He has also led the development of many of the gWhiz apps and is a key innovation leader in the industry. Mike is former founder and CEO of Visual Mining Inc., a leading provider of data visualization capabilities. Mike has over 20 years experience developing commercial-grade software applications.

What are some apps that inspire you?

As a small company, we have turned to social media to get our message out. So Facebook, Twitter and Buffer are key apps we use on a daily basis.  We found inspiration in Words with Friends in developing one of our other apps.  We wanted to integrate gaming in a test prep app to help make studying fun!  We liked the idea of gamification and wanted to create a compelling to integrate into a test prep app.  

Head over to the App Stores and download gWhiz!

iTunes and Google Play

Hey Devs!  Want to be featured like gWhiz?  Head over to this link and apply!

Appfluencers, Analytics and Insights

appfluence

Since the launch of powerslyde in early March of this year, we have spent a great deal of time understanding the data that we are collecting.

Our focus has not been to drive installs, but rather to learn about the activities of our users and learn from the data.  We began the process of applying analytics and gathering insights surrounding the entire business and have seen some amazing things. 

We began to look at the app discovery problem as a three-sided issue as pointed out in an article by Ouriel Ohayon.  We then realized because of the scope of the problem, we would be required think differently and develop a new solution to address app discovery. 

Today I walked by a billboard for the iPad.  It stated “300,000 apps for everything you love”.  As much as I admire Apple for their products and their vision as a consumer of apps, I was perplexed to find there were that many apps for the things I love.  I actually don’t have the time to browse through so many apps, and would guess the majority of consumers have similar constraints.  Recent reports indicate that over 50% of the time, people rely on information about the apps they download from trusted friends and family.

My co-founder has compared the app stores of today with Home Depot.  They have everything you could possibly want, but finding it is another matter and finding someone to help you is even, well, non-existent.  Did the app stores create the problem, or are they the result of the problem?  I don’t believe that either is the case.  The problem came about due to the rapid rise of the device technology and the developer response to the opportunity it created.

When you think of app discovery and who has the most to gain, or lose, the answer becomes clear when you begin to consider the developer side of the equation.  It used to be that a developer could be relatively assured of a large number of downloads in the app stores, just by being in the app stores.  Today that is not the case.  The discovery problem has only become more difficult with millions of apps across multiple app stores.

When we designed powerslyde, we wanted to address the app from the consumer’s side of the problem.  We reasoned that if we built it with the consumer in mind, it would also be a win for developers.

Here are a few of our early insights:

  • We have an active user base, 45% of our users are active on a monthly basis
  • Our active users recommend over 11 apps per month
  • The install rate from those recommendations is 77%
  • One of our original assumptions was that our users would download paid apps at the same rate as other consumers, which had been 10.89%.  In fact, powerslyde users are downloading only 3.6% paid apps.

The interesting thing about this last point is that in the app discovery space there are a multitude of apps, yet no one has solved the problem or has emerged as a true leader.

Four of the top five apps are centered on free apps.  That seems to validate the findings that powerlsyde users do not like to pay for apps they can get for free.  We are learning that people like to save time and money, and it is important to leverage their friends and family.

A couple of positive trends have emerged which should be great news for developers.  First, when it comes to recommending apps to other powerslyde users, the less familiar the app the more likely the user is to download it.  Second, when a powerslyde user sees an app that had been popular or talked about in the past, the action of “pulling” the app from another powerslyde users profile increases the install rate by multiples of the recommendation rate due to the recognition of the app, and the ownership by a trusted friend. 

At the heart of this is what we like to call FOMO or The Fear Of Missing Out.

We are also learning about the other apps that powerslyde users have on their mobile devices that leads to a completely seperate topic diving into the amazing data and analytics. Because we know what apps reside on a users device, we can provide additional analytics and insights with regard to those apps.

The following are examples of the types of analysis and insight that developers are telling us they find useful:

  • High quality behavioral targeting
  • Apps that appear most often with other apps
  • Apps that a developer should target ad spend to achieve improved results
  • Apps that appear most often with others, which leads to Positive and Negative lift

As you might guess, there are many more correlations to be made, far too numerous to list.​

And so we have the rise of the 'Appfluencer.'  The person, who is the expert, and more importantly, your expert in helping to sort through the clutter to find the perfect app for you.