soylentmeh

Soylent: I lasted 5 days

I got a week’s supply of Soylent 1.4 a couple weeks ago. I planned to replace half of my meals in order to save time and improve nutrition. I started right away with half a pitcher per day, and I was loving it. I felt healthy and energetic and my IBS was notably improved. I also didn’t mind the taste.

On day 5, I got sick a few hours after drinking 1.5 glasses of Soylent. Crazy diarrhea and stomach discomfort, couldn’t sleep all night, and finally at 8:30am threw up for the second time in my adult life (I’m 22). I was burping a lot and most of the burps tasted like Soylent…not pleasant.

It took me 4 days to recover, surviving only on simple foods. My appetite wasn’t fully recovered for another couple of days. I have no idea if Soylent had anything to do with my sickness, and I won’t pretend like I do.

Now I’ve been recovered for a few days and the idea of drinking Soylent is absolutely repulsive. I thought I was being silly so I made a batch, but drinking it practically makes me gag. I don’t think I can ever drink Soylent again.

Thus concludes my (failed) Soylent experiment. I truly believed I could improve my overall health and save time without missing real food, but I was wrong. I learned that I actually really love food.

I see big issues with Soylent appealing to the mass market if they can’t make it more palatable and include different flavors out of the box.

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Building Falcross: Organic Growth via Invites, Part 1

One of the biggest challenges as an indie app developer is getting your app discovered. My game Falcross has been doing well on the App Store for over 2 years, but download growth is flat. I’m on a mission to change that, and to share my progress with other developers.

Falcross is a puzzle game where you use logic to uncover hidden images. You get 3 puzzle “packs” for free and buy the rest via IAP ($5 unlocks everything). There are also earn-able/purchasable “tokens” which you can use to get hints, revive when you lose, and more.

The IAPs perform well, with content unlocks and tokens selling at about an equal rate. That’s great news, because it means I have value to trade for users’ shares and invites.

Falcross had no share or invite features 3 months ago. I’ve added some in the last few releases, and this is how it’s going so far:

1. Tweet to Revive

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When you make too many mistakes on a puzzle, you lose and need to restart from scratch. This can be a 15-20 minute endeavor on larger puzzles. The game offers you a “revive” for 15-25 tokens (~$0.50), which erases your mistakes so you can keep solving where you left off.

As of 4.7, you can also tweet to revive once per day.

The game generates a nice twitter-optimized image of your progress for you to tweet:


So, are people using the feature? Let’s see:

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The blue shows how many people saw the tweet preview and dismissed it, and the red shows how many people continued on to tweet.

Hmm. 10-20 successful tweets per day. Let’s see how that compares to paid revives using tokens:

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See that little green sliver at the top? Yeah, me either. 10-20 tweets per day and ~400 daily revives means that only about 4% of revives came from a tweet. In other words, users would rather spend a bunch of tokens than send a tweet for free 96% of the time. (Note: This stat could be a bit deflated, as tweet to revive is only available once per day and token revive is always available)

Conclusion: 10-20 tweets per day isn’t necessarily awful, but I’m barely getting clicks to my bit.ly link from Twitter. That’s because most of the people who tweet to revive only have a few followers, and they do it every day. This channel needs work.

2. Invite Friends via Profile

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The Invite Friends button is shown to logged in users, who account for about 6% of DAU (~250 logged in users per day). Here’s a daily graph of invites sent from this screen:

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Not a lot of activity, but these invites are non-incentivized. Interestingly, Messages is the most popular way to share invites, followed by Twitter:

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ConclusionNot bad for a non-incentivized channel, but overall has generated <10 clicks to my bit.ly link in a month. Results are likely skewed by the inclusion of an iOS app banner on the shared invite page–I can’t track clicks on that. I want to replace the invite page with a Branch deep link which will handle following the inviter automatically without requiring the invitee to return to the invite page. This sharing option also needs to be expanded to anonymous users, who account for 94% of DAU.

3. Share to Unlock All

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What if, after completing 50 puzzles, you could just share the game to your Facebook or Twitter feed and unlock every puzzle pack for free ($5 value)? This is absolutely the craziest viral strategy I’ve tried, and it works. Targeted at new users only, it’s the most effective sharing incentive I’ve found yet:

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This channel generates about 10-20 shares per day, all from unique users. It’s also generated over 60 clicks so far. I don’t have referrer data for those clicks, but I believe that a lot of them come from Facebook, as I’ve heavily optimized the shared link for Open Graph:

 

 

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So that means lots of people are sharing to Facebook, right? Wrong.

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I used a UIActivityViewController to handle sharing here, with all activities except Facebook and Twitter excluded. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exclude iOS 8 extensions, so people have been “sharing” to Flipboard, Evernote, and Pinterest and still being rewarded.

Conclusion: This channel works really well, but it needs to be limited to Facebook. If users are getting a $5 IAP for free, they better earn it by sharing in a way that will generate clicks! I’m excited to see what happens once I enforce this.

Interestingly, this promo doesn’t seem to be impacting IAP sales much, but I’m still A/B testing with Leanplum to find the optimal time to show the offer.

Next Steps

All the charts above are from Localytics, my favorite analytics tool. It’s very helpful, but I also need to be able to track clicks and installs, both of which are external to Localytics.

I’ve decided that bit.ly link stats really suck. You can’t filter referrers by date range anymore (why remove this??), and the Twitter referrer data is a total mess.

My friend showed me Branch, a free service which claims to track referrals from share all the way to install. Organic referral tracking is the key to quantifying my viral growth efforts, so Branch is absolutely going into the next version of Falcross. I can’t wait to see what kind of data I uncover.

Write Software for People You Admire

I recently took up a side project that I’ve been meaning to pursue for a long time, and got some amazing results.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jake and Amir since high school. Unfortunately it’s hard to keep up with their videos because their website has poor mobile support and CollegeHumor, their parent site, is buggier every month.

Last month I decided I was fed up, and I knew J&A’s loyal fan base was fed up too. In our mobile-first world, it should be more than easy to view our favorite content on our phones and tablets. So I took matters into my own hands. I decided to develop my own iOS app for Jake and Amir.

The app itself I designed very minimally, with lots of iOS 7 standard UI and a bit of spark where I knew fans would appreciate it:

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The app’s Random Video screen mocks Tinder (left). Allusion to a running joke on Jake & Amir’s podcast, If I Were You.

After a month of development and a 2-day review from Apple, the app was released on Dec 31st. I posted about it on Facbeook and the J&A subreddit, an active community with thousands of fans. The response was overwhelmingly positive: The app got 224 downloads and six five-star reviews in the first 24 hours!

Then yesterday, something magical happened:

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Boom. 300 downloads in an hour. 1,325 by the end of the day. Tons of grateful comments from fans. And, best of all, a personal plug from two guys I really look up to!

I’m not making any money from the J&A app, but it’s one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever done. As developers we have the ability to reach in and fill voids that nobody else is willing to fill, and that’s really powerful.

Fellow web and mobile developers, I’m calling on you to do one project like this per year. Find a person or company you really care about and write some software that will increase their exposure or make their life a little bit easier. Do something that they’d have to pay $10,000 for elsewhere, just because you can, and because you care. Wost-case scenario, you make the world a little bit better, and best-case, you get some exposure and connect with someone who would not have otherwise noticed you.

A message to CollegeHumor if you’re reading this: I’d love to work with you to implement your ads in the app so you’re not losing ad revenue. Please contact me at arman@rawrmaan.com!

On Weed & Productivity

2012 was a big year for me.

In January, I started working as an intern for Astrid (recently acquired by Yahoo). Thanks to the kindness of the Astrid team, I was working directly on Astrid for iOS from my 2nd week on. I wrote shipping code as a college freshman.

In April, my game Slide shot to #1 Free on the US App Store charts and stayed there for almost 4 days. Almost 4 million downloads in a week. Whoa. How did that happen? Better launch Falcross.

In July, I was hired as an engineering intern for Apple on the iPhoto team. I worked at the main campus in the iconic main building, IL1. I did stuff I can’t talk about.

In December, I released the 1.4 update to Falcross and finally realized that I was capable of making a profitable game. Slide is not very profitable.

How I came into all of this fortune remains a mystery. Maybe people liked my design sense or my attitude. Well, probably. But why me? And more importantly, how long could this continue? Certainly 2013 couldn’t be nearly as prosperous as 2012. Or could it?

iPad Mini & Magic Flight Launch Box

Fast forward to now. I feel like a sitting duck. I feel unproductive. Uninspired. But not because I became rich in 2012 and now I’m lazy. I didn’t become rich in 2012, at least not money-wise. I simply feel like I haven’t done anything notable this year. Of course, compared to last year, notability is a high calling. But I feel behind; I feel like I could have done more by now. Falcross 2.0 has been in the works for 5 months and it’s definitely getting there. But “getting there” and “shipped” are two very different things. I feel like it should have been done 3 months ago.

Maybe it has something to do with the way I choose to socialize. I got my medical marijuana card in December 2012 and I’ve certainly been wearing it out. Winter quarter I made a bunch of stoner friends, and as a result, winter quarter was spent in a smoky haze. Certainly I had some of the most fun times of my life, and spent it with lovely people, but I knew it couldn’t continue forever.

Living in fantasy land can be fun, and productive, but not for an extended period of time.  Certainly I had some of my best ideas for Falcross when I was high, and surprisingly wrote a lot of good code. But I slowly learned that smoking weed 2-3 times a day is not conducive to being a productive person. Ideas start to lose meaning when you can’t even remember what you were doing 3 hours ago.

So I think it’s about time for me to hit the brakes. Hard. My past 4 weeks have born some of the least productive and inspired days in recent (hazy) memory. My sense of progress has become uncalibrated. My standards have fallen.

This is not a declaration of abstinence or a cry for help. It is simply a realization that I can’t become who I want to become if I continue my current habit. I will not stop smoking weed altogether because I believe there’s a lot of positive and introspective value to it. But my days of being a daily, twice-daily, thrice-daily smoker are over. This is my public commitment to myself.

Thanks for listening.