Tag: backend as a service

The top five tips for recruiting app developers

Congratulations! Through hard work and too many all-nighters, you and your small app development team have managed to start turning a real profit. You can see your small company already rising through the ranks of competitors – and then someone tells you that you need to expand your team if you want to keep rising. In order to deliver your next project, you’re going to need to start recruiting app developersto get things done on time. Remember it’s only natural that as your app development business income grows, so too will your costs and hopefully you’re retainable profit.

It’s one thing starting out with friends when you start out after university. But when it comes to the real world and developing apps for paying customers, it becomes less about camaraderie and more to do with cold, hard execution. You’re going to need people you can trust, people who are hardworking, dedicated to the cause, highly motivated, creative and have the ability to do the job you need. Chances are if you’re a small app development studio, you’re not going to have a huge amount of time for training. In actual fact, spending your time trying to teach noobs app development can be counter-productive, if it’s keeping you from doing the important stuff in the business. You need people you can trust to do the job and learn the ropes quickly.

Nobody will tell you when it’s time to scale up and add more staff. This is something you need to work out for yourself and you have to be able to judge the warning signs. Similarly, you have to be able to judge if the person you’ve hired is a winner or a turkey. Again, you have to do this quickly before said individual is capable of doing more harm than good.

Well, having gone through the growing pains of being a small start-up ourselves, Kumulos  thought we could lay out just why recruitment is so important, and a few tips on how to nab yourself that next app dev superstar.

Why recruit?

It seems like a question with an obvious answer, but when looked at a little closer it’s a bit more complicated than just expansion. If your project is late, over budget or your customer is screaming down the phone for answers, chances are you’re under-resourced and under-delivering. You should plan your recruitment at the start of any project. You need to develop a scope of work, a timeline to complete the project and make some assumptions about the resources required. This should take the form of a resource plan, and whilst they are assumptions, you need to be as accurate as possible in determining your overall resource requirements to complete the project. Take the project as a whole and subdivide the overall scope into a series of manageable milestones and delivery dates. This will help to inform your timeline for completion. You can then work out based on your current level of resource who can do what and identify any potential gaps in the project team. Where there are gaps, you have to fill them and there are a number of ways you can do this.

If you’re a small app dev team, it’s likely that you’ll have had the same team for a while. You’ll have worked on a couple of projects together and there will be a real “gang-hut” mentality going on. You know each other’s working habits, strengths and weaknesses and probably also what happens when everyone has too much to drink. The idea of bringing someone in, regardless of whether you actually need them or not, can feel like adopting a stranger into a family; that they’ll somehow disrupt your gang’s dynamic and work flow.

The first thing that you need to do is shake this mindset completely. If you follow our tips and find a great dev to add to the team, all you’re going to get is a bigger and better gang than before. On a business and project level, if your team is lacking a certain set of programming skills, or they’re just too stretched to take on any more work, having another person, or people, around to plug those gaps makes sense.

Also on the business side, as we said before, the base answer for recruiting is usually to expand. Maybe you want to develop two apps side by side, or you’re starting to take commissions from clients. Either way, you’re team is just not big enough to keep all those plates spinning, and you’ll need more people to spin more plates.

Whatever the reason for recruiting, the most important thing to bear in mind that you should always be trying to find the absolute best person that you can find for the job. Ideally that means you want someone who knows their stuff, has experience working within the app industry and will also fit right in with your team. By finding someone like this, you can only improve your development work, and by extension, your profits.

So how do you go about finding that “superstar”?

1. Know what you’re looking for and what you want out of them

It’s always better to be prepared, and with developer recruitment it’s no different. Take some time before you start to advertise the position to work out exactly what their job will entail. On the surface you’re looking for an app developer yes, but do your apps frequently need knowledge of other programming areas? What about your general work environment? If you’re a small developer you and your team may be “doing a bit of everything” and always able to jump into someone else’s work, so also take into account flexibility and ability to learn new things.

As Joel Spolnsky over at joelonsoftware.com says, ultimately you’re looking for someone who
“[is] Smart, and gets things done.”

So always bear that in mind before you start your search. You are looking for a good app developer who is going to fit into your workplace. That means that you have to be willing to go the extra mile, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

2. Know where to look for developers

This is a mistake many businesses make, even large and established ones. Instead of targeting their job adverts for developers to places good developers will see it, they put it up on places like Craigslist and then wonder why they are inundated with CVs from people who don’t even know what an app development kit is, let alone what to do with it.

As a small developer, or even if you’re larger, you don’t want to be trawling through hundreds of CVs to find the diamond in the rough. It’s a waste of your time and it’s definitely not the most efficient way to go about finding your developer.

Instead target places that app developers are going to be. Attend app development and technology conventions, especially if they’re related to the kind of apps or technology you’re working with. The devs that are attending there are much more likely to already know about and be familiar with a similar environment that you’re working with.

When San Francisco based Getaround was first getting off the ground, co-founders Sam Zaid and Jessica Scorpio found their superstar developer at a convention and never looked back. Never underestimate the power aggressive networking in the correct environment.

Outside of that, and for more general job advert placement, ask yourself, if you as an app developer were looking for work, where would you go? Would you go to websites like Monster where every add has a thousand applicants? Or would you look for something more specific? Go to websites and forums where app developers come together to talk shop, target tech specific job boards and make sure to advertise clearly on your own website as well.

3. Whittle it down

Even when you’ve found a group of potential hires, you know that you only have room for one. So it’s time to start cutting away people from the total.

Obviously, this depends entirely on how you’ve gone about your recruitment and how you have arrived with your potential candidates. If, like GetAround, you’ve found a group of developers at a convention, continuing to follow their example is not a bad idea. Zaid and Scorpio used a series of 2 minute interviews to cut the initial numbers down, and then with their final choices they presented them with an unpaid “prototyping” challenge which essentially asked the app developers to create a mock-up of their app-in-the-making. In the end they settled on one dev who’s results they liked so much they made them technological director.

The same finalisation process of presenting your applicants with an app development challenge can be used in more traditional settings, but first you’re going to have to get through the initial stages.

If you have a mountain of CVs, you’re going to have to get really harsh with your elimination process. First, and easiest, get rid of anyone with no programming and especially no app development background (there will be more of these than you’d think possible). Next up it starts to become more of a personal game, but targeting things like good English makes sense. If someone has barely understandable English on their CV, what makes you think that their ability to communicate effectively with you and your team is going to be any better? The same can be said of untidy and terribly formatted CVs, it shows laziness and a disorganised mind, two things you don’t want to bring to your team.

Every business goes about sorting CVs slightly differently, but if you keeping bearing in mind exactly what you want from your potential hire then you’ll likely find it easier than you think. Always remember, if you’re not sure, it’s safer to decide to put a CV in the “no” pile. All you’re doing is saving yourself time later.

As for interviews, again it comes down to what exactly it is that you’re looking for from your new team member, and there are whole series of books written on interview techniques, so we won’t go too in depth here. It helps if you have a plan of how you’re going to interview someone before you start, and it’s even better if you tailor it to their CV. Being able to ask a developer about their background is a quick way to gauge whether they are engaged and interested in app development, which is a good sign. No one wants to work with a passionless developer.

4. Remember to make your job the best job

This is something that, again, many businesses fail on. As you’re the one who’s put up the ad, you feel like you are the one who can make all the demands. But remember, a good app developer is always going to be in demand, and they’re likely to know it. That’s not to say that they’ll be making outrageous demands (although some may well do that), it’s just to remind you that the best talent, the ones that you want for your team, are likely to have a few offers waiting for them. So make sure to sell your app studio, your team, your apps and your vision for the future to them. Let them see that you are just as passionate about this work as they are and that if they work for you, they’ll be working with people who they share common ground with and can respect.
It’s no guarantee, but it certainly helps when you’re fishing for the best talent, which is exactly what you should be doing.

5. Knowing the ropes

Ultimately, recruitment is an art in and of itself. Large companies have entire departments dedicated to it, or even outsource the job to agencies who’s only goal is to find the best and brightest talent. There are libraries of books written about it, and yet plenty of businesses still don’t manage to find the people they are looking for.

When you’re looking for your next superstar, always remember that ultimately, this person is going to become part of your development family; and if you want them and your current family to be happy, it’s always better to take your time and make sure you’ve got just the right person for the job.

App Backend Design (part 1 of 3)

kumulos-updates

The App Build feature in Kumulos is a mobile Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) on which you can easily and quickly build and host your App Backend. App Build provides SQL based data storage in the cloud that can then be accessed and manipulated via a REST API and/or RPC API methods from one of our many client SDKs including iOS, Android, PHP, Windows, OSX and more. This leaves you free to focus on building the rich UI and UX that your clients crave, without having to worry about the hosting and availability of your app backend. Win!

The process for creating your app backend is straightforward and intuitive, and one that lends itself to agile development building up the app frontend and app backend iteratively. However, in order to exploit the full potential of Kumulos and maximise the time-saving that using Kumulos will bring to your project, it is as important to have a clear and concise design for your app backend as it is for your app frontend.

Therefore, in this series of three articles, we’re going to look at designing your app backend with Kumulos so that you can exploit the full potential of using Kumulos and maximise the time saved in your app development project. In this, the first article, we’re going to look at how to design the relational data model for your app backend with Kumulos.

Database Relationships

Recognising that relational database design is not necessarily a common task for a mobile app developer, lets first look at the basics of relational data modelling. When designing a database schema, you will often need to model data that is related to each other in some way. These relationships occur naturally in everyday life, but can be a little tricky to abstract and break down into a highly structured form.

To aid with modelling related data, some common paradigms are used in database design. Three relationship types allow us to express the dependencies and relationships between data in our database. These types of relationship are:

  • One-to-one (commonly denoted as 1:1)
  • One-to-many (1:M or M:1 for many-to-one)
  • Many-to-many (commonly denoted as M:N)
One-to-One

A one-to-one relationship is data that relates to exactly one other piece of data, and vice versa. For example, if your mobile application allows users to enter a biography, which you decide to store in a separate table (so its not returned by every API method that selects data about your users), this would be a one-to-one relationship between users and biographies.

one to one relationship

One user has one biography and one biography belongs to one user. The data in your database would therefore look something like this.

one to one example data

One-to-many

Using an example of a mobile application that allowed users to upload and share photos, one user would obviously want to upload many photos. Thus the relationship between a user and their photos is one-to-many.

one to many relationship
One user has many photos. The relationship between a photo and the user who uploaded it is many-to-one because a photo can only have one photographer. In your database, this would look something like:

many to many example data

Many-to-many

Many-to-many is a composite relationship that is built out of two one-to-many relationships. This models data that can be related to many things at the same time, and vice versa.

For example, if you were compiling a database of people’s favorite meals, you would have a table that stores meals, and a table that stores people. Now, lots of people like the same meals, and food is so good that it is unreasonable to expect people to only have one favourite. So, we have a many-to-many relationship: many people like many meals.Many to many relationship

So, how would that be modelled in a database? Well, you need to create another favorites table that stores which person likes which meal. This table is constructed with two one-to-many relationships and is illustrated below.

many to many relationship normalized
One person has many entries in the favorites table i.e. one person likes many meals. One meal has many entries in the favorites table i.e. one meal is liked by many people

The main reason for this process of turning many-to-many relationships into two one-to-many relationships (part of something called normalization) is to avoid data replication in the database. This way, if two people like the same meal you don’t store the same meal information twice.

many to many example data

Implementing relationships in Kumulos using “Belongs To”

To simplify things, Kumulos doesn’t explicitly deal with one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many; instead, it uses a phrase “belongs to” to express one-to-one and one-to-many relationships This will be a familiar concept to anyone who has ever used Ruby on Rails.

When adding database tables to your app backend in Kumulos, there’s a special field type called “Belongs To”. If you drop in a “Belongs To” field, you’ll be given three input boxes.

One-to-many

Lets go back to our example one-to-many relationship where we have a table storing users and a table storing their photos. The user/photo relationship can be modelled by saying “A photo belongs to a user; and a user has many photos.” users:photos is 1:M; and photos:users is M:1.

In your photos table, you would drop in a “Belongs To” and fill in the values so it reads:

one to many belongs to

This record belongs to ‘Users’ as (their) ‘photos’. This record has a ‘photographer’.

That relationship tells Kumulos you want to be able to join up to photos. “photographer” becomes a field in the photos table, and refers to the user who took the photograph. On the users table, a dynamic property called “photos” will be available when you define API methods that select users. Now when you select users, you can tick a box to indicate you’d like to get their photos too; and if you’re selecting photos, you can tick a box to get the photographer’s information.

One-to-one

On the other hand, using the example one-to-one relationship where users have a biography, you would say “A user has a biography; and a biography has a user”. users:biographies is 1:1; and biographies:users is 1:1.

In your biographies table, you would drop in a “Belongs To” and fill in the values so it reads:

one to one belongs to

This record belongs to ‘Users’ as (their) ‘biography’. This record has a ‘user’.

By using the singular or plural form, Kumulos determines if it is a one-to-one (biography singular), or a one-to-many (photos plural) relationship.

Again, on the users table, a dynamic property called “biography” will be available when you define API methods that select users. Now when you select users, you can tick a box to indicate you’d like to get their biography too; and if you’re selecting biographies, you can tick a box to get the user’s information as well.

Later, when you create API Methods, you can filter the data returned by these dynamic properties.

What happens when you delete records?

If you take the users/photos example, and you define an API method to delete a user, then anything that has been defined as ‘belonging to’ that user is also deleted at the same time. So, when deleting a user, all of their photos will also be deleted because in the photos table, they ‘belong to’ a user. This maintains referential integrity and ensures that no data gets ‘lost’ in the database.

Note that if there is a chain of ‘belongs to’ relationships then only the first level will be deleted. So if a photo had comments that ‘belong to’ it, and you delete a user then all the comments associated with that user’s photos would remain in the database.

To make sure you get all the comments, it is a good idea to first select all the photos of the user you’re deleting, and then delete all comments that match the photograph’s ID, and then delete the user (and by implication their photographs) after all comments have been removed.

How does Kumulos determine the relationship type?

Kumulos determines the relationship type from whether or not the word in the “as” section is singular or plural. So, you must use phrases ending with either a plural or singular noun. The word you type in the left-hand box should be singular and the word in the right-hand box can be either singular or plural to express a one-to-one or one-to-many relationship respectively.

Manually specifying relationships in your App Backend

Kumulos provides the “Belongs To” terminology to try and automate and simplify the data modelling process, but if you’d rather just do it yourself then there’s nothing stopping you.

All of the table structures in Kumulos have an ID generated for them by default. These are unique (per record) and identify one record in each table. Kumulos stores these IDs as positive integers. So, if you wanted to model your relationships yourself you can just use a positive integer data type to store the ID of related records.

If you choose to model your relationships yourself it affords you greater control over what happens when you delete data (because nothing is automatically deleted), but it costs you the ability to automatically select or delete related data for a given record(s). To do that, you’d have to create your own API methods to handle related data and call them from your app.

So, the option to manually manage relationships is there, and in some situations may be advantageous, but if you’d rather stick to the more intuitive “Belongs To” method, that’s fine too!

Further reading

These links are resources that you may find useful as you start to develop database driven applications. They will help you to structure your data more efficiently and understand the key concepts covered here in more depth.

In part 2 of this series, we look at implementing your app backend in Kumulos including the one-to-many and many-to-many example relationships (and supporting data models), showing how this then allows related data to be retrieved from a single API method. If you cannot wait until then, further information can be found in the docs.

The Unstoppable Rise of Backend as a Service (BaaS)

kumulos-updates

For any of you skeptics doubting the commercial feasibility of Backend as a Service (BaaS), you should check out Facebook’s acquisition of Parse for a rumoured $85 million (And then the subsequent fallout in 2017). The acquisition enables Facebook to provide their own proprietary backend solution for app and game developers. The integration between Facebook and Parse will enable the social networking company to provide a superior user experience through enhanced responsiveness and reduced latency.

Parse has been described as BaaS (backend as a service) and XaaS (everything as a service). If you’re an app developer, this means you can focus on the front-end design and development of your apps and games, without having to worry about setting up a server. This can enable app developers to manage messages between users, push notifications and storage of apps and games.

Kumulos is neatly listed as a BaaS provider on both Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backend_as_a_service) and the Developer Economics website (http://www.developereconomics.com/sector/baas/). These various BaaS platforms have been emerging now for nearly 7 years and here at Kumulos we’re proud to say we were one of the first. Kumulos was actually launched before the term ‘backend as a service’ had ever been created.

Find out more about mBaaS and Kumulos here.

The iPhone 5C, Apple’s salvation or poison?

iphone5c

The rumour mill has been turning in overdrive since Apple’s announced September 10th 2013 conference date. We all speculating exactly what Cupertino are going to bring to the table after what feels like a long hiatus.

The 5C has had a lot of attention in the leaks circuit. Photos are cropping up daily, but we’ve not had an official yay or nay from Apple (not that’d we expect one, honestly).

The question, and we’ve looked at this a little bit before, is just what the 5C is going to do for Apple upon its release.

Apple is built on a premium branding, it’s whole design ethos is aesthetics, user experience and quality based. Releasing a budget handset seems like a step in the wrong direction when you take all that into account. It seems like it will cheapen the brand, add that plasticy tinge to an otherwise shiny metallic logo.

But then, the 5C isn’t for the premium crowd to begin with.

It’s for the emerging markets in India and China, and it’s for those of us who like our SIM only packages and aren’t as fussed as to whether we have the latest and greatest piece of hardware. After all, and it’s sometimes hard to believe when your daily existence is to keep yourself up to date with the cutting edge, but not everyone wants to be running a 2 month old handset that can run half the stock market on its own. A good majority of customers just want a handset that’s capable, reliable and of good quality; and the 5C will likely provide all that in spades.

It also makes business sense for Apple because their only budget offerings right now are the 4 and 4S, and they’re still being manufactured with aluminium and glass, which is expensive. The margins are low on these handsets now, and their 3.5inch form factor just doesn’t really cut it these days. The 5C will have the same size and shape as the 5 but will be much cheaper for Apple to produce.

When thought of that way, it looks like we could be onto a winner. What it may also do is inspire a whole new range of iOS app opportunities as those who couldn’t afford an iPhone before now suddenly have one in their grasp.

Whatever the case, Kumulos will be here to support your app development project from its initial conception all the way through to its launch and beyond. Our Mobile Backend as a Service is designed by app developers, for app developers. So why not contact us today?

 

Amazon.com goes down as well, not to be alarmist but…

amazon-logo

Almost seems like there’s a pattern here doesn’t there?

In the last week; Facebook’s ban bot went mental and kicked a whole bunch of users, Google went down for a few minutes and took 40% of the internet with it, and finally Amazon.com went down for half an hour yesterday, dragging the Canadian site down with it.

Then there’s the fact that the NYT went down, and CNN and the Washington Post were hacked.

All these big bastions of the internet seems to be dropping like flies right now, and although paranoia is what the internet does best, it seems interesting to the casually observant eye that all of these big services have suffered glitches so close together.

“It’s very unusual to see such a number of high-profile websites all suffering peak-time outages within the course of a few days of each other,” said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at the Davies Murphy Group consultancy.

“People are going to be very interested to know exactly what the reasons were for the incidents that are still unexplained because the implications are huge: we’ve seen everything from users being unable to see their email to visitors and third-party retailers who use Amazon’s marketplace being unable to buy and sell goods – all happening seemingly with no warning.”

(source: BBC news)

So what are the explanations?

Hacking groups getting uppity? China or Iranian military trying to steal some more data? Could it be Skynet flexing its online muscles for the coming apocalypse?

Let’s hope it’s not the latter.

What’s interesting is that there’s been no press release from the major companies stating the causes of these faults. We shall have to see.

Until we find out, you can rely on Kumulos’s Mobile Backend as a Service to be reliable, and not associated with any apocalyptic machines. Promise. So why not get in touch?

Ashton Kutcher’s acceptance speech for the Teen Choice Awards is worth watching

ashton-kutcher-teen-choice-awards

Now usually at Kumulos, we like to talk about the tech and mobile industry, because that’s where we work and there’s where our interests lie. But, that’s not to say that something can’t catch our attention outside of this, of course not. One good example is Ashton Kutcher’s recent Teen Choice Awards acceptance speech.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss Kutcher. He started out as a model, moved to being an actor playing a dumb teenager in the 70s before carrying on to play a series of throw away, silly and/or just cringeworthy roles. Oh and he was the presented of Punkd. And he married then divorced Demi Moore. Overall, he’s not had what you could call an inspiring career in terms of inspiring intelligent debate.

Like with all people though, there’s more to him than appears apparently. He’s spent the last few years investing in some very smart people and ideas such as Airbnb, Spotify, Fab and Uber. He’s also got a real thing for listening to the wisdom that Steve Jobs passed down, no surprise really considering Kutcher looks more and more like a butch version of Jobs as he gets older. And at the Teen Choice Awards recently, his speech wasn’t just a “Thank you for your parents money, good night.”, in it he genuinely tries to impart some wisdom on these kids.

It’s not every day you get a celebrity with some serious clout in the younger demographics talking about how “Smart is sexy” and that everything else is “crap”. It’s quite heartening really. Even though he borrows heavily from Jobs own speeches, what Kutcher is saying is no less relevant. It certainly can’t do any harm for teens to hear someone they admire telling them that they should work hard for opportunities, that they shouldn’t worry so much about being “sexy” and that they don’t have to conform to the patterns set down by those around them.

Whether it has any impact is yet to be seen really, but maybe it’ll inspire more of those who are, whether they like or not, role models, to act like them. And with that linked vid already closing in on 2  million views, we can but hope that it does some good.

This is Kumulos signing off for now.

Internet popularity and gaming the system

global-internet-thumbnail

In marketing these days, virility is everything. Why spend thousands on a TV advert that people are most likely to switch off of when you can make something catchy, post it online and bang, you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people talking about you and your company. Just look at Psy (remember him?); despite Gangnam Style seeming to be an accident, it really was nothing of the sort. Go back and watch the video with a neutral eye; it has all the hallmarks of an incredibly clever plan to hook people in.

It’s got a catchy tune, a singer that looks and sounds unique (to western audiences anyways), he’s doing all kinds of zany things that you instantly want to mention to your friends and, of course, there’s a dance that’s as silly as it is fun and easy to learn. Package all that up and you have one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of 2012.

There was no good reason not to share Gangnam Style, and as soon as the shares and the likes started coming, they carried on in a state of perpetual growth. This is the power of social proof at its finest.

Incidentally, Apple understand the power of social proof all too well. Their products are expensive, deliberately so. Sure, the build quality is solid, but that’s no reason to charge an extra $300 for a computer with, let’s face it, average specs for the price. It’s the same with the iPhone. Compare it to any flagship Android currently in terms of tech specs and it falls flat on its face; and yet iPhones are consistently more popular overall. Why is this? To those who value performance over pure aesthetics, it can be baffling; but it’s simple really. Apple is premium, Apple is expensive, and Apple is social proof that you only buy “the best”. It’s the same reason why people buy Sony products for their living room even though, objectively, they are no better than other big manufacturer’s efforts usually.

It’s all about proving yourself to be cool, in the end.

And if you’re trying to market online, this is something you need to tap into. Recent research by Sinan Aral has found that by posting a link that’s already supported by a few likes or other shares, he could artificially boost its popularity by up to 32%. This is supported by the idea that, generally, we want to share things that are positive and/or if they are negative, they’re funny about it. After all, no one wants to be seen as a constant downer.

So if you’re marketing your latest app, bear all this in mind, you never know what will become the latest viral sensation. And if you’re still developing your app and you need a Mobile Backend, look no further than Kumulos.

Is technology making us less human?

cyborg

As you’re reading this, where are you? In front of a computer probably, or maybe on your mobile device. Are you alone? Or at least, are you currently not talking to your fellow workers? Perhaps you’re at home on your own, or maybe on public transport, are you also talking to your fellow passengers? Probably not.

There is now a very real condition called “Digital Dementia” that is starting to appear in hyper connected countries like Korea where young people are suffering a deterioration of cognitive abilities more associated with brain damaged or dementia patients. They can’t remember simple everyday details like their phone numbers because they are so reliant on technology and the internet to do it for them. Now at the same time, the research behind this is perhaps sketchy, but if you think about it, you know that feeling. Things you’d force yourself to learn and to recall you no longer bother because, why should you? One quick Google search will give you answer in seconds.

We all know, underneath, that creeping buzz of technology in our minds. It’s always there, it’s always around us, and it’s possibly making us less human, or so it seems. Our interactions with our fellow humans have definitely become more stunted in some ways, messaging technology makes it very easy to talk to people without ever actually seeing them. There are even tech detox camps that force you to get away from the internet and your technology.

But on the other side, technology is allowing us to connect to people we would otherwise never meet, it has sparked world changing debate, and we know that our friends and family are only just a message away.

And at Kumulos, we think that as much as it can occasionally seem detrimental, our technology is helping us become better than ever. App developers are key to this, and Kumulos want to help app developers make the best app they can.

The trouble with internet journalism

journalism

Internet journalism. It’s pretty big business these days, everyone’s doing it. Hell, we’re doing it right now. It’s come to the point where the scales have definitely tipped away from print being the bastion of journalistic power, and this is especially true in the tech world. If a company wants to get its product out there and heard of thee days, they know that they have to get in with the tech journalists. If they blogs are saying good things, we’re all more likely to consider the product on offer.

This is where sponsored blog posts come from, companies offering cash for blogs to look at their products. Now, there’s a difference between a sponsored post and a paid review. Sponsored reviews and posts are the company offering the blog money in return for their opinion on the product, regardless of whether they say it’s any good or not. That’s the risk the company takes, that the blog may take their money and then end up not liking what they’re reviewing. The paid review on the other hand, is more of the slip the cash under the table and get a good review regardless of whether the product is any good.

The line between the two is hazy at best, and even then, some are of the opinion sponsored content is akin to paid review, some think they are separate entities.

The article, posted yesterday, details an email he received from LG:

“So enjoy this, LG. The G2 is now tainted and will probably sink. I’m no crusader nor am I innocent of past crimes but this is terrible form.

Hi TechCrunch team,

This is REDACTED from Burson Marsteller Korea and we currently represent LG Mobile as its PR agency, handling the global PR for LG Mobile.

I’d like to inquire possible options on media tie-up opportunities with TechCrunch as LG is launching its new smartphone, the LG G2 in August.

To briefly explain, what kind of topics we are looking to put out:

1. Overall product review on the LG G2 (Display, Design, UX, etc): This can be a series of feature articles

2. In-depth review on a specific feature of the phone (For example – Battery or Display)

3. Product review of the LG G2 in comparison with competitor’s products: 1:1 comparison or 1 against many, including a torching test

It would be great if you can propose the types of sponsored packages as well as a rough pricing information on them.

Please let us know if you have any questions!

Thanks,

REDACTED

REDACTED

Senior Associate”

The comments section on the article is, predictably, riven somewhere down the middle, but the whole thing just brings to light a certain trouble with internet journalism. It’s such an open forum, and now has so much real power over the zeitgeist, that it’s becoming difficult to work out where the hack journalism stops and the real journalism begins. Like we said, everyone and their dog is blogging these days, the internet is awash with usually well written, but unidentifiably researched articles.

The question remains, we all know that companies want coverage, and are willing to pay for it, so where is the line? If an article is clearly labeled “sponsored” is it still a “paid review”? Is the writer of the above mentioned article practicing his own form of internet policing, or is he actually breaking his own journalistic integrity because he’s posting what are probably assumed to be private emails in public to name and shame the company he feels has done things wrong?

It’s tricky, but at Kumulos we’re going to have to come down on LG’s side. Asking for content for your new product, paid, is not wrong. It smacks a little of wanting a cheap ad, which is essentially what a review is, but there doesn’t seem to be anything in that e-mail that stipulates that the writer do any more than they normally do with new products anyway.

The big irony here is of course, if TC want to be current, they’re going to post a review of the new LG phone anyway.

Moto X, a second opinion

MotoX

We talked last week about the new Moto X. This is Motorola’s entry into the high end smartphone market, the Big One. The new contender that we all hoped would shake everything up. But looking at the specs, looking at the questionable release schedule and the very gimmicky customisation options, we’re left with an overall feeling of “Meh”.

The Moto X looks like it’ll be a decent phone, it does, but it’s a phone that arrived about 6 months too late. In the Android world, the S4 and the HTC One are great examples of what high end Android smartphones can be if the manufacturers put their minds to it. They have ridiculously fast computational power (for phones), slick interfaces, more features than you can shake a stick at and the One also has incredibly high construction standards.

In comparison, the X only has mediocre specs, some mostly inconsequential visual customisation and a set of sensors that are cool, but an always on mic during the ongoing PRISM and NSA spying debacle is probably not what people want in a phone.

It’s doubly disappointing that this phone came out of a manufacturer that is, essentially, under the flag of Google; who gave us the continually excellent Nexus line of hardware. The Nexi balance specs, build quality and price to make for almost irresistible offers if you’re an Android user. But Motorola don’t seem to be following the same path. Instead they’ve given us a middling to high end phone with gimmicky customisation and a price tag that rivals the One’s, except with none of the benefits that the HTC brings.

The fact that Motorola seem to be trying a different strategy than “Make it faster and give it a bigger screen!” which has been the high tier Android race to the top for the past few years, is interesting and admirable; but they just didn’t bring the goods with the hardware. They are rumoured to be bringing out a budget handset next, but budget isn’t how you make it big in the current mobile hardware business; Apple has proven that. Unless this is all some kind of bait and switch game, we’re going to call it and say that Motorola have missed the boat.

It’s sad really, after years of being silent, we all hoped that the original mobile phone maker could come up with something more, but legacy does not equal success.