Android app development cross pollination

SnapToMe Plus iconToday I had the pleasure of pushing the new generation of our SnapTo apps to the Google Play Store. Our three apps, SnapToMe, SnapToMe Plus, and MyDumbBoard are all variations on a theme: give the new or very busy phone user the simplest possible way to snap a picture straight to his or her email inbox. The new Version 2.0 editions are a great demonstration of how the retail products of an Android app developer can benefit from custom app development projects and vice versa.

Frankly, it doesn’t take a lot of key strokes to email yourself a picture from your Android photo gallery. But if you are a novice user, that process is just one-more-thing-to-master. Or, if you are a busy retailer or seminar leader or real estate agent and you routinely need to send yourself pictures to document a problem or record a whiteboard or take note of an opportunity, any extra steps can turn should-be-easy into never-quite-got-it-done. Especially if you don’t always have connectivity and need to remember to do the mailing later when you get back in cell range.

The SnapTo apps all make taking one picture straight to your email inbox a two-click operation. And all but the free app make that work even if you don’t have connectivity when you take the picture.

The new versions of our three apps were inspired by contract Android app development we did this spring for CaptureBites, a Belgian company. Continue Reading →

Wyoming Team Earns First Place in Google GovDev Challenge

Our GovDev Challenge Prototype


Google’s own post about the challenge, with video, is now up on their Enterprise blog.

The GovDev Challenge

This past weekend, I had the fun and honor of participating in the first-ever Google GovDev Challenge. The 24-hour coding competition was created to explore ways modern technology could be used to transform government’s interaction with its citizens. It was a blast. And, oh BTW, my team earned first place in one of the challenges!

The competition was co-sponsored by the states of Wyoming and Colorado, both of which have active partnerships with Google in many areas. In fact, the state of Wyoming was the first state to ever convert its whole IT infrastructure to Google Apps. The three challenges focused on state-specific issues. Two were posed by Colorado, seeking better ways to help citizens in the event of another disaster of the magnitude of last fall’s Boulder floods.

Wyoming posed a Budget Transparency challenge. The state wants to make state budgeting and spending data available to all citizens and, in fact, has existing web interfaces available that do just that. But the current interfaces generally share the problem that the data is available but not very consumable — that is, the resulting grid-of-rows is hard to understand and digest. Continue Reading →

Ebook versus PDF

This post is the first in a series we have planned on “ebooks for the specialty/technical publisher”.  If you would like to know more about the series, would like to be notified when new posts are available, or would like to suggest specific topics we should cover, please email us at


In this post, I take a look at the readability trade-offs between using PDFs and ‘real ebooks’ (.epub and .mobi files) to distribute your technical publications.

Executive summary:  PDFs give you great control over layout and can be opened on almost any device.  Ebooks require the phone or tablet user to have and know how to use an additional app but can increase the readability of your content dramatically on a small device.  If you expect your content to be accessed frequently via phones, versus tablets and laptops, you probably want to be publishing ebook versions of your material.

Why bother with anything but PDFs?

Using PDFs to distribute books, pamphlets, and field guides electronically has some huge advantages:

  • Adobe Reader is not just free and easy to install.  It is as ubiquitous as any piece of software in the history of computing, available across all modern hardware platforms and operating systems.  Everyone from Great Uncle Henry to Big Boss Betty has it and knows how to use it.
  • If you are a professional book designer, you already use PDFs as the camera ready copy you send to your printer.  What could be easier than using exactly the same file or, maybe a slightly lower resolution version, as the electronic copy available for download?
  • Even if you are not a pro, PDFs have become easy for EveryWriter to produce.  You don’t need a full copy of InDesign or even Acrobat any more to ‘print’ your pamphlet, brochure, or full-length-novel to PDF format. Macs do it.  Google Docs does it.  Even Microsoft Word can now do it.

In the old days of, say, a year or two ago, when you could count on your audience reading your eBook on a desktop or laptop computer, PDFs were clearly the way to go.

But then came the mobile revolution. Continue Reading →

Spanish ebook title garbled — problem solved

We generate our ERG2012: Quick Lookup ebook using a combination of Ruby scripts and the Calibre ebook-convert tool. The last step for each ebook is to launch the ebook-convert.exe from a Ruby script, passing it a long list of commandline options.

This process was working well for us right up to the point where we were began to generate review copies of the Spanish language version, GRE 2012: Guía de Referencia Rápida. We could generate the ebook just fine and it had all the right contents but the embedded title was garbled: GRE 2012: Guía de Referencia Rápida.Screen shot 2013-06-21 at 10.59.21 AM

It took me a long time to track down what was really going wrong. The title was right in the localized text file it came from. It looked right in the printed version of the commandline that we were logging. But it was wrong in the title text embedded in the book.

A word of warning: Gory technical details lie beyond this point. If you aren’t interested in automated ebook generation or multi-lingual ebooks or how Ruby kernel methods work on Windows, you may wish to turn back now.

Continue Reading →

Facebook ads: No heartbreak for Facebook itself

I haven’t gone back to Facebook advertising since I wrote my heartbreak piece about it over a year ago.  I may try them again soon to promote a couple of new, non-phone-app products we have in the works.  In the meantime I came across this remarkable infographic.  It says:

  • nothing about how well the ads are working for the advertisers,
  • a lot about how increasingly mobile our readers and users are becoming, and
  • an enormous amount about how well ads are doing as revenue generators for Facebook.
One bit really caught my eye:  Globally, users spend 9000 years a day in Facebook.  Yikes! Continue Reading →

Mobile Friendly: How easy was it?

DOT Placards Before WPTouch

DOT Placards Before

DOT Placards After WPTouch

DOT Placards After

Note:  This is the somewhat techie version of this story.  If you don’t maintain your own website, you’re probably interested in the more business-oriented version here.

Having checked out our various web sites using both our own mobile devices and the nice HowToGoMo tool that I wrote about previously, it was pretty easy to decide that we needed to invest some time in trying to increase our sites’ mobile friendliness.  And it was easy to decide where to start. Continue Reading →

Mobile Friendly: How easy can it be?

Sherprog Site after WPTouch was applied

Sherprog After WPTouch

Sherprog Before WPTouch Conversion

Sherprog Before WPTouch

I started writing a post about how easy it was for us to convert our two simplest websites to be mobile friendly.  It was pretty easy and you can see the big difference it makes.  But the details are probably only of interest to folks who have something of a DIYer relationship with their website(s).  If that’s you, check out my How easy was it? write-up.

However, if, like most business people, you had someone else build your website, you’re almost certainly going to have someone else make your mobile-friendly modifications, too.  So for you, the questions are more:  What should I expect, in terms of time and money?  How do I know if the person I’m talking is honest, competent, and going to do a good job?

Continue Reading →

Mobile friendly or not? Here’s a great resource

Should you be investing in your website to make it more ‘mobile friendly’?

The simple answer is undoubtedly YES.  The market for smartphones and tablets is exploding.  A study on cell phone usage by the Pew Research Center, published in the spring of 2011, stated: “One third of American adults (35%) own a smartphone of some kind, and these users take advantage of a wide range of their phones’ capabilities. . . . eight in ten use their phone to go online.”  By October of the same year, a Nielson study claimed, while “only [italics mine] 43 percent of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone . . . the vast majority of those under the age of 44 now have smartphones. In fact, 62 percent of mobile adults aged 25-34 report owning smartphones. And among those 18-24 and 35-44 years old the smartphone penetration rate is hovering near 54 percent.”

But how bad is your site right now?  What do you need to do to make it better?  And what’s it going to cost in time and money?

Continue Reading →