[2 points for anyone who read the title as Professor Farnsworth]
It took a while (much more than I anticipated), but now the new version is finally out! It might be a while before all of apple's servers be updated with the change, but it shouldn't be more than a day, and would probably be less than a couple of hours. Make sure you're downloading version 1.2.1 (or 1.2.2 - it's the same, but I made a slight mistake and the app itself is version as 1.2.2, while I entered 1.2.1 on the description of the store).
As you should know by now (and if not I recommend reading this and this), this version is for making MySongbook compatible with the new iPhone OS 3.x (including, but not limited to, the scrolling bugs), and fixing the database corruption issues. I also updated a few external libraries that I use (like the wonderful Tap4Help), and I also use an analytic library (of Pinch Media) to help me better understand the usage of the app (in other words, find which features are less used, and see how I can improve them). This library only sends anonymous data (very much like Google Analytics and alike, that are used on most websites), though you can easily turn that off in the "Settings" app.
One more thing that was changed is the app's rating - Now the rating is 17+ instead of 4+. That's because I'm using the built-in browser inside my app, so I have to rate my app at that level (it's Apple's policy). There isn't any real content inside my app to earn that rating for those of you who might be worried.
So that's it! If no issues will be reported in the next week or so, I will be able to go back to actually developing new features.
PS - keep checking my website (or become a fan of MySongbook's Facebook Page to get updates) - now that this whole thing is behind me, I also plan on writing more about my experience developing for the iPhone (like tools I use, trends I notice, etc), about my progress on new features, and who knows what else.
Day 16th: Checking my email... hit refresh couple of times just to be sure - no new messages from Apple! ...login to iTunes Connect (the site for developers)... hit refresh - again, no change! sigh... log off, log in, and check again - still nothing!
This has been my routine for the past week. Usually I'm doing that several times a day, and every day I hope that today will be the day my update be approved, and yet every day I check and see that nothing has changed. This is the same image I've been seeing for the past 2 weeks:
There used to be a time when it took no more than 7 days for apps to be approved (or that was my experience), but it seems that time is long gone. I've tried sending an email to Apple, explaining that the changes I made were so tiny (around 10 lines of code + updating external libraries), that there shouldn't be a reason for the review process to take so long, and emphasized how crucial this update is to any user who's running my app on a device with the new firmware. I only got a canned response that didn't really shed any light on the whole thing.
I know I'm not the only one who experience these long review times, and this is sadly not uncommon to read very long threads of the frustration of developers about the whole review process, but it just keeps me in this stressful state that I had to write something about it...
Hopefully my next post would be to announce the availability of the new update... and hopefully it wouldn't be so far away.
[Update - 29/08/2009] - It seems that these days it takes longer for Apple to approve apps, and so I update my estimation that the update should be available in 1-2 weeks from now.
First of all, I'm sorry how things went the way they did. I've never thought that that would be the way I'll treat my customers, as I think support is one of the most important things in any product, and I definitely have failed you on that respect. I also want to say that though I've chosen to stop responding to most messages, I have read every single one of them, and it hurt me that I didn't know how to respond to them anymore. I know it might sound strange to some, but this being my first big project, I care very much what people think of it, and just as it felt so wonderful to read the great reviews I got at the start, so did it felt so bad reading all the bad reviews this past few months, and so I'm sincerely and utterly sorry.
So that was my apology to you - my users - one I hope you will be able to accept. Now, before I start to explain exactly what happened, I want to announce that a new update (version 1.2.1), that fixes the two major bugs in my app (the 3.0 issues, and the database corruption), is already waiting for Apple's approval and should be ready to download around next week.
(This is going to be a pretty lengthy explanation, so a tip for those wanting me to just get to the point... scroll down to see the summery and conclusions)
So what happened you ask? well, a few things. As some of you might know, I was on vacation this past months. It was planned long ago, way before I even thought about developing for the iPhone, and probably even before the iPhone was first announced. I knew I wanted to go travel somewhere in the world for a few months, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made. A few months before I went on my vacation, I decided to start developing an app that would help carry around the chords to my favorite songs, and what started as a very simple app, turned to a very nice looking and useful app that it is today (minus the bugs that crept in in the 3.0 firmware). This app made me decide to delay my vacation, so I could spend the first 2 months fixing any bug that I might have missed during the development process (and indeed there were a few), and I also used the time to add some much requested features (larger chord library, alternative tuning, transposition, etc).
I was feeling very good about everything, thinking that my app is in a pretty good state, and there shouldn't be any problem with me taking a break for a while, and if any thing would happen I would probably be able to solve it remotely (How wrong was I). It was a bit of a surprise, that on the day before my flight, the new 3.0 firmware was announced, but I wasn't too worry as I knew that my app only uses the Apple provided function, and so it shouldn't make such a difference, but then again, I didn't really test it at the time, and went the day after on my flight on schedule. It wasn't long before I started receiving emails from fellow developers that my app had troubles, and that's when I started looking for ways to develop remotely.
I've looked on many ways on how to do it, and none of them where really easy, especially with varying level of computers and internet connections that I had to deal with (as I could only use internet cafes). In the end, I've found that the combination of remotely controlling my mac at home through NTRConnect for building and testing the app, and using a remote code repository that I could use to actually edit my source code, was the best way to do it (though obviously the best way is to actually carry around a MacBook, but that wasn't an option back than). Once I had a good system in place, I was actually able to finally solve those bugs. It took me a few months to get to that state, which was more or less right around the time when the new iPhone OS 3.0 was released. But wait, if I've really fixed those bugs over a month ago, then how come I didn't released a new update back than? as with any good story, once the protagonist have overcame all the hurdles, and just as it seems like everything is heading in the right direction, things must turn horribly horribly wrong (slightly exaggerating).
I was checking my email one of those days, and read a very alarming message from Apple, that they have received a legal letter from a company stating that my app contains copyright infringements. That was quite shocking at first, and I didn't knew what to do. After seeking some legal advice, I decided to contact them to see what can be done in order to save my app from vanishing from the app store. It actually turned out to be a pretty friendly call, and they were kind enough to explain what I can do to keep my app going, and ever since, I have been working to make that happen, but while doing so I was also reluctant to release new updates for obvious reasons. I actually think that in the long run this thing could actually be a good opportunity that you, the users, would benefit from the most. As you can see this last passage is a bit vague (again, for obvious reasons), though I hope I'll be able to publish a clearer announcement about it in the near future.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS
To summarize for those who chose to skip my lengthy and detailed explanation - I wasn't able to release an update for the past few month because:
1) I didn't plan correctly to the possibility of new bugs in my app before I left to my vacation.
2) It took me a long time to figure out a good way to develop remotely.
3) By the time I was able to solve the problem, I received a legal letter that my app contains copyright infringements, and ever since I am working to legitimize my app, and so I couldn't release new updates till now.
I also want to explain why I've stopped responding to people. I just couldn't keep telling people that I'm working on the update, when it takes so long with no end in sight, and afterward I couldn't tell them anything because of the letter that I got. It was hard to deal with it all, and the hardest was seeing how slowly bit by bit, my users are changing from very supportive fans to angry customers.
I've learned a lot of lessons from this whole experience, and now I just hope I can regain your trust.
PS - I hope it didn't sound too much like I was grovelling... it felt a bit too much in some parts, though that is how I genuinely feel about all of this.
It took a bit more time than I expected but the new update was finally approved by Apple and I strongly recommend you´ll update to the new version since it fixes many bugs that I know annoyed many of you.
The main changes are:
BTW, I´m still on my vacation in South America, which so far is going great... seen many beautiful landscapes and met many interesting people...
I've just finished working on a new update to MySongbook, that should be available for download in the next two weeks (depending on a bit more testing, and as usual Apple's review process).
This update doesn't include everything that I thought I'll be able to get done in time, because I discovered a lot of bugs that needed to be fixed (all kind of weird file encoding issues to name a few), and so I spent more time tracking down those bugs and figuring how to fix them, than working on new features.
The main new feature in this update is that now there's a chord voicing engine inside my app - that basically means that now instead of having a library of chord diagrams that I had to type by hand, MySongbook will generate the voicing for the chord. What this means, is that now almost any chord you can think of will have a chord diagram, and not only that, but you'll be able to see all the alternative forms of playing that chord. Also, if you are left handed or happen to play a banjo, mandolin, ukulele or another string instrument (up to 6 strings), you'll also be able to view chord diagrams for your instrument (through the general Settings).
I still plan to add more features in the future, and stuff like playlists and downloading songbooks from chordie.com are still on my to do list, but I'm afraid they would have to wait for the next update. I simply do not want to delay this update any longer because of all the bugs that I discovered and fixed, and so I'm sorry if you were looking forward for one of those features, and ask that you'll be willing to wait a little longer.
I also want to announce that I'll be going on a vacation in South America for a while - this was planned long ago, and was actually delayed for some time now, so I could work a bit more on this app. While I'll be there, I'll still be answering your emails and support requests, though it would probably take me longer than the usual quick response you've been accustomed to. I expect that I'll be able to check my mail at aleast once or twice per week, so don't worry if it takes me a few days to answer your question (and if one of you is happen to be from that area, then recommendations for places to see are also very welcomed).
Something amazing happened yesterday - Apple showed a preview of their next software update to the iPhone/iPod, which will open up the iPhone for many new possibilities, which were until now impossible (possimpible ?), and I can already imagine all the great new features I'll be able to add to MySongbook.
One of the many new features, is the ability to finally use the built-in music library from third party app, which means that I'll be able to link from a song in MySongbook, to a song in your own music library, and play in the background while you practice how to play it on the guitar... now how great is that?
Another great new feature, is peer-to-peer connection between close by iPhones. Now imagine that you play in a band, or just with a friend, and you both have MySongbook - you'll be able to sync your scrolling speed and position within the song between all the players. This will also allow you to share songs you wrote with your friends with a simple click.
And that's not all! (hate sounding like a sales person) - there's even a way for me to simply add audio recording capabilities, so you could record yourself playing!
...and all those things are just the tip of what will be possible when this new version will be available in the summer - too bad it's so far away... just when I thought I had the road map for MySongbook all figured out, Apple had to come along and make me think of all these great new features... damn you Apple! :)
I recently got a few bad reviews on the iTunes App Store, and wanted to talk a bit about them.
First, a quick summery - To this date MySongbook got 24 reviews around the world: 14 five stars, 6 four stars, one three stars, and 3 one star. Now, I have no problem with bad reviews, as long as I can learn something from them, and I definitely learned a few things of these one star reviews. What does annoy me is that none of those reviewers, who took the time to write these reviews, have tried to contact me for support. I find it funny that someone complains about an issue, and even make a remark about the cost of the app, but still don't care enough to try to resolve that issue in any way. It would have been okay if there was some way I could contact those reviewers, but that information simply isn't available to me and so I resort to this news post.
So what were these reviews that got me so annoyed that I had to vent about them on this site?
So what did I learn from these reviews? default scrolling speed should be faster, nothing is obvious (duh?), and when you feel like banging your head against the wall - write about it on the web.
UPDATE: I'm not sure if this post is the reason, but the review by "Pokeraddict321" was changed from one star to five stars, and is now very favorable of my app. If you (Pokeraddict321) are reading this, then thank you, and I'm glad that you've changed your mind and that now you do like my app.
It took a little while longer than I expected, but the first update (of many) had just been released, and should be available to download. As I said on my previous post, the main changes are chord transposition and browser bookmarks.
I'm already working hard on the next update, which should at least include alternative voicings, support for different tunings, and probably auto-fill. There are also a few bugs with downloading zip files from some sites, which should be fixed, and I'll see what else I'll be able to cram in there (maybe basic playlist support, downloading songbooks from chordie, editing/deleting songs by artist...).
Again I want thank everyone for the great reviews your posting, and for all the great suggestions I'm receiving - THANK YOU!
First I would like to thank all of you who purchased my app, and for all the good reviews you wrote in iTunes (keep it up! :) ) and the kind words of those who sent me emails - You've really motivated me to work harder on this app!
I would also like to especially thank those who took the time to send me suggestions for new features and changes to make this app even better. Some of this features and future features I'm now working on are directly influenced by you. I encourage you to keep sending me suggestions, and as always I'll try to reply to you as quickly as I can.
So back to the update... I've just finished working on the first update to MySongbook, and sent it to apple for testing and approval, so I'm estimating that it should be released around the weekend or the beginning of next week.
What's new you ask?
Coming up in the next update... alternative chord voicings (also mean better support for unusual chords), support for different tunings/instuments (mandolin and ukulele players rejoice!), and auto-fill for search history and browsing history.
Again, thanks everyone who purchased my app and sent me supportive emails... you're the greatest! :)
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