Sunday, January 23, 2011

I have an idea for your app

We launched our app (SoDunked!) just over one month ago. Ever since, we have been receiving suggestions from people for what features to add. There are a lot of good suggestions (thank you) and we have many of our own. When we are not working on the marketing for the app, we are prioritizing these ideas for when we are ready to do more development.

And, that is the big issue for us—to add features we have to go back to the developer and the graphics person and spend a good deal more money and time. We constantly question each other “should we go ahead and spend the money to add X or Y and when should we do it?”

The most common enhancement suggested to us is to be able to change the costume of the “dunkee” sitting on the dunking chair. We hear you and agree that it would be fun to do that. Other than that, people have asked for everything from customizing the background music to adding levels of difficulty.

To set our future development priorities, we employ our favorite tool—a spreadsheet. In this, we list each enhancement, write out a description, label the part of the app within which it would fit, note whether it needs graphics work or not, and other factors. Then we do our best to assign values to each potential enhancement. We consider the dollar cost, the potential added value, the risk of creating bugs and performance issues that take time and more money to resolve, and how the idea fits into the existing flow and experience of the SoDunked! app.

It is a good system, but even with the priorities laid out, is it a priority right now to make any of these enhancements?  We don’t know! The calculus for how and when to enhance any product—not just an iPhone app—is unique to each product. Surely some marketing expert would tell us that there are certain predictable patterns and triggers in product development that we could follow. Presumedly this calculus should include money and time cost weighed against benefit. Clearly we have research to do to help inform our decisions. But, we are short on time! We are very focused, and rightly so, on the marketing.

Hmm, did I just answer my own question? Given the limited time we have available to spend on the app as we juggle our day jobs and children, we only have time to do the marketing right now.

Maybe it IS that simple.

We also know from early user feedback that the product we have—as is—is a good product. For those “gamers” who expect a more complex experience, we dream of that one day, but it is not really a game as much as a simple entertainment experience. For kids, it is meant to be fun to take pictures, name them, and try hitting the target. For adults, it is meant to be fun to dunk someone and share it via social media. We don’t want to suggest you dunk Justin Bieber, Simon Cowell, or Flo (the lady from that 'heavenly' auto insurance commercial) and then post it to your Facebook page, but maybe that’s what makes it fun for some people. There are always bosses to dunk and neighbors who parked in the space you shoveled out, too.

All that said, if you could ask for any enhancement to the SoDunked! app or to some other favorite app you have on your iPhone or iPod Touch, what would it be? We love to hear user feedback and we are also curious about what makes you wish you could tweak any app. Send us an email to and we will add the SoDunked! ideas to our list for consideration.

Also, don’t forget we are having a contest to win a $100 iTunes gift card! All you have to do to enter is play SoDunked! and, from within the app, send us an email. If you have questions about the contest, please feel free to write to us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is a dunking tank?

When you are marketing a product you need to be sure that people know what the product is and why they need it.

A friend from Spain recently told us he had never heard of a dunk tank (or dunking booth) and that it might be an Americentric view that everyone will know what it is or why it is fun. Hmm, maybe he is right. We were thinking about a global audience but we did not consider about the probable absence of dunk tanks in countries outside the United States.

We can see that we have blog readers and SoDunked! app owners from lots of places outside of the United States. Here is a partial list: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Nicaragua,Philippines, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates,United Kingdom


Well, here begins our effort to let people know: "What Is a Dunking Tank?"

You can probably tell from the SoDunked! app or pictures of the app that a dunking tank is a very large “bucket” of water (big enough for a person to fit into) that has a seat over it and that the seat is connected to a release lever that can be triggered by a ball hitting the target. 

These tanks are used at events as a fun activity, usually outdoors in the summertime at town fairs and carnivals around the United States and sometimes for fundraising. Imagine the fun of getting your older brother or your least favorite teacher to sit on the seat, throwing your balls until you hit the target, and then watching him fall and splash into the cold water below. We think it is an innocent and harmless way to let out frustration and have a great laugh together. Visit Wikipedia for a more detailed description (that can be translated into many languages: See a real dunk tank in action in this video at YouTube:

We fantasize that we will have a dunking tank at a summer festival in our home town of Somerville and get the people who give out parking tickets to volunteer to sit in the dunking chair so everyone can let out their frustrations by dunking those folks.

Please write comments here or to our email at if you have questions about dunk tanks.

Now that you know what it is, do you think it sounds fun? Please spread the word and keep on dunking!

!!!Get the app for 99 cents at and enter to win a $100 iTunes gift card!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why might kids like SoDunked!?

We are noticing a trend. We take out our phones to show friends the app and their children take over, commandeering our phones and leaving us with saved dunks of teddy bears, parents, and dishwashers (or whatever is around). We have decided that this is a good thing.

I apologize in advance if this next bit is geared completely toward parents or grandparents, but here goes: Have you ever been in a situation where your child is reallllllly antsy and bored, but you need to finish what you are doing and you find yourself willing to offer bribes of future sugar or t.v. for “please just another 20 minutes”? Why not let them use your iTouch or iPhone for 20 minutes? Okay, I hear the possible answers to that, but for a 5-8 year old who just wants something to do, SoDunked! can help. Something about it seems to keep them focused.

I asked an 8 year old boy what made him want to keep playing after a particularly long stretch and he said “trying to hit the target.” [Interview with Maya B.’s younger brother, December 31, 2011.]

Is it that simple? From my non-scientific observations of 5-8 year old kids playing SoDunked!, I note that they do appear to be very patient and persevering when trying to hit the target, that they seem genuinely happy to hear the music that plays when you finally dunk someone after a lot of tries, that they enjoy chasing their parents or the cat to get a photograph, and that they really enjoyed dunking a sibling, especially one who made a silly face just for the dunker. Maybe the appeal is the variety of tasks in one app—that in one app you are using a camera (looking for a photographic subject and taking the picture yourself), that you get to name the “dunkee” anything you want, and then you get to play a target game.

When we developed the app, we were imagining adults and maybe teenagers playing it because they might want to send someone a message and the dunking just makes it fun. We didn’t anticipate that younger people would be so interested. We are thrilled.

I am not suggesting that everyone use technology to occupy a bored child. But, if you already use technology or you are thinking of adding it to your bag of distraction tools, our app can keep a child in that 5-8 year old range focused. (And, by the way, unless you give them your password, they cannot post it to your Facebook page.)

So, is this our new niche market? How do we reach 5-8 year olds? How do we reach 5-8 year olds whose parents have an iPhone or iTouch? For this and more, please keep reading our blog. You can “follow” or “invite your friends” to follow or “subscribe” by clicking the relevant option at the right (on this page). Get the SoDunked! app at

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How many have we sold and is it getting popular?

Our app SoDunked! has been in the Apple store for almost 3 weeks. The main conversation we have with other people these days goes something like this:

Lyle or I to anyone: “How are you and what’s new?”

Anyone to us: “Fine, not much. How’s the app? How much have you sold?”

Lyle or I: “Fine. Yes.”

Anyone: “Okay….”

We don’t really know how to answer. It would be great if the answer really was “1 million as of yesterday” but since it is not, we don’t feel comfortable saying exactly how many. We have sold some. We can tell you that more than just our parents have bought the app, including some people outside of the United States. We did not break any “XXX number sold in 4 days” milestones or anything like that. But in 3 weeks? What do you expect? Or, more importantly, what do we expect?

If you read enough of the success stories you expect a lot. Hopeful entrepreneurs set expectations high for themselves. (Why else do this?) You dream and rely on the “magic” that can happen when timing and quality and publicity and everything comes together in your favor. The reality is that even when all of these things do come together, the magic doesn’t always happen and some apps never get the traction they need to be successful.

I know for myself that when I go to the app store, I spend a lot of time searching on all kinds of topics, scan the top lists, read reviews of experts on specific subjects, and listen to my own circle for recommendations. I am probably looking more deeply than the average user because it is my business to do so, yet I am sure I miss most of what is out there because of the sheer quantity. Let’s say I actually read the descriptions of 50 apps every 2 weeks. According to, there are 325,672 active apps in the Apple store as of the end of 2010 (there are also 64,688 inactive apps). And, about 9% of active apps are entertainment apps. How can I possibly see and evaluate all of those? The average iPhone/iTouch user probably spends much less time and sees far fewer apps in a year than I do.

So, we are up against 35,991 entertainment apps. We have no easy way to measure whether we have a bigger fan base or more downloads than other related apps. We have no easy task ahead of us to get ourselves noticed and liked. Our goal has to be to get on one of the "top" lists at the app store or get a positive review from a popular technology pundit. And, if Lyle has the time, I am sure he will aim to get 25,000 Facebook fans and 50,000 Twitter followers. None of this has happened yet, but we hope it will.

Stay with us and find out what happens and please share the blog and the SoDunked! app at with as many people as you can. You can help us get there. Thanks!

Monday, January 3, 2011

We fixed a bug (did you know there was a bug?)

Three days after SoDunked! was accepted into the Apple store, we received information from a user that she could not get past the screen where you name the person you are going to dunk. On the "naming photo" screen she couldn't see the "okay" button behind the keyboard (see image at right) and when she pressed the "done" on the keyboard nothing happened. (See the image below for what she should be able to see.) After a little troubleshooting with her, we figured out that she had an iPhone 3G (the app is designed to be used on a 3 or 4G or even on some older phones) and that she had not updated her iOS in a long time. It turns out that a few other people with our app ran into the same problem. All of these folks had a 3G and had not updated their iOS (iOS=the iPhone Operating System) in a long time. They all had good reasons for not updating the iOS—it was often because they had heard that a later iOS slowed performance. Clearly, we needed to solve a usability issue and an enormous customer satisfaction problem. Some people bought the app and couldn’t use it. This was an app emergency!

On December 19, we contacted our developer who began working on it immediately. But then [cue 'screeching halt' noise], there was an email we had received from Apple the week before saying that developer access to the app store management service would be suspended from December 23-28 but we thought it wouldn't affect us. Argg, it was now affecting us. This meant that, although the app store would be open, no submissions or changes would be processed during that time.The soonest we could get this fixed and resubmitted would be December 29, 2011.

We spent the time to work out a solution and user-test the fix, which works beautifully. Now, even if your iOS has the same display issue where the keyboard hides the "okay" button (as in the picture above), you can press "done" on the keyboard and that alone will move you to the next screen. You are probably yawning now, but in the game that is bug fixing, this is a great solution--it is less costly than a full rewrite of code and the lengthy user-testing to prove it works without adding additional bugs. It also makes the screen more usable for even the 4G and 4.X iOS users—1 click is always better than 2.  Our developer submitted this revised version for us as soon as possible on December 29, 2010. Then, we waited, but not for too long.

Just this morning (January 3, 2011)—less than 1 week later, we received an email from Apple saying: “Your app is now in review.” Only a few hours later, we received the best word of all “Your app is ready for sale.” Yay. We both just downloaded the corrected app. All is well again for usability. Phew. Now, it is time to contact the affected users.

If you know someone who experienced this problem, please let them know to download the updated version at and they will be able to dunk someone immediately!

Thanks to all who have been waiting patiently.

Stay tuned and thanks for your support.