Christmas List 2016

For anyone who needs some ideas

  • PS4 Game - The Last Guardian: Amazon Link
  • Programming Elixir v1.3 : Link
  • Book - The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Link
  • Book - Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future - Link
  • Book - Caliban's War (The Expanse book 2) : Link
  • Blu Ray - The Expanse: Season 1: Link
  • Blu Ray - Suicide Squad ( Extended Cut ) - Link
  • Amazon Echo Dot - Link
  • PS4 Game - No Man's Sky : Link
  • Mr. Beer Helles Bock Refill - Link



What has/is happening in Greece

Last year Greece voted to refuse the austerity measures that the EU and IMF were forcing on them but their leaders decided to take them anyway. Today I stumbled upon this snippet from an article that shows some of the impact of that decision in a personal way.

Did you know that there are people in Greece who cannot afford to buy even a loaf of bread at a cost of €0.60 – €0.70? Almost a year after Greece surrendered into the arms of the international lenders and the IMF and the austerity cuts started to affect people’s lives, a bakery in our neighborhood was offering a bread at a special price for pensioners and unemployed. The special price was just half a euro. At one point, I remember that more and more people were going to this bakery and asking for bread from the previous day for a couple of cents or even free of charge. Two days ago, the grim Greek reality hit me again. I was at the bakery sometime at noon. All different kinds of bread loafs were waiting for customers, nicely set in order, one by one, next to each other. Yet, somewhere, in a corner at one of the lower shelves there was a group of breads: several loaves, long and round, white and wholewheat, a couple of baguettes. “What are these?” I asked the baker and he answered “This is bread from yesterday, for the poor. We give it free of charge.” He told me further, that he had 6-7 returning customers who come every second day for the bread from yesterday. Mostly elderly, pensioners. And “maybe 2-3 people per day,” people he does not know who just step in and ask for “old bread for free.” The problem of poverty is not widespread only in Athens, where the cost of living is much higher than in the countryside. Today, I read about the action of the Bakers’ Association in Kozani, in Northern Greece. Customers can buy extra bread for those in need, while the bakers will keep records of the “Bread on the waiting” – as they call their action – and give it to those who cannot afford it.
If you're interested in the full article you can read it here: Keep Talking Greece



How Pokemon Go Can Increase Your Sales

How to cash in on Poke-fever

"Are you playing Pokemon?"

If you have been out and about with your phone you have probably been asked that question. It seems like everyone has lost their minds over 'Pokemon Go' in the last week; record downloads, record users, and record revenue are turning Pokemon Go into the largest mobile game release in history.

What makes Pokemon Go different from other mobile breakout hits like 'Candy Crush Saga' or 'Clash of Clans' is that now local businesses can benefit from this gaming craze in a way that has never happened before with mobile gaming. Part of the reason for this is that Pokemon Go takes the 'mobile' in mobile gaming in a new direction by combining real-world locations into the game world in a way that gets people out of their house and onto the streets.

Many brick and motor business have seen increases in their business simply because more people are out roaming around town looking for Pokemon but there are also special locations in the game that can generate a huge increase in traffic if you happen to be located nearby. Earlier this week on CNBC Gamestop CEO J. Paul Raines said that they have seen sales at some of their stores increase by 100% since the release of Pokemon Go. How are they getting such large increases in sales from people playing Pokemon? Is this something you could replicate at your business as well?

Pokestops and Gyms

As I mentioned before there are certain locations in Pokemon Go that are special, these locations draw in players because they can receive items or they can battle other players to take control of that location. If your business is located on, or near, a Pokestop or Gym then you can utilize that draw of players to increase your sales. With a few quick steps you can start to pull in additional traffic and capitalize on the Pokemon hysteria.

Download the game and look up your location

The first step is to download Pokemon Go to your iPhone or Android device. Once you have the game and create an account you'll be able to take a look at the map.

In the image above you can see an example of what we're looking for. The floating blue circle is an example of a Pokestop and the larger Red tower in the background is a Gym. Determining which type of structure is closest to you business will help you decide on your next step.

Draw players to your Pokestop

If you find that you business is a Pokestop, or is very near to one, then you have a sure-fire way to draw players in, you're literally going to lure them to your door. 'Lures' are an in-game item that increase the rate that Pokemon appear around a Pokestop for 30 minutes. If your Pokestop has a lure activated on it players will see that in the game and stop by for awhile to try and catch rare Pokemon for their collection. If you want to try this out just follow the steps below to purchase some lures and then place them on your Pokestop.
  • Within Pokemon Go tap the red Pokeball at the bottom of the Screen
  • Tap on the Shop button
  • In the top right corner of the screen you will see the number of 'Pokecoins' that you have. If you have 100 or more then you can proceed to the next step. If not you need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the shop and purchase some Pokecoins as an in-app purchase. You will need at least 100.
  • Scroll to the middle of the shop screen tap on the purple Lure Modules to purchase them. You can purchase one Lure to test it out for only 100 Pokecoins but you will get a much better deal if you buy in bulk.
  • After your purchase return to the main game screen and tap on the Pokestop that you want to Lure customers to.
  • If you're close enough to the Pokestop the screen will change to show you information about that location. Tap on the white pill shaped button under the location name
  • Now tap on the Pokestop Module at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap on the Lure Module you just bought
  • You will know that it worked when you see pink petals falling down all around your Pokestop location
  • Profit!

Now players are going to see your Pokestop has a Lure on it and will literally go out of their way to swing by. Be ready for them by putting up a sign that encourages them to come inside and grab a drink, or offers a discount for Pokemon Trainers. In the next section we'll discuss some other ideas that can help you reach out to Pokemon players.

How to Benefit from being a Gym

If your business is, or is near, a Gym you'll have to approach this a little differently. You can't place Lures at Gyms, but you probably don't need to. Gyms already bring in a constant flow of players who want to challenge the current Gym leader and claim it for themselves and their team. In this scenario you just need a way to reach out to the Pokemon Go players that are already going to be coming your way. Here are a few ideas you could use to entice players to purchase from you during their Poke-battles.
  • Offer a discount to Pokemon players if they show you the game on their phone
  • Name a few items on your menu after a Pokemon or after the 3 teams players can join (Valor, Mystic, and Instinct)
  • Celebrate the team or player that is currently in charge of your gym
  • Really get into the game and create custom stickers or pins with your logo on them and give them away to anyone who conquers the gym. In the Pokemon world trainers are always striving to get 'badges' from the gyms they defeat, playing into this could be huge.

Pokemon Go has finally delivered on the promise of 'Mobile Gaming'. Not only are players able to play wherever they want but they are now taking their love of gaming, and Pokemon, into the real world and interacting with each other and businesses in new and exciting ways. Show them that you get their excitement and you have the opportunity to earn their business for years to come.



Mobile is now the First Screen

Are you focusing your efforts accordingly?

App Annie has just published some information gleaned from their analytics product that shows how Mobile continues to grow and leapfrog other platforms as the go-to for today's consumer.

In their latest insight article App Annie presents data that shows how users are turning to mobile for more and more of their needs.

First we see that app usage in aggregate continues to grow. So much so that in the last two years time spent in apps worldwide has doubled.

In addition to overall usage we also see that individual interaction time with apps is increasing as well. This shows that mobile apps are not only used in micro-bursts and on-the-go moments. Mobile is becoming, or has already become, the de-facto platform where users shop, communicate, play, and learn.

It is also interesting to note that, according to Google, more searches now happen on Mobile than on traditional computers. No matter what industry you are in, or what message you are trying to convey to your customers, you need to have a mobile strategy to effectively address them.

Apps drive purchases

The primary interface for mobile is the app. Having your website available for mobile browsers is simply not enough. In the first quarter of 2016 over 90% of mobile users time was spent in apps and only 10% of that was in a mobile browser.

Consumers have made the decision to go mobile. Mobile apps drive engagement, loyalty, and provide direct communication with your customers. Even looking beyond today, the next generation of customers have grown up mobile first which means these trends will only increase in the future. What is your mobile strategy?

Want to connect? Start a conversation with me on Twitter @Readmore



App Store Revenue Expected to Grow to Over $100 Billion by 2020

With Mobile Games leading the way

App Annie, one of the premier app analytics firms, has released a new report that forecasts Mobile App Store revenue to exceed $100 Billion by 2020.

While forecasts like this must always be looked at with some skepticism the report has excellent information about where the mobile app ecosystem is as of 2015 and uses that baseline and current growth trends to build their estimates. It's definitely worth a look if you're interested in the mobile app space and you can read the full report for free at this link.



Portrait or Landscape? Check the Charts

Reviewing the iTunes charts to find the most popular app orientation.

Lately I've been brainstorming new game ideas and for a few of them the question of what orientation to design them around has come up. Does one kind of game orientation work better than the other? Is it genre dependent, game dependent, or is there a general consensus that one orientation is better than the other? Instead of just continually asking myself rhetorical questions I decided to try and find some data that would help me decide how to direct my games.

Question: Which Game Orientation is More Popular on the Appstore, Portrait or Landscape?

Definitions

Before we dive into how I set about answering this question let's first define what Portrait and Landscape mean.
Portrait Orientation: refers to an app that is used while your device is held vertically and can usually be played with one hand. Landscape Orientation: refers to an app that is used while your device is held horizontally and usually with both hands.

IncrediBlox

House of the Lost

I have always thought that puzzle and social games should be created in a portrait orientation as they have a more casual appeal and are likely to be played in shorter bursts. Conversely, landscape orientation is the domain of more engaging 'gamer' games who want the added view and control space that a widescreen game provides.
However, these are really just assumptions, and until now I have had no real evidence to confirm or deny my thoughts. To rectify this I decided to pick through the Top 100 Free, Paid, and Grossing app charts in the iTunes Appstore to see how many of the games in each chart are designed for portrait or landscape. The data from that little adventure is presented below.

Assumptions

Prior to conducting this experiment I believed the results would shake out as follows:
  1. Free Charts: There will be many more Portrait games in the Top 100 free charts because there will be a larger number of 'casual' games on the list.
  2. Paid Charts: There will be a larger number of Landscape games on the paid charts because 'gamers' are more likely to pay for a game upfront.
  3. Grossing Charts: The grossing chart will be more evenly split than the other two charts but Portrait games will have the advantage.

Methodology

  • To gather this data I used App Annie to display the Top 100 Free, Paid, and Grossing Charts from the iTunes Appstore on Friday Dec. 12, 2014.
  • For each game in each chart I categorized it as either a Portrait or Landscape game based on how its gameplay was displayed in the screenshots on the Appstore. If gameplay was shown in a Landscape Orientation it was labeled Landscape and if gameplay was shown in Portrait it was labeled Portrait.
  • There are some games that work in both orientations and if this was I case I still based my classification on how the gameplay was displayed in the Appstore screenshots. If the developer chose to display their gameplay in one orientation over the other I labeled the game as such.
  • There were a couple games that displayed both styles of gameplay in their screenshots and on both of those instances I labeled them as Landscape games.
  • Every chart position was recorded in only one classification, no game was labeled both Portrait and Landscape.
  • Results

    Orientation Free Paid Grossing
    Portrait 58 17 58
    Landscape 42 83 42

    Conclusion

    There you have it. Portrait games are more popular in the Free charts, although Landscape games are well represented. I expected the number of Landscape games in the Free chart to be smaller so that checked one of my biases right off the bat.

    Portrait games get destroyed in the Paid game charts, with more than 80% of Paid games presenting as Landscape. This is right in line with my thinking that someone who is going to pay for a game upfront is looking for the 'traditional' gaming experience and prefers Landscape.

    I missed on the Grossing charts however. I under-estimated how completely the Free chart directs the Grossing chart. There were only two Paid games on the Grossing chart at the time of this test, which means that Paid games have very little impact on determining the big winners, revenue wise, on the Appstore.

    So what can we take from this? To be honest, I'm not sure. I think there is a lot more detail that could be pulled from this data based on game genre. Are Portrait games more popular because they dominate a specific genre and that genre is more popular? Perhaps a comparison within specific game genres would give us better information in that regard.

    I would say that if you're working on a Paid game you should probably support Landscape orientation as it charts much better than Portrait. If you're working on a game that you hope will have a very large and ranged player base you should probably support Portrait as it does better in both the Free and Grossing charts.

    Let me know your thoughts on Twitter: @Readmore



    Programming the Universe, Part One - Book Report


    I've recently been working my way through the giant backlog of books I've accumulated over the years and I'm currently reading 'Programming the Universe' by Seth Lloyd. This book is a great primer on Quantum Computing, and incidently on digital computing thanks to the review in the early chapters. I just finished Part One of the book and thought I would jot down some of my thoughts before I move on to Part Two. I don't know that this is a book report in the traditional sense but I thought it would be useful to write out some of my ideas and questions.

    Part One: The Big Picture

    The author of 'Programming the Universe', Seth Lloyd, is a Professor of Quantum-Mechanical Engineering at MIT and this book covers many of the same topics as his introductory Quantum Computing class at the University. So, if nothing else, you can save a lot in tuition by simply picking this book up at Amazon or the Library.

    Prof Lloyd uses Part One of the book to introduce us to the concepts of Information, Computation, and Quantum Mechanics, and he does a great job. While parts of this section felt like a review of basic Computer Science it was still a welcome reminder of the underlying structure that powers all of the computation taking place in our lives everyday.
    Likewise, Prof Lloyd's introduction to the concepts of Quantum Physics and it's application to information processing and computation are well written and make for an interesting and quick read.

    The promise of Quantum Computing, as communicated in the book, is that we can learn to tap into, and ultimately control, the underlying Quantum Computation that is constantly happening all around us. The structures of quantum computation are already present in all the matter we see, hear, and touch everyday; we need only to understand it enough to begin harnessing it for our own purposes. What could those puposes be? If you accept that the universe is structured information, as the Quantum Theory presents, then the recombination and programming on matter are possible; like the food replicators of Star Trek. It should also be possible to scan and transmit the information of matter from one position to another; like the teleporters and Stargates that we see so often in science fiction. If all matter in the world, including life, is a collection of quantum information then all of the information processing that takes place in our current digital age should also become possible on matter in the quantum age to come.

    This is a startling, and amazing, concept, to say the least. And as a computer scientist the possibility of programming the world around me is an exciting one. While the actual implementation of this has not be explained yet the underlying theory seems sound, at least to my uneducated ears.

    Problems

    I have only had a couple issues with the book thus far. The first is that Prof Lloyd mentions using Java in an example of creating programs for the Quantum world; this is a poor choice. I would think it clear that the universe is functional, not object oriented; if the Universe is going to be programmed by anything it will be a language more like Lisp or Ruby. Nobody is going to be programming matter with Java.
    Secondly, in the final chapter of Part One Prof. Lloyd discusses the the issue of randomness as the catalyst for the variation and complexity in our Universe. He points to the old saying that 'a million monkeys with typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare'. To his credit, he gives examples that disprove this claim, and show that there is neither enough time nor matter in the known Universe to allow random chance to create something at such a high level of abstraction as literature. However, he then goes on to extend the idea and say that a million monkeys writing computer code could create small programs that could give rise to ever more complex outcomes and that, over time, these programs could give rise to a great work of literature like Hamlet. The analogy is that simple laws and interactions of particles led to the creation of galaxies, stars, life, language, love, and literature. I find it hard to accept that this belief in the power of randomness is any more likely to have happened than the first typewriter example.

    There is a concept in Computer Science known as Evolutionary or Genetic Algorithms which seems to encompass Prof. Lloyd's example of random program generation resulting in complexity, or utility in solving a particular problem. The main difference between Prof. Lloyd's example and the implentation of Genetic Algorithms is that to make a genetic program work you must know what problem you wish to solve. There must be a stated problem against which each output program can be tested so that it can be determined which resulting program is better at reaching the solution. Unguided program generation produces nothing but failed programs, without a guiding hand driving the evolution of these programs there is no way to determine that one is better than another.
    Another problem that I have with Prof. Lloyd's approach is in the assumption that this universal programming language simply exists by chance and can then let randomness tweak it's control statements until something interesting is produced. The rules and laws that govern our Universe had to be set by something, or someone, before any of this complexity could begin to flourish. Every programming language has an author, and every author has a reason for writing their language.

    All in all, I am enjoying this book. I'm not sure how far Prof. Lloyd will take us into the implementation of these concepts but I'm very interested to find out.



    What Should Nintendo Do? (WSND)

    My advice to a billion dollar company...

    There has been a lot of ink spilled over the last few days, or last few months, about what Nintendo should do to turn around their fortunes with the Wii U. After they recently announced a $335 Million Operating Loss for the year the chorus of voices calling for them to 'pull a Sega' has grown to a crescendo.

    I am not one of those voices.

    I believe that one of Nintendo's strategic advantages is the fact that they create their own software and hardware in unison, discarding that advantage because the battlefield is changing around them is not the way to stay alive, let alone win the battle. I do, however, believe that Nintendo needs to make some pretty serious changes to their strategy if they want to fight their way out of this. If you'll indulge me, I'll lay out a few of those ideas in the paragraphs below.

    What Happened?

    Before we look at new courses of action let's first take a look at what actually happened to Nintendo's fortunes. In the last console generation (360, PS3, and Wii) Nintendo was the king. The Wii outsold both competitors and enjoyed tremendous software sales, for the first half of the generation. The second half of the generation was actually a different story. After a huge initial sell through in the first few years the Wii started to really show it's age and began to fall behind the 360, and then PS3, in hardware and software sales.
    Part of this, I believe, is that Nintendo waited too long to update the Wii. Nintendo's initial thinking when developing the Wii was dead-on. HDTVs had not reached the mainstream in significant numbers and the 'casual appeal' of motion control was a brilliant move. However, 7 years was much too long for Nintendo to champion the Wii and their hardware sales reflected that mistake.

    A long console cycle wasn't the only problem for Nintendo, however. A larger threat appeared in the form of smartphone or 'mobile' gaming. Not because mobile games come anywhere near the quality or fun on a Nintendo product, but because most of the time they are good enough for the consumer that rushed out to purchase the Wii in droves. The 'casual' audience moved on from the Wii to smartphone gaming and has likely left the 'home console' behind entirely.

    I am of the mind that Sony and Microsoft are not actually Nintendo's true competitors. The PS4 and Xbox One are not taking sales away from the Wii U, they are fighting over a shrinking pool of gaming enthusiasts who need the fastest, biggest, best gaming experience at any cost. Nintendo is fighting for the much bigger pool of players who like to enjoy a game with their friends or unwind with a game every once and awhile but who don't care to spent a large portion of their income to get that experience. For this audience, smartphone gaming is the perfect solution. The quality isn't nearly as good but the convenience factor is so high that it counter-acts the loss in quality. This is a very difficult problem for Nintendo to overcome.

    What can be done?

    This is where more pundits start talking about how Nintendo needs to jettison their hardware business and start making games for smartphones. You're not going to get any of that nonsense here. Should Nintendo make games for smartphones? Yes, I think they should, but not at the expense of their core product, which is currently the 3DS and Wii U. Any Nintendo games made for smartphones should be seen as a way to market and expand the reach of Nintendo back to the consumers who made them so successful in the Wii years. Think of it as a new form of consumer outreach, not a complete direction change for a 100 year old company.

    Virtual Console


    One option for Nintendo to pursue is the release of NES and SNES virtual console games on smartphones. Most of these games are already of a higher quality than the smartphone games that are currently available and it would not only be an immediate boost in revenue but an avenue to market new and upcoming games to players on their mobile devices. Say you download Donkey Kong Country for your iPhone, in that game there could be a video ad and direct sales link to the upcoming Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze for Wii U. Honestly, I have no idea why this isn't already happening. Nintendo shouldn't expect their 15 and 20 year old software titles to be a reason for people to purchase new hardware. Make these titles available, at the same price they are now, on smartphones and use them as a vehicle to drive consumers to new hardware and new products.

    New Game Demos


    Another avenue that Nintendo could explore is one that they have actually just recently attempted on the 3DS with the upcoming game 'Bravely Default Flying Fairy'. Last month Nintendo announced that before the release of Bravely Default they would release a free demo of the game on their eShop service. What makes this different from any other demo is that the 'demo' is actually a mini game all of it's own. Instead of just pulling out a part of the full game and calling it a demo Nintendo, and Square Enix, have created a small 'prequel' for the game that players can try for free and that feeds into the full priced main product.

    This would be a perfect way for Nintendo to debut new titles on smartphones. Create a small, stand-alone, title for smartphones that whets the appetite of gamers and then directs them to purchase the 'real' game on a Nintendo game system. Imagine how much larger an audience Nintendo could reach with a 3-4 level iPhone version of 'Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze' than they are currently reaching with traditional advertising and Nintendo Directs.

    This tactic obviously is more labor intensive than just putting Virtual Console games smartphones but I think it would be a great opportunity to show mobile gamers what they are missing on Nintendo's system when they only play games on their phone.

    The Future - Undivide and Conquer


    Finally, should Nintendo move forward with another generation of hardware?
    YES, and much sooner than they traditionally have done!
    I believe that the next hardware from Nintendo needs to be a home console/mobile console hybrid. Instead of having two distinct platforms like the 3DS and Wii U they need to have one system that can serve as both a mobile and home gaming system. Looking at the Wii U it's already pretty easy to see what this might look like but the difference would be that all the 'game playing guts' of the system would be in the handheld portion, not the 'base station'. This would mean that you could take the handheld with you, just like a 3DS, and play games on the go. Then when you get home you wirelessly stream your game to the Nintendo Base Station under your TV and play on the big screen with your family and friends.

    What would really sell this thing is if the base station could function on it's own as a media center device, possibly even one that could play virtual console games as well. This would mean that if the 'handheld' was out of the house someone else could still sit down to watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, or complete a dungeon in a classic Zelda game.

    This melding of home and mobile consoles would also allow Nintendo to focus ALL of their incredible software skills on one platform. Imagine if all of the great games that have come out in the last year for 3DS and Wii U were, instead, for one system. It would be the hottest selling gaming device in history.

    I actually think this may already by Nintendo's intention based on some of their comments over the last few months and the direction of the Wii U. They are already trying to combine the game design concepts of the DS with their home system, they just couldn't, or wouldn't push the hardware far enough into the handheld realm to make it a reality. My hope is that the next hardware announcement we hear from them, preferably in the next 2 years, is of a unified Nintendo system that will combine their handheld and home console businesses.

    There you have it, my advice for Nintendo. Not that anyone actually asked for it. I hope, whatever their course in the future, that they are able to once again expand their reach and regain a leadership position in gaming. But whatever they choose to do, it's going to be a wild ride.



    Apple's 'Your Verse' iPad Ad

    How perfect is this video?



    Razer's Nabu smart-bracelet looks great.


    There are a lot of really interesting announcements coming out of CES this week but this new smart-bracelet from Razer is one of the most exciting that I've seen.
    After wearing a Jawbone Up for almost two weeks I've already had numerous ideas around small apps that could enhance the wearable user experience. It's really great to see Razer announce this new bracelet alongside a Developer Program so we can make some of those ideas into actual applications.



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