Still working on the app post in order to defend my position on whether apps are a worthwhile pursuit of developers.

If you may recall, I took the position way early in June (or May) that apps should not be used to deliver content which instead could be made readily available through a mobile phone browser. I instead recommended spending your time and money developing a mobile site to deliver content to mobile users.

I take that position on five reasons:

  1. Search
  2. Linkability
  3. Prevent App Overload
  4. First Time Contact
  5. Platform

We’ll see how many I get to before I decide this post is too long or until my son wakes up from his nap. I’ll probably finish the rest in another post. Follow the “to app or not to app” tag for my posts related to this topic.

First, while I’ve been pondering my position for the past few months, I should note a few apps I would say are worthwhile as well as some as I would say are not worthwhile. I think this would be great so as to lay out some examples that I can use to prove my position.

App Proposal #1: Mobile Podcast Publishing

You are busy, but you have to get a quick note out to your podcast listeners before the end of the week or else they will begin to wonder where you are and if you are okay. Wouldn’t it be nice to take out your phone, record a quick message and submit it to your podcast feed? Right now you can submit videos and pictures directly from your phone, but audio hasn’t been all that easy. Granted, you could log into a web site, upload your audio, and then tag it, but with mobile speeds, that could take a while. I think the convenience of recording and pressing “submit” would be best.

There is a Blackberry application that purports to do that, VR+ which I suggested to Eric Larson of the Ericast. He tried it out and will get back to us as to whether or not it fits his needs. It definitely published to his podcast feed with just a few clicks. (You can listen to his request for ideas in “Ericast 145 – Yup, It’s Late.”

App Proposal #2: Scorekeeping

Suppose you are at a baseball game and you wish to keep score. We all know how it goes, we get started keeping score, but then bathroom breaks, refreshment breaks, and spills get in the way and cause us to loose a few plays. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an app–using the power of crowd sourcing–that filled in any missing information? What if we didn’t understand a ruling or scoring method? You could look up The Baseball Scorecard on our mobile device, but what if the app had this built in?

I don’t know of an application that does this, but I think the iPad would be the best form factor. I also don’t know if iPads are allowed in major league stadiums, if I remember correctly, they do not allow laptops. Laptops are frowned upon due to the obvious reason of checking work E-mail and not paying attention to fly balls and broken bats coming into the seats. According to the back of the ticket, the stadium is not responsible for injury, so why should they care? A person could suffer from the same inattentiveness by sitting there and reading a book (yes, a companion has done that while with me at Wrigley Field).

App Proposal #3: Event Check-ins

We all know of location check-ins (Foursquare and now Facebook Places) and food review sites (Zagat) but what about temporary and close-spaced sites? You’re at the Minnesota State Fair, for example, and you just got the best deal on a soda ($2.25 for a 33oz, $1.25 for refills at Mr. E’s Drink Time in the Food Building) and you want to announce it to your friends. Or, you know a dozen other of your friends are at the fair, but among the 132,738 other fair-goers, you can’t spot them easily in the crowd. If they could check into each both you could see where they are, and what they enjoyed or what deal they got. (“UST bags are being handed out now! – Education Building”)

Foursquare and Zagat are great for brick and mortar year-round attractions, but not for fair booths and vendors (especially since locations and prices changes year to year). Plus, I’d like GPS path tracking to be included in the app so that I can tell how many miles I’ve walked while at the fair in order to justify another round of Luigi Fries.

There is not an app that does this, yet. But it would be great for the Taste of Chicago and other events as well.

In Conclusion

What do all of these apps have in common? They DO something. You have word processing and graphics applications on your computer as well as games. You don’t have magazine, blog, or news applications (bookmarks, yes, apps, no). Apps let you get something done conveniently on the mobile device. Mobile sites let you look up information or consume information conveniently on mobile devices. Yes, desktops now have cloud applications (Google Docs) but try doing that through a browser on an iPhone.

One more comment about the Minnesota State Fair, they don’t have an app, but they do have a mobile site. According to Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s (Pioneer Press) article “Minnesota State Fair? There’s an app for that (sort of)” fair officials had considered an app, but decided not to develop one. The article didn’t go into why, but I can assume because of the 5 items I mentioned earlier and will expand on later. Probably mainly because all of this information is on their Web site, they felt it was easier to develop two sites (one regular, one mobile) that framed the same content. Making it mobile helps because then it is available for all mobile users (iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, etc) and more people are likely to visit the site mobily than download an app for the fair.

Now, if you will excuse me, my son is still napping, and I think I may try to catch a quick 20 minutes!

About Chad Leigh Kluck

I enjoy technology development and management by following new trends, change and disruption, and security. I have a Master of Science in Software Engineering and my hobbies include railroads, history, do-it-yourself projects, writing, and ham radio (K0RRX). More...

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