A short update on Alertify

Update on Alertify

It’s been a while since I posted something about Alertify, the alarm app Michael Dolejš and I founded some months ago. While we started to develop the app together with a iOS developer we found, it turned out to be some kind of partnership with him Michael and I didn’t wanted for the product. So after some weeks of work, we decided to cut the cords with him and started again to search for an iOS developer to take on Alertify.

We quickly got in talks with Hans Pinckaers who already worked with Michael on some projects in the past. So we’re back in productive development mode for some weeks and are making some progress. Of course it’s still a small side project for all of us and will take some time, but we’re committed to it and want to see Alertify become real.

Follow Michael, Hans or me on Twitter for further updates if you want to stay informed about the progress on Alertify.

Fear and Competition

Watch Marco Arment talking at this year’s XOXO festival about fear and competition in the market of digital products and why he finally admits to enter an already crowded market.

It’s especially valuable for people who are working on their own products and have probably to deal with the same challenges Marco had to in the past with his former products Instapaper and The Magazine.

The Death of the Product Manager (as we know it)

Product Manager

When it comes down to responsibilities in a company or a team, the world of product development as we know it always provided a pretty clear structure: CEOs have to lead, designers have to design, developers have to code and product managers have to…well, actually manage everybody by writing tickets, preparing presentations or thinking about new features and the future product roadmap.

But it was sometimes around last year when the web suddenly started to discuss wether designers should know/learn how to code or not.
The reasons for this question were obvious. Designers and developers work closely together but often really never understand each other which leads to pretty much waste in communication, mostly caused by missing knowledge about the work from the other.
Advantages would be that designers could on the one hand make an early reality check on their drafts and impress developers a little bit more on the other one while the developers would start to value design work more.
Though there were a lot of opinions for and against that statement and it sometimes also depends on what kind of designer you are and what you’re working on, I felt like the essence was: »Yes, designers definitely should know how to code.«

So, if designers learn how to code so they maybe don’t even need a developer to launch a product and developers would vice versa learn more about photoshop, who would need someone else to make awesome digital products? Depending on the size of your company or team you probably still need a project manager to structure the work with scheduled meetings and caring about some orga stuff like reports or having an eye on the budget.
But do you then still need a guy who can’t design or code pushing wireframes around, writing tickets and testing the latest version all the day in addition?

When I take a look at many great new products which are made by awesome solo people like Drew Wilson, Marco Arment or small teams like the ones behind Evomail, Authentic Weather or Day One I’m pretty sure the answer is no – at least not the classical way anymore.
But let’s take a closer look at this. Can’t we just put up the same question that rose last year on designers who code? Isn’t it time to ask: »Should Product Managers know how to design and to code?« – I think it is.

If product managers would gain a deeper understanding of what’s really happening inside “their” teams by having practical skills in both disciplines, it would be a huge win for the product itself. So in my opinion we should rethink the role of the product manager. He or she should become someone who’s really involved in the actual process of building things.

As a consequence, skills in teams could become more concentrated on fewer people and team size could be reduced to iterate even faster.

Seeing how small teams gain so much traction with their products without including a personal “overhead” like a product manager really made me think about this role (which is what I do for money, too).
One of they key learnings I took away from a journey to the US this year was that I simply had to learn how to design and how to code (of course I know that just don’t »learn« design, but I think you know what I mean), if I want to stay relevant for the process of digital product development in the upcoming years.

So I headed over to treehouse.com and started learning. It’s been a fun journey so far which gave me a lot of new insights and skills. And though I know, it will still take a while until I’m on a really productive level in one or both disciplines, I’m pretty thrilled to continue.

Missing the rule of thumb

This morning I just read about this app Top of the Morning on The Next Web.

It’s quite a nicely designed app which is kind of a mixture between a calendar app, a weather app and a news app. I especially like the ability to connect any news site you want and not just some preselected ones.
But while playing around with the UI walkthrough I suddenly got forced to close a view with a pinch.

Top of the morning

I don’t know how you feel but whem I’m in bed just after stopping the alarm on my phone and start tapping around to check my day ahead, one of the last things I want to do is to use a second hand to navigate further on my smartphone.

So Top of the Morning really has a nice idea, but totally fails for me when using it in one of the situations it was built for.

(Almost) Nothing but a big mouth

Google News

Thank god I didn’t bet on this – Even content from Axel Springer will remain available for Google News after August 1st. That means that even the publisher who was the stronges supporter when it came down to fighting for the LSR in Germany, backs down under the power of Google (News).

I personally had thought that at least Springer would remain consequent – just because you have to finish what you start (that does of course not mean, that I support the LSR – I think it’s a big mistake).

All the legal stuff like the only temporary permission Springer points out doesn’t make any difference to me, if you take a look at the hard facts:
They hardly fought for an end of free snippets like in Google and now, where the law becomes valid, they don’t use it.
It’ll be pretty interesting to see, where all this will go.

What it really means for journalists to gain digital competence

Digital Competence

Last thursday one of Germany’s biggest publishers, Axel Springer, announced that they are selling several traditional magazine titles like Hamburger Abendblatt, Berliner Morgenpost or Hörzu to the more regional oriented Funke (e.g. WAZ) group.

That move only clarified even more the long known ambitious digital goals of Axel Springer as they cut off profitable, but for them no longer relevant, print brands. Besides some talks about how that move changes Springer as a traditional publisher (but they don’t really aim to remain one) and what it means for all the journalists and their workplaces, a more general debate about the future for journalists finally rises.

The well known German journalist and blogger Karsten Lohmeyer makes some points in a highly anticipated article. He focussed especially on the Springer disposal and how he thinks journalists will have to transform themselves to survive in the future.
Besides the pretty overused phrase, that even print journalists should now become more “digital minded”, he recommends some other actions for his colleagues to remain relevant during the highly accelerated arriving change of paradigms in the publishing world.

But in my opinion he isn’t right when it comes down to the concrete recommendations for journalists. There’s so much more to do for journalists these days than to just have a twitter handle and get some followers or learn how to maintain an own wordpress blog.

Even journalists, who where for a long time mostly focussed on nothing but the content production itself, will have to look closer into what the people do, who build the digital products of the future – developers and designers.
Journalists definitely will have to learn how to really use technologies and tools to create great products beside the content, if they want to remain relevant and also independent in the digital world.
Of course I’m not talking about becoming a full-time developer or designer and forgetting how to write. But to have real knowledge about what happens beyond that website or app with all the shiny articles will be key. There will be a split and the one group who starts to understand the creation of new digital content and products as a whole won’t have to fear the future Lohmeyer creates in his article.

On the other side business people, product guys, developers and designer will have to give more responsibility to journalists to enable them to become a more mature part of digital products.

Starting Alertify

Some months ago I connected with Michael Dolejš from Prague over a shot of an alarmclock app he posted on dribbble.


We ping ponged some ideas and began to create a vision for this app pretty quickly. In the following weeks he refined the designs based on our opinion how a modern alarm app on iOS should look like.
Meanwhile I set up a small landingpage to present our idea to the world. Because we couldn’t really develop on iOS, we started to search for an iOS developer in the public.
We then got contacted by some really interesting people and a lot of positive feedback via mail or on dribbble.

Finally our talks became more serious and we do have now someone on board who wants to develop Alertify. There’s not much more to tell you about it right now, but I’ll keep you posted about how this small side project evolves.

What are you doing, Twitter?

What about Twitter

This morning I read about an announcement from a new promising iOS Twitter client called Avenue, that they may have to re-start and even think about shifting to App.net.
I really like the minimal design of the app and was really hoping that I could participate in the beta or find in the App Store soon.

It’s already the second well appreciated app which comes into massive issues with Twitters API and token. The popular client Falcon Pro for Android was even removed by the developer from Google Play after it wasn’t able to serve its users anymore.

I’m wondering where this will lead to for Twitter in mobile. Their own official apps become admittedly better step by step, but they should not become so arrogant to kill all 3rd party clients just to force users to see their advertising (which is disabled in most non-official clients).
Otherwise they may have to deal with some really serious user anger rather sooner than later.