Apple Marketplaces, Tiger Stores, Walthamstow Stadium

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Apple Marketplaces

Last week Jean-Louis Gassée wrote a blog post on The Guardian asking Apple to provide a comprehensive editorialised guide for its App Store. His point was the current store is a small shop window with little context that does a poor job of selling the thousands of useful apps out there:

…ask developers and, most important, users. For all its demonstrable success, the App Store feels broken. It’s too big and confusing, the app reviews are dry and the ratings are unreliable, search is primitive..

Using the Michelin Guides as a template he suggested Apple invest in reviewers who highlight what is best over a wide selection of users and uses. As a regular visitor to the App Store I’d love more than an icon and name to sell me apps.

The launch of iTunesU as an app really highlights the need for Apple to improve its marketplace. If you don’t know, iTunesU collects learning video and audio from a range of colleges and universities (like the Open University and Stanford). There’s good stuff in there, but it is buried under the Apple’s category-driven marketplace. Advance courses are mixed in with introductory ones, with only the title to distinguish them.

An editorialised shopfront based where the user can navigate by level and interest to find helpful reviews would open up iTunesU (and the App Store and iBooks).

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Tiger Stores

Tiger Stores in StratfordIf you are the sort of person who likes wandering around Ikea’s Marketplace, picking up competitively priced utensils and designer knick-knaks you didn’t know you wanted, then Tiger Stores is the shop for you.

It’s a (currently) small franchise chain which started in Copenhagen, has 100+ stores in Europe and 13 in England. My closest one is in Stratford’s Shopping Centre (the old knackered one, not Westfield). Last week’s visit included the purchase of envelopes, bearnaise sauce mix, small containers for travel toiletries and some wooden tongs (for getting bread out of the toaster).

In a shop the size a large corner shop it piles high well-designed goods. Trade is always brisk. If I was more of a businessman/shopkeeper with money to invest I’d open my own franchise.

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Walthamstow Stadium

Walthamstow Stadium by dgI drove past the disused dog track in Walthamstow at the weekend. It was a depressing sight. It is still there looking resplendent in white and red. For those who don’t know, it closed  in August 2008 after the owner sold it to a property developer who planned to turn it into flats, offices and shops. There’s an ongoing fight to stop it happening.

The previous owner said the track was losing money. I have no evidence or reason to doubt this. But I do think they could have done more with it. Race nights were packed. However the site was empty outside of races (and the occasional video shoot). It could have hosted a car boot sale on Sunday mornings, opened a cafe with view of the site, ran fitness classes during the day, held festivals (beer and music) and more.

Yes, we have a housing shortage. But I’ve seen several new developments opening with nothing more than a Tesco Express for community. People need more than houses. Dog racing at Walthamstow was great (even though I always lost).


Supporting local shops, Appifier, More or Less

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Supporting local shops

Stylish local shopkeeperTesco has opened an Express store near me. And it is a good one. It has a wide range and seems to be cheaper than the central London Tesco Metros and Sainsburys Locals. It is probably a ten minute walk from my flat but it will relatively easy for me to visit on the way home for the tube.

So, I now find myself with middle-class guilt over my local convenience store. I hate the way our high streets have become identical collections of the same brands. There’s been plenty of fights against these small big chain supermarkets moving into neighbourhoods where locals have come out to support their shopkeepers.

My problems is my local shop isn’t run by a friendly shopkeeper — they don’t even make eye contact. Their range is poor and expensive. And if I buy milk in the summer it will go off before the use-by date. Yet the family that run it are there 13 hours a day every day, I suspect they don’t take a day off and have never had a holiday. Plus they are conveniently at the top of my street so I can pop there to get milk before breakfast.

I guess the best I can do is only use the lovely Tesco Express for things I usually buy for my local shop. And I have to hope they aren’t driven out of business.

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AppifierAppifier is a new product that promises to turn your WordPress blogs into iPhone apps with ease. I tried it last week and it was easy. Install a plugin on your blog, upload an icon and loading screen png to Appifier and your app is ready. You can see it on your iPhone using its Sandbox app.

Appifier submit your app to Apple but you need your own developer account ($99 a year). The ongoing cost of Appifier is $39.99 a month or $499.99 a lifetime. The Appifier cost includes push notifications and you can monetise it with AdMob or Adsense without paying Appifier a cut.

So far, so simple, so a-little-pricey.

The first problem is the resulting app is as simple as setup process. It shows the latest seven posts as simple image and text. You navigate to older posts via their categories and search. That’s it. No comments or commenting.

This leads on to the second problem — what is the point? It doesn’t make a compelling app. You’d have to have a pretty loyal readership to get a decent number of iPhone users. And the sort of bloggers this simple approach will appeal to will not.

I’m sure Appifier have bigger plans and more features on the way but I cannot see how it will justify its cost and bring in enough app traffic.

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More or Less

More or LessI’ve been gorging on podcasts lately. For the first time in a long time I’m up to date on the Scott Mills Daily and I’ve listened to the latest series of Radio 4’s More or Less. Presented by The FT’s Tim Hartford, it is a 30 minute looks at maths, statistics and numbers in the news.

Now, I understand that this might not sound interesting. However it does a great job of explaining and debunking things. In particular I like how it takes figures in the news and checks their validity (a bit like Channel 4’s Fact Check).

In the last episode it checked if the projected benefits of High Speed 2 are realistic and if executive pay has really risen by 70%. It presented both sides of the argument while explaining how complicated these things are to get right.

(It does look like the High Speed 2 benefits were calculated in good faith but it is hard to predict travel in 2070. Executive pay hasn’t risen by so much across the board.)