Gonzalo E. Mon is a partner in the Advertising Law practice at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and his co-author, John J. Heitmann, is a partner in the firm’s Telecommunications group. Read more on Kelley Drye’s advertising blog, Ad Law Access, or keep up with the group on Facebook or Twitter.

If you work with mobile apps, you may already know that privacy is a hot issue. Regulators are pushing companies to improve their privacy practices, Congress is contemplating new laws, and class action lawyers are suing companies that don’t clearly disclose their practices. In the past few weeks, this focus on privacy intensified as the FTC, the California Attorney General, and even the White House weighed in with new announcements.

Two things are clear from this recent burst of activity. First, regulators are putting pressure on everyone in the mobile app ecosystem to improve their practices, so you can’t just assume that it’s your partner’s responsibility to comply. And with the number of regulators focusing on these issues, it’s going to be a lot harder for companies to hide. No matter what role you play in the mobile app ecosystem, you should pay attention to these developments. Here’s what you need to know.


Increased Focus on App Privacy


In February, the FTC issued a report about mobile apps directed to children. Although these apps can collect a broad range of information, the FTC noted that neither the app stores nor app developers provide enough information for parents to determine what data is collected from their children or how it is used or shared. In some cases, this could be a violation of federal law. The FTC wants all members of the kids app ecosystem to play an active role in making appropriate disclosures to parents.

Shortly after the FTC issued its report, the California Attorney General announced an agreement with the leading app stores in which the stores agreed to add a field in the app submission process for developers to post their privacy notices or a link to a privacy policy. The agreement is intended to ensure that consumers have an opportunity to access pertinent privacy information before they download an app. Moreover, the app stores have committed to provide a mechanism for consumers to report apps that don’t comply with laws or the app store’s terms of service.

And the White House also stepped into the debate by announcing a data privacy framework that establishes a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” Although the framework speaks broadly about privacy issues, several sections discuss issues that are particularly relevant to the mobile space. For example, the White House encourages app developers to collect only as much personal data as they need and to tailor their privacy disclosures to mobile screens.


5 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Regulators


Given the quickly changing legal landscape — and the growing number of government institutions that want to play a role in that landscape — it can be difficult for companies in the mobile app space to understand what is required. The following five tips address concerns that all of these institutions appear to share. Accordingly, they should form the starting point for your legal analysis when you develop and launch an app.

1. Don’t collect more than you need.

Because data can function as the currency of the digital age, there is often a tendency to collect as much data as possible. Companies think that even if they don’t have an immediate use for the data now, they might find a use (or a buyer) for it later on. Although this may be true, resist the temptation to collect more data than you need for your app to work. This is a core principle of the FTC’s “privacy by design” framework, as well as the new White House framework.

2. Disclose your privacy practices.

You need to make sure that users easily have the ability to learn what information you are collecting from them and how you are using it before they download your app. (The changes the app stores are making as a result of their agreement with the California AG will make this easier.) Make sure that your privacy notices are easy to read and tailored to the mobile setting. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider the Mobile Marketing Association’s Privacy Policy Guidelines for Mobile Apps.

3. Be careful with children.

If you collect personal information from children under 13, you need to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Among other things, COPPA generally requires companies to obtain verifiable consent from parents before they collect personal information from their children. The FTC has challenged app developers for violating COPPA, and the agency’s latest report suggests that the FTC expects all members of the kids app ecosystem to play a role in complying.

4. Consider when to get consent.

Although various bills pending in Congress would require companies to get consent before collecting certain types of information, outside of COPPA, getting consent is not a uniformly applicable legal requirement yet. Nevertheless, there are some types of information (such as location-based data) for which getting consent may be a good idea. Moreover, it may be advisable to get consent at the point of collection when sensitive personal data is in play. Work with your legal counsel to determine what makes sense in your context.

5. Protect the information you collect.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to read stories about major companies who experience data breaches. Data breaches can be costly to address and they may result in lasting damage to your brand. If you are collecting information from consumers, you need to ensure you have physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards to protect that information. For example, certain data should be encrypted and you should limit access to it. Moreover, you should properly dispose of data when you no longer need it.

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David Clarke is CEO and Co-Founder of BGT Partners, a 2011 and 2010 Ad Age Best Place to Work in the U.S. BGT creates interactive marketing and technology solutions for global corporations that strengthen brands, develop more engaging relationships and transform businesses.

It’s time to take tablet design seriously and evaluate how your brand’s web presence caters to tablet consumers. As usual, Apple is the primary driver behind tablet growth, and the new iPad is yet again redefining the tablet experience and pushing the boundaries of how we use the web.

But what does it mean for your web presence? Below are three ways for your brand to excel in the tablet revolution so you don’t get left behind.


1. Prepare Your Site to Go “Beyond HD”


Just as the demand for high-definition technology forced broadcasters to convert their shows, the new iPad may force brands to make their websites retina display-friendly. With the new iPad, your site is not going to look the same as it did before. The original and second-generation iPads both have a screen resolution of 1024 x 768, but the new iPad’s resolution of 2048 x 1536 is double that in both directions.

The retina display’s pixel density is so high that your eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels. And with a 44% better color saturation than before, coupled with A5X quad-core graphics, images on your site will pop off the screen and be crisper and sharper at any size. Existing apps will be updated automatically, and they will look better, but as Tim Cook stated during the unveiling, “If a developer takes a little bit of time, they can do little things that are mind-blowing.”

What does this mean for your brand?

To really take advantage of the retina display, brands need to put more emphasis on high-quality imagery, colors and overall attention to design details. Let’s face it — a poor design will make you look even worse in HD, while high-resolution imagery and a broader range of colors will ensure your site stands out.


2. Prepare for Voice- and Gesture-Controlled Interfaces


New iPad
Do you remember the movie Minority Report? It featured Tom Cruise swinging his hands and using his voice to control a computer screen. This was fiction 10 years ago, but voice- and gesture-controlled interactions are rapidly moving from fantasy to reality. Gesture-controlled video game systems like Nintendo’s Wii and the Xbox Kinect have been hugely successful, and LG recently came out with a voice- and gesture-controlled TV. That’s not to mention the splash that Siri made in the mobile world.

Although the new iPad doesn’t include Siri, it does include a voice dictation feature. However, voice- and gesture-enabled websites are bound to be a key part of the future web experience. In fact, Apple recently filed for a patent called the “Three-Dimensional Imaging and Display System,” hinting that the company is exploring gesture-controlled interactions.

What does this mean for your brand?

Well for now, Siri only works with a few of the iPhone’s built-in apps (email, search, calendar, etc.), but just imagine what will happen when Apple opens Siri up to third-party developers. Brands will be able to create Siri-friendly apps (for mobile and tablet) to allow customers to use their voices to carry out mundane tasks, such as paying your electric bill or transferring money from one account to another. To prepare yourself, focus on your key customers and their most important tasks and consider how your current apps can be improved through voice-controlled interactions.


3. The New iPad Is a Tipping Point for Tablets


New iPad Resolution
With the explosive growth of tablets and mobile, people are accessing the web on an increasing array of devices, and your consumers are now expecting your site to work equally well on their desktop, smartphone and tablet. But how do you accommodate for this when there are hundreds of different devices and screen resolutions? Creating separate sites for each device on the market can be expensive and difficult to manage, as the landscape is constantly changing.

What does this mean for your brand?

A smart approach to this challenge is implementing responsive web design, which utilizes one set of code to display content effectively across all devices. Gone are the days of creating entirely separate websites in parallel desktop and mobile versions. Now you can construct an extremely flexible website to handle multiple environments.

A responsive design responds to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. As the user switches from a laptop to iPad, the website will automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. Essentially, your site will scale to whatever device your customer is using.


In Summary


Before you do anything, start with a thorough audit of how your current website performs on the new iPad. Look at imagery, colors, fonts and overall opportunities to improve the visual experience. Next, start the planning process to integrate voice and gesture-controlled interactions into your site — this is the future of tablets. Finally, convert your site design to one that’s responsive so it can be viewed optimally on every device in the market, starting with a tablet.

Follow these steps and your brand will not only be “beyond HD,” but will also excel in the tablet revolution.

 

The New iPad Details Hit Apple.com

The new 9.7-inch iPad has 2048 x 1536-pixel retina display, 5-megapixel camera (with the same optics sensor from the iPhone 4S) and 1080p video recording. It is available March 16 in black and white, powered by A5X chip (with quad-core graphics) and supports 4G LTE networks. It’s 9.4 millimeters thick and 1.4 pounds.

Wi-Fi only iPads cost $499 for 16 GB, $599 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB, while 4G versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. Pre-orders start today, and the devices will be in stores March 16 in these 10 countries: U.S., UK, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

Credit: Apple.com

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Michael Schneider is CEO of Mobile Roadie, the leading self-service mobile app platform. With more than 16 million users, Mobile Roadie powers over 3,000 apps for some of the world’s most popular artists and brands.

You don’t need to own app development software — you just think you do.

Often a business encounters one of two scenarios: Either a company is hesitant to go with a development platform because it’s so much cheaper than building an app from scratch. (“If it’s so cheap, something must be wrong.”) They feel they need to “own” the app and source code. Or companies rely on in-house IT departments for development projects, even when they don’t need to.

When a brand new industry emerges (such as SaaS app builders), it takes time for companies to realize that, many times, it’s not cheaper. Over time, this problem will correct itself, in much the same way that WordPress, Tumblr, Square Space and others have become acceptable solutions for building a website, despite their low costs.

On the other hand, IT departments that think they can do it all can actually be dangerous for the companies that employ them. If you’re a technology company, meaning tech is your main business and not just a function within a larger organization, perhaps it does make sense to try and build in-house. But for most organizations, IT groups simply exist to serve the larger purpose of the business, likely something other than tech.

Saying no to an in-house IT department that wants to build mobile may take courage, but it may be in the organization’s best interests.

Or companies may insist: The price is right, IT agrees that it should outsource app creation, but they want to own the source code. This is equivalent to telling Microsoft that you want to use Windows, but that you need the source code to seal the deal. This often derails otherwise great use of app platforms, and causes the organization to build from scratch when, in reality, the organization does not need to own the source code.

Mobile moves at lightning speed. If you own the source code when Apple and Google come out with new versions of iOS and Android, it’s up to you to build in new features and make sure your app is up to snuff. And with new phones and software versions coming out monthly, this can be a daunting and expensive task.

In these three instances, building an app from scratch makes sense.

  1. If it’s your core business to be in the app market.
  2. If you’re trying to build a game.
  3. If your needs are truly, highly custom.

However, if your app is content-driven, there is no good reason to build something from scratch, or to own the source code. There are many impressive platforms on which to build content-based apps, with great viral sharing features, media, gamification and more — at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to build from the ground up. So, stop your IT department from trying to do it all.

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David Tucker is a principal architect at Universal Mind. As the resident Apple and Adobe expert, he works closely with Universal Mind’s clients to develop rich user experiences that leverage many of today’s exciting new development platforms. Follow David on Twitter @mindmillmedia.

Many companies have mobile apps at the top of their to-do lists, but while churning out a quick app is fairly straightforward, developing a strategic application or digital “solution” is considerably more complex. Smart planning is essential.

Here are 10 things to consider before developing your app.


1. Agree on goals for the program.


When developing a digital solution strategy, first examine your organization’s goals for the program. Are you looking to be seen as innovator, or fend off competition by showing progress in the space? Simply showing initial momentum and previewing the future roadmap can often place you ahead of the competition. Should your digital solutions help build customer loyalty and enable greater customer self-service, or is your highest priority to create new revenue streams? Once you’ve agreed on the goals, prioritize them so you’ll know where to start.


2. Understand your target users.


The next step is to understand who your target users are, their goals and requirements, and the technologies they use. This process includes researching the platforms your users are most likely utilizing, then gaining an understanding of each user experience. Every device is different, and every user has multiple needs. For example, a person might typically use an online banking application to pay a bill, but he might use the bank’s mobile application to find the closest ATM.


3. Build a user testing focus group.


Spending time with your target users is the only way to ensure you really understand what they are looking for in a mobile application. As you move through the process of discovery, you can discuss ideas with this group on a daily basis. Focus groups can provide value from the far beyond the initial discovery phase.


4. Identify a minimally viable solution set.


Don’t try to tackle the whole problem at once. Instead, companies should identify a minimally viable solution and start there. In other words, release a basic but functional app as a foundation, then take advantage of the efficient upgrade paths most devices offer to provide regular updates. This enables you to enter the market more quickly and refine as needed. Plus, periodically giving your users access to new developments ensures your organization stays top-of-mind.


5. Plan for multiple releases.


With mobile applications, releasing the initial version is only the beginning. Statistics show that many users will re-engage with your application when new features are added. Spread key functionality across the first handful of releases to keep your users engaged. Be careful not to release too often, lest users feel bombarded. In many cases, a 2-3 month window between major releases will keep your users engaged over a longer period of time.


6. Balance your users and your business.


Balancing business drivers with real user needs can be difficult. In many cases, the two are at odds with one another. Therefore, arm yourself with the right information to make smart tradeoffs. Collect research such as user studies, expert opinions, and business viability and technical feasibility studies. This body of data can then be weighed to achieve the best balance between user-centric solutions and business-value gains.


7. Know what is out there.


Spend time exploring apps in each of the platforms you plan to support. Each platform offers different interface paradigms and a different collection of applications. Experimenting with the most popular applications will help you understand not only what is possible on the platform, but also the user’s expectations. If possible, use a different mobile platform device during the exploration process.


8. Bring your IT team into the discussions early.


The far greater technical challenge is tying your backend business processes to a digital solution that encompasses smartphones and kiosks, for example. The technology infrastructure for a multichannel solution goes well beyond the platform you choose for front-end development. In order to be successful, companies must consider how to architect data delivery and API management as well as security, scalability, content aggregation, device optimization, API translation, etc. Bring your IT team into the discussion before you get too far down the planning path.


9. Decide on a technology you can live (and grow) with.


As the mobile space matures, there will be many more application develop choices. In many cases, your goals will help determine what you choose here. For example, if your goal is to reach as many users as possible across all platforms, you may choose an HTML framework with little hardware integration. If your goal is to provide deep hardware integration for augmented reality technology, then you’ll probably develop a native application. Decisions around technology can directly affect your app’s functionality.


10. Plan to analyze.


The final step in the process is determining how to measure success. With a morass of potential features, devices, platforms and technologies, success can be challenging to define, but it will affect your ultimate strategy. Consider the following questions.

  • Will this increase our transaction volume and, therefore, revenue?
  • Will this increase customer adoption and retention?
  • Will this increase our brand recognition and loyalty?
  • Will this decrease our costs?
  • How many people do we want using our app?
  • How do we want to integrate the solution with our social media program?
  • How will we integrate with our existing analytics tools?

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Jon Barocas is the founder and CEO of bieMEDIA, a Denver-based online marketing and media solutions company that specializes in video content production and distribution, mobile visual search, technology platforms, SEO, VSEO and more.

Like most technology fans, I am always ready and willing to try any technology that promises to simplify my life. QR codes seemed to present an accessible and uniform way for people with smart devices to interact with advertising, marketing and media. Those little squares of code seemed to open a world of opportunity and potential. But after using them for a length of time, I shifted my perspective.

My initial honeymoon with QR codes was very short-lived. The initial rush that I had received from trying to frame the code on my device had lost its luster. I started to view QR codes as a barrier to additional information. And in many instances, the rewards (whatever I received as a result of scanning the code) did not measure up to the effort of the transaction itself.

Consider a recent study by comScore, which states that only 14 million American mobile device users have have interacted with a QR code. In essence, less than 5% of the American public has scanned a QR code. So where’s the disconnect?

Inadequate technology, lack of education and a perceived dearth of value from QR codes are just three of the reasons mobile barcodes are not clicking with Americans. But it goes deeper than that.

Humans are visual animals. We have visceral reactions to images that a QR code can never evoke; what we see is directly linked to our moods, our purchasing habits and our behaviors. It makes sense, then, that a more visual alternative to QR codes would not only be preferable to consumers, but would most likely stimulate more positive responses to their presence.


The QR Alternative


Enter mobile visual search (MVS). With MVS, you simply point at a product or logo and shoot a picture with your smartphone’s built-in camera. Within seconds, the MVS application will provide product or company information, or even the option to make a purchase right then and there on your mobile device.

MVS is a far more compelling and interactive tool to enable mobile marketing and commerce. In today’s increasingly mobile world, instant gratification is the norm, and taking the extra step of finding a QR code scanner on your mobile device no longer makes sense. With MVS, you are interacting with images that are familiar and desirable, not a square of code that elicits no reaction.

The opportunities are boundless with MVS. Unlike two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes, MVS will have wrap-around and three-dimensional recognition capabilities. Even traditional advertising will be revitalized with MVS. For example, picture an interactive print campaign that incorporates MVS as part of a competition or game. Marketers can offer instant gratification in the form of videos, mobile links, coupons or discounts as incentive for taking the best pictures of a particular product or logo.

The world has already started to migrate to MVS. For example, companies in Argentina and South Korea currently allow commuters waiting for subways or buses to view images of groceries or office supplies. Embedded within these images are recognitions triggers: Smartphone users place and pay for an order to be delivered or picked up within minutes. 

Also, MVS can cash in on word-of-mouth marketing. Marketers will seamlessly link their campaigns to social networks so consumers can share photos and rewards, such as vouchers, coupons or music downloads, with their friends and followers.


QR Code Security Risks


In addition to being a more versatile medium, mobile visual search is also more secure than QR code technology. Cybercriminals are able to cloak smartphone QR code attacks due to the nature of the technology — QR codes’ entire purpose is to store data within the code. There is no way to know where that code is going to take you: a legitimate website, infected site, malicious app or a phishing site. MVS’s encryption modality will eliminate the opportunity for malicious code to download to your smartphone.

Recently, there have been documented cases of QR code misuse and abuse around the globe. For instance, infected QR codes can download an app that embeds a hidden SMS texting charge in your monthly cellphone bill. QR codes can also be used to gain full access to a smartphone — Internet access, camera, GPS, read/write local storage and contact data. All of the data from a smartphone can be downloaded and stolen, putting the user at risk for identity theft — without the user noticing.

Mobile visual search is a safer and more secure technology that can provide more information and content than a QR code, without as many security risks. By focusing on real-world objects and images rather than code, MVS lessens the risk of a virus or Trojan attack.

Safety, security and versatility — there are many reasons that MVS will supplant QR codes. However, there is one important, largely overlooked reason to favor MVS over QR codes: For the first time, we will be able connect with our actual surroundings in a truly interactive way. We will be able to provide a virtual marketplace that is familiar and accessible. Humanizing this interaction and making it more visual are the foundations of MVS’s imminent success.

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Daniel Atwood works with organizations in the social sector to craft meaningful experiences for customers and constituents, and to find innovative product, campaign and messaging ideas in unexpected places.

We live in a world where new digital products are solving problems daily — from managing our finances to remembering the groceries. Often, they’re solving problems we didn’t know we had, like the need to connect several times a day in 140 characters or less. Occasionally, they’re creating new problems (but that’s a topic for another conversation).

What we’re just starting to see, and what is for many the most exciting trend in technology, is the emergence of digital products designed specifically to provide social services at scale. This isn’t a rant about the death of the traditional non-profit, but a birth announcement. Non-profits (and other organizations aimed at making a social impact) are taking new approaches that look less like direct service and more like Google. These aren’t just brochure websites. They’re tools — proprietary, unique and scalable. And this means there’s an increased need for talented digital product managers in the social sector.

Let’s take a quick look at where organizations have been focused for the past several years; we’ll call it Non-profit Digital Engagement 1.0.

In this phase, a handful of tools came to dominate our understanding of how non-profits could engage in the digital space. Specifically, these were tools that enabled people to email Congress, sign a petition, tell-a-friend, send a letter to the editor or make a donation. This toolset focused on two activities: fundraising and advocacy — raising money and making noise. Those activities are important for most organizations, but they represent only a small slice of how non-profits actually aim to create change. And partly as a result, too many organizations were applying the same tools to engage people around wildly different problems.

So, what’s next? In short, less focus on tools that aim to engage more people with causes, and more focus on a new wave of customized digital tools that provide social services at scale to constituents.

Some examples:

  • Kiva: This is an early one, but one worth noting. Kiva created a digital platform to connect small-dollar funders with nascent social entrepreneurs. This let it scale its model in a way that would have been nearly impossible had it not put a significant focus on technology.
  • Brighter Planet: Actually a for-profit company, Brighter Planet is a great example of using digital thinking to find new ways of adding value to social causes. It created the CM1 platform to calculate carbon impact and opened it up with APIs that allow others to plug in and do the same. MasterCard has signed on and will soon be providing carbon impact reports to its corporate clients based on its employees’ travel habits. Brighter Planet has focused on a specific need, and it’s offering a scalable solution for it.
  • Google’s Haiti Person Finder: When an earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, Google teamed up with the State Department to rapidly create a tool that let people submit and search for information about missing loved ones. It has since deployed it several times for other disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Chile and the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan.

These examples go beyond the traditional paradigm of raising more money and sending more emails to Congress. They are each providing a real service in a constituent-centric, scalable way that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

A corollary to this promising growth in digital services is that it’s going to require more money invested in work that is traditionally viewed as ‘overhead’ in the non-profit world; namely, the significant staff time, design and development costs associated with creating and maintaining great digital products. Donors will have to think differently about investing in these types of projects. And organizations that hope to undertake them will have to lead the way by educating and inspiring donors in new ways.

For those groups that do want to create and scale digital services like these, the key to success will be putting the right people with the right power in the right positions. There is still a dire need for campaigners and organizers — no question about it. But as often happens in this still-evolving field, we’re seeing a new core role emerge naturally: the digital product manager. Product managers — people who can envision, build and market digital tools that add real value — will play an increasingly critical role. Good product managers thrive on strategic thinking, but are also obsessed with ensuring that the final detail is just right. They care as much about design as about sustainable coding. They are tireless, tenacious and patient.

As many have already noted, we can’t solve all of our problems with technology. But technology has opened up new opportunities for organizations to create scalable, innovative services in the social sector. And we’re just beginning to realize the implications of that shift.

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Seth Porges is a magazine editor and the creator of Cloth, an iOS fashion app for iPhone and iPod Touch. His Twitter handle is @sethporges.

App appeal is obvious. The barrier to entry? So low! The upshot of producing the next Angry Birds or beer-chug simulator? So high! Heck, with just a small investment of time and cash, it’s not hard for would-be mobile moguls to turn a concept into a steady stream of cash. And thanks to today’s app stores, it’s never been easier to try your hand at becoming the next tech tycoon.

Here’s (almost) everything you need to know before you get started on your own app — and what I wish I knew before I got into the game.


1. What Does It Cost to Make an App?



If you’re new to the app game, prepare for some sticker shock. Making an app will cost you, at the very minimum, around $10,000. This is for a super-simple program — none of that fancy enterprise or social networking jibber-jabber. Even still, any app worth its weight in code will likely cost you closer to $20,000. 

Unless you have some basic design skills, you’ll need to enlist the help of both a programmer and a designer. And these guys ain’t cheap — particularly programmers who, thanks to a pronounced shortage of qualified coders, can pretty much name their prices. (A suggestion for those low on funds: Find some creative way to come up with the cash. I funded my app through Airbnb income.)

You can try to offload some of your costs by offering your guys equity; on the other hand, everybody tries to get free (or close to free) apps by offering developers equity. So unless you can really sell them on the strength of your idea (or bring something totally rad to the table, such as a celebrity), you better be prepared to pony up some cash. Of course, adding in some equity as a bonus is never a bad idea, so you’ll probably want to dish out some shares too.

This basic supply/demand dynamic also means that many developers ask for some pretty insane terms. Some demand deals that involve a huge upfront payment in exchange for a few weeks (or even just days) of work. And if a decent developer isn’t already working full time, it’s not unreasonable to assume he’s at least a little commitment-averse. So, if you’re serious about making something beyond a quickie cash grab, find a developer you are sure will stay with the project for updates, and not abandon it the second it hits the store.

And get it all in writing. If you don’t want to hire a lawyer, find a boilerplate contract online or get one from somebody else who’s gone through the process, and just swap in your names and numbers.


If you can, you’ll also want to work with people who are local to you — or at least with people who are willing to join you for regular Skype chats or Google Hangouts. I had weekly beer summits with my coder and designer, which proved super helpful as we continued to fine-tune our app well into its development.

One more unavoidable cost: Apple charges $100 per year to hold onto a developer’s account (which you need to publish your app). So be sure to reserve an extra Benjamin for your budget.


2. What Should You Charge for Your App?


I would consider starting one’s app at or near $1.99. It’s premium price, but it’s also immensely satisfying to get more than a buck per download after Apple takes away its 30%. And, as with most things, it’s a lot easier to lower the price later than it is to raise it.

During the holiday period, we briefly played around with a special promotion that dropped our app price to $0.99. Predictably, this spiked our downloads, but it didn’t actually raise our total revenue. Even on Christmas Day — the single biggest download day for just about everybody — our revenue was actually higher a week or so later, once we had raised the price back to $1.99.


The obvious exception: If your primary business model involves in-app purchases, ads or the like, you’ll probably want to give your app away for free. After all, a quick glance at Apple’s top grossing charts shows a whole bunch of free apps.


3. When Will You Get Paid?


Apple sends you cash one month at a time, up to 45 days after the month has ended. So, if your app goes live in January, you can expect your first kickback sometime in early March. Oh, and Apple only pays you if your earned amount totals at least $150, so you may have to wait before getting your first payment. Keep in mind, Apple only pays you through direct deposit.


4. How Do You Write Your iTunes Description?


Don’t try to rock the boat here. Take a look at a bunch of hit apps, and crib their formats. If it works for them, it’ll work for you. Typically, this involves a quickie intro statement, press blurbs and a list of your key features. Then add some screenshots (the most interesting ones first) and call it a day.


5. What’s the Best Way to Beta Test?


Getting an unreleased app onto your friends’ iPhones isn’t the easiest thing in the world. My developer and I are in total agreement that the best method is a program called TestFlight, which makes it very easy to send build updates to registered devices, over the air.


6. What Happens When You Get Featured on iTunes?


Getting featured on iTunes is obviously awesome, but what exactly does it get you? When Apple included our app on its featured lists, we enjoyed a predictable flow of downloads almost identical in volume every single day we were parked there. Especially fascinating, the “New & Notable” list gave us almost exactly twice as many daily downloads as the “What’s Hot” list. I’m assuming this is because, when you tap the “Featured” tab on the “App Store” app, “New & Notable” pops up by default.


7. How Do You Get Press?


As a longtime tech writer, the main advice I can give you in your pursuit for press is that less is more. If you think a site or publication would be into your app, don’t email the entire staff or the big boss — just find the writer who covers your category, briefly summarize your app in an email, and attach a download code (Apple gives you 50 for every update). Smaller sites may be more responsive than the big guys, and if you build up enough buzz, you can rest assured that the majors will come knocking.

If a journalist doesn’t get back to you, move on. And don’t even touch that phone or personal email address (unless that person is a freelancer) — writers hate nothing more than phone or personal inbox press pitches.

Consider also producing an embeddable YouTube or Vimeo ad of some sort. Not only does this provide one more avenue for people to stumble upon your app, but it also gives bloggers something alive and colorful to toss into posts, which could increase the chances that they’ll write about you. Keep it simple, and preferably, well under two minutes. And don’t forget to promote over Twitter, Facebook, etc.


8. How Do You Avoid the Spam?


Within days of hitting the App Store, expect whichever email you linked to your iTunes developer’s account to be pounded with spam. Most try to lure you into ponying over money in exchange for positive reviews, under the guise of “mobile marketing.” Let’s put it this way: If you don’t regularly buy Viagra pills online, then you probably shouldn’t give cash to these guys. Of course, if you’re smart enough to make an app, you’re smart enough to know this already.

What other tips do you have for app development and promotion? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, Andres Rueda

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Dallas Lawrence is the chief global digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s leading public relations and communications firms. He is a Mashable contributor on emerging media trends, online reputation management and digital issue advocacy. You can connect with him on Twitter @dallaslawrence.

If an individual or activist group broke into an organization’s office, raided confidential materials and then burned the building to the ground, local, state and federal officials would have swarmed the crime scene in an all out effort to bring the perpetrators to justice for an act of terrorism. Meanwhile, savvy online audiences and members of the media almost dismissively refer to the online versions of these raiders as “hacktivists,” conjuring up images of harmless school kids having fun pushing the boundaries of online security.

As we saw this morning with the Susan G. Komen Foundation website hack -– and again as “Anonymous Brazil” signaled they had successfully “taken down” the website of Brazil’s largest state bank — these groups are anything but harmless. One study from 2011 identified the average financial impact of these types of breaches to be just north of $7 million per incident.

SEE ALSO: 6 Tips for Handling Breaking Crises on Twitter

Whether you are a respected non-profit with a decades-long track record, or a state-owned financial institution in Latin America, organizations must diligently prepare for inevitable online intrusions and the challenging communications demands that result. There are four key considerations for organizations seeking to retain credibility and confidence as trusted stewards of information before and after a breach.


1. Think Ahead and Anticipate


The best offense is often the best defense — and this is certainly true in the online security game. Every organization involved in any form of data (online contributions, email petitions, online sales, social gaming, employee data, etc) is vulnerable to attack. Smart organizations are using their pre-hack peacetime wisely to invest in a forensics security assessment and to address identified weaknesses. In addition to the technical diligence, organizations must ensure their corporate communications, IT and legal teams understand who will be responsible for managing breaches and have a well planned rapid response crisis program in place.


2. Say Something


In the immediate aftermath of an attack, the lack of information can cause severe organizational paralysis. This paralysis hampers communications efforts, ultimately allowing external forces to shape the lens through which a response is viewed.

Identifying immediately what you know for certain and what you don’t know is critical. For example, organizations need to be prepared to address questions and concerns about the security of the system. Even though an activist may hijack a site to make a political point, it highlights a deeper potential for vulnerability that must be addressed.

Importantly, saying something does not mean saying everything. The rush to respond can have equally devastating consequences for the ill-informed and unprepared. Communicating what you know for certain and what you are doing to investigate — and even what you are still trying to determine — demonstrates responsiveness and transparency to stakeholders that rightly feel equally violated by the breach. Creating a direct response channel for those exposed — via an online registration system or a 24/7 call center — is another important sign of responsiveness. Total silence creates a vacuum of frustration that antagonists are only too happy to fill.


3. Know the Law


Every single state in the Union has separate reporting rules and regulations for what constitutes personally identifiable information (PII). These rules also govern when organizations that have been the victim of a breach must notify the public. Attempting to unravel this multi-state patchwork for the first time with your stakeholders, the media and law enforcement officials all demanding answers can be crippling.

Ensure that your team understands the regulations in each state — and country — you operate in, and make sure your compliance team is fully integrated with your communications team. Often, you will not be the arbiter of when to go public with news of your breach. The worst thing an organization can do from a reputational standpoint is to allow the narrative to shift from being the victim of an attack to the villain who failed to notify and protect those individuals whose data may have been compromised.


4. Remember, You’re Not Alone


In almost every case of online breaches, the “victims” number in the thousands — if not millions. It is not just the organization that has been violated, it is every employee whose social security number may have been exposed, every charitable donor who supported a cause, every business partner that shared data and every consumer who purchased a product. Keep these important groups informed and at the forefront of your communications efforts. They can be powerful advocates. Engaging quickly with local and federal law enforcement officials shows transparency and responsiveness — don’t be afraid to tell that story of cooperation.


In 2012, data will continue to emerge as the new form of global currency, and hacking will continue its evolution as the new face of popular protest. The fundamental reality for every business or organization is that everyone is now in the business of data — and its protection.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tomhoryn

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James Phillips is co-founder and senior vice president of products for Couchbase, a leading NoSQL database company.

Online gaming has steadily grown over the past decade, now generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and representing one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. In the last couple of years, social games have taken center stage, producing the vast majority of growth in the online gaming market.

If you are planning to build and launch a social game, growth is what you should be concerned with and prepared for. In large part due to their tie to Facebook, these games can accelerate from zero to millions of users literally overnight — Zynga’s CityVille game reached 100 million monthly active users within 40 days of its launch. Cost-effectively supporting that kind of growth, while sustaining a snappy and compelling gaming experience, presents an enormous challenge at every layer of the game’s technology stack.

On the flipside, many games tend to peak and then wane over time. As important as it is to be able to absorb new users during the growth phase of a game, it is equally important to be able to dial back resources (and therefore cost) as the game’s popularity declines.


Managing Social Game Data


The database layer presents a particular challenge for these games, as traditional approaches to data management tend to fall short in these environments. This is a new and vibrant area of technology innovation. Three key attributes characterize the data layer of a social game that is prepared for success:

  • Elasticity: Matching infrastructure costs to demand optimizes a game’s profitability. The ability to easily dial up (and dial down) database resources is a critical part of that equation. One should be able to make these capacity changes to a live game so there is never a need to take a game offline, maintaining continuous revenue generation.
  • Low latency: Interactive games must be responsive. Making a player wait for feedback leads to abandonment. If the experience is not quick and predictable, users leave … and take their entertainment budget with them. Database technologies must be able to consistently deliver sub-millisecond random reads and writes of data, across the entire scaling spectrum.
  • Data format flexibility: The best social games adapt, delaying or preventing boredom and the resulting decline in active user count. The data tier must be flexible enough (even at very large scale, and without downtime) to support the changing data management requirements of a game in transition.

These are hard problems to solve at social gaming scale. To meet these needs, a new class of database — the NoSQL database — has garnered a lot of attention in the last couple of years. New open source, NoSQL databases provide the kind of performance and flexibility required of a social game database. If you are preparing for social gaming success, they are worthy of consideration.


Choosing the Right NoSQL Database


Selecting the right NoSQL database can be difficult. It seems like a new NoSQL database project appears every week. Sorting through the options can be daunting. There are various classes of NoSQL database: key-value, document, graph, columnar. Each data model has pros and cons.

Which is right for a social game? There is a lot of talk about “Big Data” in addition to NoSQL. Are these the same thing?

Let’s sort through these questions, in reverse order:

Big Data vs. Big Audience

There are two fundamental problems being addressed at the data layer today.

  • Big Data. Data is being generated at an unprecedented rate. How can you efficiently analyze these extremely large datasets and identify patterns, trends and opportunities? This is the “Big Data” problem. Technologies like Hadoop, Map-Reduce and Cassandra are solutions built for analyzing very large datasets. They are generally batch-oriented and focused on analysis.
  • Big Audience. Social games have user counts measured in the millions. Millions of users put tremendous pressure on a database — regardless of the size of the dataset. Even with only a few bytes per user (and thus a fairly small aggregate dataset size), keeping up with a non-stop stream of random reads and writes from a large number of concurrent users is incredibly hard. This is the Big Audience problem and what NoSQL databases are designed to address.

Of course, if you have a Big Audience, you are probably going to generate Big Data. And most social games deploy both a transactional NoSQL database for real-time data serving to the application and a Big Data solution for data analysis.

Classes of NoSQL Database

The term “NoSQL” database is an unfortunate choice. More accurate would be “non-relational,” transactional database. This is the consistent characteristic across these “NoSQL” databases (some of which, confusingly, do support at least a subset of SQL). So if these solutions are not relational, what are they?

There are a number of data models: key-value, document, column-oriented and graph to name the most common. Each model has pros and cons making them more or less appropriate for a given application. Document-oriented databases power the majority of NoSQL deployments behind social games, largely due to their balance of four key criteria:
 

  • Performance. The document data model keeps related data in a single physical location in memory and on disk (a document). This allows consistently low-latency access to the data — reads and writes happen with very little delay. Database latency can result in perceived “lag” by the player of a game and avoiding it is a key success criterion.
  • Dynamic elasticity. Because the document approach keeps records “in one place” (a single document in a contiguous physical location), it is much easier to move the data from one server to another while maintaining consistency — and without requiring any game downtime. Moving data between servers is required to add and remove cluster capacity to cost-effectively match the aggregate performance needs of the application to the performance capability of the database. Doing this at any time without stopping the revenue flow of the game can make a material difference in game profitability.
  • Schema flexibility. While all NoSQL databases provide schema flexibility, key-value and document-oriented databases enjoy the most flexibility. Column-oriented databases still require maintenance to add new columns and to group them. A key-value or document-oriented database requires no database maintenance to change the database schema (to add and remove “fields” or data elements from a given record).
  • Query flexibility. Balancing schema flexibility with query expressiveness (the ability to ask the database questions, for example, “return me a list of all the farms in which a player purchased a black sheep last month”) is important. While a key-value database is completely flexible, allowing a user to put any desired value in the “value” part of the key-value pair, it doesn’t provide the ability to ask questions. It only permits accessing the data record associated with a given key. I can ask for the farm data for user A, B and C to see if they have a black sheep, but I can’t ask the database to do that work on my behalf. Document-databases provide the best balance of schema flexibility without giving up the ability to do sophisticated queries.

 

Which Option Is Right for Your Game?

If you agree that a document-oriented approach is correct, then you’ve already substantially reduced the number of contenders. If you were previously considering Big Data and NoSQL as synonymous, you’ve further reduced the set. From there, you should consider the important attributes we previously identified: elasticity, concurrent random read latency and throughput, and data format flexibility.

Additionally, one must consider the ease with which developers can build applications that interact with the database. Are there well-maintained and documented SDKs/client libraries? Is there a community of users to provide support and guidance? Is the technology being actively developed, enhanced and improved? Can you get commercial support if desired?

If you are considering building a social game, you must consider the infrastructure requirements to support growth. Your choice of database technology is arguably the most important infrastructure component decision you will make.

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Paul Baldwin is the chief marketing officer of Outfit7 Inc., a subsidiary of Out Fit 7 Ltd, the leading entertainment app developer. Paul has more than 17 years of experience developing, marketing and monetizing digital entertainment content.

Spend a few minutes browsing through both the Android and Apple app stores and it’s easy to see the fierce competition for user attention. The number of apps has grown to more than 1 million, each vying for downloads and market share.

The app development world is still very top-heavy, with a very small percentage of developers controlling the majority of downloads and revenue. But that in no way means that a newcomer can’t build a successful app that captures the hearts and minds of consumers, and becomes the next big thing.

Since the app stores themselves control which apps are elevated and highlighted, how can you ensure your app gets time in the spotlight and the attention it deserves? Here are six tips drawn from experience.


1. Focus on Product


The best way to get your app noticed is to build a unique and engaging product. Although that’s an article all on its own, let’s sum it up in a few key points.

Know your exact market and who you’re competing against. This will help you understand your target user — what he expects and likes and who else is offering apps to him.  

Great apps are also usually the first in their category, or apps that completely reinvent existing categories. A big sign that you have a great app is when you start seeing copycat apps. Embrace them and use them as motivation to continue.

Another element that great apps have in common is fun. You want to make your app something that users will come back to again and again, rather than a one-time, disposable thrill. Whether that means creating lovable characters or tapping into the human desire to compete, remember to deliver fun the first time and every time after.

Also, great apps are simple. No user guides should be necessary to participate, and there should be nothing to “figure out” from a user standpoint. They are intuitive and immediately easy to grasp.

Finally, the last big hallmark of a phenomenal app product is the ability for users to make the app personal through customization features. Today’s app audience is constantly wondering what’s in it for them. Allow them to make it theirs and they’ll more likely become instantly enamored.


2. Allow Users to Engage Others with Your App


These days, more developers are using social media as part of the app as a major key to its success. Your customers’ word-of-mouth multiplies your network a hundred times over without costing you a dime, so be sure to put mechanisms in place that allow users to talk about the app and share experiences with friends.

For example, if your app enables users to create fun videos, make sure they can share those videos with others. This type of direct experience sharing will go a long way in spreading the word about your app.  

Caveat: Don’t “over-viralize” your app with too many social features that don’t make sense.


3. Get Media and Blogger Attention: Make It Simple


Media attention and especially reviews of your app can really help to spread recognition. To get that kind of attention, though, you have to have a solid app to begin with, a great story around your app, and it absolutely must be easy to talk about.

The tendency is to come up with the most ingenious, compelling app, filled with loads of features but none that really stand out. This is called “feature creep” and usually spells disaster. Remember, the launch is just the beginning. Successful apps are always adding new content months after launch. If reporters and bloggers (and users for that matter) have a hard time explaining what your app is, what it does or why they like it, they’re less likely to talk about your app. Keep version one simple.

To make your app easier for media to cover, provide materials like press kits, beta codes (if necessary) and reviewer guides. It also helps to identify technology and pop culture trend stories that your app can fit into.


4. Continue Your Marketing Efforts


When your app launches, you’ll definitely want to have a marketing strategy in place to seize your launch window of opportunity, but it’s also important to continue marketing long after launch.

Many developers find pre-launch strategies helpful for grabbing attention. This includes creating a “coming soon” page that teases your app a bit, collecting emails for those interested in the first look, and even extending first invites to target publication audiences.

Make sure you exhaust every “co-marketing” opportunity out there with other app developers. Some major publishers will trade their app installs for your app installs. Everybody is in the same boat, in the same huge ocean of apps. You might be surprised to find that other developers are more than happy to participate in reciprocal marketing.

The important thing to remember is that app marketing windows are perpetual, meaning you should establish marketing vehicles that you can trigger at your discretion over long periods of time. That means plan, plan, plan.


5. Use Analytics 


When developing apps, you have all kinds of data at your fingertips to evaluate how your app is being received. Use analytics to monitor your ranking and as a marketing tool.

Become a student of the Android and iOS category rankings (e.g., entertainment vs. games). Each category has its own nuances for determining “top” rankings, so be sure to evaluate each one. Understand why the app moved up in the rankings in order to iterate and improve your own ranking over time. Additionally, if you have a good sense of what is moving the bar for your app, you can also learn from what the top developers are doing.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that you leverage the wealth of analytics available from your app to make your app better over time. Not only will the data help you iterate and improve your app from a technical standpoint, but it will also allow you to create the right content to which users connect. Once the app is live, analyze the data to update your release schedule and product roadmap.

You can also learn when your customers are willing to “rate your app” or be pitched another app in your portfolio. Analytics can shed light on how frequently you should attempt to cross-sale or suggest another item for purchase.


6. Prepare for Success


This tip may seem a little strange at first — who wouldn’t be thinking about success? But in reality, many apps start strong then fade and fizzle. Preparing for success is as much about your product as it is about the team behind it.

It’s crucial to structure your team in a way that supports hyper growth. It’s good to rely on a more fluid and dynamic network of expertise and project teams than a rigid structure.

Think of your app as a brand that will enable you to leverage brand extension opportunities. Build your apps to welcome future cross-promotion opportunities, rather than intrusions on the user experience.

The best way to prepare for app success is to constantly focus on keeping your users engaged. Give them more than just product updates once they’ve downloaded and become fans of your app. Give them instant fun, addictive experiences that they will want to share with friends.

Whatever your secret sauce is or has been, be sure to nurture it to keep your users wanting more — and deliver your app in a way that surpasses user expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, ItzaFineDay

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