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Always Taeyeon User Growth

One of the goals I set for myself for my Always Taeyeon app is to try and grow it better than A Healthier Commute. I already had a head start because the topic had more fans and audience, but I wanted the app to be “successful”. Of course, I set the normal hobby rules for the app (e.g., not paying for any promotion).

It’s been almost 2 months since I released and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I’m at about 1300 downloads and a 4.4 star rating with 59 reviews. Obviously I want the download count to be higher, but I think I’m doing pretty well given that the only “promotion” I’ve done is post about it on a couple of Google+ and Facebook groups.

The statistics I’m most keen about now though is Daily Active Users. My app is high quality in the sense that the photos are high quality, but also in the sense that it is maintained well. So there are frequent (photo) updates. In fact, if there are new photos I try to engage with the user every day via a status bar notification. You can’t turn those notifications off – if you want them off, then you don’t care about the photos anyways so just uninstall the app. I’m not convinced that that is affecting my uninstall rate though as my install rate is a decent 42% (~570 current installs).

But does it have an affect on my DAU? I think it does. Here is a graph over time.

It is a nice trend as it is going up and to the right. I think my DAU is pretty impressive though as it is about 71% of my current installs! It’s so good that I’m kind of skeptical that the current install number is incorrect – although I haven’t released the app on other stores, maybe users are just passing around the APK.

New Fitbit….Flex?

Ever since I returned my Fitbit Force, I kind of missed having it. Sure it enabled me to wear a watch again, but I never really did. So I’ve been thinking about getting another fitness tracker for awhile.

I ended up buying a new Fitbit Flex, which is the old model prior to the Force. I debated awhile, because I was also very keen on getting the Xiaomi fitness band that was announced in August. It retails (in China) for only $13 – shipped to Canada would cost about $30 total, which is still less than a third of the cost of a Flex.

In the end, I decided on the Fitbit. 2 reasons:

  1. I was able to buy it on double sale. From a regular price of $99, there was a 25% F&F sale at SportChek, and then another 10% newsletter signup coupon. It ended up costing $67 instead of $100.
  2. Since I already had a Force, I already had data in the FitBit system and getting another FitBit device would contribute to that (instead of starting over)

One thing that weighed on my mind though, was that FitBit had already announced that they would replace the Force with something better! Should I wait for that? I decided no, and I think I did the right thing. Now, the rumors are that FitBit will release the Charge and Charge HR. I’m kind of interested in having a heart rate monitor in my fitness band, but certainly not at a cost of $220!

Android Games 17

Satis-Factory (get it?) is inspired by the board game Pandemic where plays have to cooperatively save the world from diseases. It’s less complicated to play, but has functionality to play locally on the same LAN (sounds interesting but I haven’t tried it yet). Although like the Catan Dice Game (which is no longer available on Google Play), the gameplay seems rather boring.

I know I have a project (on the backburner) to make a Monopoly Deal clone, but it looks like I might not have to do it anymore as there is one on Google Play called Monopoly Deal mini. Sure it plays the game, and there are AI opponents, but the UI and UX sucks. Although, I’ve moved on to other projects so this might be the closest one can get to playing Monopoly Deal on your phone.

Nimble Quest is basically a glorified game of Snake with IAP requirements (mostly because it’s by the same makers as Tiny Tower). Strangely though, I find this less of a grind and more interesting than the Tiny Tower variants that I’ve played as I’m more willing to go through the mundane and repetitive gameplay to level. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t require me to come back to the game every x minutes/hours.

Train Set Setup

Apollo has finally reached an age where he can play with his train set (and not simply try and smash the tracks together to make noise)! We received a base Thomas the Tank engine set as a gift and while that is a fun starter kit, there isn’t enough variation after awhile.

Buying wooden Thomas sets (or one of the other name-brand brands like Brio) is super, super expensive. I suppose you’re would consider them family heirlooms since they don’t really break or age (although the paint is starting to rub off of Thomas), and technological advances (i.e., motorized/compact versions) just don’t feel the same.

In any case, instead of buying some more Thomas sets, we went the cheap route and bought 2 IKEA additions which were relatively affordable (under $20 each), had a nice variety of cars and tracks, and more or less fit the Thomas tracks. The train gauge is the same, the majority of the pieces fit together (although the connections are not exactly the same so some types will not fit together and often you have to work to fit them in) but the polarity of the car magnets are reversed. Not a big deal as the savings in price is significant.

The best part about the train set is not moving the cars around, but coming up with interesting configurations for the tracks. Here are a couple I setup. Apollo doesn’t understand or appreciate the intricacies of making novel tracks yet as he’s more interested in connecting cars into a long chain, and sliding them down hills into the station but at some point hopefully he will!

Qi Magic

Even though I learned the scientific principle behind it as part of my university education, being able to wirelessly charge a device still feels like magic. So I have been pretty excited that the last few Nexus devices support the Qi standard and can be charged wirelessly. I had considered buying the official Google Qi charger because of the magic, but when I thought about it more, it really is spending $50 for the convenience of not plugging in your phone every night.

So I waited until Qi chargers started appearing cheap on the Chinese sites. They have had them for awhile, but it was only in the last few months that they’ve fallen to around the $10 mark. So far I’ve bought 4 Qi chargers and my experience has not been that great.

The first one I bought was on a slant, so that it could work like a dock for your phone when it was charging. I thought it might make my phone more useful as a clock (or at least use the daydream mode). I knew that it would not magnetically hold my phone (like the official charger), but use some sort of anti-slip material. It turns out that anti-slip material was a form of glue/tape that eventually loses its grip. Since the position really matters (and affects energy transfer), this ended up in the garbage quickly.

Next I bought one that was like a hockey puck. This worked fairly well for awhile and I used it as a bedside charger. But the positioning of the phone started making a difference after awhile. Some mornings I would wake up and my phone would only have been charged slightly (annoying) or not at all (useless). Most nights it would be ok – but because it is possibly unreliable, I can’t trust it. I suppose I should have just spent the money on the magnetic one, but I didn’t because I wanted a couple of chargers.

I got a rectangular pad with a larger footprint (similar size to a phablet) for my desk and that has worked fairly well. I find it more useful than plugging my phone in, not because I’m too lazy to plug my phone in there, but because it prevents my phone from being recognized in ADB when I don’t want to deploy apps to it. This has been my most successful use of a Qi adapter.

Finally, I got another puck shaped one and put it in the living room in case I needed to charge my phone there. This again worked for awhile (although I didn’t use it too much) until it decided to burn out or otherwise not function any more. Again it became useless.

I won’t even get in the fact that Qi charging is not 100% efficient and is thus slower than actually plugging the phone in. But ignoring that, my experience with Qi has been much less than magical.

Real Estate Bubble

There are always arguments about whether we’re in a real estate bubble or not, but I suppose it doesn’t matter to me much since I’m invested in the market – i.e., if the market goes up then when I sell I’ll make more money, but it’ll cost me more to buy the next house.

That philosophy is kind of fine, except that the rate that property values are increasing seems to be much higher than the rate of salary increases. In a recent Globe and Mail article, the Toronto neighborhood with the highest property value increases is my neighborhood, Willowdale. From July 2009 to July 2014, the average house value increased 90% from $667k to $1,270k. That’s a yearly growth of 14.1%, and I don’t think most salaries increase that fast (and every year).

The second highest neighborhood is Newtonbrook (just to the west of us) and the third highest is my old stomping grounds Agincourt. They are all above 10% year upon year.

Those numbers seem crazy to me! For perspective, in 2013 the average Canadian salary is under $50k. Looks like Toronto is going to become a SF or NYC.

Android Games 16

I had Spellwood on my Google Play wishlist for a long time until I finally realized that I had a bunch of Amazon coins that would expire in under a year so maybe I should just buy it! It seemed like a more interesting take on traditional Scrabble type games but when I started playing it, I ended up with the same problem I had with most of these games – I suck at them. Eventually, both the computer and I end up resorting to BS “fake” words like aa in certain circumstances and that just sucked the fun out of the game. A lot of the reviews talked about having to buy an IAP in order to continue, but I never even got to that stage because I got stuck on one level where the difficult ramped up suddenly. There’s a XP/equipment system but you can’t seem to grind XP (or equipment) by replaying levels – so rather than improving your character, it’s just a means to introduce new gameplay mechanics (which is lame). I wish I had known about the demo version before so I wouldn’t have to waste my (free) coins.

I also came across another game called Wordiest which builds from the same Scrabble foundation – except this one is a lot more fun. The gameplay is more constrained, you’re given 14 letters and you have to create 2 words from the letters. You’re scored based on the words (same letter-to-points mechanic as Scrabble) and then ranked within a random pool of 100 other players. I like this much better because it doesn’t reward words like aa and you actually have to think within the constraints. It’s also nice for a quick round, but might require internet in order to play. I also wonder how long one would play if you’re ranking is less than 50%

September 2014

This September we did some travelling but it was probably not what you would think. For Labour day we went down to the US since we haven’t been in a long time – that trip was pretty typical, although the highlight of the trip was to reproduce some photos with our newborn.

Later in the month, I went down to NYC for work; but instead of going during the week, I went down on the weekend. The main purpose was to attend Droidcon. It was better & bigger than the last Android conference I attended but unfortunately only had similar swag (there were a lot of opportunities to get t-shirts, but I didn’t bother trying to maximize the swag). I also saw a bunch of people walking around with Google Glass, and almost 50% of the people had Android Wear devices.

While I was down in NYC, Pauline took the kids to visit her sister in Ottawa which was the first time they went on a trip without me. It turned out ok without any disasters so that was great too.

Meanwhile in the city, this month we went to a bunch of places to pick fruits and vegetables. We don’t have a cold cellar so can’t really store any of what we gather, so we basically have to eat or share it. Apollo also started his first music class, although it’s more like listening to music/singing and dancing. Not an actual class where he will learn to play instruments (not even percussion ones). We also went to the zoo, which was actually a lot less fun than you would think (even though Apollo can recognize some of the animals)

This month I also got my second set of wisdom teeth removed. It was an easier process because they were both out anyways – I didn’t even need stiches.

This Is Our Youth

On my recent trip to NYC, I saw Mamma Mia on Saturday night so I had another opportunity on Sunday night to see another theatre show. I had a couple of options but chose This Is Our Youth. I chose this one because it was on a limited engagement so I might not get another chance to see it again. Also, this rendition casted Michael Cera (of Juno, Scott Pilgrim fame) in one of the roles (Kieran Culkin – Scott Pilgram’s gay roommate is also in the play).

The plot is supposed to be about 3 wayward tweeners in 1982, which seemed mildly interesting to me. In the end, I think I would have probably enjoyed seeing something else more. It is a play (rather than a musical) and the amount of dialog that each character had is impressive (there’s only 3 people in the play). I had to sit a little too far away to really make out the characters’ expressions (which, when contrasted with my seat for Mamma Mia was a big difference). And although I understood the plot and the character portrayal; I was confused as to what the play was trying to convey to me. I did not understand the implication of the ending at all.

Pocket Queue 47

  • Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune
    Yet another story about a normal person who won the lottery, only to find his life going sour

    Gerstner says Bonner told her that he had finally hooked up Billy Bob with Stone Street. Bonner told her that Billie Bob would receive $2.25 million in cash in exchange for ten years’ worth of his share of the lottery winnings, worth more than $6 million gross. Gerstner says she immediately knew it was a very bad deal for Billie Bob. She was also concerned about the legality.

  • The Downsides Of Being a Dad
    An article that argues that maybe it doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time with your kids

    I spoke with roughly a dozen experts and posed an identical scenario to each one. Say you have three fathers: one coaches his kid’s Little League team; one shows up to the games and cheers the kid on from the sidelines; and the other drops his kid off at practice. Is there any data to suggest that a kid’s long-term success is determined or even influenced by which type of father he has?

    And the answer, from each of the experts, was the same: nope, none, zero.

  • What Happens When You Enter the Witness Protection Program?
    I was expecting this article to have all sorts of Hollywood stories about criminals being whisked away, and having to live a new life; but no, the focus is mainly about the program itself rather than interesting plot twists

    The Witness Protection Program does face new challenges since its mob heyday and the period described in WITSEC (Shur retired in the 1990s). The first that most consider is the impact of the Internet. Even if it still seems ordinary for an adult in a small town not to use social networks, risk is amplified by the increasing number of digital traces our lives create. In addition, companies and organizations now have much higher expectations for finding a paper trail (or digital record) for any individual, making it harder to create a credible new identity.

  • Why Chinese patients are turning against their doctors.
    Usually when you read about problems in China, it’s about pollution or free speech. Here’s an interesting look at their medical system.

    I heard countless tales of overwork among Chinese doctors. A leading radiologist in Shanghai told me he’d heard that the record number of patients seen in a day is three hundred and fourteen. “That was at the Shanghai Children’s Hospital,” he said. “One doctor, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., ten hours, two minutes per patient.” According to a study conducted in Shaanxi province, the average visit to a doctor’s office lasts seven minutes, and physicians spend only one and a half minutes of that time talking to the patient. As a result, patients tend to be pushy, crowding in doorways and entering without knocking. Joe Passanante, a doctor from Chicago who did a stint at Beijing United Family Hospital, told me that he was once performing CPR on a woman when the parents of a girl with a fever walked into the room. “Here I am pushing on a dead person’s chest, trying to revive her, and they’re asking me to see their daughter,” he recalled.

  • Why do we have blood types?
    Interesting article about the evolutionary reasons why we have blood types – and the pitfalls in our civilization before we realized the concept of blood types

    Landsteiner found that the clumping occurred only if he mixed certain people’s blood together. By working through all the combinations, he sorted his subjects into three groups. He gave them the entirely arbitrary names of A, B and C. (Later on C was renamed O, and a few years later other researchers discovered the AB group. By the middle of the 20th century the American researcher Philip Levine had discovered another way to categorise blood, based on whether it had the Rh blood factor. A plus or minus sign at the end of Landsteiner’s letters indicates whether a person has the factor or not.)