Category Archives: New Products

‘Flappy Bird’ Creator Says He’s Taking The Game Down

Flappy Bird2

In a bizarre turn of events, the Vietnamese creator of the maddeningly difficult #1 Android and Apple iOS game Flappy Bird is saying that he’s taking the game down within the next day.

Developer Dong Nguyen announced the decision on Twitter just a few hours ago:

“I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.”

“It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore.”

“I also don’t sell ‘Flappy Bird’, please don’t ask.”

“And I still make games.”

Nguyen has been the target of a lot of internet hate for creating what many deem a pretty terrible game. In my own teardown of Flappy Bird, I didn’t say I begrudge Nguyen for making such a game, but rather the public who would elevate the title to such popularity. But is criticism alone enough reason to take down the game entirely?

This sort of move is perplexing as Nguyen is reported to be bringing in $50,000 a day from in-app advertising revenue. It would be understandable if say, Nintendo was suing him for ripping off their art, but he claims that isn’t the case.

He also says he’s not interested in selling Flappy Bird, and he still makes other games, many of which are also quite popular on the Android and iOS app stores.

Is this really just a guy who can’t cope with sudden fame and success, or is something else going on here? Is there really a level of internet vitriol that can make someone simply throw away $50,000 a day? I suppose with the amount of flack Nguyen has taken, it can wear on someone, but why delete Flappy Bird and not his other popular, also simplistic titles? If his other games become even more popular and are subsequently also criticized, will he take those down too?

The majority of his Twitter interactions are actually positive conversations with individual fans, thanking them for their support or answering their questions. I was hard pressed to find actual hate-filled comments responding to any of his tweets, even in his most recent ones about taking the game down. That said, I’m sure he’s seen negative things said about him or the game elsewhere on the internet, and one hurtful comment can offset a hundred uplifting ones.

A tweet from Nguyen earlier today says “I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.” Perhaps this really is just an ordinary guy who will do anything to shed the spotlight that was inadvertently cast on him by the public. Still, I’ve never seen anything like this.

I’m not sure I see Nguyen as an entirely sympathetic figure here. While no one deserves personal threats or attacks (if that’s what’s happening), I think criticism of the game or his design of it is valid. The idea is lifted from a thousand other similar games before it. The art and sound effects are taken almost directly from Super Mario Bros, while the bird design and tap mechanics are from 2011′s Piou Piou. These are typical mobile games problems, and the fact that Flappy Bird has been so popular only reinforces the idea that other developers should try to clone their way to the top of the charts.

This all seems very strange, and the story is still developing as we speak. I’ll post updates if any further information comes to light. In the meantime, feel free to suggest your own theories about what exactly is going on here.

Well, I thought there’d be some new bit of information about this by the end of the day, but Dong Nguyen has gone silent and isn’t responding to requests for comment from what I can tell. He’s just one man with no PR representation, and he may not fully comprehend the scale of what he’s announced. He expressed a desire to be rid of the fame Flappy Bird has brought him, but saying he’s going to kill the most popular app in the world has only skyrocketed interest in both him and the game. Since saying he was pulling the game in the next day, he’s amassed another 45,000 Twitter followers and I can’t even imagine what his inbox looks like. As the takedown of Flappy Bird is supposed to happen tomorrow, we should presumably hear more from him then. 

The Ten Commandments Of Efficient Design In Axure

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Axure is a powerful tool for creating software prototypes quickly. Getting started with it is really easy; however, therein lies a danger. The tool is so intuitive that many users can be productive without undergoing any formal training. What they might not be aware of is that they probably aren’t using Axure optimally.

In my experience as a UX designer, I seldom draw a page and get it right the first time. Most of the time, I go through five to ten iterations. When your UX design is used as the blueprint of an agile project, you might need to keep the entire project up to date with the scope of development. Sometimes these changes will affect a dozen or more other pages. It is at these times when some of the less evident features of Axure can become huge time-savers.

I generally work in teams to create wireframes and prototypes. To do this, I make use of Axure’s “shared projects” functionality (“team” projects in Axure 7). Multiple people being able to work on a design project at the same time remains my favorite feature of Axure, but it does demand a tidy and structured way of working. You will undoubtedly find someone else working on a page that you’ve designed or yourself working on another’s page. I’ve written these commandments with Axure in mind, because that is the tool I presently work with, but I’m certain many of the principles apply to other tools.

This list of 10 commandments is what I’ve found to be crucial techniques to save time in the long run. This way of working does not always provide the quickest results in the short term, but it does allow for optimal flexibility further down the line.

I) Thou Shalt Never Use Two Widgets When One Will Do.

The most common time-consuming behavior that I see with beginner and advanced Axure users is the use of unnecessary widgets. I still catch myself making this mistake and have to remind myself constantly of this first commandment. Each widget that you add to your project will require a bit more work when you need to make changes in the future. All of these little bits of work start to add up after ten iterations. Below is a simple example of how two visually identical objects can be built up in different ways.

II) Thou Shalt Not Duplicate, But Rather Make The Object A Master.

When I find myself in a late stage of a design and realize that we need to change the main navigation on every single page, I experience tremendous joy. Not because I enjoy a big pile of repetitive work, but because all I need to do is edit my single master object and — presto — the whole project has been updated.

III) Thou Shalt Place Styles Before Masters.

Masters are great for creating reusable elements, but they do not allow for variations. Each instance of a master will be exactly the same as the others. This is where styles come in. Suppose you have a button design that needs to be replicated on multiple pages, but the labels on the button need to vary. Styles can help you achieve this easily. Every property of a button can be managed through styles; all you need to do is change the label.‘

IV) Thou Shalt Keep Thy Project Organized And Shalt Name Clearly.

Axure provides many options for keeping things organized. Every element that you place on a page can be given a unique name. Pages may be named and organized in a tree structure. Masters may be given names and sorted in folders and so on. But why go through the effort of giving everything a clear name?’

V) Useth Always Global Guides And A Grid.

Axure allows users to create two kinds of guides: local guides, which exist only on one page, and global guides, which are visible on all pages. The guides can be set up using the “Create Guides” dialog box. If you set up guides in, for instance, a default 960 grid, then consistently positioning elements over the different pages becomes a lot easier. Also, your team members will see these global guides in a shared project.

VI) Forgeteth Not The Import Tool.

In most projects, people create elements that are useful in other projects. Instead of reinventing the wheel for each project, reuse things that have worked in the past. Many of the basics will remain the same throughout projects, such as styles, guides and certain masters. Although copying and pasting objects from one .rp file to another is possible, not all information would be carried over. When you paste a button that has a particular style, that style will not be pasted along with it.

VII) Thou Shalt Keep Old Versions Of Pages.

I often find that I need to go back to an old version of a project. In the “good” old days (I won’t bore you with the reasons why “good” is in quotation marks), when I was often required to create wireframes in Visio, managing projects with many pages was difficult, so I would end up taking out the legacy pages. I would also save a new file every few days with an incremental number, so that I had some sort of history of the project. In other words, I ended up with a folder of hundreds of pretty large files, wasting space.

VIII) Thou Shalt Not Make Unnecessary Interactions.

First-time users of Axure are often impressed by the ease with which interactivity can be added to a prototype. When I started out, I couldn’t resist creating every possible interaction on my pages. However, in many cases, my designs could be clearly communicated without any interactivity — simply as still images. I now add interactivity only if the answer to one of the following questions is yes.

IX) Useth Font Icons Instead Of Images.

Another simple but often overlooked way to keep Axure projects manageable is by minimizing the number of images. To change the color of an icon image in a prototype, you would have to go through several steps. You would need to open an image editor, make the changes to the icon, export to a new bitmap, and finally import into your Axure project.

X) Previeweth Thy Prototype In The Browser Or On A Device.

Designers get frustrated upon learning that their prototype doesn’t look the same in the browser as it does in Axure. In particular, text spacing and positioning look off. What’s more, there are even differences between browsers. To avoid surprises, constantly preview your prototype in a browser or on a device if you are designing for mobile.

Summary

A few of these commandments bring results in the short term, but most yield benefit in the long run. All will save time and, perhaps more importantly, keep your work pleasurable.

Snapchat improves app security after user account leak

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After the usernames and mobile numbers of 4.6 million users found their way onto the Web this week, Snapchat has taken steps to plug the some of the security gaps in its photo sharing app. In a blog post that seems short on contrition, the development team promises that an update is on the way to prevent this sort of large-scale data harvesting in the future.

At the center of the security storm is the Find Friends feature that enables your friends to add you on Snapchat via your phone number. With a little bit of hacking, an unscrupulous individual can ping Snapchat’s databases to match names to numbers, and this is exactly what has happened.

Snapchat’s official blog post starts off with a defence of the Find Friends feature before firing a shot across the bows of Gibson Security, who first brought this Snapchat vulnerability to the public’s attention: “A security group first published a report about potential Find Friends abuse in August 2013. Shortly thereafter, we implemented practices like rate limiting aimed at addressing these concerns. On Christmas Eve, that same group publicly documented our API, making it easier for individuals to abuse our service and violate our Terms of Use.”

“On New Years Eve, an attacker released a database of partially redacted phone numbers and usernames. No other information, including Snaps, was leaked or accessed in these attacks,” continues the statement. “We will be releasing an updated version of the Snapchat application that will allow Snapchatters to opt out of appearing in Find Friends after they have verified their phone number. We’re also improving rate limiting and other restrictions to address future attempts to abuse our service.”

So there you have it — you can pull your number out of the Find Friends database once you’ve used it to build up your Snapchat contacts, and the developers will also make it tougher to harvest several million names next time around. According to security firm AdaptiveMobile, users in California and New York were the worst hit by the data breach, with Colorado, Illinois and Florida also heavily targeted.

At the time of writing the Snapchat app update hasn’t yet arrived, but it shouldn’t take long to appear in your app store of choice.

Aviary:The world’s best photo editing SDK

aviary

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Alibaba’s New Online Personal Finance Product Hits 2.5 Million Users, $1 Billion Already Deposited

money

A few weeks ago it was interesting to see China’s e-commerce titan Alibaba move in to disrupt China’s personal finance industry with a new, online-only finance product aimed at the regular Zhou. Giving China’s prudent savers a higher interest rate than most banks’ time deposit offerings (Alibaba’s is currently giving 6.299 percent), the new service has been explosively popular. With no marketing, Alibaba’s Yuebao has today grown to 2.5 million users who have collectively deposited RMB 6.601 billion ($1.07 billion).

In the 18 days since it launched, it has become China’s most popular single personal finance fund.

Basically, Yuebao is a money-market fund that’s pegged to corporate debt and government bonds. When it first quietly rolled out, Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma told Chinese media:

China’s financial industry, especially the banking industry, only serves 20 percent of clients, and I see there are 80 percent of the clients are not covered. Financial services should be about serving the layman, rather than playing inside your own circles and make money yourself.

While Alibaba’s Yuebao hasn’t been fully approved by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Alibaba is in the process, via its Alipay platform for e-payments, of getting the online fund its regulatory approval. If that’s not done, the fund might be penalized by the CSRC.

In a sign that Alibaba and Alipay is hedging closer to being an online bank, the company’s Alipay Wallet app was updated yesterday to support managing your Yuebao fund.

Baidu announces upcoming launch of Baifa as it moves into personal finance

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Baidu announced today that it will officially launch a new finance platform on the 28th.

According to Netease News, Baidu’s new personal investment platform will be called Baifa and will be launched in collaboration with Baidu Finance and China Asset Management. Users can make a minimum investment of RMB 1 (about $0.16) and can see annual interest rates of up to eight percent.

The company said in a statement to Chinese media that Baidu Baifa will use the power of the internet, big data, and advanced data mining tools to understand the financial preferences of its users. Plus, it can help customize users’ financial activities, and help users receive the greatest returns on their investments in a minimal amount of time with a minimal amount of capital.

By establishing Baifa, Baidu follows in the footsteps of Alibaba, a competitor internet giant which, like Baidu, is quickly expanding into a wider range of online services. Since most banks in China offer extremely low interest rates for average customers, personal finance has been one area where large online companies have sought to fill a void. This summer, Alibaba launched Yuebao, a personal finance platform that offers customers interest rates of just over six percent. In the first 18 days, that service gained a whopping 2.5 million registered users.