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    Get App Store Reviews with 1 line of code

    With over 350,000+ apps in the Apple App store, getting your app noticed is becoming more and more difficult.  There have been many different approaches to solving the App discovery problem, but even with these solutions they all depend on one common factor, Reviews.  What makes this even more of a difficult problem is getting your users to the App store in a happy and willing state to perform a review.  Apple finally got rid of the awful idea of prompting to review an App at the point of uninstall, which was notorious for generating high levels of bad reviews for apps.  Who is happy with an App that they are removing?

    The best approach that I have seen apps take so far is to politely ask for a review at different times in the application.  This is best done after the user has used the app over time, and ideally after a positive experience in the app.  A good example would be to ask for a review after a user unlocked an achievement.  The logic would be that they are in a happy state as a result of their achievement, so would be more likely to review your app.

    Nick Lockwood from Charcoal Design has taken a lot of the pain out of this process for developers.  He has published a simple class, iRate, that can be used in any iOS app to prompt app users to review the app.  It is incredibly simple to get this code working with your existing app.  Using the default configuration you can have this code up and running in your application in as little as one line of code.

    First download the class from GitHub here

    Second import the iRate class into your project.

    Third add the following line to your App Delegate code with the App Store Id for your app.

    Thats it!  Now there are many great options you can use to customize the appearance, and when to have the review prompt displayed, but if you leave it at the default settings it will work fine also.  I would encourage you to read the documentation over at GitHub to see the many options you can use.


    Top 4 Debugging Tips

    These are the top 4 general debugging tips that I have used in my development across multiple languages, and are not specific to any one language but instead just general ideas.
    1. Track your changes - keep a log of all of the things you have changed and tried while debugging this problem.  This way when you finally swallow your ego and decide to ask for help, you can give that person this full list of everything that has already been tried and shorten their debugging cycle. If your going to be posting your question to a site like StackOverflow this gives valuable information to the people trying to answer your question and gives your post a much higher quality, which should translate into higher quality answers. Creating this list will also allow you to avoid repeating the same steps over and over again while debugging.
    2. Don't Trust Comments - Read your code. Comments should be a guide/reminder as to what the code should be doing, but comments are not code, they cant actually do the work. You need to read and walk through your code to actually debug a problem.  This is especially true when reading other people's code.
    3. Get Help - Talk to someone. Post a question to StackOverflow or dont.  The act of explaining your code forces you to reevaluate your logic. 
    4. Walk Away - Get away from the code, take a walk, get something to eat and then come back to the problem with a clear head.  Pounding away at a problem can force you to be very narrow in your analysis but stepping away from the computer and just thinking about something else can help you reevaluate the problem as the bigger picture.

    Post inspired by the teachings of John Guttag.





    Why I'm spending more time in the Forrst

    With the recent splash made by Yuri and Ron Conway, it should be obvious that 2011 is the year for developers and designers. Incubators and accelerators are popping up around the country, while the big boys like Google and Facebook are making multi-million dollar offers to retain top talent.

    It's easy to understand the motivation to get better, but where do these hackers and designers go to do just that? StackOverflow and Quora are great for single questions but you are also going to have to wade through all of the questions from people struggling to complete an online tutorial or their cs problem set.

    Forrst is a private, invite only community for professional level developers and designers. It's designed to let people share what they are working on, struggling with, or launching. Members are then encouraged to provide feedback, likes, or other comments through a reputation system that awards points for these activities. Having access to high quality people in this community is unlike any social site out there. It's comforting to find a community where people are able to seek and gain helpful feedback instead of the elitists, trolls, or spam that swarms postings at other sites. People are genuinely interested in sharing what they are working on, without any NDA nonsense because the feedback is so valuable that they can iterate or pivot faster than they would be able to working independently. I would encourage any independent or startup developers and designers to head to the Forrst.

    Also follow me on Forrst to see some of the things I'm working on.


    App Marketing

    Great article from the folks over at Tapity on how to do app marketing, inspired by two of my favorite brands Starbucks and Apple.

    Part I

    Part II


    Dismiss iPhone keyboard


    Quick tip on how to dismiss the keyboard in iOS when a user touches anywhere on the screen outside of the UITextField or keyboard. Considering how much real estate the iOS keyboard can take up, it makes sense to have an easy and intuitive way for your users to dismiss the keyboard. Add the following code below to your .m file for your view controller.