Author Archives: todd

Playapod Icon

Playapod to Improve the Podcast Experience across Android and iOS devices

Playapod is a new cross-platform mobile app that improves the experience of consuming podcasts on your mobile device. As an avid consumer of podcasts, I was unhappy with the other apps on the market. One of the biggest features of Playapod is syncing to the cloud so all your podcasts are available on all your devices. You can pick up any device and start playback exactly where you left off. It’s a great feature but it’s not my favorite of all–That would be the Playapod Progress Bar.

Playapod Precision Progress Bar

Playapod’s Precision Progress Bar displays where you have listened (blue), skipped (black), and favorited (red) in addition to your current audio position (turquoise).  It also displays what you have listened to since pressing play (bright blue).  All of this information is synced across all your devices.

I’ve always wanted a progress bar that displays exactly what you have listened to and skipped over. Have you ever accidentally jumped to the end of your podcast or fumbled with your device and lost your place? It’s happened to me so many times. I never understood why audio book and podcast apps wouldn’t display in a different color the parts I have actually listened so it wouldn’t matter if I lost my playback position. Also, there are many times when I want to replay something later–maybe a good laugh or an interesting piece of news. I added time-coded bookmarks to the progress bar which makes it very easy to go back and share the best moments of a podcast with friends.

There are many more great features in the Playapod app and you can read more about them in the Playapod press release. You can download Playapod for free and try the cloud syncing and progress bar improvements yourself. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

The Truth about Net Neutrality

Do you think the Internet has just exploded because of the recent changes to Net Neutrality? It’s a complex topic but my latest Tech 411 Show does a full deconstruction.  It’s a full hour episode that’ll be sure to help. And even if you don’t agree with me, you’ll still end up being the smartest guy in the room.

“Hey guys, does my GIF seem slow now?” —  Everyone

via GIPHY

Magical Bone Broth Recipe

My introduction to bone broth came from reading a book on fasting. It recommended consuming homemade bone broth to provide essential nutrients and to help with hunger pains while fasting, however, you don’t need to fast to enjoy its many health benefits. The important thing to know is you can’t buy high quality bone broth.  There are tons of brands out there that tout labels of “organic” and “grass-fed,” but trust me, I’ve tried them and it’s not the same.  You just have to make the magical and natural concoction yourself.

I’ve made bone broth using both chicken and beef bones. My personal preference is chicken over beef. Each has it’s own distinct flavor, but I find the chicken reminds me of a rich immune-boosting homemade chicken noodle soup sans noodles. I discussed the magical properties of Bone Broth last week on The Mike O’Meara Show and many of the TMOS listeners asked me to post the recipe. So here goes:

The Best Bones

The best bones are the ones that do the most moving (such as joints) and contain the most marrow. Instead of using chicken legs, use the whole quarter–or even better, the whole chicken. Chicken feet and beef knuckles have the most collagen and will make for a richer and healthier batch.  If you’re going to spend the effort making this then you might as well make the best batch possible.  Check your local farmer’s market for buying grass-fed beef bones or organic chicken.  Check international grocery stores for buying chicken feet if your local butcher or farmer’s market doesn’t carry them.

Chicken Preparation

If cooking chicken legs, quarter, or whole chicken then you’ll want to save the chicken stock from the initial boil.  If cooking beef bones or chicken feet skip this step.

  • Put chicken in a large stockpot, cover with water, add a few generous pinches of pink Himalayan salt, and simmer until meat is cooked (about 15-20 minutes after you start to see bubbles).
  • Take meat and bones out of water, pull meat off bones (if using bones with meat) and save for another recipe/meal, continue to simmer water and proceed to final directions.

Chicken Feet and Beef Bone PreparationChicken Feet

If cooking with beef bones or chicken feet you’ll want to prepare them with a quick boil and then dump the water. It won’t smell especially pleasant and you don’t want to reuse like you would if doing a full chicken.

  • Boil the chicken feet or beef bones for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from pot and dump the water.
  • If cooking chicken feet, cut off the tips of toes/claws and discard.
  • Proceed to final directions.

Final Directions

    • Place bones on a sheet pan and roast at 450-500 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Bones will become golden brown and smell really good. They can take a lot of heat. The longer they roast (without burning) the better the broth will taste.
    • If you prepared chicken then return it into the existing chicken stock.   If you prepared chicken feet or beef bones:  Place roasted bones into the stockpot with fresh water and add a few generous pinches of pink Himalayan salt.
    • As the broth cooks down, you’ll need to add more water. This is usually done 2-3 times during the entire cooking process depending on how long you simmer the broth and bones.
    • Simmer chicken bones at least 8-10 hours and beef bones at least 24-48 hours.  If you aren’t comfortable leaving the stove on that long, you can place the broth and roasted bones in a crockpot and continue the process there.
    • When broth is done, remove bones, and pour through fine mesh strainer or sieve.

Congrats on making your first batch of healthy homemade bone broth.  It is best consumed over the next few days, but it can also be frozen if you want to consume it at a later time. I portion the broth before freezing so it’s easy to thaw and drink when I need a quick immune boost or when I’m doing a shorter fast and need a smaller amount. Enjoy!

Creating a Platform to Share Relaxing Sounds

I’m excited that my company, TMSOFT, recently launched White Noise 7 and it was covered by Tech Crunch. I’ve spent the last 8 years developing the White Noise sleeping app and spent the last 2 years building a platform called the White Noise Market that will now allow users to share their own White Noise recordings and mixes.

The first question Lora Kolodny asked while interviewing me about the launch was “Doesn’t SoundCloud do this? How is it different?” I told her White Noise creates audio loops from your recordings so they can be listened to all night without interruption. If there is just a small gap in audio or something doesn’t seem smooth when the sound repeats then people will wake up. I’ve spent years building an algorithm to create a perfect audio loop and now our users can help us in creating the world’s largest collection of relaxing sounds.

As I was driving home from the office the day of the interview, I continued to think about her question. Isn’t it more than just creating the perfect audio loop? I failed to mention White Noise allows you to attach a photo and location to each recording and when you share it to the community it appears on a world map. Want to find a specific sound from your region? Now you can drill into this shared world map to discover regional sounds. I thought to myself, that’s pretty cool but is that really unique?

I thought more about what makes the platform unique. Users that post their recordings allow other users in the community to not only download them, but also to use them in their own sound creations. These new soundscapes are created by mixing multiple sounds together, changing various audio properties, and then uploading the new creation back to the White Noise Market. These shared audio loops have now become building blocks that can be assembled in different ways then published again as a completely new and unique sound. I think this process is what sets White Noise apart.

It’s not just about uploading your sound and saying, “Here it is world. Enjoy!” White Noise users will be able to build something new from other people’s sounds and from there it could really grow into something more unique. So it’s not just an audio sharing platform. It’s a platform where the content is constantly evolving and growing into something new and exciting. I think that makes the White Noise Market pretty unique.

Get a million app downloads!

How to Get a Million Downloads

Do you want to get a million downloads? I discussed how to do just that at a MoDev event a few years back. In just 6 easy steps, you’ll be able to boost those app downloads. Now don’t worry because this isn’t an infomercial and I’m not selling anything. It’s just totally free advice with no strings attached.

There was a small group of people at this event (maybe 40), but the video has had over 15,000 views. I just watched it today (3 years later) and found that the concepts and methods still hold up. If you didn’t get discouraged from my last post, Ideas are Worth Nothing, then you have to watch my presentation when you are about to launch your new app.

Never stop learning!

Ideas are Worth Nothing

Over the years, I’ve received many questions about how to take an idea and turn it into a product.  This ultimately was the inspiration for my book, “Tap Move Shake,” which had more than just coding tutorials.  It was an entire playbook from start to finish that included creating media, publishing, and marketing.  Some found it to be very useful (mostly engineers that didn’t know how to do marketing), but others just didn’t want to put in the effort required even though they had the best idea ever.

Best Idea Ever

Here is a small sampling of the many requests I’ve personally received:

“Hi! I had an idea for an app and if you like it and build it I think it will be big. When it goes viral a 10% split for me?”

How about 50% because even though I don’t know you I bet it’s amaaaaazing!

“I have several game ideas. I might want to learn code but would rather stay on the creativity side of it.”

I would like to stay on the creativity side of it, too.

“You probably get a lot of App ideas and offers, but thought I would contact you regardless and see if you would take a meeting with me about a new idea I have been cooking. I have a brief write-up of the idea that could be reviewed by you with an NDA.”

Nobody will sign a NDA to hear an idea.  Nobody.

Potato Salad

Zack Brown raised $55,492 to make Potato Salad

Zack Brown raised $55,492 to make Potato Salad

People have become fueled by the movie Social Network, seasons of Shark Tank, and Kickstarter potato salad.  They think all you need is a great idea and the money will come.  It doesn’t really work like that.  Ideas are the fun and exciting part of a long and stressful journey to building something.  I know this because I’ve spent lots of years building lots of somethings.

I have given countless presentations over the years handing out a ton of advice.  But more and more I find that people seem to think all you need is a good idea and that alone will result in someone paying you for it, cutting you in with a percentage, or working on it for sweat equity.  That’s not realistic at all.  Even Dilbert knows this.  New entrepreneurs should read the article, Your Ideas Have No Value by Carol Roth which explains it perfectly.  It’s really all about the execution.

No Shortcuts

Starting a business is not easy and I personally know of far more failures than successes.  In order to mitigate that risk of failure you need to obtain a wide-range of knowledge.  I think the most successful entrepreneurs have a common trait that’s programmed into them–they never stop learning.  If they succeed at something, they will learn from it.  If they fail at something, they will learn from that too.  It’s a process and their journey usually begins by having a job working for someone else, collaborating with others, and gaining as much knowledge as possible.  There are no shortcuts.

Working hard to learn a myriad of different skills has been the key to my success.  There isn’t an employee in my company that I can’t fill-in for.  That’s because at the beginning I was the one that did that job.  I taught myself how to build mobile apps, but I also learned how to do quality assurance, customer support, marketing, accounting, sound engineering, graphic design, and more.  I needed to have general knowledge of every part of the business.  Granted, it was out of necessity because I couldn’t afford hiring for those positions when I first started.  Now that my business is thriving, I can hire people to work on my ideas.  I can finally be the idea guy and have others build it.  But that’s only because I worked hard to get here.

Getting Started

If I haven’t talked you out of pursuing your idea yet and you are excited to learn more then I highly recommend these great podcasts, videos, and websites as resources to get you going.

  • Everything is a Remix – Please watch this right now, especially if you think your idea is the first of its kind. It’s a very thought provoking video series on the originality of ideas.
  • Startup Podcast – All about starting a business.  And it’s told as a story rather than a basic “how-to” so it’s not boring.
  • Tim Ferris’ Podcast – Tim interviews world-class performers such as Chris Sacca (billionaire investor of Uber, Twitter, etc) which is about as good as it gets for advice.  Almost all of Tim’s interviews have great takeaways in them–I find myself learning a little something new each time I listen.
  • TWiT TV – Leo Laporte has been covering tech forever and runs a great podcast network with lots of varied tech shows.  He hosts This Week in Tech and it’s one of my personal favorites.
  • Robert Scoble – Robert covers the future of tech and interviews lots of tech founders and entrepreneurs.  Follow him on Facebook for his most up to date posts and announcements.
  • Meetups – I’ve met great people at tech meetups in my local area. There is a lot of good advice and resources out there for free.  I’ve even made some good friends too.
  • Tech 411 – Oscar Santana and I host a tech podcast called Tech 411.  It’s okay.

Ready, Set, Go

It really boils down to this—if you are passionate about an idea, willing to work extremely hard on it, and learn as much as possible in the process then you might have a chance.  A chance to be more than just a person with an idea. You can be the person that built that thing that everyone needs.  And I’m all for that!

Just don’t ask me to do it for you.   🙂

Sounds in Space

What’s it like to sleep on the International Space Station?  This week at my company we published a collection of space sounds that you can add to the White Noise app.  Read more about it at the official blog for TMSOFT and listen to what the ISS sounds like below:

Small Business vs Patent Trolls

capital
I’ve been asked by Congress to testify before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. I feel honored to be representing small businesses on the issue of patent trolls. I hope sharing my story will help bring meaningful patent reform so small businesses can spend less time with frivolous lawsuits and more time on innovation. Check out my recent article on Why Congress must ensure ‘game over’ for patent trolls.

Final Arcade Result

How to be #1 out of 21,800,000

Final Arcade ResultMy “How to Build your own Arcade System” article has always been my most popular article.  According to Google Analytics it represents over 99% of all my visitors to this blog.  If you search Google for “how to build an arcade” you’ll see my article is the #1 link out of 21,800,000 results.

How is that possible?

Searching Google for How to Build an Arcade

Searching Google for How to Build an Arcade

I think the reason is… well… first, it’s a pretty good article.  I remember when I wrote it, years ago, that there wasn’t one place that had all this information–the arcade cabinet, the hardware used, the software configuration. It was months of research.  A labor of love.  The article that followed was completely original.  My words.  And then over time other blogs started linking to it.  Discussing it.  And ultimately that’s the reason why Google thinks it’s pretty good too.

Flappy Bird is flapping about Copyright Infringement

Flappy Bird’s company dotGears recently notified Apple that my game Duck Run infringes on their copyrights, specifically the bird character used in the game. I spent hours drawing my duck character in photoshop and I think it looks nothing like Flappy Bird.  What do you think?

Flappy BirdDuckRun

The above Flappy Bird image was pulled from the USPTO FlappyBird trademark application.   This application was recently filed by Dong Nguyen in March, 2014 and is waiting for review.  He is not just filing this under electronic games but also watches, stationary, hand-bags, glassware, blankets, pillows, clothes, and toys.  Not only is Flappy Bird coming back to the App Store, but it appears dotGear is taking the Angry Birds approach and will start selling merchandise.  And why not?

Todd with Flappy Bird CreatorWe all know the story of Flappy Bird and how it quickly became a huge success only to be removed from the App Store because the author couldn’t handle the stress. I covered this story on my Tech 411 podcast and even had a chance to meet the author, Dong Nguyen while at GDC this year.

I was actually really excited to meet him, as the Flappy Bird story was really big at the time.  I only asked him one question, “Are you bringing Flappy bird back?”  “Yes” he replied.  We were both at Twitter HQ so it seemed appropriate that I should tweet the news.  The next thing I knew, Mac Rumors was running the story.

Is Flappy Bird Original?

We are all influenced by the work of others.  I recommend watching Everything is a Remix to really see this point illustrated.    The artwork and gameplay from Flappy Bird is far from being original.  Let’s compare it to Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers:

flappy_bird_compared_to_mario

Flappy Bird, on the left, has almost identical green pipes found in the Super Mario Brothers game.   The Flappy Bird gameplay is very similar to the secret underwater world found in the same game.  Mario is controlled by tapping a button that flaps his arms causing him to move upward, while not flapping causes Mario to fall downward.  The Flappy Bird graphic itself looks more like the fish from this same underwater level than my little ‘ol duck.

Why Build Duck Run?

Dong said that it took him 3 days to create Flappy Bird. I was impressed he was able to make a side-scrolling game in just 3 days.  I wondered if I could create a flappy style game in the same amount of time. Considering I’ve competed in plenty of hackathons and even wrote a game in just 20 lines of code (which became the starting point of my book), I thought this would be a fun challenge to take on.  After just 3 days, I had completed my game which I called Duck Run and released it to both the Android and iOS platforms.

Duck Run received great reviews and has pulled in around 200k free downloads.  Because it was so simple, it became my go-to game for learning how to port to other platforms. It’s now available on the Mac platform and Amazon Fire TV.  I think it’s smart to have a simple game in your portfolio for this reason alone.

Decision Time

The last thing my company needs is another frivolous lawsuit, but I refuse to be bullied into removing Duck Run from the App Store.   I think it’s pretty clear it does not violate any trademarks or copyrights.  I’m not sure the original Flappy Bird game could say the same thing.