It's time for another post in our annual look back at the year in assistive technology, the Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2013. This year's panel included J.J. Meddaugh, Jamie Pauls, Alena Roberts, and Joe Steinkamp. In case you missed them, here are our earlier stories on the countdown. We turn to Joe for our number 3 story, which involves a free app going paid.
There were a lot of good stories this year that showed much reflection of the "App Economy". We managed to get a few of those Developers on "Triple Click Home" this year and I was astounded at just how open, frank and honest they were about what it costs and what it will continue to cost to develop their current and future apps. On SeroTalk, we said more than once that good code doesn't grow on trees. And the freemium model can't work for everyone. Now enter the gang at Tap Tap See.
The app is great. Many use it for a myriad of things. At the same time, due to the "no cost" nature of its initial release, I also know that some users just went plum crazy scanning things. So, as what I believe was a reasonable response, TTS introduced their new pricing model to the masses... I was shocked and dismayed to see the reactions that were beyond negative, and down right hateful, from our Community. Moreover, although at their sanity's expense, I was thankful for TTS taking this on, as it is a conversation with points we are going to really have to face moving forward. I've said this online a few times but I'll say it again here. User expectations change dramaticly when evaluating software that costs money versus software that doesn't. in my mind, and only talking from my standpoint, the value proposition and justification for what makes good from great, or bad, has a price Is Right rangefinder attached to it And I do admit to being guilty here in this sliding scale of warped value. I kick myself in the lower leg often when I do the deep sigh upon seeing an app I bought at full price go on sale or drop in price. At the same time, I do recognize that I was in on the ground floor and my contribution helped that app reach more people because I was a supporter of the developer in the beginning.
But the controversy in this case went beyond simple User revolt. There were out and out negative social attacks, 1 star review barrages and people doing some of the worst armchair quarterbacking on the subject than I've seen in a long time. Comments comparing Tap Tap See to Netflix only work for me when it comes to unlimited pricing. Problem was: many forgot that the price of the plans didn't go directly to the company. No, 30% went to Apple and the rest went to them. However, to make the need for a cost based system easier for people, they took the hit and went the more VoiceOver friendly route. I thought that even more commendable of them.
Lastly, this story really did push the Community to look themselves in the mirror and realize what market forces really are when it comes to using technology to meet their daily needs. Its one thing to wish for the paradigm of traditional A T to be made irelevent and balk at the price of bananas, but it's a whole new realm of concern when users debate the pricing of an app that is helpful to them and lets them break from that traditional A T delivery system. It's disheartening to see these users spout such negativity at a developer who is clearly needing user support to keep the flags flying under the pressure of a very small, but demanding, market.
What I'm really afraid of in 2014 is the rise of the Grant-Funded app. That model doesn't seem realistic at all with more budgets and services being cut, both private and public, plus the insane rate that all operating systems are being updated... if there isn't money set aside for future development and upkeep,, what happened to Tap Tap See won't be a "one off" situation. More 'save this app' campaigns could arise. Or more will go the paid route when the funding dries up. Or, even worse, some apps will just fall off the various App Stores, period. There are already some out there falling into the "abandonware' status of those who were the early pioneers of the App Land rush of 2009. My hope is that Tap Tap See, a very worth while app, isn't a casualty of "the new normal".
Just two more to go. Stay tuned.
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.