Archive for 'Programming'

Project Management: Kanban

So chances are that, should you follow any kind of formalized project management, it’s likely to be a form of Scrum. And if so, we’ll just betcha that you’ll nod along with this piece:

Why SCRUM Sprints slow you down

Basically SCRUM sprints set you up to commit to something you can’t possibly deliver on. The only way to reach predictable performance in SCRUM sprints is if …

  • … your team’s performance doesn’t change ever: No people leaving, no people joining, no knowledge gained over time, no vacations, no motivation highs & lows,
  • … the items you are working on are highly predictable: You’ve done them many times, know which problems to expect & how to solve them, no external dependencies, no collaboration with others, no changes in scope even if they would make sense, …
  • nothing else comes up that’s more important: Server down, bug in the payment system, a security vulnerability that needs to be closed ASAP, incredible marketing opportunity if implemented & shipped in the next few hours, …
  • Considering this it is quite obvious why reaching predictable SCRUM sprint performance is almost impossible in most real world situations no matter how much time and effort you put into sprint planning and estimates.

    But the main problem is that SCRUM sprints force your team to optimize for predictability (“how much of what we’ve committed to can we get done”) instead of optimizing for value & agility (last responsible moment)…

Preach it, brother! Yes, we feel all that pain. Particularly that last point. Last time we had an interview ask about our experience as a scrum master in our last management job we scoffed “As if we ever knew what our priorities were going to be by the end of the day, never mind multiple weeks down the road!” These problems are obvious enough to everybody that sprints are usually one week these days, at least they are the last half-dozen places we’ve scrummed at … at which time you’re spending more time in planning and review than the effort is worth, amirite?

Some software companies are starting to embrace continuous delivery and feature pipeline visualization tools inspired by lean manufacturing concepts and Kanban.

This helps them to release improved versions of their software as soon as they are ready. On top of that it enables them to drop arbitrary sprint time-boxes if they want to.

By using Kanban and feature pipelines you pull new work items into your process once space (focus) frees up on the board.

This enables you to defer decisions & commitment to the last responsible moment, a time when usually more information & context is available allowing your team to be more agile compared to SCRUM time-boxes…

Well, this certainly sounds more like a project process that would actually work in the world we live in. Here’s another good discussion:

When to dump Scrum for Kanban

Kanban is useful when requirements and priorities change quickly and often. This becomes evident in teams who can see that their Sprint Planning doesn’t quite hold up for the entire Sprint duration. Kanban helps you react faster, but…

Contrary to popular belief, in Kanban, it’s not only about reacting faster, it’s about being closer to a state of Zen

But how do you get there? Simply prioritize: focus over speed

Well, that sounds worth a try. Let’s see what tools are out there:

Blossom is from the fellow who wrote that first article up there that got our attention; pricing is $19/month for 5 seats, $59/15, $149/25.

There’s approximately a zillion other Kanban tools, but these two seem widely well regarded for getting your feet wet:

Kanban Toolpricing is $5/user/month or $9 with time tracking, and a basic 2-user free one too.

LeanKitpricing is free to 10 users for basic features, $15/20 user/month for more

Us, we’re going to give Kanban Tool a shot, since the price is right and Adding tasks with Siri on iOS devices sounds pretty cool. But as always, if you have any particular recommendations of tools of this type you’ve tried and can recommend, or recommend against, please share!

UPDATES:

Why SCRUM Backlogs lead to bad Product Decisions

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Affilate API: Uber

Got an app with a map? This might be of interest to you:

Introducing The Uber API

As of today, we officially open—to all developers—access to many of the primitives that power Uber’s magical experience. Apps can pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history and more.

Note that ‘more’ does not currently include ‘actually call for a ride or anything’ though,

What about requesting a ride? Yes, we’ve implemented that endpoint as well, but because calling it immediately dispatches a real driver in the real world, we’re releasing it in a more controlled fashion, starting with a small set of partners. Stay tuned for more on that, and please let us know if you’re interested in being added to the whitelist.

OK then. So what’s in this new Affiliate Program for us exactly?

  • Offer your users credit toward their first Uber ride when they sign up via your app
  • Earn $5 (USD) in Uber credit for every new rider
  • Receive credits that never expire in your Uber account every month
  • Build something amazing and get your app featured on our site

Gotcha. Free rides! That’s awesome! Oh, no, wait … no it’s not. Not if you hang in Most Livable City #3:

Uber Has Expanded to 130 Cities, Vancouver Remains Only One It’s Ever Had to Back Away From

Oh, wait more … no, it’s really not.

This program is currently available to developers in the US only.

Well, that’s not rocketing up our priority list then. But hey, if you are a U.S. developer with a map-using app, something you probably want to consider!

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Airship Pushing Us Overboard

So it’s been a seriously long time since we looked at APNS providing options, as it’s been the universal default for everyone we’ve worked with since to default to Urban Airship. And, generally, to be perfectly satisfied with their free level of service. Turns out they’ve had enough of us freeloaders:

We’ve discovered that we work best when we’re working closely with our customers to help them solve their problems and implement a mobile-first experience for their users with our complete solution. [Ed. - why, what a polite way to say “getting paid”!] Today, we’re taking some concrete steps toward crystallizing that focus by sunsetting our free Developer Edition product that offers a subset of the capabilities of our complete solution.

If you are using the Developer Edition offering, everything will remain the same for the next six-months until its retirement on December 31, 2014. Between now and then, Developer Edition users can either choose to establish a paid relationship with Urban Airship for access to our push-only product or our full solution suite, or migrate to an alternate solution…

Well, these days when less than half opt in to pushes at all, it’s pretty hard to make a case for that for most of our Airship usage. So let’s see what options there are in the “migrate to an alternate solution” space for the freeloading indie, shall we?

In the messaging-focused provider category:

Appoxeestarts at $500/month

Boxcar — 200 pushes per minute to 100 devices for free; goes up by ppm

Element Wave — unlimited to 5K users for free; trial-only for more

Moblico — trial accounts only

Push IO — trial accounts only

PushApps — 1M pushes to 100K devices from 5 apps for free; notably cheap unlimited plans

PushWizard — 30 messages to one app on unlimited devices for free; smorgasbord of paid additions

PushWoosh — unlimited pushes to 1M devices from 5 apps for free; tiered paid feature sets

TheAppSales — “a good size number” for free

XtremePush — unlimited pushes to 1M devices from 5 apps for free; tiered paid feature sets

In the cloud service space that provide messaging on the side:

Amazon SNS — 1M pushes for free; then $1/1M pushes

App42 — 1M pushes for free; tiered price plans

Asking Point — 3M pushes for free; pay via commission

Kinvey — 5M pushes for free; tiered price plans

mobDB — 600K pushes for free; then $15/1M pushes

Parse — 1M pushes for free; then 5¢/1K pushes

If there isn’t something there that suits your feature vs. price requirements adequately, there’s always rolling your own: By far the most popular on github, which we’ll take as sufficient proof of adequacy and not bother looking further, is

Redth/PushSharp: “A server-side library for sending Push Notifications to iOS (iPhone/iPad APNS), OSX (APNS 10.8+) Android (C2DM and GCM – Google Cloud Message), Chrome (GCM) Windows Phone, Windows 8, Blackberry (PAP), and Amazon (ADM) devices!”

but if you want more choice, hey there’s 412 following it thrown up for APNS on Github, go wild.

One last special mention of noodlewerk/NWPusher that lets you do your development with a local OS X application, which certainly would have expedited many of our past projects.

Think we managed to catch all the services currently worthy of short list consideration here; if we missed stumbling over your favourite, of If you have any positive or negative experiences with any of these to share, please do!

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Core Data And Swift

Been quite a while since the last time we rounded up Core Data goodies, since when we’ve gone through The iCloud Angst Apocalypse and ended up with that class of problem being relegated to the new CloudKit hotness … if you don’t need, like, cross-platform access or anything. Which most people want. As, indeed, we’re going to be designing the iOS side of a project in that cross-platform space next week; so let’s take a look at what’s going on now in the new Swifty iOS 8 world, shall we?

First off, here’s an decently comprehensive curation of important tools as the Swift world dawns — keep an eye on all of these to see how they adapt to new world Swiftiness:

Top 10 Core Data Tools and Libraries :

Marcus Zarra gives us The Core Data Stack In Swift which inspired Core Data Stack in Swift Simplified

kylef/QueryKit is a nifty Core Data query language in Swift; also check out kylef/KFData for some convenient Objective-C conveniences

Another interesting initiative (h/t ManiacDev) is Alecrim/AlecrimCoreData: “a Core Data wrapper library written in Swift, “inspired” by MagicalRecord and LINQ.”

Read Swift Core Data Format String Injection — or end up as an xkcd cartoon

Like videos? There’s a bunch here. This series looks particularly worthwhile, comes with code and is updated through the current Xcode 6b5:

UPDATES:

Core Data Batch Updates in iOS 8 And Swift

SugarRecord / SugarRecord: “…you’ll be able to start the CoreData stack structure just with a line of code and start working with your database models using closures thanks to the fact that SugarRecord is completly written in Swift.”

mogenerator 1.28 has “experimental” Swift code generation

New in Core Data and iOS 8: Batch Updating with Core Data Demo: Batch Updating and Asynchronous Fetching

Swift: Distributing Core Data Entities Over a Network

iOS 8: Core Data and Asynchronous Fetching

Your First Core Data App Using Swift

michaelarmstrong / SuperRecord: “A small set of utilities to make working with CoreData and Swift a bit easier.”

Protocols in Swift with Core Data

tadija / AERecord: ”Why do we need yet another one Core Data wrapper? You tell me!”

Core Data versioning is not temporal … My general recommendation is to avoid heavy migrations at all costs. They are not designed to work on iOS and frequently cause issues.”

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iOS 8 Grab Bag

So, pretty much got your head around Swift now and ready to move on to all the other new goodies in iOS 8? Here’s a series that’s been chugging along since WWDC well worth your time to read:

Over in the Wenderlich tutorial empire, we see no reason to expect that this will be less awesome than the last three of which we bought all, so we’ll confidently recommend that you go ahead and preorder

iOS 8 by Tutorials: Learning the new iOS 8 APIs with Swift or hey, go whole hog with Swift by Tutorials Bundle

In the meantime, there’s lots of Swift tutorials, and this introduction to Metal

iOS 8 Metal Tutorial with Swift: Getting Started

If you deal with passwords anywhere in your app, if you’ve missed it so far (h/t: ManiacDev) head over now to

AgileBits/onepassword-app-extension

Welcome! With just a few lines of code, your app can add 1Password support, enabling your users to:

  • Access their 1Password Logins to automatically fill your login page.
  • Use the Strong Password Generator to create unique passwords during registration, and save the new Login within 1Password.
  • Quickly fill 1Password Logins directly into web views.

And even if you don’t have password management, take the time to read their very nice explanation of extension security at

Filling with your approval: On 1Password’s App Extension and iOS 8 security

Here’s a nice little button class (h/t iOS Dev Weekly) to get you started with the funky effect stuff:

AYVibrantButton is a stylish button with iOS 8 vibrancy effect. It is a subclass of UIButton that has a simple yet elegant appearance and built-in support for UIVisualEffectView and UIVibrancyEffect classes introduced in iOS 8. Yet, it can be used on iOS 7 without the vibrancy effect…

Here’s an iOS 8 savvy HUD class whose necessity is explained for those who might question it as

There already are so many other open source progress HUD components!

While other progress HUD components are nice they all have their problems. MBProgressHUD is outdated and buggy, MMProgressHUD is totally over engineered and requires a long time to implement, SVProgressHUD and HTProgressHUD are not implemented in the right way and they all don’t offer the extensibility of JGProgressHUD. JGProgressHUD was inspired by all of these components to create the ideal progress indicator.

We adore people not overburdened with modesty.

UPDATES:

Self Sizing Table View Cells; Understanding Self Sizing Cells and Dynamic Type in iOS 8

A Step-By-Step Tutorial On Using iOS 8′s New Keyboard Extension; The Trials and Tribulations of Writing a 3rd Party iOS Keyboard

UIAlertController Changes in iOS 8

iOS 8 Privacy Updates

iOS8 Sampler for iOS

Working with Touch ID API in iOS 8 SDK

iOS 8 Metal Tutorial with Swift: Getting Started; Metal By Example; objc.io’s Metal

Image Resizing Techniques and PHImage​Manager

Introducing the iOS 8 Feast!

Apps Using iOS 8 Extensions

What we learned building the Tumblr iOS share extension

EL Mustache – iOS 8 Photo Extension in Swift

iOS 8 Handoff Tutorial

Tutorial: Creating Interactive Notifications With iOS 8’s Notification Actions

Introduction to iOS 8 App Extension: Creating a Today Widget

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Project Diagnostics: Faux Pas

Hey, we can all use some more help finding problems in our projects, right? Check out this most promising new tool Faux Pas:

What the Clang Static Analyzer is to your code, Faux Pas is to your whole Xcode project.

Faux Pas inspects all of these things together:

  • Code
  • Project configuration (e.g. build settings)
  • Interface Builder files
  • Static assets (e.g. images)
  • Version control

This means it can warn you about errors that span the boundaries between these different parts of the project. For example:

  • Code tries to load a resource file that doesn’t exist
  • Code uses a localization key that is missing for some languages
  • Project references a file that is outside of the version control root
  • Project is missing an API usage description (e.g. NSContactsUsageDescription) while using that API in the code

So we figured we’d give it a shot at our current project. In which our code compiles clean with -Weverything, because we play Xcode on hard level, so it ought to be good right? Well, not by 5825 problems, doh!

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 7.03.41 AM.png

There is a lot of stuff this thing checks that’s impossible to check efficiently any other way. We’d go into more detail … but why bother? It’s an demonstratedly invaluable tool, download it now!

h/t: iOS Dev Weekly!

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Unsustainable Apps: Revolver

The good news is, there’s a pretty cool open sourced app for you to check out (h/t iOS Dev Weekly):

Ciechan/Revolved: a 3D modelling app for the iPad

  • OpenGL ES 2.0 based rendering integrated with UIKit
  • custom animation engine
  • a bit of private API hackery

The line drawing system has been explained in detail on my blog

The bad news?

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 12.18.55 PM.png

Ouch! Damn, that’s just painful. Although sadly usual, these days:

The Majority Of Today’s App Businesses Are Not Sustainable

Accounting for 47% of app developers, the “have nothings” include the 24% of app developers – who are interested in making money, it should be noted – who make nothing at all.

Meanwhile, 23% make something, but it’s under $100 per month … those who prioritize iOS app development are less likely to find themselves in this group, with 35% earning $0-$100 per month, versus the 49% of Android developers…

Meanwhile, 22% are “poverty stricken” developers whose apps make $100 to $1,000 per app per month…

A Candid Look at Unread’s First Year

Unread for iPhone has earned a total of $32K in App Store sales. Unread for iPad has earned $10K. After subtracting 40 percent in self-employment taxes and $350/month for health care premiums (times 12 months), the actual take-home pay from the combined sales of both apps is:

$21,000, or $1,750/month

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store…

I suppose this is a sign of maturity, the app market is starting to resemble other creative markets like books, art, and music as the returns to individual creators shake out. Depressing, isn’t it? But chin up and move on, just means we have to get better at marketing. And here is an excellent article on how to go about that:

How Hours became a top grossing app

… when I asked on Twitter what people want to know about, the overwhelming response was: how on earth did you market the app? Some seem to believe I have this magical ability to get featured by Apple, TechCrunch, etc. etc. etc. I don’t. It takes time and a lot of hard work and I started out just like anybody else so this stuff is completely do-able. I don’t have all the answers but I’ll tell you what I did…

TL; DR: Make a lot of friends. And it’s hard work. But read the whole thing!

UPDATES:

Increasing In-App Revenue with Metric Driven Design and Emotional Targeting

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Xcode 6: Usable Testing

If you’d overlooked the improvements to testing in Xcode 6, understandably enough what with the new language and all, they’re definitely worth taking a look at:

XCTest​Case / XCTest​Expectation / measure​Block()

New in Xcode 6 is the ability to benchmark the performance of code

Perhaps the most exciting feature added in Xcode 6 is built-in support for asynchronous testing…

Xcode 6 seems to have fulfilled all of the needs of a modern test-driven developer. Well, perhaps save for one: mocking … However, this may not actually be necessary in Swift, due to its less-constrained syntax.

In Swift, classes can be declared within the definition of a function, allowing for mock objects to be extremely self-contained. Just declare a mock inner-class, override and necessary methods:

With Xcode 6, we’ve finally arrived: the built-in testing tools are now good enough to use on their own.

Which means we can hopefully look forward to Xcode 6 hosted CI services that can run a decent test suite easily. No more messing with Jenkins or whatever, w00t! Here’s a list of the various CI services we’ve noted here and there compatible with iOS/OS X projects so far:

Travis CI is free for open source, paid for private

Hosted CI is an iOS and OS X focused service, with free open source and cheap indie plans

Ship.io used to be called cisimple, and whilst being rebranded it’s totally free

Greenhouse CI is fresh out of beta: they support Android as well, and have a free 2-app plan

While we wait to see which of these support Xcode 6 first, Dear Readers, any experience positive or negative with them to share? Or any other iOS-supporting CI services you’d recommend everyone consider/avoid?

UPDATES:

iOS8 Day-by-Day :: Day 6 :: Profiling Unit Tests

iOS8 Day-by-Day :: Day 11 :: Asynchronous Testing

objc.io #15: Testing

Swift: Unit Testing Tips and Tricks

Cloudbees has virtualized OS X environments for continuous integration with Jenkins.

Greenhouse apparently wins the Xcode 6 support prize: September 8th – “If you want to give it a ride then drop us an email at team@greenhouseci.com and we’ll enable it for your account. We will enable it for all users automatically in the future when it gets a bit more stable so stay tuned.”

Asynchronous Testing With Xcode 6

Xcode 6.0.1 Asynchronous Tests

Continuous Integration With Xcode Server

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Airline Booking: Aviasales SDK

You know, iOS Dev Weekly gets the best ads. We’d overlooked this one until now:

Flight search engine in your app

Help your users find the cheapest flight tickets right in your app and earn $7 per booking. Use a ready template or build your flight search from scratch with Aviasales iOS SDK framework.

Well, that sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Pretty simple:

1) Sign up as a travelpayouts.com affiliate. And it really is just sign up, no approval process.

2) Grab KosyanMedia/Aviasales-iOS-SDK off GitHub

3) Take a look at all the other affiliate tools they’ve got on offer

4) ???

5) PROFIT!

h/t: iOS Dev Weekly!

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Print On Demand: Kite SDK

Feel like adding print on demand to your app? Check this out:

OceanLabs / iOS-Print-SDK

The Kite Print SDK makes it easy to add print on demand functionality to your app.

Harness our worldwide print and distribution network. We’ll take care of all the tricky printing and postage stuff for you!

To get started, you will need to have a free Kite developer account. Go to kite.ly to sign up for free.

Products

Use print to unlock hidden revenue streams and add value for your users. In under an hour you could be using our SDK to print:

  • Magnets
  • Polaroid Style Prints
  • Square Prints
  • Postcards
  • A4 (invoices, letters, etc)
  • New products being added monthly

We mentioned another print on demand service the Sincerely Ship Library a long time ago, and they still seem to be around as well, but if you want more than postcards this one looks well worth looking into!

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