Blogsy developer on making it easier to publish on the iPad

May 6, 2011

While the iPad is making it more possible for bloggers to publish via tablets from remote locations, the reality is it is still much easier to do so from laptops and less portable devices. Enter Blogsy, which last month debuted a $2.99 iPad-only application. The app drew praise from Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz for its […]

While the iPad is making it more possible for bloggers to publish via tablets from remote locations, the reality is it is still much easier to do so from laptops and less portable devices.

Enter Blogsy, which last month debuted a $2.99 iPad-only application. The app drew praise from Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz for its ability to bring a drag-and-drop user interface to the iPad.

In this edition of Meet the Makers, we speak with Lance Barton, CEO of Blogsy’s South Korea-based development company Fomola. Barton acknowledges that Blogsy is still a work in progress, and explains how he is leveraging feedback from users to improve user experience and make the service accessible on other platforms beyond Blogger and WordPress.

In his candid remarks, Barton also explains why he isn’t developing for Android tablets anytime soon, how the company makes money, and what his three biggest concerns are within the mobile media landscape.

Appolicious: What are the biggest problems associated with blogging on an iPad that Blogsy is hoping to remedy with its $2.99 application?

Lance Barton: Simply put, we are just trying to make blogging on an iPad an easy experience. We found that having to leave an application to grab content to add to your blog post made blogging from the iPad too laborious. And making sure that you had all your pictures already on the iPad before you started writing your post was inconvenient.

So, we set out to make a blogging app that would integrate everything into the app and also make it easy to add the content instead of having to copy and paste a bunch of codes and URLs. It also meant that you could upload your images or videos from any device they happened to be on and the next time you opened Blogsy they would be there for you to use.

We knew we would not be able to satisfy every blogger out there so our strategy was to create a blogging app for us as two members on our team are huge bloggers. Then after releasing it, users would let us know what they thought was missing and we would go about adding that functionality. That is why we had a voting page from the first day we launched Blogsy. So far the biggest request is for the ability to upload images from the iPad Photo Library. And we are working hard on implementing that right now. We hope to have a version out to our testers in a week.

APPO: Describe the technical challenges in bringing drop and drag functionality to a tablet-based blogging client.

LB: I am not one to make excuses but I know some people will read my answer in that way. I think what we are doing is really pushing the limits of the what the SDK allows us to do. I think this is why you haven’t seen another app try to do this outside of Apple’s own apps. In order for us to do the dragging and dropping within the confines of the SDK we have to use the webkit. So when you are looking at the Rich Side in Blogsy you are actually looking at a Safari web page. And in webpages you are not able to type outside of specific fields.

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This is the reason that we have, as of yet, not been able to figure out a way to give the users the ability to type on the Rich Side. We really want this functionality and as soon as we can figure out how to do it we will implement it. Also, because we are using the webkit we have to create empty boxes for the images to be placed in. There are actually two types of boxes – boxes with paragraphs of writing in them and boxes between the paragraphs. So, when you drag your image around these boxes expand to accommodate the image and shrink as you move the image out of them. This makes it seem like the text is jumping around and this has been the biggest challenge in bringing drag and drop to an iPad blogging app.

And one last point, because we are dealing with the webkit most of what is going on in the Rich Side is done through javascript. And when you touch on the iPad it has to communicate with the javascript. There are some issues within this interaction that can cause problems. But as the SDK, javascript and we improve, so will Blogsy.

APPO: Blogsy currently exists as an iPad app. What is standing in the way of developing a Honeycomb/Android version of the application?

LB: Well, I am not one to give salesman answers so I will tell it like it is. First, we are focused on getting the iPad version to a point where we think it should be. As there are as many different ways to blog as there are blogs, there is no way that we can satisfy every possible user but we really want Blogsy to be something special and to be the premier blogging app.

But you have to look at the cost-benefit analysis. If Blogsy can’t support the salaries and expenses to improve it or create versions for different platforms then we cannot justify doing it. So, to answer your question directly, after we have reached a point with the iPad version we will look at the possibility of developing for different platforms. If we feel the market is strong enough to justify the investment then we will do it. We have thus far been asked to create a version for Android, the iPhone, the Playbook and for the Mac.

APPO: While Blogsy is currently available for Blogger and WordPress, are there any plans to to make work for Tumblr and other platforms?

LB: Yes, we have a voting page where people can vote for what platform, service or feature they would like to see added to Blogsy. We are currently working on uploading and once that is done we will look at the voting and decide what should be added next. We will continue to add more if the sales can pay for salaries and expenses.

APPO: Once the buzz and publicity associated with your app launch subsides, what can developers like you do to increase visibility and drive downloads?

LB: We are new to this industry so I don’t have a well educated answer to your question. I think we will look at what other developers have done and also try to come up with ideas of our own. But things that may work for games, which appeal to every iPad owner, may not necessarily work for us as we can only appeal to the group of iPad users which have blogs. The markets are quite different for apps which are utilities versus apps which are for entertainment.

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APPO: What three aspects of the mobile media landscape most keep you up at night?

LB: I have lots of things which keep me up at night but the mobile media landscape is not all that high on the list. But if pressed, I would say there are three things which concern me about the mobile media landscape.

Fragmentation – it is true that Apple is the leader by far and really should be the market you develop for first at this stage. But Android is coming on strong and now you have other players trying to get into the game like Blackberry and Windows. This fragmentation may be a good thing for users, but for developers it shrinks the market and therefore can make the development of some apps not financially feasible.

Second, the speed of change in the mobile and tablet markets is very high. They are still both very young markets and your app can become obsolete in a very short time. This means that it is tougher to justify a large investment which you hope to recuperate over a long period of time. If you won’t be able to recuperate your investment in a relatively short amount of time then you are entering into a highly risky venture.

Finally, competition is a concern in the mobile market. I don’t think this is limited to the mobile media landscape but it is easy for someone to take your app and develop something that is quite similar in a relatively short amount of time. Essentially cutting into your market and making the continued development of your product not possible. I applaud fellow developers that make huge leaps in creating something for the same market but not developers which just try to make minor tweaks to something already out there.

APPO: How is the company funded at this point and what are your primary revenue streams?

LB: I do 100% of the funding of Fomola. But I do have to say that my developers/programmers believe in what we are doing and therefore have accepted lower than normal salaries. Our only revenue stream at this point is from the sales of Blogsy.

APPO: Why are you based in South Korea?

LB: There is no special interesting answer for this question. I have wanted to start a software development company for over 20 years, but the doors that opened in life always took me in a different direction. After years of seeing many companies develop many ideas I wanted to develop, I finally reached a point where I knew if I didn’t start the company I would never do it and would live the rest of my life with that regret. I was living in Korea when I finally reached this point and found people I could trust and believed in the ideas, direction and principles of Fomola. Only time will tell if we will be “successful” but at least I can go to my grave without this regret.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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