Origin Story

Lessons learned from the birth of Say Penis

The idea for Say Penis goes back to 2013―I wish I knew the exact origin but I don't. I remember sitting in my old room in Seattle's University District. I distinctly remember jumping up and down and getting really excited as it started to take shape. I really enjoy working on Say Penis and now it's in it's second iteration I've learned a lot. I'll share two tidbits now and probably more when I feel like writing more.

Lesson 1: Only develop features users give a fuck about.

The original version had only one activity which allowed users to load and sort scores based on various parameters. That probably sounds really simple but let me tell you, it was not. I probably spent the majority of dev time implementing the loading and paging of game results ordered on various paramters. I thought hard about how to properly page data when the user requested multiple sorts. For example, how should I pull the next page of results as the user scrolls down after first sorting by player name and then by score date?

You might be thinking, "Well Matt, you boxed yourself into a shitty UX corner by having only one view to hold the results." You'd probably be right. However, in the end, all that work would have been a waste either way. When I demo'd the game no one gave a fuck about looking up scores based on any parameters. All they cared about was whatever scores the app was already showing them.

Even when I explained, "Look, you can go see all your scores. And look! If you scroll, it automatically loads the best data to show next!" no one cared. All they wanted to see was who was best.

Lesson 2: Know where your data centers are.

The first iteration of Say Penis was backed by SimpleDB on AWS and since I was working in Seattle I just spun up a database in the US West region. Everything thing went great to start. AWS is awesome to work with and the documentation is vast but specific so the answer is almost always out there.

Fast forward a year. I've built the app, demo'd to friends and released on the app store. People are downloading it on the app store and I'm the number one game for the search "Say Penis"! Awesome! However, one day I go to stroke my ego and look at all the awesome 5 star reviews I should have in the bank. To my dismay, Say Penis is barely rated 3 stars. What gives?

When I looked at the comments with low ratings it became obvious what the issue was. I saw a bunch of 1-star ratings with euro-jibberish comments. Fortunately, Google will automatically translate euro-jibberish to english and I found out most of the comments said something like "no penis!1!!" or "where is the penis!!?".

Some helpful comments from across the pond.

When you release an app to the Google Play store it lets you choose which countries to release in. I had naively chosen to give the whole world access without concidering that all my data was stored in an Oregon data center. This left the would-be euro-penis-sayers frustrated, sitting around with nothing better to do than give me a 1-star rating.

What's next?

Stay tuned for future posts including more mistakes from the first time around as well as experiments in gorilla marketing and usage analytics.