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Archive for September 2012

Heifer International: Our September Charity of the Month

Heifer International was established in 1944 by Dan West, an Indiana farmer, dedicated to providing permanent freedom from hunger by giving families livestock and training so they would not have to depend on others for food. While volunteering as a relief worker during the Spanish Civil War, Dan realized the people needed "a cow, not a cup" since cows produce milk the families would not have to depend on temporary aid. From this idea, Heifer International was born.

The foundation believes by giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, they empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope. Heifer International works to help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. In exchange for the livestock and training, the families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need in order to ensure that the gift of each animal will eventually help an entire community to become self-sustaining.

Randall Mitchell, one of our android developers, nominated Heifer International for this month’s charity because he believes “the idea that so many people across the globe suffer from starvation and malnutrition is a human tragedy. Heifer International is not only able to reach out to a vast number of people, but the organization is also able to do so on an individual, family, and village level.” Additionally, Randall shared, “ I give to Heifer because each gift is a solid step towards ending the starvation and malnutrition of the individual that receives it.”

To learn more about how you can help, visit http://www.heifer.org

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Showtime Launches Second-Screen Companion App

Just in time for the season premieres of award-winning dramas Dexter and Homeland, Bottle Rocket Apps is proud to announce the release of Showtime Sync v2.0 for iPad. SHOSync has been completely redesigned as a second screen companion app, to be used in conjunction with Showtime's original series.

The app uses audio recognition to listen, identify and serve enhanced content for specific Showtime episodes. Whether you're watching live, pre-recorded, On Demand, streaming or from a DVD, the app will sync as long as the sound is audible. The enhanced content includes gorgeous production and behind-the-scenes photography, trivia, interactive polls and predictions, and exclusive video, and more! After the show, the video, photography, trivia and poll results are condensed in an episode digest that can be browsed throughout the week in anticipation of the next episode.

James Helms, strategist for the Showtime project says "Working with Showtime has been a fantastic experience. They have a great brand, great shows and, perhaps most important, they have high expectations for Bottle Rocket and our product. Those expectations really made us all rise to the occasion."

SHOSync is the latest in a series of broadcast clients to work with Bottle Rocket, crediting our expertise in the content delivery space. We're excited for our partners at Showtime and for the response from their fans!!

Join in the fun and download SHOSync here!

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Facebook Goes Native - Why Should You Care?

Last week, Mark Zuckerburg said Facebook's mobile strategy relied too much on HTML5. He told TechCrunch that it was "one of the biggest mistakes if not the biggest strategic mistakes we've ever made". On a related note, 6Wunderkinder Founder and CEO, Christian Reber, recently blogged about moving Wunderlist from Titanium (a cross-platform app building technology) to native. He mentions that using Titanium was the right decision at the time, but the app's needs have reached Titanium's limits. 

So, what does “going native” mean to the user?

The native to iOS Facebook app has been released and it seems to be greatly improved. It is faster upon open and the UI elements involving motion (for example scrolling) is smoother. Also, the loading of content is seamless and more fluid. These are small subtle changes but collectively make a big impact to the user and greatly improve the experience. I am excited to see how it will evolve over the next few releases. 

It seems the most frequently debated mobile topic is native vs. HTML5. It's a debate that's never settled because the responsible answer is always the same. It depends. For most of our clients, a brand experience is far more important than an app experience. For that reason alone, we believe native is the way to go. If the deciding factor is a fully optimized user experience – things like beauty, speed and fully taking advantage of device capabilities – are essential than native is the answer! No matter how far HTML5 advances, it will never close the gap between the two because it is not designed to run on specific hardware. It is designed to run on all devices, which inherently means it's strength is in quantity of experiences versus the quality of an experience. Here at Bottle Rocket, we are firm believers in quality and it proves out in our work.

Think of it this way, if Apple integrates a new gesture or sensor tomorrow, native developers can take advantage of these innovations immediately and know the device performance is already optimized for it. HTML5 developers may have a little more work ahead of them. Plus, they know the performance will never be optimized to the full potential of the device. 

As the most interesting developer in the world says, "I don't always develop apps, but when I do, I prefer native!”

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What Questions Should You Be Asking Your Potential App Developer?

Software development is a hard craft to tackle and mobile development is no different. Good developers are hard to find, and even harder to motivate and retain. But without good (preferably great) developers, every project has the capability of becoming a nightmare.

Good developers know how to build good software in a logical and consistent manner and obsess over the small technical details. Without this attention to detail and craft mastery you are left with a brittle, hard to maintain (expensive) app that resists change. When you hire a development shop to build your mobile app, here is a sample of some of the questions they need to be able adequately answer:

1. Do you use a version control system? Correct Answer: Yes. Bonus points for using Git or Mercurial

2. Do you utilize Continuous Integration (CI)? Correct Answer: Yes. Bonus points for using an automated solution like Jenkins, Hudson, etc.

3. Do you have written best practices and development guidelines? Correct Answer: Yes.

4. Do you perform periodic code reviews? Correct Answer: Yes, fairly frequently.

5. Do you use 3rd party code, SDKs, or Frameworks where appropriate? Correct Answer: Yes. Bonus points for having a reasonable policy on this practice. Consideration should be given for cost, license type (GPL licenses are not appropriate for commercial software), maintainability, and quality control.

6. Do you have experience in integrating with 3rd party SDKs? Correct Answer: Yes. Bonus points for having experience across a broad spectrum of technologies.

And the list goes on! Too often prospective clients ask the wrong questions and are seemingly more concerned with checking off boxes about experience on a particular technology. The best development shops are the ones that are skilled at solving complex problems, regardless of the technology or platform. Most importantly, they are passionate about their craft and take their work personally. This encourages a working partnership that pushes both the client and developer to perform at the highest of levels. The end product is a direct reflection of both parties and when it is successful, both teams celebrate the win!

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Mona Foundation: Our September Charity of the Month

The Mona Foundation was founded in 1999 by a small group of people in Seattle committed to empowering communities to act as their own agents of change for their local social and economic development. Their fundamental belief is that “everyone, irrespective of race, religion, social classes, or economic systems deserves an education” and that “education is one of the main means of alleviating poverty and raising the status of women”.

The foundation seeks out existing development initiatives that have a history of success and are managed locally to partner with. They then provide financial assistance, along with other types of support, to build local recognition and help people lead themselves to success. To date, the Mona Foundation has supported over 25 projects in more than 15 different countries. In 2011, the foundation touched over 40,000 children, women and their families around the world.


Marc Atwood, an all-star project manager, nominated Mona Foundation for this month’s charity because of his beliefs in “equality of women and men and the universal education for all people, especially girls and young women who have been systemically denied educational opportunities throughout time”. Additionally, Marc shared that “the wonderful thing about the Mona Foundation is that they don't swoop into a country impose their solution, instead they support the grassroots effort that already exists and boosts their efforts”.

To learn more and get involved, visit the Mona Foundation website.

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