Converge updated to use new aggregator service

Converge

TLDR: Get latest app update from store to continue using Converge starting next month.

Converge was built using parse.com, which was great until Facebook bought and decided to shut it down. 😱 Since the announcement last year, I have looked at alternative “back-end as a service” offerings to replace parse.com but couldn’t find anything as good and free. After all, Converge is a free app without any ads so didn’t make any sense to spend $$$ every month.

I finally decided to build my own back-end service to also change the news aggregation infrastructure which can scale to many more news publishers without ongoing additional work, and be almost real time. The initial version was finally complete last week including the app changes required to use the new service. All these changes are now live. Yay!

To continue using Converge once parse.com shuts down at the end of this month, you will need to download the latest version from store.

Now that the app and aggregation service are live, I am hoping to add more publishers and bring Converge to other platforms very soon, starting with Android. Eventually, Converge will need to make money to pay for server costs but that can be figured out later. 😊

Cheers!

image credit: wpcentral

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Update on The Verge app

Converge

UPDATE: I have not received any further response/complaint from The Verge. Considering I have resolved the complaints they submitted to Microsoft in last app update and received their commitment to support the app previously (as explained below), I have published the app again in store. If The Verge has any feedback or want to discuss anything, I welcome them to reach out to me. You have my commitment to work with you to make this app serve your readers in a way which works for everyone.

The Verge is one of my favorite tech news sites. There are always controversies around who likes which product or tech company but overall, The Verge seems on point most of the time. I read that site so much that I created an app for myself as their mobile site isn’t good. Later when I shared the app in The Verge reader community, a lot of folks liked the app and asked if I could add more features. Now, adding features and making an app worth using takes some serious efforts and commitment.

One thing I learned by watching apps come and go is that one shouldn’t develop an unofficial app unless the service has public APIs or you are partnering with the team who owns the service.

  • First, building a brand and service which people want to use takes your sweat and blood. As a 3rd party developer, you shouldn’t use someone else’s work to succeed.
  • Second, even if you don’t agree with the first point, you can, and you will, be forced to remove the app and your efforts will be wasted.

But if you are partnering, that is really a worthy gig. I absolutely loved working with the amazing team at Khan Academy to develop apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

Considering these points, I reached out to the Vox Media (owner of The Verge) engineering team to see if they wanted to partner. They loved the app but after their internal discussion, they chose not to collaborate in any way. Their ask was to not use The Verge branding and they wouldn’t have problem with the app. I was bummed but fully respected their decision and started a thread in The Verge forums to get ideas on a new name.

In this same thread, Nilay confirmed that they love the app and want me to continue improving it. Not only that, this was repeated in their weekly verge cast video. As long as the app didn’t use their branding, they would fully support it. This thread has been removed from the forums now. In fact, The Verge has been removing or locking threads which discuss this app in their forums.

With that confirmation, I started adding features in the app. It took hundreds of hours from my weekends and nights but the results were very satisfying, just look at the reviews posted by users. With the most recent update which includes support for adding comments, app is at par with The Verge’s official apps on other platforms.

Yesterday, I received email from Microsoft Store team that The Verge has submitted content infringement complaint against the app for using their name and logo. This is something I had agreed to fix but didn’t change yet so I unpublished the app from store and updated the app to not use there branding. It seems the feature to include app signature while commenting also caused some frustration for the verge staff but they never reached out to me to resolve that or asked to remove the feature.

Once their reported issues were fixed, I reached out to Vox Media lawyer to make sure they are ok with the fixes I have made. They were happy to know that I had removed their branding but, surprisingly, also mentioned that they don’t want this app to distribute their copyrighted content. I explained that this app is like any other thousands of news reader apps which allow users to read content from sites. I am not taking their content and re-publishing or distributing it. They don’t seem to agree with it even though they mentioned that an app like Feedly is ok. How is my app different from Feddly, they don’t mention that. Why are they doing this, I don’t know. But agreeing to supporting the app and now pulling that support is beyond me. It has definitely caused a lot of stress for me.

I have again reached out to their lawyer as well as other folks in their leadership team. I am hoping to hear from them so that this can be resolved and app can be made available in store again. Technically, I have fixed the issues they complained about and I am free to publish the app until they submit another complaint. There is no point in cat and mouse game though so I want to resolve this issue before making the app available again.

By the way, the update with new name and logo is already visible in the store. You can check it out using the deep link as app is not available in search results or lists.

Feel free to chime-in in comments or on twitter if you have feedback or want to share your support.

The Verge app for Windows Phone

If you are part of the technology world, there is a good chance you read The Verge for getting your fix of news, reviews and their fantastic long reads not only related to technology but also science, art and culture. If want to do that on a Windows Phone though, there are no good options. Until now.

The Verge

Over the last few weekends, I have built a new app for Windows Phone for consuming everything The Verge has to offer. Here are the features it currently supports.

  • Super smooth experience for browsing and reading all the latest news, reviews, features, and exclusives.
  • Read comments posted by The Verge readers.
  • Watch “On The Verge,” “The Vergecast,” “Small Empires,” and more without ever leaving the app.
  • Share news and stories with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email.

More features like forums and live tiles are not implemented in the app just yet but I plan to add these over the coming weeks. Feel free to suggest or vote on feature requests on the feedback site. Here is some feedback from the community so far.

Great. The best by far. Great design. Better and more good looking than the android app.

As much as most of The Verge crew don’t like WP, this is a great app to prove how good it can be.

I suddenly feel like we don’t need an official app anymore. Awesome.

Obviously, the app is neither sponsored nor endorsed by The Verge or Vox Media.

Khan Academy on Windows 8: Now Open Source

Khan Academy app launched with Windows 8 last October. A few of us worked together to get the first version developed just in time for Windows 8 launch. Since then, there have been a few minor updates and a big overhaul which was published in store last month. This week is another great milestone: the app is now open source and ready for anyone to contribute.

KhanAcademyInStore

How We Got Here

I developed the initial version with a lot of help from folks over at Khan Academy and an internal Microsoft team. It was really a port of Learning Circle phone app to Windows 8 so naturally, this was developed using C# and XAML.

Later last year, a few more folks from Microsfot and BGC3 stepped up to help and we got some funding. That helped to get Pixel Lab team involved with development and after working on it for a few months,  the next version of the app was published in store last month. This new version was developed in HTML5/JavaScript and this is what we open sourced this week.

Get Involved

If you have experience in developing Windows 8 apps using HTML5 and JavaScript, come join us in making a great Khan Academy app for Windows 8. In addition to HTML5 and JavaScript, having good understanding of WinJS, WinRT, TypeScript and web in general would be great. If you don’t have development experience, you can still help with testing.

Let’s Go!

Learning Circle update is now in Windows Phone Store

Learning circle has been in Windows Phone store for over a year now and it has been very well received with consistent 4+ star rating in many markets. I finally managed to submit an update for the app which cleared store certification today.

Learning Circle Panorama

So, what’s new in this release:

  • Removed ads. When I created the app, I made the decision to host a service to support the app which has costs. I wanted to make sure I don’t end up paying for that out of my pocket as the app is free so ads were really a safety net. For months, cost for hosting the service hasn’t been a problem so I decided to get out of the way of learners and leave them alone with Khan Academy’s legendary content. I’m not a big fan of ads anyways.
  • Updated content library with recent additions at Khan Academy and Channel 9.
  • A few other usability improvements such as multi-select list on downloads page.

If you use learning circle on Windows Phone, you should definitely update to the latest version from store. Let me know if you have any feedback.

Last day in Deloitte

Once again…. today, once again I sent an email to my colleagues with farewell notes. Though people avoid this moment as far as they can, it comes on regular intervals for me, one way or the other. 🙂 Anyways, life is all about stepping ahead.

When I look back in past for last one year, i.e. the time spent in Deloitte, nothing comes to my mind apart from some memories of events and few nice people. It would have been a fantastic combination if I would have gotten the kind of work I expected at the time of joining in addition to memories and nice people.

What Next. I am gonna try something new. Mid march is the time when I will be moving to US. Let’s see how things turn out.

Till then….. Cheers!! 🙂