iPhone App Study Group 勉強会

I attended an iPhone benkyoukai on Sunday, hosted by a new company iPhonez.jp (incorporated on the day the iPhone 3G went on sale) in a meeting room in the Recruit building in Shimbashi.

Although the event was billed as an iPhone application study group, it didn’t really live up to the name. Apple has been really strict about the NDA that accompanies the iPhone SDK, which has made it so far impossible for publishers to print books on iPhone development, earned the scorn of Android developers, and now, prevented this event from discussion any about iphone development.

(The rumor mill says that Sunday night’s event was actually planned to be held at the Apple Store in Ginza, but was relocated after this same event was held at the Mac store in Osaka, and that Apple complained about the amount of detail revealed in that session.)

There were 4 longer presentations, and then a few lightning talks. Topics included:

  • Guy who created a free Japanese Postal Code lookup app talked about releasing his app. “I did it mostly for fun.”
  • Working with Dashcode. The guys from Recruit showed the iPhone/iPod Touch Dashcode widget they created for HotPepper, a free coupon magazine.
  • Geolocation potential with iphone. Guy from a mobile GPS firm talks about creating an app to deliver location-based info and coupons. His example was rather comical–an app that would let you know where you are on the Yamanote, the circle line that runs around tokyo. I can’t imagine being able to forget where you are on that train… every stop is announced, multiple times, and there are signs in the cars and the stations. So while that didn’t seem that practical, the cool thing was his GPS software could not only show use where we were, but on which floor of the building we were on. That was impressive.
  • A professor from the Institute for Advanced Media Arts and Science (IAMAS) spoke about doing Art on the iPhone. Except he wasn’t in Tokyo–he was in Hokkaido. He sent his slides via email, and did the talk via iChat video… facing the screen so he could see sync with the slides. At the end, the moderator turned the laptop towards the audience so that the professor could see the applauding crowd. Anyway, it was mostly a theoretical talk, showing some art projects done with iMacs in the past, and positing that by approaching the iPhone as a platform for physical interaction rather than justa a phone device, the possibilities for art could be delivered. Probably the most interesting discussion–mostly because it had very little to do with iPhone app development, but spoke to the possibilities (and anyway, the NDA makes it difficult to talk about iPhone development at all.)

The event was a success, though, from a networking and as a forum for general iPhone enthusiasm. In comparison to the Symbian and Android events I’ve been to lately, the iPhone folks are positively glowing. My sense was that the attendees were not just coders, but marketing and venture people attended as well. The technical discussion were very light, and the focus was on “how can I appeal to the iPhone user”.

I met the very nice people from iPhonez.jp, Kawakami-san and Yao-san. They seem super nice, and hope to see them again at another event.

Links: iPhonez meeting announcement (japanese). iPhone-dev.jp forum thread (also in japanese).

Why Content Management Systems are like Model Airplane Kits

Understand that buying/building a CMS is very different than most product purchases. It’s more like buying a model airplane kit than it is a finished product. With a model kit, you most certainly are going to paint it yourself. You’ll add the authentic plane markings and insignias yourself. The kit has all the parts you need, but you still need to put it together. There are all kinds of kits, some easy to assemble, some requiring a lot more skill, some just for show, some actually functional with radio controlled engines that you can take out to the parking lot and fly around.

Commercial CMS’s come with nice white papers and reassuring text on the website, and, most dangerously, salespeople paid on commission and so will promise that “of course our product can do so-and-so”. The problem is that the slick presentation and sales job may fool you into thinking that you are buying a product–but you will probably be getting a kit.

Content management vendors understand that people want products, or “solutions”, and not kits. So they sell it that way. ( So do the model kits makers. There’s always a nice photo of the plane on the box, but when you open it, it’s just a tray of grey plastic.) But at the same time, customers ask them for customization options. So the CMS vendor has to make a product that is configurable, skinnable, and flexible. Some of them achieve that, some of them don’t. The more customers ask for features though, the harder it is to make it all work together. That’s why there is usually a “professional services” offering as well.

You may already understand this. But if you are new to content management, it is worth saying: expect the time/cost to customize and integrate to be a significant part of the work. Choosing a CMS product is just the beginning.