Things I’ve been writing about today:

7 ways a streaming iTunes could compete with Spotify and its rivals (Guardian)
Apple rumoured to be in talks with labels over on-demand service. How will it disrupt the competition?

ScratchJr coding-for-kids project hits $25k Kickstarter goal in two days (Guardian)
Developers will release iPad app this summer, but hoping remaining 37 days of campaign will fund Android version

Draw My Doll app: kids draw dolls, then get real versions (Apps Playground)
Released in the US for iPad this weekend, it’s an app that gets children to draw virtual dolls, but then turns them into real toys, paid for by their parents

Whisper it softly, but BuzzFeed has a new source for viral stories (Guardian)
News site reportedly plans to mine anonymous-sharing app Whisper for potential article material

Two more Minecraft books for kids on the way in April (Apps Playground)
Official Minecraft books for kids have been pouring off the shelves since publisher Egmont released three last Autumn. Now it has two more on the way.

Hatchet aims to take an axe to world of siloed streaming music services (Guardian)
Developers of open music player Tomahawk reveal their plans to link up rivals like Spotify and Deezer

Report claims Apple mulling on-demand streaming and iTunes for Android (Music Ally)
Judging by a widely-shared Billboard report on Friday, Apple may be finally preparing its entry into the on-demand streaming music market

Roll, bounce and plant seeds in the beautiful Shu’s Garden game (Apps Playground)
Sometimes, a children’s app will appear seemingly from nowhere and sweep us off our feet with its charm. The latest example is Shu’s Garden.

Rio movie gets an official storybook app for iPhone and iPad (Apps Playground)
If your children are fans of animated movie Rio, they’ll be getting excited about the sequel, which debuts in cinemas this April. To whet their appetite, how about an app for the first film?

Boing! It’s time to drop in on Jelly Pie – Bungee Pants (Apps Playground)
Have your children tried Jelly Pie? If not, it’s well worth a look. Launched last year by book publisher Egmont, it’s a mixture of physical books, a website, a YouTube channel and mobile apps.


Last Wednesday, I spent two hours writing an article. When I resurfaced, more than 60 new emails had arrived. The next day, I went on a train to a conference and listened to a speech. During that three-hour period, more than 90 new emails hit my inbox.

It was around 3am the following morning, unable to sleep, that I realised sometime in 2013, email went from being ‘ho ho my inbox is a bit unmanageable’ to ‘actually, my inbox is now a constant, thrumming source of low-level stress even outside work hours’.

There are very few things more boring online than journalists bitching about email. Apologies for adding to the pile. But perhaps someone can help.

I use Gmail for my email, so the vast majority of spam is filtered out. Maybe 20% of incoming emails can be deleted on sight too: press releases about industries I no longer cover; newsletters or marketing promotions I haven’t gotten round to unsubscribing from yet; boiler-plate ‘no analogs in AppStore!’ mobile app pitches*, and so on.

That still leaves thousands of emails that could require a response, whether a short acknowledgement or a longer conversation. At this point, if I’m not actively sat at a computer answering emails, I’m worrying about how I’m going to deal with the emails I’m not sat at a computer actively answering right now.

A weekly two-hour session where every reply begins “I’m so sorry…’ isn’t really helping any more. Frankly, I’m floundering.

I don’t want not to get emails. It’s my job. Press releases, event invites, app pitches, swapping gossip with friends and contacts, zipping ideas back and forth with colleagues at The Guardian’s tech team and Music Ally (my two main jobs as a freelancer) are all really important.

As is politeness: if someone thinks I’m worth telling about the app they made, I’d like to reply – if only to let them know I got the email and will consider it. I am grateful that people want to email me – often, the reason journalists bitching about email comes across badly is the ‘how dare these people bother me’ vibe.

So… yes. Email. What can I do to be more responsive to the emails (well, the people) I want to respond to, and how can I at least squash email back into being a work-time problem, rather than a non-work-time stress? Some things I’ve tried or thought of:

- Mailbox app for iPhone/iPad. Beautifully done, sometimes stress-relieving as a way to delete that 20% of not-relevant emails – it’s like Fruit Ninja with your inbox! – but not quite helping yet with the other 80%.

- Unroll.me. This looks great for unsubscribing from those unwanted newsletters and promotions. It found 700-odd ‘subscriptions’ in my email, some of which were subscriptions, and others of which were individual PR people or companies. I haven’t had the oomph yet to manually go through the list to decide which to keep.

- Gmail’s multiple inboxes. No. Tried for a bit, and found them more stressful: five inboxes to check rather than one. Something in my brain couldn’t cope with cycling between them rather than having one thing to clear. Well, not clear, but you know what I mean.

- An auto-responder. When I’m away at conferences, I put on an auto-respond along the lines of ‘away, please don’t expect a reply quickly’. What about doing this all the time. “stuffed inbox, sorry if I’m slow to reply’. Then I read this Valleywag post and a piece by Jason Calacanis on some insufferable examples, and haven’t been able to shake the idea that I’d seem like a douche for following suit.

- Hiding from my inbox on Twitter. Solves the stress thing, a little, but ultimately isn’t really helping the core issue. And people come for me there, when they don’t get an email reply ;)

Anyway, yes. Email. Advice welcome from all quarters.


I took my son to look for secondhand toy cars in a few charity shops this weekend, and along the way I spotted this:


So I bought it, wondering what they’d have chosen as the key attributes, how the various politicians would have ranked, and (mainly) why this was ever A Thing, and whether it sold well.

So, for example:


David Miliband: HAWT. And then:


William Hague quite possibly has grounds for a lawsuit here. And how about:


Ed Balls.

But the FANCIABILITY BOMBSHELL was undoubtedly this:


Which can’t help but put THIS back into my mind :o((((


I’m so sorry.



It’s been a very strange day. On Friday, the first iPad e-book was released for Apps Playground, the children’s app reviews website that my wife and I run. We held off on promoting it until this morning, and since then it’s been a bit of a whirl.

First, people tweeted the link and said nice things. Then it started to creep slowly up the UK iBooks store chart – it’s currently in the mid-50s of the overall Paid chart, and number one in the Reference category. And then early this evening, Apple featured our book in the Buzz Books section of the store’s homepage, right next to Neil Gaiman (pic above).

We won’t know what all this means in terms of sales until tomorrow, when we get the first figures from iTunes Connect. But it’s been a hugely exciting, meaningful day for a project that’s been three years in the making. We feel a bit boggled.

I’m a journalist and my wife Alice is a market researcher – both freelance – but since launching the site in 2010 we’ve learned about WordPress design, iTunes affiliate partnerships, SEO and social marketing, online advertising, Facebook advertising, Pinterest promotion, design commissioning (when we realised our WordPress design skills no longer cut the mustard!) and most recently, e-book production and distribution – including working with our friend Linda, who came up with the fab cover.

Which is a long, listy way of saying this is something we’ve built from scratch from our little cottage-industry company, bodging lots of stuff along the way, but where every thousand new readers of the site (and now every sale of the e-book) means so much because it’s our thing.


(Obvious caveat: it wouldn’t be our thing if it weren’t for the imagination, passion and hard work that’s gone into the apps we write about – their developers are the real stars of the book).

In truth, how many copies the book sells or how much money it makes aren’t as important as it being something we made, and that gives us the confidence to make something else, and carry on from there.

As a journalist, the fact that I started exploring iBooks Author three months ago, and now we have a book on sale that we’re proud of, is a hugely exciting thing too, with all manner of implications for the future of what I do. As is the idea of Kindle self-publishing, and Google Play, and…

Anyway, the obligatory plug: Apps Playground’s 100 Best iPad Apps for Kids: 2013 Edition costs £1.99 from the iBooks store.


Well, some of them. I’ve just realised that UEA (the university I went to) has lists of gigs at its venues going back to before my time there in 1995-98. THUS I can piece together who I saw in those three years.

UEA LCR (the bigger venue): Black Grape, Pulp, Menswear, Stone Roses, Echobelly, Bluetones, Ash, Sleeper, Manics, Bluetones, Kula Shaker, Suede, Dodgy, Shed Seven, Belinda Carlisle, Space, Reef, Baby Bird, The Orb, Robbie Williams, Supergrass, Propellerheads, Super Furry Animals.

Waterfront (the smaller venue): Bluetones, Marion / Northern Uproar, Cast, Powder, Terrorvision, Shed Seven, Lionrock, Longpigs, Super Furry Animals, Bis, Octopus, Longpigs, CJ Bolland, Navigator, Ben Folds Five, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Death in Vegas, Sleeper, Roni Size, Lo-Fidelity All Stars.

This probably explains a lot.


Justin Fletcher's Goldilocks app review (iPhone / iPad)

"Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a fun and finely-crafted app that will delight Justin’s fans, and perhaps find him some new ones around the world…"


Music MCN Indmusic talks Harlem Shake and YouTube's music plans

"New York-based Indmusic has been operating for a couple of years, and claims to be “YouTube’s largest music network” with 221 channel partners and more than 1.4bn views for the videos on its network. The most famous of those being Harlem Shake…"


20 best Android apps this week

"Diner Dash, Soundhalo, Hangouts, Whisper, Sonic the Hedgehog, DK Quiz, Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles, Moshcam and more…"


20 best iPhone and iPad apps this week

"Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Hangouts, Amazon Cloud Drive Photos, Justin’s World, Haunting Melissa, Star Trek Rivals, Sago Mini Sound Box and more…"