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Progress Report

Posted on: November 20th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 19 Comments

Wow it’s been a month since my last article. Time flies.

So I was working on the devotional features of iPocketBible for iPhone when our new Bible Atlas product came out. I thought I had all the programming for PocketBible done to support maps, but of course some issues came up. So I tabled the iPocketBible devotional work and finished up maps for the Pocket PC (and indirectly, for the desktop).

When I came back to iPocketBible fresh off the work on the atlas I realized I needed to make some changes to iPocketBible to support maps, too. So I worked on that until I got to a point where someone else needed to do their changes before my changes could be finished.

About then we finalized some decisions regarding new CD-ROM and USB thumb drive collections for Christmas. These require a new setup program, a new product registration method, changes to the Web site to support automatic ordering of CDs from our duplication facility, and changes to the product we use to load USB devices. I’m in the midst of doing that.

Today I got a call and it seems our CD duplicator messed up disc 3 of The Message Remix audio product for iPod. In the course of that conversation we realized there’s a bad file on disc 1. So that required a new master for disc 1. The duplication house is going to re-do all the disc 3′s and when we get both discs back from the manufacturer, we’ll be sending out replacements to everyone.

So now I’m back working on the new collections which we hope to have out very soon now. After that I’ll get back to getting maps to work on the iPhone, then daily devotional reading progress on the iPhone. It’s like my projects have been stacking up but I think I’m over the mountain top and the stack is getting smaller.

Meanwhile, work continues on the synchronization providers for PocketBible for Windows and PocketBible for Pocket PC. As we got into the project we realized that the database format we were using for devotional reading progress just wasn’t organized correctly to handle synchronization. Changing it meant writing some code to convert the old format to the new, in addition to the code to do the synchronization. Because of the change, more testing was required since we want to make extra-sure that we don’t mess up your data. We’ve done our internal tests and now we’re just starting the customer beta that will be followed by the product release. (No need for more volunteers at this point — thanks for your interest!)

In addition to all of this, large portions of MyBible are being updated to accommodate synchronization. We’re seeing good progress there but there’s still plenty to do before we’ll be able to sync MyBible data to the desktop. It’ll be a free update when it’s done, so hang in there and we’ll keep you informed.

In the next couple of weeks you should be seeing the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), filling out the “NIV Family” of Bibles (the other being the TNIV). Due to a new contract with the publisher we’re going to be able to offer these three Bibles together at a very attractive price. We’ll also be releasing some new “classic” Bibles that we’ll probably distribute for free.

In the midst of all this I also want to let you know that we’re making some changes in Tech Support so we can better handle all the email and Web-based Help Desk support requests that come in. Starting a couple weeks ago we reduced our phone hours so we can focus on support email, which is significantly more efficient than handling one problem at a time on the phone.

I think that’s it. We’ve been really busy here for the last few weeks and I apologize for not posting more news here sooner. We have to stay busy so we can clear our to-do lists in time for that native iPhone app, right? :-)

19 Responses

  1. MarcT says:

    We have to stay busy so we can clear our to-do lists in time for that native iPhone app, right?

    Right! =)

  2. Andrew Kavcsak says:

    Hi Craig,
    Thanks so much for the extensive update on where various projects and outstanding items stand. I am especially anxious for the synchronization provider for PocketBible for Windows and PocketBible for Pocket PC, since you had not given us an update on this for some time. Did not realize you were working on so many things at once, no wonder you have not had an update for a while. Hope you and your entire team & family have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Dave Z says:

    I’d buy a native iPhone bible app in a heartbeat. :)

  4. Wayne Bird says:

    Hello Craig,

    Thanks for the update. It’s great to see continual progress with the PocketBible product. However, before moving onto new products, it would be nice if your current products got cleaned up, i.e. tables that cutoff the contents of the cell, links that don’t go to the correct location, etc. Specific details have already been submitted to the help desk quite some time ago.

    Thanks for a good product, I use it ALL the time!
    Wayne

  5. Your comment presupposes that there is a point at which there are no errors in a program. Once that point is reached, then we can move to the next project.

    There are at least two problems with this assumption. First, it can probably be shown formally that there is no such thing as a program that has no bugs. Therefore, under your business strategy we could never start a new project once we released the first one.

    Second, there is a point of diminishing returns. The time it takes to move from one project to another, solve a small problem, formally release the product to customers, and switch context back to the original project can cost more than the original problem is costing.

    The other aspect of this is that it’s often the case that we’ll have one customer who either describes normal behavior as abnormal, or who is seeing a very unusual problem that is a result of his or her unique situation. As a result we don’t assign it a high priority. This person cannot always be convinced that what he or she is seeing is not a problem for the other 99.999% of our customers.

    So the fact of the matter is that there’s almost always a few outstanding issues with all of our software. You often see those dealt with in future releases, or you won’t see them dealt with at all. There are almost always circumstances the public isn’t aware of that affect these decisions.

  6. Wayne Bird says:

    Thanks for the reply Craig.

    By no means do I expect perfection before moving onto new projects. However, when someone points out a problem, then I would expect it to be fixed since it was a product that was paid for. And to say, “The other aspect of this is that it’s often the case that we’ll have one customer who either describes normal behavior as abnormal, or who is seeing a very unusual problem that is a result of his or her unique situation.” If that is the case in the issues that I’ve brought up, please let me know. A good example is the table “Harmony of the Gospels” in RSB where text is cutoff in cells and verses that don’t have links. Please let me know if this is normal behavior that is acceptable to you. If you’re short handed and don’t have the time to fix it, then I’ll be glad to fix it for you for free. I already own BookBuilder Pro, I’ll just need the source file. This goes for the other books that I’ve found problems with.

    Thanks for the dialog!
    Wayne

  7. I should’ve expanded on my second point regarding diminishing returns. We accumulate error reports in our books so that we can be more effective with our time. Only when they reach some critical mass do we go in and make the changes, and then all at once.

    Sometimes the only way we have of knowing to what extent a problem is affecting customers is the amount of feedback we receive. This factors into determining when it is cost-effective to make a change. If we’re getting ten complaints a day about something, then it’s definitely time to fix the problem. If we’re getting one complaint every three or four years, then there’s less motivation to get excited.

    An example of the first type of problem was something that came up on the iPhone recently. After an update, none of the Strong’s numbers links worked. That affected everyone who was using Strongs KJV or NASB, which is a lot of people. And we heard about it from several customers.

    An example of the second problem would be a typo in the ASV that we’ve known about since 2003. It’s been reported by one customer. Frankly in looking at our list I’m disappointed to see that we didn’t fix that when we released PocketBible 3, but we didn’t.

    I didn’t look up your particular issues (and we don’t always have them identified by customer, so I probably can’t look up your particular issues) before writing my response, so I’m not necessarily categorizing yours into any of these categories. I’m just saying that there are many factors that have to be considered when we decide how to allocate our time, and the general statement that we should fix all known problems before releasing new products is overly simplistic.

    Some of the specific problems you’ve raised have already been addressed and others are pending. We have recently made some staffing changes that will allow us to address some of these sooner rather than later.

  8. Wayne Bird says:

    Hello Craig,

    Thanks for the response. I sure appreciate the feedback.

    Wayne

  9. David Thomas says:

    “ipod touch” is something different. Since it is not a phone nor PDA how would I use it to read bibles.

  10. The iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone. Go to http://www.iPocketBible.com for information.

  11. Lawson Culver says:

    Have you guys looked into using compressed javascript? I work for a Fortune 500 company that is introducing a new product. Load times weren’t all that good for dialup customers, but we actually cut the transaction times in halfby using compressed javascript.

  12. Thanks for the suggestion, Lawson, but the way our application works it wouldn’t save any time. Once you get into the application you’ve loaded all the JavaScript you’re ever going to need. From then on you’re only loading new blocks of text or the forms you need for pages like the Options or Find pages. All the JavaScript to support those pages is already on your device. The new content just fills an empty <div> in the middle of the screen.

    Same goes for all the graphics in the buttons. When you show and hide the toolbar in single-finger scroll mode there’s nothing downloaded from the server — it’s all already there in memory.

    That’s why a lot of the complaints we read from people who want native iPhone apps don’t carry as much water as they think they do. The performance of the application, even over the EDGE network, rivals our native applications on Palm and Pocket PC because we’re not transmitting as much data as you might think we are.

    Of course the need for connectivity is still a sore point with some, though they seem to be more upset over losing access to their third-party software (i.e. iPocketBible) than the rest of the functionality of their $600 phone (including the inability to make or receive phone calls). In other words, it’s our fault that the AT&T network has holes in its coverage. :-)

  13. Wesley Walls says:

    Craig – has the iPhone product proven successful from your perspective? As an end-user, I think most everyone would agree its a great product. I hope you’ve realized success for your efforts.

  14. That’s a good question; thanks for asking.

    We didn’t know what to expect with respect to the iPhone. We knew it would be a “trendy” product with a lot of interest in the short term that would fade dramatically as the newness wore off. So it was important to get the product out right away while interest in the iPhone was still high.

    Every week, we’ve seen a steady increase in users logged in per day and in pages viewed per day. We don’t think interest in the product has flagged at all yet.

    Sure we’d like to see more subscribers but we’re definitely not disappointed. You haven’t seen us do much with it in the last 6 weeks but it hasn’t been standing still. I have an update I’ll post either tonight or tomorrow that will fill in the missing daily devotional reading features. Hopefully the next step after that will be to get our new Bible Maps book to work in iPocketBible. It’s actually there and working on our test site but you can’t scroll it and zoom it yet.

    I have a list of features to implement that in many ways will make it better than our “native” applications on Palm and Pocket PC.

    I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying iPocketBible. Thanks for your interest.

  15. Norm Beasley says:

    Craig,
    Just found this part of your site. I am still using a Palm product (T5) and wonder what progress is being made on the synchronization tools between PocketBible for Windows and the Palm platform. I have been using MyBible and Daily Reader on a Palm for a number of years now and love it; I have only recently loaded PocketBible for Windows on my computer, and only today (01-Jan-08) used it for my daily devotions. I am very keen to see the sych tools between Palm and PC…. Any progress on those sych tools? What kind of date/deadline do you have for those?
    Blessings,
    Norm

  16. I think I’ve said this before but it might be buried in the comments on another blog post so I’ll repeat it. As you may know, MyBible was written by a third party (David Fedor, who at the time was working for Palm) starting back in 1997 or 1998. Laridian originally had only distribution rights for the program but eventually gained the rights to the source code and now own it completely.

    Once we knew we were going to write a desktop application and that we’d want to synchronize the desktop and PDA apps, we began designing our in-house apps to make synchronization easier. Since at the time we didn’t have the source code for MyBible (and even if we did, the code for notes, highlights, and bookmarks was already written) we weren’t able to make changes to facilitate synchronization.

    As a result, the Pocket PC program was the first to support synchronization because its database format is absolutely identical to the desktop version of PocketBible. The next platform you’ll see supported is the iPhone because even though the database format is different, we didn’t start work on it until last July so we planned from the beginning to make it easy to sync. Once we get past the Christmas/New Year holidays you should see the iPocketBible sync provider fairly quickly.

    The issue with MyBible is that the data storage format for all the user-created data had to be modified to support the extra information we need to implement synchronization. So for example, we don’t just need to know that you’ve read your devotional reading for today, but we also need to know exactly WHEN you read it. That way we can tell which database is more up-to-date: The one on your desktop that says you read it today, or the one on your T5 that says you haven’t read it yet. Same for your notes, highlights, and bookmarks.

    So we’re in the process right now of making those updates. I can’t give you a specific date, but I can tell you there’s someone working on it full-time (or at least as full-time as you can during the holidays).

    Hope this helps. You can watch the blog for more info, and also you should go to lists.laridian.com and sign up for the Palm list to get the latest information on updates to MyBible.

  17. Norm Beasley says:

    Thanks, Craig, for these details. I was not aware of the issues on the Palm / MyBible distribution rights and only just found this Laridian blog. I also appreciate the info on the lists.laridian.com and think I have signed up for that list.

    I guess I mostly want you to know that I appreciate your software and for what it does for me personally. And that someone is working on the s/ware to keep improving it.

    Have a great New Year!

    Blessings,
    norm

  18. Norm Beasley says:

    Good morning, Craig,

    I am writing about the Palm MyBible synch software to PocketBible for Windows. It has been several months since I last asked, and now wonder if there has been any progress on this project?

    Blessings,
    Norm

  19. There has been a lot of progress on MyBible. Since you last wrote we’ve had a person on MyBible full-time working toward synchronization and other improvements to MyBible. We’ve released a version to a couple testers that synchronizes notes but not bookmarks or other data. Having the basic synchronization pathway implemented for notes will grease the wheels for the rest of the data.

    While we’ve been implementing synchronization we’ve been adding other features, too. It’s going to end up being a paid upgrade with the new features, but if you own the desktop program we promised you a free update for synchronization and we’ll keep that promise.

    To be honest I’ve been using some of Jeff’s time over the last couple of weeks to finish up the Windows Mobile Smartphone version of PocketBible 4. Other than that he’s been full-time on MyBible. It’s taking longer than we thought, but we’re also doing more than we originally planned. We think you’ll like the results and appreciate your patience.

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