Wednesday, September 11, 2013

AWS now has mobile push notifications API

You can now send push notifications (Apple APNS or Google GCM) via AWS!

This feature comes under SNS (Simple Notification Service), which includes sending to email and SMS too.

The pricing is amazingly cheap too. Mobile push notifications will cost $1 or less for 1 million pushes! As a comparison, Parse charges $70 per 1 million pushes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

After 4 years, iOS developers can now interact with WhatsApp via URL Schema

In their latest release, WhatsApp has introduced their app URL schema.

For example, the following URL will open WhatsApp from your app, with the message and user prefilled.


At the same time, the app has changed from fixed paid app to auto-renewable subscription. So they earn $0.99 every year!

Interestingly, didn't Apple say auto-renewable subscription is only for apps that has new content?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Live Chat for mobile - from Apptentive

Apptentive started with providing in-app feedbacks and surveys.

Today, they have a "revolution".

They have announced Message Center, kind of like live chat, but for mobile.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Apigee Push Notifications

Push is one of the hottest API around and we have covered a few.

Now, even Apigee is into the game.

They are providing 10M free push per month, which is 10 times of what competitors such as Parse offer!

They also running a contest now, and will provide you additional 10M free push for next 12 months, if you integrate and send out 1 test push.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Google Analytics now has A/B Testing!

Yesterday we posted about Google introducing BaaS for mobile developers.

Today, there is another new stuff from their labs: A/B Testing, and integrated into Google Analytics!

This feature is known as "Experiments". You can refer to the developer documentation.

It looks awfully for developers only. If you are not a developer, perhaps Optimizely is better for you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Google also jumped onto the BaaS bandwagon

Google has launched their own Backend-as-a-Service, like Parse (now belongs to Facebook) and Helios (Heroku).

They called it the Mobile Backend Starter.

As the creator of Android, it is no surprise they created a much needed service for mobile developers.

The question now: Would Apple be jumping onto the bandwagon?

We will find out in WWDC 2013.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ninja Blocks - Build apps that talk to your hardwares

Ninja Blocks started off as a kickstarter project.

It's now shipping, and looks cool!

If you are a geek who wants to build something for home automation, this would be really helpful.

In their own words:

The free Ninja Blocks platform makes it trivial to build web & mobile apps that talk to hardware. Get up and running in minutes, and begin talking to hardware & connected devices with the web languages you already know. Focus 100% on your app, and never have to worry about embedded programming, electronics, & networking protocols again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kii - another BaaS - with a App Challenge with $49,800 worth of prizes

Kii is another Backend-as-a-Service for mobile developers, like Parse.

I find no pricing for the service from the Japanese company, yet.

Their coming Apps Challenge could be attractive for developers, with 4 prizes, worth total $49,800!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Farking JavaScript for your website

The Onion created this awesome fartscroll.js.

It's best to take a look at a demo from HuffingtonPost, making celebrities fart.

You will be glad to read the farking source code on github.

It's a killer API.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wistia - Add Video to your Website

We all know the best way to explain a product is to use a video.

You won't go wrong shooting a video and putting it up on your homepage.

Traditionally, you would embed a YouTube video. However, Youtube is not the best option. It has advertisement, and it don't embed nicely (no customization). The only good thing is that it is free.

Meet Wistia.

It boasted features such as support for both HTML5 and flash, customization, call to actions with email marketing, and video heatmaps!

It is a paid product, but has a free plan with 5 GB bandwidth per month.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

PushBots - Another Push Notification Service

I have covered similar services such as Parse (my favorite), and Urban Airship.

There is now yet another Push Notification Service, from PushBots.

They are still in beta.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Twilio is in Japan

Twilio is entering the Japan market, with KDDI partnership!

The TechCrunch article rightfully pointed out why this is a huge win for Twilio.

Quoting how other carriers embarking on API failed:

WAC — a “unified open platform” that was being built as a joint effort between AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, Sprint, and others — imploded before it even left the gate. Orange quietly killed off all of their API efforts last month, and mentions of things like Telefonica’s BlueVia seem to come up once every never. 
Developers, it would seem, just don’t care to work with carriers when they can avoid it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Helios - Mobile Backend as a Service - by Heroku

Newly out of Heroku's owen. Meet

Like Parse, Helios helps iOS developers build server-client app easily, without needing to write server side code, design API etc.

What makes helios stands out is that it is free, opensource, and can run on Heroku easily.

Get started now! It's definitely amazing gift for iOS developers.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The 5 laws of API dates and times

Repost from

In short:

Law #1: Use ISO-8601 for your dates
Law #2: Accept any timezone
Law #3: Store it in UTC
Law #4: Return it in UTC
Law #5: Don’t use time if you don’t need it

NoSQL Style (Gangnam Style Parody for Geeks)


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Should developers pay to join a hackathon?

I recently pondered this question..

There have been many times where I have seen hackathons that require developers to pay to join. As much as $50.

I understood that organizing a hackathon is not easy. It requires a lot of logistics, and not to forget the very important element - FOOD.

But many of the hackathons are sponsored by big companies such as Google/Amazon/Blackberry. So the costs are covered.

Then why still ask for $$?

PS: I understood some community hackathons have no sponsors, and it is perfectly fine that developers chip in money to buy a couple of pizzas.

Apptentive - In-app survey for mobile

In a previous post, I mentioned Neemware as a mobile SDK for customer feedbacks.

I tried Neemware and it is useful, especially for conducting surveys.

There is another similar service - Apptentive.

Apptentive looks equally good. I have not tried, and would be happy to hear your comments!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SaneBox understand customer needs

SaneBox adds sanity to your crazy email lifestyle.

If you yet to know what it is, read this and sign up (referral link).

Today, I received the usual daily digest at 4pm, and to my surprise, they added a new feature.

They have added 3 buttons:
  • Delete All
  • Mark All as Read
  • Archive All
They seems to have understood that every time I read the digest, I will press Command+Shift+U on my Apple Mail app. That is, I have "read" them all.

Nice feature.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good Alternatives to Google Reader

As you probably already knew, Google Reader will be shutting down. It's not an April Fool joke.

There are many good, much better alternatives RSS reader.

My favorite is feedly.

While netizens start to suggest alternatives, I stumbled upon newsblur, and found their pricing funny.

For $24/year, you help to feed poor Shiloh (the dog). Nice try.

But I will use feedly for now, until my girlfriend finds out about my decision and ask me not to starve the cutie..

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Rellic now for Mobile Apps too

New Relic is a popular tool for web developers to monitor server load and crashes.

Recently, they have introduced New Relic for Mobile!

Similar to what it does for web developers, it now helps mobile developers track API calls (how long it took) and deliver crash reports.

This is however, not new. Crittercism and Crashlytics have been available for a long time.

I personally recommend Crashlytics, since they have been acquired by Twitter recently, and hence even their Enterprise version is free.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stoic - Turn spreadsheet into mobile apps

I went to Stoic meetup in Singapore and learnt quite a lot from this amazing product.

Their concept of turning spreadsheet data into usable "apps" seems neat. Everyone wish to turn  rows and columns of data into something more meaningful. Stoic aims to do that.

my sketch of their product
Stoic generalise the data, and then let you view them from different perspectives. You can then easily integrate their map/grid/etc widgets into your website.

For example, they built a Q&A app using their Stoic platform! All with just 300 lines of code.

But that wasn't all.

I was most amaze at their approach and technology.

Firstly, they like JavaScript a lot. They use great frameworks - node, angular and stuff. Then when there isn't a library that they need, they engineered it! Hence they released formula.js, parseq.js and jsDoc.

And they are never shy to talk about their culture and the tools they use.

When an audience asked about they funding and if they would still be around in the future, this was what Ismael (roughly) said:
We are not worried. We are in our mid-40s. We have wife, kids and mortgage, but we are financially very stable. We can go on for years without earning revenues. No problem.
That's some attitude.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Developer Outreach and their Benefits

While reading some whitepaper from ChallengePost on "how to organise developer contest", I came across this matrix on the various developer program components and their benefits.

For example, your developer portal and blog is mainly for reaching out to your existing developers, less on reaching out to new developers. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

An App for Hosting Hackathons

If you are organizing an hackathon, you could use to create and manage the event.

It covers common activities such as:

  • Invite participants
  • Invite sponsors
  • Invite judge
  • Create schedule
  • Write rules
  • Feed for event
  • Judging tools (vote)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Put Your Sample Code in Github

Sample code is one of the elements needed from an API provider.

More and more, the trend is to put your open source sample code on Github. Today, even Google has moved theirs, starting with 36 repos, to Github.

Is Google ditching & svn/hg?

Github is dominating on public repos, as it is free for anyone to create unlimited public repos. More developers, more social coding, and more eyeball on your code.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Facebook Promise to Give Developers 90 days For Major API Changes

Facebook API has been largely criticised for frequently making breaking changes.

As such, they have introduced their 90-days policy.

We are committed to a 90-day breaking change policy. This means Platform changes that would require a code change from developers (security and privacy changes excluded) will be announced at least 90 days before the change goes into effect.

To clarify, there are 4 points to take note of:

  1. Major change/removal of functionality: You have 90 days to comply
  2. Backwards compatible change: Your code should be versatile to new parameters in request/response
  3. Product Change: You will be inform ed.
  4. Privacy/Security Changes: Fix like these will be immediate, even if it is breaking change

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OnTime API

With the enticing prizes (new iMac! iPad! Nexus 7!), I decided to give the contest a try.

I read up OnTime API Doc, which wasn't too bad, except that they DON'T have:
  • Curl examples
  • SDK (none!)
  • Examples (except C#..)
  • Sample request for URL and body
I only need 2 API - first for authentication, then post a feature

These curl commands could help you get started quicker:

1. Get your access token

curl -X GET --data-urlencode grant_type=password  \
--data-urlencode username=yourusername \
--data-urlencode password=yourpassword \
--data-urlencode client_id=yourid \
--data-urlencode client_secret=yoursecret \
--data-urlencode "scope=read write" \

From the JSON response, get the access token which is needed for all other APIs.

2. Post a feature (aka story)

curl -X POST \
--header "Content-Type:application/json" \
-d "{\"item\":{\"name\":\"New stuff\",\"project\":{\"id\":1}}}" \

Note: This assumes you have already created a project (the first is id 1).

With that, tada!~

Fabulous Prizes from OnTime API App Contest

OnTime is organizing a App Competition for developers.

Sharing this as the prizes are pretty cool. I would love to win any of the 10 prizes :)

That's the way for organizing hackathons. At least have something I want to fight for!

Dateline: March 29, 2013 (plenty of time if you start now)

OnTime is a team collaboration software. I have not tried, but I think it is like Jira, Pivotal, Trello, etc. Cool that there is an API. Perhaps I can integrate SMS into it.. hmm..

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do you hate pricing that says "Contact Sales" ?

Just the other day I wrote about Urban Airship exorbitant pricing, not to mention now they remove their pricing, instead they put up a "Contact Sales" button.

Today, I was checking out Appcelerator, and again their Pricing has a "Contact Sales" button..

Why is pricing getting less transparent?

I hate that. It feels like they treat their customers differently. If I emailed and enquire as an indie developer, I might get conned ?

On the other hand, some others even upload pricing list to Git (to track changes)!

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Design Awesome API Documentation?

I wish someone or Google has a clear answer to that.

There isn't. Hence I went on to research on the topic. Here are some things that I learnt.

There isn't a CMS that is suitable for API documentation (if there is, please answer here).

Who has the best API Documentation? There is a lot of contenders. For me, it is Parse, Stripe and Google.

Parse has wrote a great article. The best advise for API Docs.

These components are needed:

  • Getting Started (short & quick)
  • Full reference (the API details)
  • Guides (like telling a story)
  • SDK
  • Sample Applications using the SDK
And Parse do what they preach.

Some Technologies Parse seems to use:
  • Marketo - for marketing, web visitor tracking and engagement (>$1,000/mth)
  • Hello Bar - ($29 for solo self hosted, or $4.95 per 100 clicks)
  • Kiss Metric - analytics and feedbacks
  • Google Analytics - website analytics
  • Adroll - ads
  • mixpanel - analytics
  • jquery
  • sizzlejs
  • jquery-waypoints

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Warning: Urban Airship Pricing is Much Steeper Than Competitors

I used to be an advocate for Urban Airship when it comes to sending push notifications.

They are the very first to provide a simplified solution to iOS push notification, and they even offer 1 million push messages per month, for free (which competitors all follow).

But thereafter, it will cost 0.1 cent per push message.

Let's compare the pricing with Parse.

API Provider Per message      Per 1 million message     
Urban Airship      0.1 cent ($0.001) $1,000
Parse 0.007 cent ($0.00007) $70

So, Urban Airship costs 14 times (1000/70) of Parse!

Parse is the obvious choice to me.

I would have choose Parse if it was available in 2009. But it's not late to switch.

What's more, Parse offer not just push messaging. It includes a very awesome mobile cloud backend, signup module with Facebook/Twitter, lost password, push from clients over channels, cloud code, very good documentation, SDKs, etc...

I now advocate for Parse.