Comments on: App Store Mercenaries Official blog of Red Sweater Software Fri, 09 Oct 2015 20:11:22 +0000 hourly 1 By: Kim Mason Sun, 06 Sep 2009 00:20:29 +0000 There have been enough stories of this kind now that it’s clear that Apple is engaging in extremely wide-ranging censorship on the App store.

I bought the Chambers dictionary – one of the most respected dictionaries in the world, and it had searching for ‘offensive’ words disabled by default. I had to turn it on. I WANT my dictionary to be complete, as does every person who buys one.

It’s a DICTIONARY, for crying out loud. I thought we got over this ‘foul language has no place in the dictionary’ rubbish in the sixties. Frankly, anyone who believes in censoring dictionaries at all, for any audience, is a moron who deserves to be cleaning latrines for a living, as their stupidity warrants nothing better.

I’ve patronised Apple for years, but this has left a very bad taste in my mouth. With their recent success, as a company they seem to have adopted the mindset that everything they do is right by definition.

I currently have an iPhone; when it breaks, there’s no way I’ll be buying another one unless Apple pulls a 180 degree u-turn on this. I’m simply not interested in closed censored software, with material that any reasonable person would accept or desire removed.

Apple’s success has gone to their head. There have been a number of other distasteful ways that they’ve screwed their customers that they wouldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago (Google ‘iDVD chapters’ to see examples of removed features). Censoring is not out of character for Apple now; I suggest that it’s their new, unpleaseant character.

By: Benjamin Ragheb Sat, 08 Aug 2009 16:55:23 +0000 You say, “It’s ridiculous the kinds of rejections and hoop-jumping we’ve observed in the past year, and one has to assume that the issues making their way into the public eye are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Really? You really believe that for every story getting press there are nine more, just as ridiculous, getting no attention at all? Or does it seem way more likely that, given the number of apps on the store, that MOST reviews are reasonable, and the stories you hear about are the exception?

Also, I think you got it backwards: I don’t think reviewers are rewarded for rejecting apps (even from a manager’s point of view, rejections just generate more work and no benefit for the organization), but they are probably severely punished (fired) for approving one that causes a problem.

By: Tim Nash Sat, 08 Aug 2009 09:07:45 +0000 One of the problems of app reviewing being treated as a part time job is that reviewers will stop looking after they find the first reason for rejecting an app. If they have the time to look in more depth, they may find other issues/ problems and the more of these communicated in 1 rejection message, the less developer frustration there will be as there will be fewer submission/ rejection cycles.

One of the advantages of involving many Apple employees in the process is that problems experienced by many are likely to get fixed. Dealing with the number of submissions is clearly a problem but it is not a problem that any other company has had to deal with on this scale. So 12 months on Apple is still feeling its way.

The reason for rejection of Google Voice was covered in my article of last October “The unwritten Rule behind Apple’s App Store rejections”
Maybe Google thought its partnership with Apple through Eric Schmidt, Al Gore, Arthur Levinson etc. was more important to Apple than Apple’s partnership with AT&T. Before developing, think about that “unwritten Rule” and ask yourself if your app will add more business to Apple (and the carrier) than it takes away.

By: Eric Sat, 08 Aug 2009 03:30:05 +0000 I suspect the same is the process at proxy server companies that block workers form using company computers to surf the web. It seems to me that many of the websites I was being blocked from seeing were perfectly legitimate and in fact critical to me to do my job. For example, I’m a photo editor. I find photos from all over the world.

One of the worse examples of an illegitimate blocking of a website was Corbis. Sure, we all hate Bill Gates and don’t want him to make more money than he already has (joking), but Corbis is a great place to find photos. Yet the proxy server our company employed blocked it because it had a few photos of naked women. Um, yeah, a stock photo agency of Corbis’ size is going to have a few of those no doubt. The IT person who was consulted about opening up the proxy server to let us in was giggling on the phone line as he was looking through the site. That’s when I developed my theory about the people who scour the web for sites to block, are going to find sites to block whether those sites deserve it or not, simply because they feel they have to keep finding more to keep their jobs.

By: Hamranhansenhansen Sat, 08 Aug 2009 02:44:44 +0000 > Isn’t this whole App Store rejextion/censoring debacle an
> all american problem?

I’m from the UK but live in US for the past 10 years. What you are noticing is the influence of all the Puritans here in the US. They are maybe 10% but they terrorize the hell out of everyone else. You have to take proactive steps to avoid them attacking you. Anything you say or do that cannot be said or done in church is like sticking your arm out of a moving train. People and companies here just naturally avoid taking these risks without noticing it in most cases. This kind of proactive defense from Puritans is part of shareholder responsibility for a public corporation.

A big problem is that so many Puritans are politicians, police, judges. So it isn’t just that you can be hounded by them, you can be arrested or fined. It’s like the religious police in Saudi Arabia. So radio and TV stations are regularly fined millions of dollars for saying “penis” (I kid you not) and the most common arrest here is possession of cannabis, which gets you 5 years. We have the largest and most non-violent prison population in the world, the majority of which were taxpayers before they went in, because the cops are out hunting for sinners as well as criminals. You can lose your kids here, easy. If you have kids, you really have to watch what you say and do.

The funny thing is, most of the US Americans who are famous around the world for their accomplishments are actually persecuted here in the States. A couple of years after I got here I realized all of my American heroes had criminal records for things they would not be arrested for in Europe or Canada or most other places. Outside the US, American culture is much more respected than inside.

So when you submit an app to the App Store, first ask yourself: “could a preacher demo this app for a congregation on Sunday morning?” and if the answer is no then you still have work to do.

By: Hans Fri, 07 Aug 2009 21:21:36 +0000 I don’t have experience with iPhone development, but I do have a lot of experience with outsourced business functions (including being part of the outside team). I just can’t get over the impression that the App store approval process is outsourced, with a strict set of level-of-service agreements. It would certainly explain the obsession with the enforcement of petty rules.

By: Andy Baird Fri, 07 Aug 2009 21:15:45 +0000 According to reports from WWDC attendees who spoke with Apple employees, the situation is this: apps are reviewed by Apple employees, most of who are doing reviews *in addition to* their regular jobs, in many cases taking the review work home at night. As far as can be learned from talking with Apple staffers, there is no department or group whose responsibility it is to review iPhone apps. That alone probably accounts for many of the wildly inconsistent approvals and denials.

Then there’s the workload. According to, Apple has received an average of about 8,000 apps per month in the past five months. That’s 400 apps to be evaluated every working day by Apple employees who are doing reviews on top of their full-time jobs.

In short, it’s pretty obvious that Apple was unprepared for the flood of app submissions, and has dealt with it very poorly. Hiring a hundred or so full-time reviewers who followed consistent (and *published*) criteria would go a long way toward alleviating the App Store problems, but that’s an expense Apple would obviously rather avoid. But just as obviously – at least to us developers, if not to Phil Schiller – the current ad-hoc system is badly broken.

The question is when Apple will admit that it has a disaster on its hands, and take the kind of serious action needed to reform the App Store approval process. Unfortunately, as long as Apple execs can smugly count their billions of downloads and tens of thousands of apps, it’ll be easy for them to go on overlooking the festering sores at the heart of the enterprise.

By: Drunken Economist Fri, 07 Aug 2009 20:44:07 +0000 Just a couple things which you may take as you will.

* Schiller’s ex $MACR. Consider the source. If you want to trace a lot of strife follow the ex $MACR employees and see whose skirts they ran under. I’m sure many organizational lessons were learned at $MACR, all the wrong ones. And you can see this with the old mis-handling of OS X Security [then] and the AppStore [now]. All talk and no real policy.

* I’ve also seen and worked in divisions like the [cr]AppStore where they have ‘scoring’ for trouble tickets. Of course the staff starts to game the system and ‘stuff the box’ for perks, bonuses or incentives. It’s weighted to ‘number of closed issues per day and not resolution.

* Couple that with a NON-technical staff that barely knows the API issues but screens MOSTLY on policy rules.

By: Frank G Fri, 07 Aug 2009 19:56:15 +0000 I think your theory is spot-on, but misses one reason for The Way Things Are. As fast as the App Store has grown it is likely impossible to find, hire and train enough _GOOD_ testers as is required. So independent of the (likely flawed) reward system for the testers, they’re prolly scraping the bottom of their local barrel.

By: Vincent Gable Fri, 07 Aug 2009 05:59:23 +0000 Well I just got a rejection for a UI violation. I used a Mac OS X kUserIcon (a silhouette of a head) as a button to show a “user” screen. But it turns out that the same icon is used on the iPhone OS as a “Show Contacts” button. It was my fault for not catching a difference between Mac and iPhone OS. And it’s a glaringly obvious mistake for anyone who’s familiar with all the standard icons, so this isn’t a case of rejection for a button being a few pixels off. But I’m still miffed that a difference of opinion on ratings meant I had to resubmit the application.

And, when I got the rejected-for-unfiltered-wikipedia-access message, the reviewer didn’t point out my rejection-worthy UI mistake, even though it’s on the initial screen. Now maybe that particular reviewer didn’t notice. Or maybe they rejected my rating based on the description, w/o even running the app. Or maybe they were punished for taking the time to point out other mistakes, and rewarded for letting people re-submit something that was sure to be rejected…