NSConference 7: Key points ft. whiskey & water!

Having never attended NSConference previously, the three-day event starting March 16th was a new experience for myself and other members of the Paddle team who visited the conference for the first (and last!) time this year. It was great to witness the community the conference had created, and incredible to hear in Scotty’s closing speech some of the memories brought about by the event.

As first-time attendees, we had no nostalgic, heartfelt memories to match the incredible tales of Mike Lemur, Scotty, and Scott Morrison. But can certainly reflect on the things we learnt over the last 3 days from a group of fantastic speakers (kudos guys!).

Dieting with Marco Arment

Marco began his talk explaining that marketing is not a dirty word; in fact it played a huge part in the creation of the Overcast app we know today.

The point which stood out to me most during this talk was that, “having the most features isn’t necessarily a good thing”. Keeping your app slim, on a no-carbohydrates, no-extra features diet, was imperative to the marketing of Overcast.

Create a set of features which solve a core issue for users, and market your product accordingly. With a small collection of core features, comes coherent marketing.

Importantly, Marco explained that these features need to be weighed up against the competition, ensuring they provide enough of a reason to purchase your app over another. A concept linked to Paul Mutson’s talk about validating your product before building it; a process Marco explained thoroughly with Overcast.

Learning to say no.

User-feedback played a huge part in all of the speaker’s talks this year. It’s this user-feedback which can often be the reason behind new features, but also continually adding features & functionality to your app, until it becomes too bloated and confusing.

Halle Winkler opened talks on Day 3 with her talk, “Duct-taping the gates of chaos shut”. A part of this talk explained to developers that saying “No” is okay. Even when it makes users unhappy (note: replying to these unhappy customers is a lot easier with Halle’s sentiment analysis tool)!

Don’t build features for one individual, but groups of users. In doing this, you’ll maintain a clean, simple, marketable product.

Measure don’t guess!

Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba software ran with a talk entitled, “Feedback driven development”. It’s this feedback which helps us understand what requests we can reject, as Halle suggests. In building Audio Hijack 3.0, the Rogue Amoeba team requested all developers send-in copies of their current app preferences. This helped the team determine what needed to be included, and/or improved in the new version. No guesswork needed!

I did a thing! Thanks, @nsconf!

A photo posted by Paul Kafasis (@pbones) on

Sally Shepard, previously having worked at Dennis Publishing on their iOS presence explained how as a company they went even further. With analytics surrounding customer engagement and retention (deciding who’s a “tourist” and who is a “resident”).

In understanding who is using your app, whether it’s one-time tourists, or long-term residents, helps you make informed, measured decisions about app iterations, design, and development.

Not only can you uncover who is using your apps with analytics like those used at Dennis Publishing, but also how customers are using your apps. Allowing you, as a developer, to make data-driven decisions surrounding what your core features are, and what feature requests you’re able to reject; as per the advice from the speakers.

Water then whiskey.

There was a huge amount to be learned from this awesome community, from the technical as above, to learning how to be free of stereotyping & biases, as per Jessie Char’s talk on prejudices towards women in the sector.

What was most prevalent to me, was just what we were capable of as group. Brought to the fore by Scotty’s bid to take the team at Athena (hosting the conference) out for a dinner for their phenomenal efforts during the three-day conference.

Even more prominently, in Scotty’s closing speech he called out to attendees and anyone inspired by NSConf to donate to water.org at bit.ly/nsconfwater.

Go donate as a thanks to Scotty, and the rest of the team.

After providing the world with clean water, the guys will be working on whiskey. So we better get cracking!!

Thanks guys; it was a blast.