Steve Jobs responds

Wow, although I’m not happy with Apple right now, I have to give Apple’s CEO some serious credit for answering the email I wrote yesterday:

Dear Steve,
 
A quick note to let you know what kinds of apps are being rejected for the App Store.
 
This app is not defamatory, harmful or speaking untruth. It is lighthearted and humorous. Does it imply critique? Of course it does, but not without crossing any lines of decency or the boundaries agreement. 
 
For a quick screen shot:
Alec Vance
juggleware llc

Mr. Jobs replied :

Even though my personal political leanings are democratic, I think this app will be offensive to roughly half our customers.  What’s the point?

Steve

 

I’m not sure if he’s asking what’s the point of the app (not much—just poking fun and a time-killer), or what’s the point of letting me risk alienating a portion of his customer base (which is what I think he’s asking, rhetorically).

My friend John Barousse (the guy who convinced me to write Mr. Jobs) makes the point that the market should decide. And why not? No one thinks this is an Apple app, it’s clearly from an independent developer. Why would Apple lose business because of this app? As John says, “It’s not Apple’s application; they’re the store.”

Here’s a link to a good article that John sent me, and I recommend you read it; it says a lot of things I’ve been trying to say, but better:

Of course the fact that Steve Jobs wrote me back, even in a pithy manner, can be taken only as a good omen. Juggleware wasn’t planning on developing only political apps of course (although a “W” voodoo doll would have been fun!)—most of the ideas we’re talking about are for games with a purely non-political angle. 
This entry was posted in Freedom Time, iPhone Apps, iPhone Development, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Steve Jobs responds

  1. alec says:

    Here’s another link to a great editorial on the subject: http://speirs.org/2008/09/12/app-store-im-out/

  2. Chubbles says:

    Welp. Maybe a Fast Eddie’s Lucky Slots port would have been less offensive. he he. Poor saps about to kick it in the Texas slammer.

    Good show, anyhoo. Mr Vance. Now you need to get rejected by Gates, Bush and other people of note…

  3. Mo says:

    This was a bad example to pick. I have a sneaking feeling an awful lot of people would side with Jobs in the case of this particular app.

  4. alec says:

    But, then, they wouldn’t have to buy it either, would they?

    My response to Mr. Jobs’ reply contained the following suggestions:

    1) make the developer agreement clearer so we the developers don’t waste time on Apps that have no chance in the store; and allow developers to discuss the rules openly so we can get information about how the rules are applied from other developers before wasting our time.

    2) make a category in the App Store for satirical/political apps that people who are easily offended can simply not navigate to; and just don’t feature these Apps on the store front; then he can see if the market supports those Apps or not.

  5. Chris Woods says:

    I don’t understand the difference between apps and music. There are plenty of politically-charged songs on iTunes, and that hasn’t prevented iTunes from becoming the world’s largest music store.

  6. alec says:

    As another developer has pointed out, “F*ck tha Police” by NWA is in the iTunes store, which is way more controversial than this silly clock. See:
    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?i=18760349&id=18760383&s=143441

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  8. alec says:

    OK Steve, please Think Different on this one: Bush Has Highest Disapproval Rating of Any President in History. 70%! Beating Nixon’s record of 66%. It’s not all really that controversial to make fun of someone who’s been sending our whole country into the crapper at an unprecedented rate, is it?

    http://electoral-vote.com/evp2008/Pres/Maps/Oct08.html

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  10. Dave says:

    Republicans will be offended by anything. Steve’s logic doesn’t hold water, because there’s an official Obama campaign application, and you know that there are people being offended by that somewhere.

    I also disagree with the idea that Steve responding personally to this is a good thing. I find it rather disturbing that he’s devoting his time to vetting iPhone apps, rather than the much more serious issues.

  11. Isaiah says:

    The bookstore near me sells a Bush countdown timer. I’ve often thought of buying one myself — even during the first term. My point is, I’m clearly on the side of thinking this is A-OK, genuinely funny, and I might even be a customer.

    However, even given that, I understand both the the denial and Jobs’ response.

    On the denial
    Poking fun at someone is pretty much definition of “demeaning.” So no matter how justified the viewpoint or even how many people support it, I think you’re well into the gray area of the app store agreement. You must have seen that this was at least a potential denial when you started out, right?

    When I read “Defaming, demeaning, or attacking political figures” — it gives me a pretty clear indication that they don’t want political negativity on their store.

    On the response
    What you’ve asked Jobs to do is personally modify this decision. He’s going to have to take responsibility for that action. He’s going to have to call someone out and override the opinion of a subordinate. It won’t go unnoticed or unanalyzed. Given that it’s Jobs, he might even be analyzed in the media for the decision. It’s not likely, but when people are parsing every word you probably spend a bit more time wondering how the world will interpret your actions.
    Look, you’ve asked someone to do something for you that could potentially be seen by half his customers as a bad thing.

    What’s the point of him doing so much for you, when there so little to be gained by it?

    Isaiah

  12. alec says:

    Isaiah, even if you are correct in your application of the word “demeaning” the word was not in the original Developer’s Agreement that I clicked-through; the words they used were “offensive” and “obscene”. The part about “demeaning” came later, after they rejected my app.

    And yes, I was not completely surprised they rejected our app. I am not outraged by Apple’s decision to reject the app, just disappointed. I was much more upset by what appeared to be the extension of the NDA to rejection letters, and inter-developer communication; hopefully they have fixed this much now.

  13. Faruk Ates says:

    I’m a pretty fierce Democrat, but even I find such an app in poor taste. The whole notion of “letting the market decide” is fine on the provision that your application or product does not provoke or incite anger.

    Approving this app under the “let the market decide!” ideology is directly synonymous to indirectly approving the slanderous TV ads that totally obfuscate the truth and aim only to fuel fear, uncertainty and doubt, if not outright anger and hatred.

    Those vile, actual issues-ignoring ads are essentially the “let the market decide” ideology, but in their case “the market” is simply “the public opinion.”

  14. alec says:

    Faruk: I’m no free-market ideologue, but poor taste is a matter of personal opinion and there are far, far far more tasteless things in the world than this app. Have you ever listened to AM radio? Watched Fox News? I would guess that you take yourself pretty seriously, and don’t think much of humor, or satire, and the fact you would appear to want to legislate taste is pretty frightful to me. Do you want to help remove all “tasteless” things from the entire internet, or just the App Store? Personally, my favorite things on TV are the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, and one defense of satire and comedy is that it’s meant to let us blow off steam about really terrible things we can’t do much about in a healthy way instead of turning to more destructive means. I’m always surprised how humorless people can be, and I believe sometimes we must risk being tasteless in defense of liberty.

  15. Kees says:

    Since Apple is selling iPhone in a lot of countrys I think that Steves estimate is rather far off. I very much doubt that half of his customers would beoffended. Maybe 50% in the states, but around the world? There are very few republicans outside the US.

  16. alec says:

    Now linked on the iPhone Application Graveyard: http://boredzo.org/killed-iphone-apps/

  17. Eelco says:

    Apple should open up the iPhone for other app repositories without having to jail-break it.

  18. c0c0b33f says:

    Faruk must be on FarAcid®. It would only generate negatives in those who would also feel this way from watching SNL, David Letterman, Daily Show, Colbert Report. I don’t see any correlation between a cartoonish, satirical calendar and “the slanderous TV ads that totally obfuscate the truth and aim only to fuel fear, uncertainty and doubt, if not outright anger and hatred.” that claim is actually more entertaining than the App.

    Apple and the iPhone rule it, but I can’t help but feel like having a gatekeeper between developers and end users could be a mistake. i’d rather Apple concentrate on making great software and hardware.

  19. alec says:

    I think it’s only fair, given the strength of Faruk’s opinion above, to reveal that he works for Apple!

    http://www.webstandards.org/about/members/faruk/

  20. republikraut says:

    Ahh Faruk,
    I’d like to know if you are a web standards specialist at Apple, and also a master of non-disclosure……

    Why do you not support IE7 on the MobileMe website, but support Bookmarks for it?

    And why DO you support Firefox on the MobileMe website, but not support Bookmarks?

  21. alec says:

    Hey everyone,

    I’ve now made Freedom Time available as a download for your desktop:

    http://www.juggleware.com/iphone/freedomtime/

    You can also watch the Flash version on this page to see the countdown.

    Go Obama! Bye bye Bush!

  22. It’s Apple’s attitude towards developers submitting apps to the iTunes App Store of “You play by our rules or you don’t play at all” which is ultimately going to prevent Apple being truly successful with _all_ of iTunes. No wonder many media companies are making deals elsewhere, giving other online retailers the DRM free music content and TV Show / Movie content that Apple so badly wants to sell. Apple is not part of our government’s checks-and-balances system; let the Supreme Court decide what apps are offensive, obscene and indecent (if it has to go that far,) and Apple can follow those guidelines. Apple has created a noose of responsibility for themselves in their overly restrictive iPhone/iPod Touch app policies. Because they insisted on creating the only (legal) avenue for obtaining apps for that platform, they have to deal with their fear that many of their customers may see Apple as being ultimately responsible for the apps, not the developers. Where’s the free enterprise and spirit of innovation that Apple so highly values in this case?

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  27. ji says:

    I think Mr. Job’s “What’s the point” is more saying that AAPL risks having 50% of it’s customers ticked off by this app (and in this day, anything and everything can and will get blown out of proportion) – what AAPL’s potential upside? Not much – one more app in it’s 70k app library and a drop in the revenue ocean if this is a paid for app. I completely agree that The Market should decide, but this isn’t a free market unfortunately. APPL is in a position of power to weigh the risk vs reward of letting a new app into the arena and unfortunately gave the thumbs down … no offense, but in this case I think it is smart business move on their part, but I realize how frustrating / unfair it is for the individual developer as well.

  28. Konrad says:

    I’m sort of extremely surprised that Mr. Jobs would see his audience only within the US.

    From my understanding of things, over half of Apple’s customers wouldn’t even care.

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