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Mobile Marketing

App Developer Conversations: Google Play allows developer responses – good or bad idea?

Robi Ganguly  //  January 20, 2013  //  7 min read

In this week’s App Developer Conversations we led a conversation about Google Play enabling developer responses to comments in the app store.

We had a few key takeaways:

  • This is going to create a headache for publishers of apps in multiple app stores
  • There’s a meaningful risk that the comment threads will result in a deteriorated consumer experience

Also, be sure to see the other two segments from this week:

The Transcript:

Robi: Good morning. Welcome to another installment of App Developer
Conversations. As always, I’m joined by Ian Sefferman, of MobileDevHQ,
and Ryan Morel, of PacePlay. This week, we’re not talking about the
Seahawks, fortunately. We are going to talk about Google Play, more
broadly, allowing developers to make comments in the App Store.

For those of you who don’t remember, about 4 or 5 months ago, Google
Play said the top developers were going to be able to respond to
comments in the App Store. Last week, they announced that they’re
[inaudible: 00:33] more broadly and allowing more of the developers
overtime, in order to respond. First question for you Ian is: You hear
about this? What’s your reaction? What do you think?

Ian: My reaction is that it’s potentially a bad thing, which is that app
consumers now have this ability to talk to a developer publicly. The
review section of Google Play should be reserved for more subjective,
‘This is why you should download this app,’ advice to others. Now if
the developers can respond, my concern is that consumers will be using
that as a feedback mechanism to get personal help making the review
section, essentially, worthless.

Robi: Yeah. What do you think, Ryan?

Ryan: Now I’ve had some time to think about it, and I think this is going
to be an epic disaster for everybody, except for you. For you it’s
going to be like, “I read about this guy this morning who found a 12-
pound gold nugget, and Google just brought him a metal detector and
said, “Search in this 4×4 area. You might find something, you like”;
because this is going to be bad. I think it sounds great in theory.
People have always complained about not be able to respond to
comments. I think they were always saying, “We want to be able to
respond to comments privately, but not publicly.” Every developer who
responds is opening themselves up to further criticism. Yes, I think
this could be really bad.

Robi: I’ll reserve some comments for the end, because I think that we’re a
little biased in this. Let’s move on to another aspect of this, which
is the recent move from Google is that you have to use your Google+
account in order to make comments, to give feedback, to rate a review
and app in App Store. Is this commenting capability actually a play on
getting on more action for Google+ or getting more data?

Ryan: I’m sure it’s a play for get more data; it’s always a play to get
more data when you’re Google. Do I think that the commenting system in
particular is a huge impact on that? Certainly, I liked the idea of
making this Google+ integration, mostly because it takes away the more
anonymous qualities of the reviews, and that’s a plus, in my book. You
see quality go up when people can’t hide behind a fake name.

Robi: Right.

Ian: Yeah, that’s . . .

Robi: Then if we think about this from the aspect of Facebook, what they’re
doing in order to help app developers. Last week, we were talking
about Facebook app installs and their advertising programs going to
mobile developers. They’re helping you try and understand who among
your friends is using what app, and then they’re also trying to help
display apps that you should discover. Google is over here getting
more data and comment reviews, that sort of thing. It seems that these
guys are fighting on so many fronts, and now the mobile app space is a
big part. What do you think about that?

Ryan: It’s hard to think about it, because a lot of it all revolves around
identity; who owns the identity? Now we’ve got 3 people involved on
iOS, and there’s Google over here. I don’t even know. You sit back and
go, ‘It’s Google here, it’s Facebook, Twitter and Game Center over
here. I don’t really know what to do.” It’s just mind boggling. I
don’t necessarily understand the play, I guess, ultimately what I’m
getting at. I don’t get it.

Robi: Got it. I wonder if it will lead to more activity with Google+ just
because so many folks who have an Android phone now by default have a
Gmail account, a Google+ account, and a Google Play account; they’re
all linked. It seems maybe this will draw more people in the
ecosystem, give them more of a reason to come back, help strengthen it
and attract more attention.

Ryan: I wonder, you could check, but where does the conversation happen?
Does it take place inside of Google Play? If I leave a comment, and
you as a developer respond to me, does that go to my Google+ page and
I respond there?

Robi: I think that, as I understand it on the face of it, the way it works
is I can respond to your comment, and then you as the consumer have
the option to actually respond via email to me, and then it can
potentially go to email. I’m not sure that that’s default activity.
The way that Google+ files it, it’s not really clear that Google+ is
bringing this activity public. If it is, or if that’s an option,
there’s a whole other access for you as a consumer to be thinking
about, “Did I make this comment publicly across all my Google+?” It’s
confusing.

Ian: Yeah.

Robi: I’ll talk a little bit about how we’re thinking about this, because
we’ve been hearing from developers over the past several months since
this has rolled out. It’s generally like you said, they did drop a
really big gold nugget in front of us because a lot of developers,
once they start playing with this are like, “A: I’m in multiple app
stores, so now I have to treat Google Play different than the rest of
these.” That’s frustrating and pretty annoying, so they come to us,
and they look at one management console with all their apps across
platforms with similar inboxes and it’s a much easier experience. B:
This notion that the App Store ratings and reviews are now going to be
hijacked and turned into these feature conversations. In particular,
the squeaky wheel getting the grease in this scenario is really bad.
The incentive is so negative that you could be a very popular app
developer and have a ratings and review section that ends up being
just full of 2 or 3 really noisy people. People are very concerned
about that.

Ryan: Yeah.

Robi: I think the third thing is that there’s definitely a notion,
especially in public commenting spaces, where vitriol and being loud
is rewarded, so you more likely have that, actually, that cycle and
the wheel spin faster. People are going to be like, “I’m going to be
noisier than that other guy because I’m now going to get some
attention from EA.”

Ryan: Right.

Robi: I think that’s concerning. We’ll see. The other side is I’m really
glad to see somebody, one of the app stores, innovating around ratings
and reviews, and trying to think about how to get developers closer to
the customers. I think that, fundamentally, is really exciting; that’s
great. Kudos to Google for trying something there, but I think it’s
going to be really challenging.

Ryan: Yeah. I’d rather them not try; that’s how bad I think this could end
up being.

Robi: Yeah.

Ryan: Great, you tried. Congratulations on screwing it up for a bunch of
people. My biggest worry would be some developer gets skewered because
of 1 or 2 people who are assholes.

Ian: This actually brings up a really interesting question. Maybe it’s not
the right time for it, but we all 3 agree immediately that it’s a bad
idea, but 6 months ago or 3 months ago, everybody is like, “People are
leaving the terrible reviews and developers have no way to comment on
it.” What would you have done if you were Google? Just been like, “No,
not at all?” Or would you have been like, “Partner with Apptentive”?

Ryan: I would have maybe done that. Frankly, if I were Google, given how
much they screw some of the stuff up, I would have gone, “Let’s just
wait to see what Apple does and then we’ll copy them.” If Apple hasn’t
done any apps, there must be a good reason for that, especially with
the . . . I don’t think it’s a secret; they just don’t know what
they’re doing yet, they’re learning as they go, and that’s perfectly
okay. They’ve created a really thriving and growing ecosystem, but
they’re probably not the ones to be driving decisions, as far as I’m
concerned.

Robi: I could see that. I don’t think that Apple’s going to lead the way on
customer communications. I don’t think that the DNA of Apple is going
to embrace your customer base and go talk to them on a regular basis.
I don’t know if they think that way.

Ryan: I don’t know. We see evidence that they suggest that they do that.
It’s always about protecting the customer. Preventing people from
changing screenshots, which were leading to people screwing up, and
that was definitely done to protect consumers. There’s a bunch of
stuff now around preventing kids from getting access to an app
purchase, so people have to turn it off and all this stuff. I don’t
know. I’m fanboy-ish, so it’s okay.

Robi: It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I don’t know that I
have great answer to what I would have done in Google’s spot, aside
from partnering with us, of course. I’m excited to see more people
realizing that it’s important to have conversations with the
customers. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will raise the
importance of doing that, and we’ll learn along the way. Hopefully,
it’ll end up being a better place for us as consumers, as opposed to
something that we feel like we can’t trust anymore because it’s just
too noisy.

Thanks for watching this installment. Be sure to Like it and share it
with friends. Check out the other installments from Ryan and Ian this
week. Thanks

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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