meta: mgoblog iphone app. Beta testers wanted.

Submitted by elaydin on August 14th, 2010 at 12:46 AM

Back in the spring, Brian and I started talking about what it would take to put together an iPhone app (and lay the groundwork for other mobile apps).  After some work with drupal by Brian, and some Objective C fun by me, the basic code is now done.

I'm looking for a few (3?) people to help me test it out.

Requirements are as follows:

  • have access to a device that runs iOS4.  I'd like to get some device diversity (ipod/iphone, various generations)
  • some technical savvy 
  • patience.  Figuring out Apple's ad hoc distribution scheme sounds like a pain.
  • willing to provide constructive feedback and answer questions

Please email me at elaydin.tech (at) gmail if interested.  Tell me what device(s) you currently use.

Keep in mind, the app isn't polished or "pretty" yet, so there's plenty of opportunity to shape the app.

Currently the app has 3 sections:  Front Page, MGoBoard and MGoDiaries.

Each section, when selected, loads a list of the recent posts.

Selecting a post will load the post, and its comments.  This looks similar to what a wordpress blog looks like on a mobile device.

There are iphone friendly screens for login, posting to the message boards and posting replies.

Some pics:

Front page:

This page will be redone once I get some artwork from Brian, but you get the basic idea.  The colors might change... buttons might appear, but in the end, you'll select one of 3 things.

 

Second level menu (this case, mgoboard), looks like:

I'll probably add some more info in there (timestamp).  Selecting will send you to:

or

This is hard to show without "scrolling", but basically it shows the reformatted original post, with comments.  The reply button pops open a screen to post a reply.

Sizes, colors, fonts are all negotiable.

My focus was on minimizing network traffic and time to load (which is why you don't see things like user avatars).  It also doesn't have any up/down voting (though that might be a future enhancement).

So email me if interested.  I'll post here when I've received enough volunteers.

UPDATE:  Yikes... went to bed, woke up, and now I have a million emails to go through.  I'll go through your emails and send out an update to everyone tonight.  Thanks for the interest.

UPDATE II:  When I said 3, I think I really meant 25.  Beta is now closed.  Expect further instructions soon.

Comments

M-Wolverine

August 22nd, 2010 at 12:32 AM ^

Because they all have value, and I don't think it's a bad idea.  But I worry about the App trying to become more than the blog does itself.  I'd rather have as many of the actual functions of the blog put in before outside news readers, or score updates. I'm not sure what too many people would be doing on MGoBlog, where they would need the score (if you're on, aren't you doing something involved with the game?). Because there are tons of free App's that can get you score updates, probably faster than going through this site could (ESPN has a free ScoreCenter App...there are college football App's).  I mean, the way I used to follow scores away from the computer here was follow the open threads. But it did bring up a thought to me-

Any possibility that the App is going to make joining an in-game live blog session easier? I can actually do it on mine, and it's not that slow, but it does cram up memory and crash every so often. And I'm never sure how often the "posting" goes through or not. It'd be lower priority, because the next one probably won't be for awhile, and it's not an everyday function, but might be worthwhile for 2.0 or whatever.

Hartwelr

August 20th, 2010 at 7:02 PM ^

The last update got it working for me.  I haven't much time to play with it, but it looks really nice.  I echo others on the refresh issue, also I have no idea how this could work but is there the possibility of a notification for new posts/replies to your post?

M-Wolverine

August 21st, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

Some thoughts using it-

There's nothing that lists the posts that are new, and the ones that aren't. On a long post, that's going to get confusing and more time consuming than just logging into the site over the web fast. Tied in, when you then log into the site on say your PC, and go to your account posts, it still shows the posts of the thread you've read as new (even if you're logged in).  So, if you browse on your App, and then go online later, you're going to be told all the posts you've already read you haven't, and again, it's defeating the purpose of an App in that it's supposed to be quicker, and save the time of going back to the actual webpage.  This seems to be making you do double the work.

Likewise, I actually like that the list of the Board is old is the right-side Board list, so you can see the new ones, but it does nothing for see old posts. You either need a page button so you can go back further (because it's going to be hard without a search function to see if you're away from your computer breaking news was posted already or not)....OR...we need an account function, so we can look up old threads we've posted in.  I know people love the MGoBoard page for looking up stuff, but I basically look up posts in 2 ways: I look to the side, to see what's new (which on a busy day can go to 4 pages in a half day), what I haven't seen; and go to my account, and track, to see what posts I've made and what's new in them.  (Back to the new function).  I have the feeling I'm going to have to log in to see any post more than12 hours or so old.  And sometimes those are the busiest.

Points.  No points function.  Maybe that's just WAY too hard. But sometimes the idea of the mobile access is you just want to scroll through them, and not go through complex posting. Particularly in posts that only modestly interest you.  But you still see stuff that you appreciate, and +1ing someone for something good is a spur of the moment thing.  You don't really want to make a list and log on later to give them a point. Again, anything that makes you want to just log into the regular site is a detriment to the App, and it's usage. (Though I acknowledge this addition might be too difficult, particularly in a starting out App. But it is a problem).

Log In, Log Out: More a question, than a concern. I saw above people didn't want to have to log in each time they sign up.  That seems to be fixed, because it doesn't seem to be logging me out. But when you shut it off, does it say you're logged out on the site? Or is someone signed in perpetually "logged in" to the site? I already spend way too much time on this site...I don't need people thinking I'm spending 24/7 on here...and wondering why I'm not replying to them.

The resize issue.  I've noticed that too. The Cullen/Willis pic I noticed was off the page.  If automatic resizing is too hard, can't it have a basic Iphone pinch/stretch option, where you resize the page however you want? Almost every reader allows that in some form.  The old App I talked about above could...which was really helpful when Brian uses some teeny tiny type to make a point; or like under his Player/Recruit reviews, where the notes and stars are kinda small. You want to see a post that just does NOT work with this problem? Look at 2010: Stephen Hopkins. His MSPaint graphic pushes all the text off the screen, as does the previously on MGoBlog, and the YouTube clip is cut off, unless you sideways hold it.  Which is fine, but I'm thinking that's not going to work for all things. A ability to resize ourselves, rather than have the App resize tons of different sized stuff to one size, might be easier.

I tried a new post. It worked.

 

http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/meta-test-im-posting-my-mgoblog-app

But HT to GoBlueInTX who noticed something I never would have-

i don't know if this is important, but this is posted to the board but is formatted like a diary.
In other news, MGoBlog App!!!!! Whooooooo!!!!!

And as has been said, all the yellow and white isn't the most aesthetic, and not easy on the eyes with all that yellow. Maybe a blue background (much like the actually site's blue...not that light blue you're using for the post subject lines...the dark, manly Michigan blue). This would make the lists of posts stand out more in their white/yellow alternating, if the border was blue. And the one graphic that was suggested and rejected for background in the email, it was suggested I let Brian know my alternative suggestion- If it doesn't violate any copyright things, I would suggest the current masthead as a background. It's dark, so posts will pop, not too complex to be blocked out (like the one offered), and has faint background detail that will not detract/distract from reading. Plus it's the mast that was there when MGoBlog really went from a Blog to a cultural influence, and it might be a nice tribute. That may not be legally possible. But I never understood how you could use the winged helmet and stuff in a masthead, and not on a t-shirt. (I mean, the site makes money too, right?). But I'll probably understand even less if you can use in on a webpage with advertising to make money, but not in a free App with advertising to make money. But just because I don't understand it, doesn't mean it's wrong. But that would be my suggestion.

It may sound overly critical, but saying OOOHHH that's great isn't the constructive help I was asked for. On the kissy kissy side, it's a great step forward, and a wonderful baseline for something that's going to change my life at least, and how I read MGoBlog, when perfected. I do enough reading of it on my mobile, and when games start again, not having a laptop (and that not really being convenient in my mind to watching a game on tv), it'll make posting in open threads a lot easier, and easier to read, thus more fun. Now if I could just get a better signal at the Stadium... lol

elaydin

August 21st, 2010 at 9:41 PM ^

Let me split this up into bite sized morsels:

Paragraph 1: "New"

This is on my list (maybe low, because it can be tricky).  Within the app, I can flag things (threads, comments) that are new since the last time you started the app, but that would be independent of whatever you do in a browser.  I also couldn't realistically do it by thread.  That's too much stuff to track on a tiny phone.

To do it properly, I'd need Brian's help on the server side.

Paragraph 2: "Account list"

Today's update has the "User Activity" feature.  At least my first cut at it.  It's the last 20 comments from the user, linked to the thread.

Paragraph 3:"Points"

I'm sure I'll hear this a lot, but Brian and I agreed that this was too hard to put into version 1.0.

Paragraph 4: Login

Looks like you're offline now.  I "think" that once you log on, you don't need to log on for another 30 days (number is configurable).  I have yet to test this limit.  I've also redone the login a bit.  I now do save the username and password in the fields, and display your status on the top.  In my experience, once I log on, I seem to stay on.

Paragraph 5: resizing huge things

As of today, this is working like how I want it to work. 

Currently, all images will be resized to be about 290 pixels wide (it depends on what level of the thread they reside in).  This looks great when in portrait mode, and will be fine in landscape.

I prefer this to enabling scrolling, which in the iphone SDK, seems to go hand in hand enabling auto-resize.  Autoresize causes all sorts of crap to happen, because almost every thread has some huge picture in it.  I also don't like the general "wobbliness" of the vertical scrolling when horizontal scrolling is enabled.

I do think I'll have to make some adjustments to tables as well (like for Tim's recruiting rankings)

Paragraph 6(?): "background"

The colors are temporary, so don't get too hung up on them.  I do agree about using the banner as the background, but as you said, the winged helmet does come with a set of trademark issues, which neither Brian nor I want to deal with.  The University has been pretty agressive with regards to protecting trademarks in the app store.

Paragraph 7:  "hugs and kisses"

Thanks for taking the time to write all of that.  I do appreciate the feedback, and as noted, have begun to incorporate much of it.

 

M-Wolverine

August 22nd, 2010 at 12:39 AM ^

I mentioned 1 and 2 in my email to you, so I won't belabor it here.

3 is not hardly a deal breaker.  But it might be fun in the future.

4 and 5, ditto, email.

6 I'm not having that big a problem with the graphics...just including an all in one response. And I'll happily defer to whatever the "legal team" deems appropriate.  I'm not getting any cease and desist letters. (Though if any lawyer types can explain why it's ok in all the top of the page banners to use all the Michigan trademark stuff...not just the current, but most of the suggested ones in the contest...but not ok to use on say, a T-Shirt, or an App...I'd love to gain the knowledge of the difference).

7 Yeah, I'm trying to be as constructive as possible...and knowing what I use it for, and just using it, I see what comes up for me.  But like I said, it's really dusting and vacuuming....the major cleaning and construction was there at the beginning. We're trying to perfect it now, not create it. You already did all the heavy lifting, and did a good enough job that we don't have to go into the intricacies of just having an App that has the basics. Just some spit and polish before the in-laws come over.

DGlenn26

August 21st, 2010 at 2:15 PM ^

When you post a reply to a topic, you have to tap the screen to close the keyboard then hit "post."  If there could be a "post" button at the top of the keyboard where there is sometimes the "previous, next, done" buttons while on the internet, that would be a an improvment I think

M-Wolverine

August 21st, 2010 at 2:36 PM ^

No "Comment viewing options", so no way to order the posts.  I didn't notice the first time I was looking at it, it was in the default, newest posts first. So I was reading them in opposite order that they were posted (though time of post might be enough to fix that). I know people prefer it different ways.  I like reading them in order, rather than scrolling to the bottom, but others like just seeing the newest stuff. But since it doesn't say what's new, it'd be hard to figure where the stop/start point is.

M-Wolverine

August 21st, 2010 at 5:09 PM ^

When you're trying to post a longer message in the App, the text doesn't scroll down, so the keyboard starts covering the text after a paragraph or so. So you're typing blind. And you seem to be able to turn the screen when posting a new post, to at least widen the text area.

Also, Cap's aren't automatic after a paragraph.  That's the first time I've seen that in any function on the device.

Edit: Also noticing looking at the post that the "return" for paragraphs is not leaving any spaces between the sentences. (See Freep musings post).

elaydin

August 21st, 2010 at 11:27 PM ^

caps have been fixed.

The returns are a little funny.  They seemed to work on the webpage, but didn't show up in the app.  Now they're single line returns on both. I tried 2 and it looked funny.

I think it's ok for now.

I'll add the scroll issue to my list... or maybe just make the font smaller?

M-Wolverine

August 22nd, 2010 at 1:07 AM ^

if, in the future, there's a way to make embedding possible, that's something you can really even do on the mobile browser version. Though I fear the more upgraded system for the site makes that as impossible as it made it on the browser.

FYI: I made this post using the App, and the text starting with the last sentence of the first paragraph (before "FYI" if the space doesn't occur) was behind the keyboard...so it doesn't take much, and I'm not sure making it smaller will help that much. typing blind. the white comment box needs to be above the keyboard. And it's still not automating caps after a period.

[email protected]

August 22nd, 2010 at 6:09 AM ^

Hi there!

An MGoBlog iOS app sounds cools,  I've been a part-time apple developer and wwdc attendee for several years.  I currently have an older iOS4 device, and understand about setting up ad hoc licenses on iOS devices.   I am also Xcode savvy, so if you need someone to pull simulator dumps for troubleshooting, I could help out.  Let me know if you still need help.  Promise to keep things NDA.