One month after release, our app has six users

On September 12, 2016, Virginia Tech Library Labs released ReResolver to the App Store for iPhones.

ReResolver is a digital preservation project for the library – an attempt to revive software that has been lost by the advance of technology. We revived Resolver, an app by the now defunct Fancy Pants Limited,  which helps indecisive people make choices. Our method of bringing the software back to life was by rewriting it from scratch. I described the effort in a blog post, and also wrote in another post about adding accessibility features to the app. The code is open source and available on GitHub.

Thus far, according to iTunes Connect, the app appears to have 6 users.

Six users is much less than the Virginia Tech Library Labs experimental project for the Apple TV, VTechWorks Videos, which thus far has been tried by 126 users.

I don’t consider this a complete and utter failure, as this project was more about exploring the possibility of preserving software by rewriting it than trying to create a popular work. And often, much bigger library projects fail to attract as many as 6 users within their first month of implementation. However, as a  software developer, I like for people to use my work.

Why are there only six users?

  • We have never done the work of publicizing the app. It went into the app store without fanfare, or even a tweet.
  • The ReResolver app follows the design and features of the 2009 app very closely, and adds very little. Meanwhile, the standards for quality iOS apps have gone up greatly over the past seven years. Users expect such features as data synchronization between multiple devices, social media sharing, on-boarding tutorials, custom animation and sounds, and so on.
  • I’m unable to notify users of the original app of the release. By my reckoning, fans who rated the original app as five stars continued to use it for sentimental or superstitious reasons: the app had helped them to make good decisions in the past. I don’t have the email addresses of these users, nor did the original developers.
  • There are a lot of apps in the app store; about 2 million.  It’s difficult for a single app to get any attention, unless it does something amazing.

If you have an iPhone, you can download the app here. I’m trying a promotion; I have about a dozen “Resolver” magnets on my refrigerator at home. If you download the app and tweet a screenshot or post a comment on the blog, I’ll mail you a magnet – while supplies last – if you’re willing to provide me with an address.

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