Crittercism is a Support Infrastructure for Mobile Apps

When mobile applications crash, it is critical for developers to be aware of the problem so that they are able to get to work on a remedy. Providing feedback, however, can be difficult for users, causing developers to miss out on important information. Crittercism has developed a solution that provides a vehicle for feedback as well as a wealth of additional information to help developers keep their apps running smoothly.

“We developed an SDK that developers drop in their app, and either as a tab or a button you select it [and] up comes our support form where a list of bugs, questions or ideas appear,” explains Andrew Levy, Co-founder and CEO of Crittercism. “You can see what the most popular questions are or what the biggest issues are that developers are working on. We’ve really found that most of the bad reviews in app stores are just support requests, so we’re helping you talk with the developer, and they can actually respond.”

The Crittercism dashboard is full of information for developers. It lists real-time crashes, provides charts that detail the percentage of users for each device that are experiencing a particular problem, and shows users that are loading your app.

“It’s not just about letting users submit their frustrations in the app,” says Levy. “It’s also about gathering the right data, the right diagnostics to help the developer really figure out what the problem is with the app.”

In case the problem lies not in the app itself but in the network, Crittercism also tracks problems with your network usage, Wi-Fi and 3G. Developers can leave breadcrumbs and ping Crittercism servers whenever there’s an issue, allowing them to identify which specific service is causing the problem. Crittercism is also adding support for better handling of background threats that don’t necessarily cause the app to crash but still cause problems.

“We’ve been built for mobile from the ground up…[and] there’s really no one presenting the package that we have,” explains Levy. “Not only are we gathering crash data, but we’re also gathering data that users submit—bugs or questions. We don’t see those as two distinct things. We want to, as much as possible, be able to match crash data with what users are reporting out in the field, and that’s really important to help you figure out what’s going on and then finally tell the users, ‘Hey, we fixed this issue.’”

Join our lively Google+ discussion about Crittercism to find out how the application is being used by others!

Reprinted with permission from Building 43.

Zite Brings Personalized News Content to the iPad

Recently CNN bought Zite. Here we talk with Zite’s CEO, to find out what’s going on in this hot category and how Zite differs from the other players in the field.

There are a host of different applications that are available to help us organize and consume the content we receive on our mobile devices. Zite is one such product, and it’s quickly becoming one of the hottest and most talked about apps on the market.

“One thing that people don’t know about Zite,” explains Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite, “is that we’re almost six years old as a company, so we’ve been developing technology for all this time…so it turns out there’s a lot of great technology under the hood that allows us to figure out exactly the kinds of things you like to read and give you more of it. I think that in this world of news clutter, people don’t just want another app that’s a veneer over the RSS feeds that they’ve had in the past. They want something that is really tailored towards them.”

Zite, currently available for the iPad, personalizes the news you receive in a number of different ways. It can tap into your Google Reader or Twitter feed to see the links you and your friends share. It can display articles based on the subjects you choose from over 5,000 categories. You can give each article a thumbs up or thumbs down. And you can click on key words within articles to indicate a preference to receive more content with a similar subject matter. Each time you read an article on Zite, it learns more about your interests.

“One of the things I like to do every week,” says Johnson, “is I add a new topic on Zite that I don’t know anything about…It’s just fun to pick something that’s current and say, ‘Huh, I’m going to learn something new.’ It’s sort of like your search vs. sift thing. It’s like, ‘show me an interesting stream of information about topic X.’ That’s much different than just seeing a few web results.”

Whereas the offline world uses human editors to determine which news items are most important and deserve the most prominent placement, Zite uses algorithms that take into account your preferences as well as the buzz around each story to create the layout of pages. The more you use the app, the more customized it becomes, but Zite hopes it will prove useful right from the beginning.

“When a person first comes into the application,” explains Johnson, “you want to give them a really interesting stream of information. So one of the most important things we do at Zite is to determine the interestingness of an article and what category it falls into, so even if you’ve never personalized Zite before and we don’t know a thing about you, if you choose something like art or architecture, we should be able to give you lots of interesting articles that will allow you to start interacting with the system so we learn the kinds of things that you like.”

This article and video were printed with permission from Building 43.

Join our Zite discussion on Google+!

Robert and Rocky ride again at Rackspace

TechCrunch just broke the news.

We will give more details about this news today on the Gillmor Gang. That show starts at 3 p.m. Pacific Time. Join us live at or listen to the Gillmor Gang once the recording is up for more. I’ll also be on Ustream’s “Live from the Belmont at SXSW” channel tonight after 7 p.m. Pacific Time too.

When Rackspace told me they were hiring my producer, Rocky, and wanted to hire me too, to build a new kind of community it brought back thoughts of when I was at Microsoft working with Jeff, Charles, Lenn, and a cast of others on Channel 9. That was just a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been on a whirlwind tour so I could study a bunch of different businesses. I visited a radio station. Facebook. A lonely startup up in Bellingham, Washington that’s now broadcasting live video on the Internet about themselves. Cisco. A coworking facility outside of Seattle which is where iPhone app developer Shazam is located. And quite a few others.

When I was getting a tour of KSCO, a 10,000-watt radio station in Santa Cruz, CA, owner Michael Zwerling showed me the transmission equipment. The brands on that equipment are long forgotten, if you ever knew them, but those companies were vital to pushing our culture and our ability to communicate further.

When I walked into the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver on this tour, and saw tons of people on TweetDeck, I knew we were in the middle of yet another radical shift that would be felt for years into the future (it was this same conference where I first noticed how important the Firefox browser and other social services like Flickr, which was developed in Vancouver, would become back five years ago).

It is pretty clear that the transmission equipment of the modern age is cloud computing. Whether you study Facebook, or Salesforce, or Amazon, you can see the tectonic shifts that are underway in our industry. Look at, a small company in Santa Cruz, for instance, just a few miles from those old radio transmission towers, and you see how they are using cloud bursting technology. One of their videos gets popular? Their algorithms move that video over to Amazon and move all the traffic over to Amazon too. This lets them host on their own very inexpensive equipment but protect their service from traffic spikes that occassionally happen.

But forget about the cloud for a moment. Everywhere I look I see other shifts in how we think of the Internet.

Google Latitude showed me that a new kind of location-based service is coming that will get millions of users in just a few days and will lay the bed for a new kind of interaction with your friends and with businesses near you.

Facebook is exploding, seeing 700,000 new users per day. I call Facebook “the velcro” of the Internet because it has so many little hooks to get you involved in that community. I sat next to Randi Zuckerberg at the World Economic Forum as she could ask Facebook’s users a question and get back tens of thousands of responses in just a minute or two. What is happening there is real and is changing everything.

I look at new video communities like Seesmic, that let me interact with people in real time using my webcam. I can post video of a building burning down just as well as just me ranting and raving.

Blogs, too, continue to change and shift. New commenting engines like Disqus or JS-Kit are changing how we can hook up our separate communities together.

Finally we see what’s happening on Twitter and friendfeed and it’s clear that this new world is building the equivilent of a world-wide talk show.

Add all these things up and they got me excited about doing something new.

That new thing is called Building 43.

Why “Building 43?” Well, if you visit Google’s campus, you’ll see that the building that houses their “master plan” is Building 43 (several of its founders sit in building 43 there too). Microsoft has a building 43, too, which is where many of the developers on Windows and other things sit. I always thought that was funny that both companies had a building 43. When I asked friendfeed and Twitter for interesting building 43 stories,
stories-about-Microsoft-and-Google/ I learned that Google’s numbering system predates it back to when SGI had its headquarters there.

Our “Building 43,” though, is not a place. It’s not even a website. It’s a decentralized community for people fanatical about the Internet. You’ll find us on Facebook, on Twitter, on friendfeed, on Ning, and lots of other places too.

“What about your videos, Scoble?”

You’ll see me continue my videos with companies and people who are fanatical about the Internet. But you’ll also find we’re focusing our cameras on people who build Internet experiences and learn more about how they did it rather than just what they did like I’ve done for the past few years. This is getting back to my roots as well, where I like learning how to build things.

Building 43 will be a lot more than just my videos, though. It’s a community, which means it’s not about me. It’s about you and what you’re trying to build. That will become clearer as we turn on rooms in building 43.

“Why Rackspace?”

When I first met the Rackspace team (they were one of the first interviews I did at Fast Company) I came back and said “Rackspace is one of my favorite companies.”
That’s because they were building their headquarters in a “bad” part of town and had a vision of revitalizing the neighborhood. We are taking that same spirit to the Internet during this tough economic time. By showing more people how to build businesses and have fun on the Internet we’re going to all win.

Rackspace is also one of the few companies in the world that has touchpoints with thousands of other companies. That’s important because I can study how the Internet is changing live and, thanks to these relationships, we can present to you how these sites were built and how you can build the same features into your own business sites and blogs.

So what is “building 43?” We are on the Gillmor Gang where we talked more about what we’re building. You should listen to that and visit and sign up to be notified when we turn on the full site.