A little over a week and a half ago, Google blocked Ego from getting XML reports from Analytics. Every user’s GA widgets stopped working (they started reporting all zeros). I panicked, tried to figure out how to get around this problem, and eventually talked to Google and they helped me solve it (I can’t say exactly how yet, but nevertheless Ego now has as close to “official” GA support as there can be in 3rd-party app). I submitted the update to Apple. Now, of course, I wait.

And what does waiting mean? As I’ve said before, it means tons of email a day and tons of bad reviews. It means answering the same question (“My GA widgets all report zero… what gives??”) 20 times a day. It means watching negative reviews pour in. Here are some excerpts from lovely recent reviews:

I feel this app was misrepresented.
Pretty disappointing.
Its best feature is junked. Don’t represent your product as doing something it can’t.

But my favorite part of this whole experience is that there’s no way for me to respond to reviews as the app creator. So I can’t go in and say, “Hey, by the way, version 1.3 fixes all this and we’re just waiting on Apple’s ridiculously slow and convoluted approval process!” I just sit by and watch.

Or, even worse, I try to help via support and get punished for it. When the GA thing started happening, someone created a support thread on Get Satisfaction about the issue. Awesome, that’s exactly why I have GS set up. A bunch of people me-too’d it, and added comments. I responded with updates and then, after I submitted version 1.3, marked it as solved with a simple statement that 1.3 fixed it and was awaiting approval. I also created 3 company announcements saying the same thing.

But that wasn’t enough for a user who came to GS, didn’t read anything, and posted a new support thread about the same issue. So I marked it as solved, said it was a duplicate of a previous thread, and that it was fixed in 1.3. The user responded with a comment:

Oh, I’m supposed to read all the other support requests marked “this problem is resolved?” Sorry. It’s still not resolved for me.

Apparently they didn’t understand that “solved” was a relative term. Yes, sure, it’s not solved for you right now, but my resolution was pretty clear—it’s solved in the version Apple is looking at. JUST HOLD TIGHT. I thought this was enough. But no.

I wake up this morning to find that user has submitted the following review in the iTunes Store:

I bought this because it claimed to support GA. It worked for me one time the day I bought it and hasn’t worked since. I posted to their support forum and was berated for not reading this long and confusing thread about how it is supposed to be working, or it will work again soon, or something. I feel like the software developer did a poor job building and testing this, and now they’re willing to blame the users for their own mistakes.

This kind of thing continually reinforces something I’ve thought about a lot since the App store was released, which sounds horrible to say but it might be true: Apple is creating an ecosystem of the kind of customers I don’t want. With the ridiculous approval process leaving bugfixes to take over a week to show up, with prices being driven down to nothing by farting apps… it just feels hostile to me. While I have plenty of great customers who have been raving about the app, all it takes is one little issue and it all comes crashing down.

I’m far more likely to get 15 one-star reviews when something goes wrong than I am to get 15 five-star reviews when everything goes right. Perhaps it’s just frustration speaking here, but when Apple ties my hands behind my back and lets users punch me publicly in the face without allowing me to at least respond back, it’s hard to get excited about building an app.