The Bombing Brain Blog

Another 360 Has Come and Gone

It’s September again, and for Bombing Brain, that has come to be synonymous with 360iDev. All three of us were able to make the trip this year, thanks to the endless understanding of our families. It’s a great opportunity for us to gather as a company amongst likeminded people and discuss the business of mobile development.

This annual ritual in Lone Tree is special for us, because it was the first iOS conference we all attended together back in 2011. John and Nicole Wilker always put on a great event, and the crowd is full of both familiar and new faces. And after coming here three years in a row now, we’ve begun to find our favorite spots to visit around the Denver area as well.

On Sunday, we took a morning hike at Red Rocks park, visiting the amazing ampetheater and roasting in the scorching sun. A great way to start off the week with a little exercise.

Bombing Brain at Red Rocks

Joe, Gene, and Tim at Red Rocks Park

I gave a talk on Monday about customer service—about which we here at Bombing Brain feel very passionate. It was well received, and sparked a good discussion afterwards.

Tuesday, we were treated to new Apple announcements. We’re very excited to see Teleprompt+ and Setlists running on those shiny new iPhones. And while our iOS 7 updates aren’t quite ready yet, rest assured, plans are underway to take full advantage of this new operating system.

Wednesday night was bittersweet, as we bade farewell to friends, some of which we’ll see again soon, some of which we won’t see until next year.

Events like these are perfect times to take a step back and reflect on the state of your business. We feel we’re doing the best work we’ve ever done, and we’re beyond excited for all of you to see what we have in store for our next rounds of updates. Look for lots of new things from Bombing Brain in the coming months.

Setlists 1.3

Often the best ideas for new features in our apps come from our customers. We say it all the time, because it’s always true: we really love getting feedback from users.

Feature requests generally fall into three categories. The first category includes features that are fairly easy to do and make perfect sense. Those get added quickly, but may not end up in the official shipping version until we finish other more complicated features. The second category includes those features which may be good ideas, but we feel would perhaps take the app too far away from the core of what it is. Every app has a certain philosophy behind it; you can’t simply bolt on features willy nilly without losing sight of the app’s purpose. That leads to clutter and confusion. In some cases, those ideas that don’t quite fit become completely different apps. (That’s how Setlists was born.) Other times, we have to reluctantly shelve an idea altogether as something that just won’t work. The third category is my favorite. These are the features that are amazingly good ideas, that we agree would make excellent additions to the app, but are more complicated to implement and require a lot of thought and preparation. Challenges are what make getting up in the morning worthwhile.

The latest release of Setlists has been months in the making. Our feature request list had been getting long, and we initially decided that perhaps we should just try to do a few of the first category—easily implemented features—just to at least show some progress. But as we started adding those, we quickly got carried away and started going further down our list into the third category of more complicated features. We cut ourselves off before implementing all of the really difficult stuff (you have to ship sometime, after all), but we managed to get quite a bit of new awesomeness into the app for version 1.3.

Here’s a look at some of what’s new:

  • Dark Set Mode and Dark Split Mode: It had been suggested that the white background on the set view was too bright and was interfering with stage lighting for some people. So we created an alternate dark theme for Set View and the bottom/right half of Split View.

  • Additional Song information: Many people requested to have much more than just song titles and artist names for each song. So we’ve added duration, tempo, key signature, tags, and notes. All of these are optional, of course, but adding them to your song catalog will make composing sets and searching for particular songs much easier. If you have multiple singers, for instance, you can tag the songs with the singer’s name, and then do a search on the catalog to just see the songs that person sings. Or pick songs for a set that are all in similar tempos, for better flow. Or find songs in similar keys to make cleaner transitions. The possibilities are almost limitless.

  • Duration calculations: Adding duration information to your songs means that Setlists can now automatically calculate how long your sets are. Perfect for figuring out how many songs to add or cut. Also, when you select a group of songs to add or delete, the duration of your selections are calculated as well.

  • Catalog sorting: Having all this new information in your songs means much more flexible sorting. You can now sort by song title, artist name, duration, tempo, or key signature.

  • Custom Notes available in Split View: When you add notes to your songs, you can have those appear in Split View on the iPad as an alternative to the Set, or in combination with the set. Anything can be typed into the notes field, so if you want to add stage directions, information about who starts the song, reminders about breakdowns, etc. you can have those appear while you’re performing alongside your lyrics.

  • Single Screen mode for sets: Lots of people complained about having to scroll the set view when there were too many songs on it. Now you can enable Single Screen mode, and the font of your sets will shrink to fit in portrait or landscape mode.

  • Single Page for song lyrics: Many of you have requested to have Setlists ignore the blank lines and just present all the lyrics for a song on the screen at once. Now with one switch, this can be enabled for any song. Set it as your default, and it will be enabled for your whole catalog.

  • Justification options: Any song can now be justified left, right, or centered.

  • Edit with Song Font: This one will come in most handy for those who want to line up chord information along with their lyrics. Set your song font to a monospaced font, such as Courier, and then enable “Edit With Song Font” and you can more easily line up the chords in the Song Edit view.

We know there are some more things in that third category of “Great ideas that are really hard to implement” that we haven’t gotten to yet. But we are working on them, we assure you. Backing up and sharing the catalog is a huge priority for us, but all indications are that iCloud will not suffice for this purpose. So we’re looking into alternate syncing solutions that will allow you to share your catalog with multiple band members. Auto-advancing of the lyrics for those whose hands are encumbered with instrument duties and who don’t have footpedals is also high on our list. We think we have a solution for this in mind, but it will take time to program and test. Rich text capabilities, so that you can color or size some bits of text differently from others, is another one that we plan to add in a future release.

If you have more ideas, as always, we encourage you to share them. We aim to make this not only the best lyric prompter on the App Store, but the best app it can be, period.

4-inch Retina Display is Great for Teleprompt+ and Setlists

The newest iPhone 5 and iPod touch include a beautiful 16 by 9 screen which is 176 rows of pixels taller than that of their predecessors. At first glance this might not seem like much of a big deal. An extra row of icons on the home screen, a few extra emails in your email list. Nothing to write home about, right?

But when using an app like Teleprompt+, that little bit of extra screen real estate can actually go a pretty long way. While not quite as luxurious as that big iPad screen, the new 4-inch Retina display is actually quite an improvement over the 3.5-inch version for prompting speeches. The extra screen real estate allows you to see more of your upcoming text at once.

Teleprompt+ on an iPhone 5

When using an app like Setlists, you can see more of your upcoming songs in the set before needing to scroll. You can also often get an entire verse onto the screen at a larger font size.

Setlists on an iPhone 5

Now that both Teleprompt+ and Setlists have been optimized for use on the new 4-inch Retina display, these devices are more useful than ever for your live performance and video recording needs.

4 Days of Making New Friends in Lone Tree—360iDev 2012

We had two major goals in mind when we decided to attend 360iDev again this year. The first was to help contribute to the conversation surrounding app pricing. We’ve had a reasonable amount of success over the past four years selling apps to customers who are focused on quality, not price, and we felt it would be great to share that with others. The second was to make as many new contacts as possible—talk to people, spend some time getting to know more independent developers, contractors, anyone we could in the iOS development community. We’re notorious for being shy, so we thought it was vital that we take advantage of the conference’s incredibly friendly atmosphere, break out of our usual quiet selves, and try to make some new friends.

To achieve the first goal, I submitted a topic and put myself in the running to become a 360iDev speaker. I had no idea what my chances of being accepted were, but I was passionate about the app pricing stories that have been floating around the Internet for some time now, and I felt I could make a strong case for the counter-to-popular-opinion approach of selling apps for more than 99 cents. After all, Bombing Brain has been successfully growing our business of selling fair price apps, with a slow but steady annual increase in our app sales. While we have never had a big “hit” app, and we’ve never even been featured in any major way by Apple, we’ve managed to grow by focusing on keeping our small base of customers extremely happy. I thought that might be something the iOS indie dev community would like to hear.

And I was right. The feedback I got after the talk was extremely encouraging. I spoke with several people who felt that perhaps too many of us were chasing the top app charts, and that maybe it was at least time to consider shifting gears to a slow, iterative approach, with the goal of making good products that customers valued. And many also offered their own experiences and feedback, sometimes disagreeing, but always in the spirit of sharing knowledge. By the end of the conference I had a whole new confidence about where we wanted to take our business, and I could better appreciate the perspetives of those who have tried and succeeded at selling apps in all sorts of categories and at all sorts of price points.

That leads me to our second goal. Tim and I met scores of new people over the past four days, and so many of them had insights into the iOS development business. We shared food, bought each other beers, played a round of miniature golf, even. All the while talking and sharing ideas. This, I feel, is what it means to be part of a developer community. And 360iDev, moreso than many other conferences, fosters this sense of community in a way that makes it easy even for two shy guys like us to feel welcomed, supported, and appreciated.

We’re still bummed that Gene couldn’t make it out with us this year, but the two of us who were there sure had a blast and learned a lot. The conference sessions were even better than last year. The WiFi actually worked. (I managed to download the GM for iPad and iPhone over WiFi during Michael Simmons’s great talk on Wednesday afternoon. Wouldn’t have tried that last year.) And most importantly, the attendees and staff made us feel like we belonged. Top it off with a great mention by Mike Schramm on TUAW, a podcast session with Saul Mora of NSBrief (to be published soon), and you end up with a unique experience that paid for itself many times over.

I said it last year, and I’ll say it again; 360iDev is a no-brainer if you want to be in the business of making apps. John and Nicole run tight ship, and they do it out of love. The vibe that gets generated by their passion is infectious. If you’re looking to get more actively involved with the indie dev community (and you should be if you’re making apps) I continue to think this is the best conference going.

So we look forward to next year. Which of my new friends will be sharing their stories on stage? I know I’m already brewing a few new ideas for another talk myself. Don’t think you’ll get picked if you submit a topic? Neither did I. Think you’ll be really nervous? Yeah, you will be. But you’ll get over it. One of the things that makes this conference so great is that anyone with a good idea might be picked to deliver that idea to the rest of us.

To all our new friends on Twitter, Alpha, and Glassboard: Stay in touch. Tim and I look forward to seeing you all the next time our paths cross. If your path ever takes you to the San Francisco area, do look me up. I’d love to keep the conversation going. We have great food and beer here, too.

Last, but certainly not least, let me take a moment to thank our families, who took on a lot of extra duties for four days so that Tim and I could go to this conference and help promote our business. Without our loved ones making sacrifices for our benefit, we’d be nowhere.

Setlists is a Great Set Organizer for Comedians, Too

Comedy is the one gig that’s even harder than music. Night after night, getting in front of that crowd, alone, trying to juggle people’s sensitivities, dealing with hecklers—and all the while having to keep track of material on your head. It’s one of the most nerve-wracking and torturous things a human being can do to his or her own ego.

If you’re out there doing the work, trying to “build your clown” as Marc Maron would put it, thanks. The world needs more of you. And while we can’t help make the Saturday night crowd better, and we certainly can’t help you produce the funny, we thought maybe we can help with the remembering the material part[1].

Setlists, our app for organizing song lyrics and arranging catalogs of songs into sets, makes for a great way to organize a comic’s notes and sets too. Now that we just added iPhone and iPod touch support in our latest release, we think Setlists is an even better tool for comedians. Maybe lugging an iPad up on stage seemed a bit over the top for a comic, but now you can just pull your phone out of your pocket to consult your notes.

Setlists was built for quick access and easy editing. You can arrange your set and make fast changes just before heading up on stage. You can even move your bits around easily while you’re performing with a few taps. Want to move the airline chunk to the end of the set? Just tap edit and drag it down. Need some notes to jog your memory about a particular bit? Just tap on the title, and you can see your notes in easy-to-read large letters on the screen. Got a few more minutes than you thought you had? Drop out of the set and into the catalog, then pull up one of your other bits in a few seconds.

Never again will you lose that brilliant idea when you’re out and about. Just open up Setlists, add a new premise, and jot down a few notes. It’ll be in your catalog for later refinement. When it’s ready to try out on stage, add it to the set. After the set, refine your notes based on what worked and what didn’t. And the best part: it’s all in your phone, not scratched out on several pieces of paper you keep misplacing in different pockets. All of your notes about all of your material in one place.

We think Setlists makes for a great comic’s tool. And we’d love to hear from comics so we can make improvements to meet their needs even better. Drop us a line at and we’ll be happy to add your ideas to our growing list of possible new upcoming features.

  1. Full disclosure: When we designed our Setlists app, we were thinking mainly of musicians. But a few folks have since suggested to us that Setlists would make a nice organizational tool for comedians. And we think they’re right. We’re certainly going to keep improving Setlists with comedians in mind moving forward.  ↩