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My passions are helping people and populations thrive and flourish, digital health, and all things entrepreneurial.
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Fitness and Health App Downloads Are On the Rise

If you have been following my stuff or just know tech you are already aware mobile app usage in skyrocketing. Health related apps make up a significant portion of this growth and are becoming more and more popular among Smartphone users in both developed and developing economies. For example, fifty-two percent of all adults with a Smartphone now use mobile health apps more than they had in previous years. Wakefield Research released these statistics on mobile health apps after conducting a survey involving one thousand adults in the United States. Citrix commissioned this survey. Here are more highlights about mobile health apps:

Increase in Popularity of Fitness Apps

It seems as though staying fit is a key concern of the average Smartphone user. Fitness apps are generating a greater network load than other kinds of mobile health apps. This higher generation of network load stems from the fact that fitness apps involve periodic updates in reference to the status of the user as well as continuous tracking of activity. For instance, even a casual jogger that logs 12 miles a week (four 30 minute sessions) is creating an immense amount of data. The increase in popularity of wearable fitness devices is likely to increase the network load already occupied by fitness apps. These wearable devices include brands such as FitBit, Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Pebble and Nike+. 

Traffic Data from ByteMobile

Citrix, the firm that commissioned the survey, also revealed mobile traffic data from the subscribers of ByteMobile. This data clearly shows that apps for weight loss and fitness were the most popular apps downloaded by ByteMobile subscribers. More specifically, statistics showed that users of fitness apps accounted for more than fifty percent of all ByteMobile subscribers. This is an increase of over eleven percent from the previous year. Apps on pregnancy and fertility were also popular

The Top Ten Mobile Health Apps

Top 10 Health Apps 2014

The study also included a list of the top ten most popular health apps (based on a  compilation of the overall number of network-connected subscribers each app had). Runtastic was the number one health app with more than twenty-five percent of all ByteMobile subscribers have this app on their Smartphone. MyFitnessPal came in second place closely followed by RunKeeper. More than thirty percent of all subscribers to ByteMobile used either MyFitnessPal or RunKeeper. Weight Watchers was the fourth most popular mobile health app, followed by Nike+ and then MapMyRun. Pregnancy and Period Diary came in at seventh and eighth place respectively. Lose It! was in ninth place and finally, Baby Bump was the tenth most popular mobile health app according to this particular study.

Wearables, Ethics, and the bizarre case of Sarah Slocum and Google Glass

It was inevitable that Google Glass and other wearables would be used for unsavory purposes. The wearable technology has been raising privacy concerns ever since Google started slowly rolling out the devices to consumers. But thanks to “social media consultant” Sarah Slocum, we now have an example of what happens when people abuse wearables to stir up trouble.

Wearables and Ethics

Slocum has become a infamous name in tech circles after claiming she was attacked in a San Francisco bar just for wearing the device. According to documents filed in court, Slocum said patrons of the bar began to shout insults and obscenities just because she was wearing Google Glass, which is a head-mounted mobile device equipped with a camera.

Slocum claimed that patrons were accusing her of recording them with the camera. While Slocum argued that their anger was unfounded, she later released video to her YouTube channel, proving that she did ultimately choose to record–and then publish–video of the encounter.

Unfortunately for Slocum, her own evidence appears to incriminate her more than she might like. While there is video proof of a towel being thrown in her direction, Slocum is not merely suffering the unprompted assails of other bar-goers. She is actively video-taping them even as they put their hands over their faces and turn away from her camera. At one point, she raising her middle finger to a woman, curses at her and says she wants “to get this white trash on tape for as long as I can.”

Slocum’s experience raises a number of ethics questions regarding the use of wearable technology. But while some critics of wearables will use this experience to highlight the adverse effects that wearable technology can have, it’s important to consider Slocum’s reputation. The consultant has a track record of instigating conflicts and attempting to stir up trouble. As reported in the DailyMail, Slocum’s former neighbors had filed a restraining order against the woman in 2012. That comes one year after Slocum’s mother filed a restraining order against her, citing domestic violence.

Two former acquaintances of Slocum’s also said she had secretly recorded a conversation at their home. That’s the kind of privacy infringement that doesn’t require Google Glass to execute, and it discredits Slocum as a figure in the ethics debate concerning wearables. Slocum appears to be little more than a meddling agitator that simply wanted to stir up controversy and get attention. Google Glass could have been interchanged with any other device or object used to invade another person’s privacy.

A few bad seeds will always attempt to make a mess of certain privileges, but those individuals can’t be allowed to influence the ethics debate that concern the larger, responsible majority. 

Live Life Love | Volume Twenty-Six

Hello Everyone,

I hope your 2014 is off to a great start. Mine has been a bit of a wild ride (the governor even had to get involved), but wild rides are for the most part fun. Digital health and wellness is about to explode and after years of hard work preparing and getting ready for this trend to takeoff I’m well-positioned to make my mark. This is also true for so many Live Life Love alums in their respective areas. After modest beginnings of getting the start-up WaNeLo off the ground Deena Varshavskaya was just added to the Board of Directors at Wet Seal. After years of waiting for the mass market to accept augmented reality, Matt Szymczyk is now seeing the fruits of his labor through interest from major brands. And although I’ve mentioned Dr. Gervais’ professional progress before, he’s reached new highs now being credited as a significant factor regarding the Seattle Seahawk’s Super Bowl win. I am humbled to have had early access to these thought leaders, to have learned from them as well as all that have participated in this project. Each quarter’s opportunities manifest in unique and magnificent ways. This quarter was no exception.

Health and Wellness: This quarter I had the unique opportunity to meet with seven employees of the Apple App Store to specifically discuss the Health & Fitness and Medical sections of Apple’s app marketplace. Notes from my interview with Apple about mobile health and fitness apps can be found here.

Entrepreneurship: Neville Medhora (AKA Nev) is the trusted sidekick of Noah Kagan. The two joined forces to create the entrepreneurial marketplace AppSumo. Nev is known for being a bit of a character and shares some interesting ideas about creating a start-up (he believes most people who start businesses tend to be wantrepreneurs) as well as his thoughts on creating good marketing copy. My interview with Neville Medhora about wantrepreneurs and copywriting can be found here.

Life Experience: Playing off the “wild ride” theme, this quarter’s life experience was attending the Land Rover driving school at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. I took an off-road course in a brand new Land Rover LR4. Hard to put into words how awesome this vehicle is so the best I can do is show you a little clip from the experience.



Next quarter I am determined to knock off another World Wonder, but for the 2014 fall quarter my life experience mission is to try the top four beers in the United States. Number three and number four, Pliny The Younger and Pliny The Elder (respectively), should be easy to come by because their brewery is in my backyard, but Heady Topper (number one) from Vermont is extremely hard to get outside of the state. A six month challenge to complete this mission has been set, and any help achieving this experience is welcomed. I look forward to seeing how I can pull my network together to make this happen (and hopefully enjoy some good beer with a few of you in the process).

Contribution: This quarter I contributed to several charities I’ve previously provided donations to, and also made a donation to March for Babies in the memory of Ryan Ahdan.

Wow! You read the whole thing. Thank you so much for taking the time. I’m a firm believer in reciprocity so if there’s anything I can do for you in return please let me know.

Warm regards,
Michael

Interview with Apple about Health and Fitness Apps

Apple’s App Store is the go-to marketplace for all iOS device users, including iPhones and iPads. This digital distribution platform, maintained by Apple, allows users to browse and download a wide range of different types of useful (and not so useful) applications. The App Store started in 2008, roughly a year after the first iPhone was sold. The original iPhone was launched with only built-in apps, but based on consumer demand and smart business principles, Apple began letting independent developers build and profit from iOS applications (which they are able to sell through Apple).  Although the App Store was a tremendous hit right from launch, profiting from app development is known to be a precarious proposition (as documented in the Fast Company article, Striking It Rich In The App Store: For Developers, It’s More Casino Than Gold Mine). Despite the risks, the App Store launched with roughly 500 apps, and presently is home to over one million. It is estimated to have over 40,000 health and wellness apps in the market, but the usefulness and utility of a majority of these apps is consistently questioned (ex. Time’s article: Bad News About Your Favorite Health Apps: They Don’t Work). The information for this interview took place over a three hour period, with seven employees from the app store speaking specifically about health, wellness, and medical apps. Apple has not endorsed this interview and it is comprised as a composite of various responses from the various individuals. 


1. What makes a good wellness or fitness mobile app? When a developer asks you for advice on how to build a great product what do you tell them?

There isn’t one recipe for building a great app. We work with various developers at varying capacities. Ultimately, our job is to ensure that Apple’s marketplace is curated in a way that maximizes the user experience.  Obviously, everyone benefits when we can help developers produce their best work, which is true across all of our channels. Apple is known for usability, so in that regard we would like that tradition to carry through to anyone developing on our platform. Therefore, a good wellness or fitness app is one that ensures a great user experience for the intended audience. In addition to that, it must create utility that the end-user otherwise would not have. There also has to be a sensibility about cognitive load and user-centric design. Is the app really solving a problem or creating one? Is the app creating value by innovating or improving upon something else, or is it simply crowding the marketplace? These are questions worth asking. When we reach out and work with developers, it is usually because we’ve identified potential, but we also see opportunities where we can help the app improve. We have different teams that work with developers directly on coding issues, as well as a team that helps identify user interface improvements.

2. How can digital health app developers go about app store optimization (ASO) and does Apple support this type of app promotion?

As a rule, Apple does not help developers with app store optimization. There are services outside of Apple that claim they can assist with this, but it is really about simple fundamentals and multivariate testing their marketing. There aren’t that many variables involved so an app creator can simply play around and see if tweaking any of them creates a lift and/or improvement in sales.  This includes trying different app icons, changing the app’s title, making sure the description of the app uses relevant keywords a potential user of the app would search for, and really paying attention to the wording in the first two lines of the description to make sure any relevant information about the app is relayed quickly to catch the consumers attention quickly.

3. I come to the table with allegiances to the Quantified Self (QS) and Health 2.0 communities, yet it seems that much of the popular health and fitness apps today are more content focused, and from where I sit it seems like Apple is not really tapped into these communities (with the exception of Rock Health).  Why do you think that is?

Interpreting our lack of visibility in the QS and digital health communities is not necessary a fair judgment, and a little misleading. We are here to support anyone who makes a good app and to develop relationships with key individuals. Outreach into these communities isn’t necessarily a function of the App Store. If you look at it from simply a demand standpoint (meaning we get plenty of health and fitness app submissions per day), clearly we are covered. So there isn’t really a need for us to go out to these communities and drum up business. Furthermore, we like to work with a wide range of developers, span from big corporations to lone developers. There are a lot of groups out there making great apps.

4. What is the biggest challenge facing the Apple App Store today?

Like most innovative organizations, we have a flood of work and limited staff. We get a tremendous amount of product submissions daily, which means that we tend to be in a perpetual state of triage. Our internal systems are custom built so we don’t benefit from system upgrades that someone might see if they were running a third-party SaaS system. We do the best with the resources we have. We genuinely care about the people developing these products. Like any entrepreneur, often these individuals have invested significant time, money, and energy into their product… some have gone as far as to find themselves in sink or swim situations. We try to help the best we can, but we just do not have the current capacity to help everyone.

5. How can mHealth and digital health developers benefit from iOS 8 and Healthbook?

There is no way to answer that. Apple will not discuss future products and releases, so all that can be said is that the blogosphere has been wrong before. People that work for the App Store get very little information about  internal workings of the company. This is primarily to protect us, since we are an external facing team. Anything in active development could potentially change, so it could be harmful for us to discuss something not yet released because it is subject to change. Of course, the future is going to be exciting. Take the M7 chip for example, it’s really impressive the way it’s being used by health and wellness developers. We principally focus on what is possible now, and that is what developers should be focused on anyway. The present is as exciting as the future.

Interview with Neville Medhora about Wantrepreneurs

Neville Medhora (AKA Nev) is an established copywriter and the trusted sidekick of Noah Kagan, as a partner of the entrepreneurial marketplace AppSumo. Nev made his mark creating one of the first successful drop-shipping businesses on the Web, HouseOfRave.com, and has since sold that company to work on creating successful digital and packaged products as well as consult fellow entrepreneurs on how to launch successful start-ups. He is known for his quirky attitude and ability to connect with his audience through unique marketing copy, which he passes down to other marketers through his Kopywriting Kourse [sic].


1) Your copywriting style is reminiscent, in my opinion, of some of the techniques Dan Kennedy teaches. Who has helped and/or influenced your sales copy style and how have you refined your voice over time to make it uniquely your own?

I’ve been writing for a long time and I’ve always had a weird way of writing. I do not care for grammar all that much. I’ve just feel that if it gets to the point, what’s the difference. You know how some people complain, “kids nowadays use the letter U instead of ‘you’,” those kids are actually being more efficient with their words. The point of language is not to write it in a certain way, it’s to get information from the page to your brain, right? So if it does it, who cares? So I always wrote like that a bit, in my unique way, and then I started reading Gary Halbert. He was definitely a huge influence. His style would just get you to keep turning the page and turning the page, until you were done with the whole letter and you were captivated the whole time. And I was just like… why was I more captivated by his stuff than anyone else’s? And it’s because he laid it out in a unique way. I realized later he actually put effort into this… like okay, by the end of the page, they should want to turn the page, so I’m going to leave them a cliffhanger, and this format will help them along.

So Gary Halbert was definitely a huge influence. Joseph Sugarman, I liked his stuff because he was always a marketer, but he was never a scummy marketer. A lot of the copy guys in the past would use all these tramped up language – “the most exciting thing…” and then the product was actually crappy. That’s called a LIE. At least where I come from, that’s called a lie. When you say one thing, but you deliver another, that is a scam or a lie and I am not into that. And Joseph Sugarman would actually deliver what he said he would. I liked his stuff cause he was definitely not a scammer. I tell the truth and write like I speak. It makes sense to me. Why would I change my language just because I change the medium? So that’s how I developed my writing style… my own recipe influenced by Halbert and Sugarman.

2) Given you put a high value on copy, what’s your opinion on budding entrepreneurs extensively using multivariate testing? In other words, is it worth spending resources seeing if it’s the right product, just the wrong message? And, do you have any testing hacks you can share to make A/B testing easier?

It really depends on the use case but basically there are two different kinds of people. There’s the person that already has his product running and another type of person who doesn’t know their product yet. The latter is the kind of person that needs to go out and put out tests before any serious investment, right?

Let me give you an example… it’s called positioning, right? So I had this company called House of Rave back in the day. It was a drop-shipping business that did well enough that it paid my way through college. I spent a lot of time on it. Everyone kept asking me, “How did you make that drop-shipping business work?” They assumed I did very little and I would constantly have to answer questions about operations. So I made a six-part series on my blog where I just answered every single question people had. Yet, people kept asking me more and more and more questions so I decided to make a digital product about how House of Raves works to cater to this demand. And sure enough, a lot of people bought it off my blog and then created their own drop-shipping businesses. 

The need for testing also depends on how you get your traffic. I had been putting content out there for a long time  so I had warm prospects… no need to test if people are asking me directly to give them product. My value proposition was already familiar. Now if you have cold traffic coming from Google AdWords, and the visitors don’t know anything about you, and you have to convert them right away then you really should be testing.

3) What advice do you have for people trying to find their voice, as well as an audience, in the sea of Internet clutter? It seems like there are some many people trying to emulate the style of Gary V. or Frank Kern on the assumption you have to drop the F bomb to get attention. What advice do you have for good people that are not necessarily suited for “peacocking”?

I am an extrovert. I like going out and being in crowds. I get my strength from other people. If there’s someone else working in my apartment with me, I work harder. When I’m alone I tend to slack off because I generate a lot of my energy from other people. I know that about myself. And therefore  whenever people meet me in real life, it’s pretty congruent to what they thought they were going to get. There are some people who try to emulate a loud style, but they are very quiet in real life. And it usually doesn’t translate very well… like they’ll curse to get attention, but cursing doesn’t get attention, it just offends people. If I keep saying Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! You’re just kind of like, “Why are you saying that, what’s the point?” Okay. But if I’m getting really, really into something and I need to make a strong point, and that curse word happens to be fuck, in the heat of that moment, that curse word does add some emphasis to my point. Whereas if I just say fuck for no reason, it’s just kind of inappropriate and for written copy you know spam-filters are going to catch it sometimes so your at risk of not reaching your audience as well. Do you need to add in stuff like that? If you are boring and technical, you can be boring and technical… be yourself… because you know what, there is other boring and technical people out there that will read your stuff.

I know some people that don’t like going out, they don’t like being in crowds, they prefer not to talk to other people, they like just being in their own head. They don’t need your validation for really anything, they’re very secure. In my experience these folks are not good at writing stuff that entertains but that is okay because copy doesn’t always need to be that entertaining. Sometimes it just needs to be informative and useful. If you’re a boring, calculated kind of person, write in a boring calculated way. Also it is important to note nowadays it is easy to take cheap classes and improve on almost anything even if you do not have inherent talent. For instance a lot of people that are good on camera are actually very shy. Marilyn Manson is actually a really shy guy, but does crazy things on stage. His inner persona and his on-stage persona are very different. Some of this can be taught and improved upon, so just because you’re not good at it now doesn’t mean you won’t be good at it later. Andrew Warner, when he started Mixergy, he wanted to be the best interviewer in the world, so he was like – I’m just going to interview someone every single day until I get good, and now he is.

4) What are three relatively unknown and/or obscure productivity tools that you use to make your entrepreneurial life easier, that are not contained within your Problem Solving Checklist product?

I think simple shortcuts are underrated and can save people a lot of time, so the first is the Alfred App and shortcut keys like Chrome’s keyboard shortcuts. The second is there’s a thing called SelfControl. For this app you type in a list of websites you don’t want to go to and press start, and in a certain amount of time, it will just nuke those websites. The third productivity tool that I use is my old-fashioned handwritten To Do List. Have your readers take a look at the following video.



What I don’t mention in the video is I write my tasks the day before. That’s the main thing, I make my to do list the day before, and I don’t add anything to my list the same day (generally). If you pile stuff on in the same day you do not get the satisfaction of ever being done. What’s the fun in that?

Another nugget not in the video is I try to stack the most important things first, but if I’m being lazy I’ll just pick the easiest thing to do. Not a good method but it is what I do. Good advice is doing the hardest thing first, so you just get it done. But sometimes if I wake up really early in the morning, my brain is just not working and so I’ll just do the easiest thing, just to knock a few out of the way and get momentum. If it is something timely like going to the DMV to get my registration fixed and the DMV doesn’t open until nine or something I might mess with the order too, but ideally you stack the most important items in order first so they get done first.

5) Given your experience with the AppSumo Wantrepreneur course, what’s a consistent folly you see with budding entrepreneurs that you know from your own experience they might not overcome by mere mentorship and instruction?  In other words, a common weakness that is usually only overcome through the school of hard knocks?

First time entrepreneurs notoriously like to complicate things so they don’t have to take action. I see this especially with engineers. Here are extremely smart people. They can create a product over a weekend (think hackathons), faster than I ever could. Yet, they consistently get in their own way with questions like: What happens if it grows too big? What happens if we get 10,000 customers the first day? It’s like, don’t flatter yourself. If you start getting 10,000 customers a day, then worry about how you are going to spend your money. And the biggest thing I see is the fear of putting it out there right away. Here’s an example, someone came to me wanting to be a photographer. They said, “I’ve been wanting to be a photographer, but you know, I’m in school for most of the day, etc., etc.” So many excuses! I give these people advice like just try testing your service to people you know and I hear responses like, “I’ll think about it and I’ll do it next week.” No you won’t.  Back to the photographer example, we go and we start typing out content for a website, take a couple of their best sample pictures and put them out there and it is so nerve-racking for this person because they’ve never really done that before. There has always been comfort in the excuse. I ask them to post their site on their Facebook page and they’re reluctant. I’m like, “Well, you want to be a photographer, right?” They say, “Yeah, I really want to try that.” And I say, “Well, have you told a single potential customer about it?” And they say, “Well, my portfolio isn’t fully…” Dude, you want to be a photographer, but you don’t want to tell anyone about it? If you want to be a photographer start being a photographer, and then keep doing it and you’ll start becoming a better photographer. This is just one example but it applies to most entrepreneurs. My advice: put something out there really quick and see if anyone wants it; if they do, congratulations you are an entrepreneur! Now start working on being a better one.