Locavore's Open Data

locavore downloads

Buster McLeod is taking an “open data” policy towards his latest project, Locavore the iPhone app, by revealing the first month’s stats. Locavore is a great app that helps you eat locally by showing you what produce is in season near you and what farmer’s markets you can buy it at. It’s a well-designed app that I look forward to using this Spring and Summer. (Disclaimer: I am proud to call Buster a friend of mine)

Since launching on 3/17 he’s had 5,681 sales for almost $12,000 in revenue (as of 4/21) — that’s about $5,000 for Apple. Locavore recieved a lot of press, but as you can see above it was getting featured on the homepage of the iTunes store that really made the app. On Locavore’s most profitable day it had almost 1,000 downloads and reached #65 on the top raking chart.

Buster intends to add Facebook Connect in a future version. He shares some thoughts on usage data in the rest of his post.

So what can be learned from this other than get featured by the App Store team? It’s hard to guess what exact process they use, but it seems very likely that they look for an app that is unique, useful, well-designed and well-priced. Locavore was the first of its kind for the app store. It’s priced at $2.99, breaking it out of the bargain basement $.99 apps, but keeping it within impulse purchase (“Yes, I’ll eat healthier with this and $2.99 isn’t that much to spend to eat healthier”). In short if you want to be featured build something Apple can highlight proudly and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt make some money from.

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  • ADC iPhone members can view the Publishing on the App Store session from last year’s WWDC for more information on how to be a featured app or an editor’s pick.

  • The charts look grim for the app and the iPhone and the app market.

    It is further evidence that increasingly disappointed and hence lazy novelty seeking is driving app sales via the front page. This app in particular shows (at least on this small time scale) rapid drop-offs in “new users” and steady declines in “uniques” punctuated only by the accident of the front page listing spike.

    People are trying to figure out what the phones are actually good for and coming up short and running out patience. This is harder to see because phone sales are up mainly thanks to new channels but that’s bad news, too: that’s the crest and trailing end of a hype-driven demand bubble when you only get increased sales by schlepping the goods around to more places.

    The category of device is problematic. Sure, it’s novel and fun (for a while) to have the touch screen, the accelerometer, and location features but… what are they for again? Most of us actually already know quite well what the nearest three pizza joints are and fewer of us are traveling. Honestly, I like most people shop for what’s most in season (to the extent I do) by going to the market and looking at the goods and the prices. It’s a bad sign for the related industries that customers spike for a utilitarian app like this upon its front-page mention and then fall off: people are trying to figure out what these devices are actually useful for and coming up short.


  • @TomLord “The category of device is problematic. Sure, it’s novel and fun (for a while) to have the touch screen, the accelerometer, and location features but… what are they for again?”

    I use my iPhone for reading websites while I am waiting, and maps for navigation and locating the nearest coffee house :) I can see the value of games/video as an alternative to reading, although I don’t play myself.

    What is clear to me, is that productivity apps are unsuited to the platform, which could have been predicted from their use on the old PDAs.

    The biggest disappointment to me is the lack of viewing your own files – text/html/PDA like you could download & play your music. This is just plain stupid.

    When the USB/wireless support emerges, I do see a good niche role for the device as a small data device, interfacing with sensors.

    At the same time, I see devices with larger flexible screens, open, and more Kindle-like (wireless + cell access, long battery life) as the way to view the web and documents in the future.

    I have to agree with the idea that the iPhone market for apps is not the way forward for most software vendors. The numbers just do not add up.

  • I find the comments to this very amusing. There is a comment immediately previosu to mine where the commenter is referring to the feelow who commented before him using an “@” sign. Ths convention is a Twitter convention – so curious that it has become mainstream in venues like this.

    To echo some previous comments, it would seem Mr. Lord is a little too old or perhaps knows a little better than most of us where evry treasure in hidden town (village or widening in the road –as the case may be) is located. For the rubes among us less knowledgeable than the all-knowing Lord, products like the one mentioned here can help us identify merchants and venues that we would prefer to interact with.
    While I understand back in Mr. Lord’s time, no one really cared where their goods came from as long as they were cheap enough, I would submit that there is a growing number of us who do care.
    Mr Lord may be new to the Internet and may need help understanding how to exactly operate his browser. Not surprisining given the mess that the latter generations have left for us to clean up.

  • Loren,

    Sure, in my long, long life (I’m practically dead, thanks for the reminder) it’s true of I’ve seen a lot of things come and go without changing much. I’ve known plenty of people over the years, too. Damned if isn’t the case that just about everyone of a certain minimal vague awareness learns pretty quickly where to buy pizza, who to shop with in the ‘hood or what places aren’t of much interest, which days and places host local fresh produce or other food, and so forth.

    I think most of the people I’ve met have experience similar to mine in that we certainly have not felt a burning hole in our lives where there ought to be an expensive little gadget to help us double check yelp anywhere, anytime, or tweet for some advice from our trusted followers, within covered areas, subject unavoidable outages, overage charges may apply, do not taunt happy fun ball.

    There is some think-tank construct called “the hype cycle”- I forget from who thought it up but Google quickly reminds that Wikipedia has an entry (it was Gartner). You know, “peak of inflated expectations” followed by “trough of disappointment” and all that.

    All I’m saying here is that this category of devices looks to be cresting at that “peak of inflated expectations” and its reasonable to start talking about exactly why the crash is coming. I think a good place to start is with that question facing many iPhone buyers: “I payed *how much* for this, again? *Really*? Where’s my flying car?”

    Given the fierceness with which various firms fight to get a chunk of the consumer dollars from this thing – they sell it below cost for debt obligations and contractually ensure monopolies on bandwidth and software and certain forms of “content” — given all the leveraging of this device category to separate the consumer from fairly substantial amounts of money — given all that you’d think the story, by now, of their utility would be pretty well articulated. Where is it?

    Don’t get me wrong. There is a class of users… If I were jetting around on business a lot, flitting between various high-power meetings, constantly wanting to “be in touch” with colleagues and so forth, why, I’d be a gadgetroid, too. I’d be all over these toys. Not iPhone, alone, by far – the whole spectrum. They’d be worth every penny. But join the ranks of folks who recently picked one up at Wal*Mart to impress their friends and pick up chicks? Those folks are going to wake up with a hang-over and the evidence is in the sales patterns and the profiles we’re hearing about about app downloads and sales.

    So, why? Where did the “vision” go wrong there? And I think the question answers itself: it went wrong in not thinking about the authentic practical needs of most people.

    You do, understand, I presume, the pointedness of my remarks here, of all places. It is via this channel that I’m told we’re entering the era of the “smarter” web in which we all carry around and are surrounded by “sensors” and the new Dow here promises “Better Living Through Surveillance and Intervention” and my reaction is “You know, not only is that wrong, but it’s not funny. Not at all.”

    Frankly, I find the situation optimistic. Sales of iPhone are down but arguably just for seasonality reasons. Frankly, I infer from reports that sales aren’t down even harder because of channel expansion – people aren’t searching out the product so much as impulsively picking it up when it shows up in the local impulse-shopping store. That’s a buying pattern that suggests a “burning up” of latent demand and, as I said, foretells the “trough of disillusionment”. If you want to know what comes after that trough the question is: well, what is the damn thing actually *good* for. Aside from our jet-setter friends I’m still waiting to hear an answer. Lemme know if you find one, whippersnapper.


    p.s.: excellent troll, btw: you coughed up that age attack *on my birthday* :-)

  • Alex,

    I think that as highly leveraged, hype-driven projects like iPhone burn out a bit and as times get tighter all around we *might*, goodnes willing, see just a saner architecture of the sort that would even have Tim saying (correctly) “See, I was talking about that way back in 2009”.

    Specifically, the gadget space cries out for a true break-down into components and true commoditization. The biggest obstacle to this is the carriers. By “true break-down into components” I mean users get a general purpose personal computer gadget with optional add-on bricks for additional storage, network capability, computing, etc. Some early speculative work I saw, decades ago, was from a (contemporary) CS research guy named Olin Shivers on the topic of “bodynet” – a kind of wearable computing but with a heavy emphasis on rational componentization. More recently you can find some rants on the “cell-phone as personal computer” from another crazy hot-head CS type called Greenspun. There are lots of other cases of people talking about and working on such stuff but those two are easy to find and kind of orienting, I think.

    Architecturally the iPhone *refers to* a lot of amazing things that are possible in device space but it does not *embody* those things. It’s a simulacrum of the real deal and it fails to be the real deal *precisely* at all of the points of leverage around it (mandatory contracts, lack of software freedom, closed architecture, etc.).

    Not coincidentally, the more componentized and commoditized realizations of the ideas to which the iPhone *refers* will be less expensive, give users greater freedom to resist surveillance and intervention, and foster greater competition and innovation in discovering applications.

    But first we have to piss away another decade while the carriers and content mogels and tech industrialists work out their golden parachutes and try to find some angle to work in the threateningly far more open and useful environment that appears on the horizon.


  • @Tom Lord “Specifically, the gadget space cries out for a true break-down into components and true commoditization. The biggest obstacle to this is the carriers.”

    I agree, although with the caveat that this is mainly a US phenomenon (mainly, but not unique).

    The cracks to the carrier strategy are in place. WiFi (and others that are outside the carrier network) offers a cheap way to access communications without a cell connection. Spotty today, but I think it could become ubiquitous, especially if every device was a not just a phone/computer but node in the network. It is amusing to me that I can use Skype on my iPhone with WiFi, but am blocked using it in regular cellphone mode. If that doesn’t tell you voice is way too expensive, nothing does.

    But you are right in that it will be a decade before we get real change, maybe a lot more if the carriers can continue to buy our government.