Warning - do not buy this IOS Metafilter reading App April 23, 2015 9:04 AM   Subscribe

This app, MetaReader ("an unofficial client for MetaFilter"), is a paid app and (at least under ios7) DOES NOT WORK AT ALL. It crashes on launch. I recently got a refund from iTunes. I did contact the seller via email and twitter two weeks ago and even sent a full crash log in an email but haven't heard anything back - which is why I asked Apple for (and got) a refund. I decided to make a meta to warn others because I am no longer listed as owning the app - because refund - and so can't leave a review on itunes to warn the unsuspecting.

If this were a free app I wouldn't feel the need to warn anyone, but it is paid, and doesn't work.

For those of you curious about my iDevice specs I'm running an orignal iPad2, with 5 GB free space, and the latest version of ios7. I know ios8 is the most recent but I've not updated as yet and anyway the Metareader App specifically stated that ios 7.0.1 was the minimum running requirement.

Compatibility: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Caveat Emptor :C
posted by Faintdreams to MetaFilter-Related at 9:04 AM (62 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, that whole situation is a weird one. I talked to the developer about it a month ago when we first became aware of it and expressed a few different concerns about both the design of the app and the sales/marketing stuff on the iTunes store, most of which haven't been remedied.

So the short version is that I'm not at all satisfied with it as it exists, for a variety of reasons, and Metafilter doesn't support it or endorse it in any way. Since it's clear in the store text that it's an unofficial app, we don't have any plans at this point to go further than ignoring it and (now that it's come up) encouraging folks here to do the same, but it's definitely not a great situation even without the apparent stability issues mentioned in this post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:13 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The site redesign is so good why would anyone need an app? (Serious question.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:15 AM on April 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


The site redesign is so good why would anyone need an app? (Serious question.)

Speaking for myself, launching a web browser to visit the site day-to-day on my phone is a minor annoyance when the others I frequent (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) have standalone apps.

If this were an official app (and if it were, it would be well made, naturally), I would buy it as another means to support the site. Perhaps as a subscription model?
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:22 AM on April 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Whoops -- forgot to mention as well that mobile notifications of MeMail, IRL events, new posts, etc. would also be a huge attraction.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:23 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel the opposite of that, Celsius. I generally (Twitter excepted) prefer my websites to stay websites.
posted by maryr at 9:34 AM on April 23, 2015 [54 favorites]


The site redesign is so good why would anyone need an app? (Serious question.)

When I primarily accessed Mefi through my laptop, I used the greasemonkey script that kept track of where I was in a thread. I loved it. I could always, always return to a thread and immediately find my place again. It made it so easy for me to keep track of the threads I wanted to follow.

Now that I primarily access Mefi through my phone, I don't have the option of using that script. Now I'm back to having to manually keep track of where I am when I read threads. I find it tedious and frustrating. And I don't need advice on how to do so: I keep tabs open, I use Recent Activity constantly, I favorite to mark my place, etc etc etc. I know the tricks to keeping up with threads I'm following -- I just find it bothersome. And, also, note this isn't in any way a criticism of how the site is set up or managed--it's just a reality that, with so much great conversation, it gets hard to follow it all.

So, if there were an app that could keep track of my position in threads? OMG, I'd be all over that. I'd be so happy for it, I'd eat my phone.
posted by meese at 9:41 AM on April 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Maybe you should be sad about it, and eat your phone so that you use your laptop more for metafilter.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:48 AM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot lately about the utility of a MetaFilter app. Normally I hate standalone apps but my iPad keeps logging me out of MetaFilter (yesterday I was forced to log in mid-session, popped over to a new tab to google something, and then had to log in to MetaFilter again). I had to re-log in just to post this comment* and all this logging in is making me woefully unhappy.

Pretty sure that the issue with my iPad is specific to my iPad, so there's nothing pb can do. A MetaFilter app would therefore improve my life tremendously. Why not just use a desktop? I'm at work, people.

*ok fine, that one was because I changed my password on a different device
posted by librarylis at 9:55 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


...all this logging in is making me woefully unhappy.

Are you in Private Browsing mode on the iPad? That will cause frequent logins.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:57 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


The site redesign is so good why would anyone need an app? (Serious question.)

If you use Chrome on mobile, and zoom out to do other things in the middle of a long thread, it can be a bit of a wait as the page refreshes to actually get back to reading (and occasionally it will lose your place.) Especially brutal if you're on a plane or move somewhere there isn't WiFi and want to pre-load a bunch of tabs for reading. A well-designed app might set you up nicely to avoid those things.
posted by buoys in the hood at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2015


Here's more info about Private Browsing mode if you aren't familiar with it: Turn Private Browsing on or off on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


In Android, I think you can set an icon on your desktop that automatically brings up a web site with one click. Not sure if that's possible with iOS.
posted by Jahaza at 10:08 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Omfg, pb I could kiss you. Yes, yes that is the issue and how silly do I feel that that is it (normally people notice when they've been in private mode for two years on the same browser, yeah? Good lord). You are awesome for many reasons, not least of which is this.
posted by librarylis at 10:11 AM on April 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


Jahaza: "In Android, I think you can set an icon on your desktop that automatically brings up a web site with one click. Not sure if that's possible with iOS."

I have this setup on my Android phone. It is a simple widget. I think it is called "bookmark", natch. Shortcuts and widgets are a great underappreciated feature in Android. Here is a Metafileter project (and discussion of the topic sort of) based on shortcuts.
posted by AugustWest at 10:27 AM on April 23, 2015


Jahaza: on iOS, you'd hit the Share button - the box with the up arrow, the one you'd use if you want to make a bookmark - and "Add to Home Screen" is the option you'd want.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:34 AM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The site redesign is so good why would anyone need an app? (Serious question.)

One might not like the site redesign and long for something different, with the added potential of a dedicated app precisely control one's Mefi experience.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:43 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel the opposite of that, Celsius. I generally (Twitter excepted) prefer my websites to stay websites.

I get that, for sure.

I think it's an attempt on my part to start seriously filtering (no pun intended) the crazy tsunami of content, activity, and interactivity that is the contemporary internet. By curtailing laptop/desktop usage at home, I feel like I can better keep the bulwarks up. And by keeping the mobile stuff in discrete apps (whilst customizing the what and how of notifications), I can better choose or not choose how much tidal wave to let in.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


In case there are other people going "ooooh, building a better app sounds like fun:" any chances of getting OpenID or the like going, so we're not sharing our passwords with possibly dubious apps?
posted by Pronoiac at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2015


OpenID/OAuth stuff is something we talk about a little now and then. There's interesting potential upsides to doing something like that—apps, but also e.g. allowing community-driven spinoff sites to more painlessly integrate with Metafilter's account system—but also some technical and social challenges. One of the big questions that jumps out when you start seriously contemplating Metafilter as a general source of account authentication rather than a self-contained site is the dilution of the specific community-ethos meaningfulness of a Metafilter account and the costs that could have for a sense of site culture in the long run.

So it's a tricky thing. Not something that's like NO, NEVER or anything, but also not something we've ever gotten to a place of seeing as clearly worth the effort and potential tradeoffs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


...any chances of getting OpenID or the like going...

We don't have any plans to add that right now. In the past folks who built apps have had people log in with the site directly in a browser window, get the appropriate cookies through the site, and then use them for future app requests. That seems like a good approach in the absence of another way to authenticate.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:34 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, if there were an app that could keep track of my position in threads? OMG, I'd be all over that. I'd be so happy for it, I'd eat my phone.
posted by meese at 9:41 AM on April 23 [6 favorites +] [!]


I find it helpful to click the timestamp on the last comment I've read in a thread if I'm going to switch tabs on my phone. That saves your place for when you come back and the thread reloads. But maybe I'm not understanding the particular trouble you're encountering.
posted by JenMarie at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Weird, the dodgy MetaFilter app looks quite similar to the dodgy app someone made last year for reading my weblog - I wonder if there's some sort of framework or kit out there for quickly making dodgy apps that scrape websites?
posted by jack_mo at 12:11 PM on April 23, 2015


Speaking for myself, launching a web browser to visit the site day-to-day on my phone is a minor annoyance when the others I frequent (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) have standalone apps.

You can make a defacto "app" for a web site in iOS by visiting the site in Safari, then hitting the "up arrow on box" icon and selecting "Add to Home Screen."
posted by ignignokt at 12:18 PM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


ignignokt that is so obvious and yet it had never occurred to me. (I have an Android phone but you can do the same thing). Thank you!
posted by Wretch729 at 12:33 PM on April 23, 2015


I find it helpful to click the timestamp on the last comment I've read in a thread if I'm going to switch tabs on my phone.

Yeah, I do that, but it doesn't address the issue I have. That helps you as long as you keep the tab open. I want something that remembers where you are in a thread if you close the tab and then come back later. There are more threads I want to follow than I want to keep open as tabs. I mean, I usually have three or four tabs open to metafilter at any given time, but even that isn't enough.
posted by meese at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want something that remembers where you are in a thread if you close the tab and then come back later.

I'm having trouble parsing this. Close? The? Tab?
posted by carsonb at 2:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


(MeFi's been Tab#1 on all of my phones from the day I've gotten each one.)
posted by carsonb at 2:35 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I want something that remembers where you are in a thread if you close the tab and then come back later.

Maybe set a browser bookmark after tapping the timestamp? Most people treat bookmarks as things they want to keep permanently, but they can always be deleted when you no longer need it.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:23 PM on April 23, 2015


I've often thought about a MeFI app -- I'm in the group that would like one. And not because I dislike the redesign, but because I think that a well-designed app could do many things that we can't reasonably expect the website to do.

The trend up until the rise of the smartphone was that the web and the browser would be the new application platform. I understand the historical trends for this, and some of the benefits, but it always seemed like a bad idea to me. And while there's been a huge amount of development to enable the web to be thought of this way, it's still a huge mess.

Meanwhile, different computing platforms are different and necessarily have different strengths and weaknesses. I want my apps to be apps. I'm okay with using my desktop browser as the primary interface for the internet, but I'm not similarly okay with using my smartphone's browser. And I think it's pretty obvious that most people feel the same way -- that's why most everything is developed as apps, and even when there's a browser interface for popular internet services, people still mostly use dedicated apps.

But it's a double-edged sword -- app development is difficult and there's two major platforms (and one minor). I don't really expect MetaFilter to develop an app unless pb or someone also happened to be an app developer, and then I'd expect it to just be to their personally preferred platform. But it would be nice if a third-party were to develop a decent app.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:57 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno; I am sure there is some way to use a MetaApp to leverage favorites as the next big cryptocurrency. It would be like weaponizing snark.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:58 PM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, different computing platforms are different and necessarily have different strengths and weaknesses. I want my apps to be apps. I'm okay with using my desktop browser as the primary interface for the internet, but I'm not similarly okay with using my smartphone's browser. And I think it's pretty obvious that most people feel the same way -- that's why most everything is developed as apps, and even when there's a browser interface for popular internet services, people still mostly use dedicated apps.

There are actually a huge number of apps people think of as native apps that are web pages inside of a native app frame. Native apps will always have certain strengths, but for things like viewing and updating data (which is basically what you do on MetaFilter) are converging. By the time a native MetaFilter app was built and perfected, that convergence will probably be done.
posted by ignignokt at 6:00 PM on April 23, 2015


Embarrassing, perhaps, but: I too got that app, I too found to to be garbage, and I too got a refund.

I'm only admitting this to second OP's experience: like OP, neither I nor my handy-dandy in-house computer genius could make it do anything other than crash.
posted by easily confused at 6:30 PM on April 23, 2015


Author of the app here. I have been an iOS engineer for more than 5 years (including shipping apps with millions of monthly active users), so please don't doubt the technical implementation of the app. I am a passionate user of the site and built it mainly for my own use since there were no other options available. I worked extremely diligently to build the app over the course of two months and was not paid to do so. The app is completely native, not just a simple web wrapper. Unfortunately, there is not an official API from MetaFilter to work off of, so I had to resort to scraping the website. With this though, there are drawbacks such as possible instability in the beginning while the kinks get ironed out due to varying inputs that cannot be possibly all accounted for from launch. If an official API were released, the app could be made extremely stable with relatively little effort. The current site is extremely inconsistent such as display of dates, HTML is not valid (I am working to retain rich text formatting from comments/posts in the native app), etc. so I must deal with these issues gracefully.

I have not gotten the chance to put much time into it since launch because my original post notifying users of the app was not approved to MetaTalk and as such, download numbers have been low and not originally as projected. I hope you understand that engineering time is not free/cheap and the project originally started as a passion project. Please also be assured that with login, your details are not recorded in any fashion and sent over HTTPS to MetaFilters servers directly (feel free to verify with a traffic inspector, if you so choose) and logging in is not necessary to use the app.

I've added additional functionality to the app that makes it work way better on mobile (to reiterate, it's not a simple web wrapper app, I have spent time optimizing natively for iOS), including:
-Native YouTube player/photo viewer/web browser
-Native gestural support (for replying to comments, viewing full posts)
-Sort comments by popularity
-Multiple site support
-Themes depending on site
-Shaking device for random post+
-Support for multiple orientations, iPad, and iPhone 6/6+ support

Also, things you come to expect from the website including tags, searching, filtering are present in the app.

If you have any questions or want to report a bug, please contact me directly at metareader@nathanmock.com, but rest assured, the app was not intended to be a quick grab and run and I intend to maintain it with your continued support.
posted by nathanm at 7:18 PM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


FWIW, one of my big reasons for preferring websites that stay websites rather than stand alone apps: I find Chrome loads far faster on my phone than almost any other app. Therefore for fast loading sites like most of Metafilter (barring longboats), Chrome's more convenient. (Also it doesn't take up more room on my phone's piddling memory)
posted by maryr at 8:10 PM on April 23, 2015


This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Obviously, instability in a paid app (even on an older device) is bad news, and not responding to support/refund requests is sketchy and obnoxious. On the other hand, it's disappointing to learn the announcement of the app was frozen out of the MetaTalk queue and had no chance to be tested or reviewed by members. I can imagine the frustration of pouring a lot of personal time and effort into something like this and then being barred from sharing it with the very audience you created it for.

Some people clearly want the extra functionality of an app, so working with somebody who's developed a fairly full-featured one rather than actively ignoring them seems to me the most useful route (see the history of the Alien Blue iOS client, which was eventually acquired by Reddit and made official). Of course, there's no telling what dealbreaking flaws were in the launch version -- ad blocking? Security concerns? But again, that's where hashing things out in MetaTalk would really help out, both in this specific case and in setting some general guidelines for any future developers. It would be nice if the mods could clarify what concerned them enough to prompt the frosty reception, and hopefully it's something nathanm is willing to address so we can have a useful app everybody's happy with rather than the current awkward situation.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:11 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"On the other hand, it's disappointing to learn the announcement of the app was frozen out of the MetaTalk queue and had no chance to be tested or reviewed by members. "

Hmmm... You mean host an advertisement for a paid application and then solicit free test work for the paid application as well?

If the application is not showing metafilter's ads to non-paying users, this app is essentially taking money from metafilter's pocket (and putting it into the developers). I can see how the folks running the site wouldn't bend over backwards for that business model.

I'm pretty okay with free open source mobile web applications for sites, but other than that, I personally think the only people who should write apps for specific sites are the web owners. I'll take this guys word for it that he isn't stealing credentials (and indeed, it's a verifyable assertion he's making), but these 3rd party apps for websites certainly have security flaws in them that endanger the users (I'm generalizing, I don't mean to attack the security of this app, which I haven't evaluated).

Finally, as long as I'm being a curmudgeon about things... "IOS engineer"? Really? IOS Developer is a fine term, but in my mind it's a bit obnoxious to call yourself an engineer unless you went to school to be called that.

While many hours of development may have gone into this app, in my mind that time was spent stealing advertising dollars from metafilter and putting into your own pocket.

/rant
posted by el io at 8:39 PM on April 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Guys, I would love a MetaFilter API, but they've made it clear repeatedly that that is not something they have time for their one full-time developer to be working on.

Given that, if you are an experienced developer and go scraping the site, you know you are building on quicksand. When your building starts to fall apart, you have no right to be upset. You chose to pour your personal time and effort into your UIGestureRecognizer-tricked-out house.

That isn't to say people shouldn't do stuff like that for their own personal fulfillment. I take longshots at untenable projects all the time. To expect MetaFilter to change their policies because you wrote a bunch of code or to expect to profit financially from it, however, is unreasonable.
posted by ignignokt at 8:48 PM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


-Sort comments by popularity

Euww.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:01 PM on April 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Please don't doubt the technical implementation of the app.

Bro, if the app doesn't work for many users (myself included), the technical implementation is faulty. Period. I also work in iOS dev and the minimum viable product any developer worth their salt needs to produce should be an app that works. That you would even try to say otherwise rather than acknowledge the feedback provided here isn't encouraging.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:17 PM on April 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


Honestly this feels like C&D territory if the app collects money and filters out ads. And ditto on the obnoxiousness of calling oneself an engineer in the same breath you say "don't doubt the technical implementation" when people are reporting actual issues. If you're using "engineering" in the "software engineering" sense and not just substituting it for "developer" you should be quick to realize that the "software life cycle" for your app is incalculably infinitesimal and out of your control entirely unless your two months of development expands into a ceaseless maintenance and support phase constantly tweaking the app to continue kludgily repackaging content. Asking for money is galling in the absence of ongoing support and especially without official endorsement or tacit endorsement via API. I bet it wouldn't be difficult to get Apple to block this if it's demonstrably not being maintained and actively violates Metafilter TOS. Time to update the TOS
posted by aydeejones at 11:55 PM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Guys, I would love a MetaFilter API, but they've made it clear repeatedly that that is not something they have time for their one full-time developer to be working on.

It did pretty much put a stop to a (free) iOS app I was helping someone else here write some years ago. It wasn't just writing code to scrape data from a page, but having to write separate scraping routines depending on what combination of data fields were found on a user page — and there were so many possibilities that it was basically end game at that point: no realistic way to maintain something like that if the nesting of elements changed in some slight way when a new social category was added, say. I have no opinion on nathanm's work (except to say that if you charge money for software, you damn well better put in an effort to provide support) but I would say that the situation did not help when writing code and I'm not surprised to hear that it has impacted others' efforts since, as well.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:41 AM on April 24, 2015


I have no dog in this fight (although I do agree with Celsius1414 that an app could be a nice revenue stream for the site), but I want to applaud nathanm for showing up to explain their his or her self and intentions.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:46 AM on April 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


It would be nice if the mods could clarify what concerned them enough to prompt the frosty reception, and hopefully it's something nathanm is willing to address so we can have a useful app everybody's happy with rather than the current awkward situation.

Sure. The issues I had:

1. We were given no heads up about the development of the app, or in anyway consulted about or alerted to its development in process. We found about it from the submitted Metatalk post advertising it.

2. The post was, in fact, an ad for a newly-released paid product, not a "hey, fellow community members, I'm working on a thing and could use your input/feedback/help testing it" situation. The post text consisted of more or less the same copy as he'd used on the product page for the app, and framed it as a limited-time promotion before the price went up.

3. As originally posted to the iTunes store, there was no clear acknowledgement in the title of the listing or the snippet visible above the fold in the store description that this was an unofficial app. That's completely not okay; I appreciate nathanm changing it when I brought it up, but it should not have happened in the first place, period.

4. The app collects user authentication info as a middleman instead of routing it directly through the site's on login process. This isn't inherently malicious—and to be clear I have no personal belief that nathanm's intentions are anything but good—but it's also not great, and it's not-great for no clear upside for anyone but the developer. Leaving that at "yeah, but trust me, or systematically monitor all traffic to and from the app forever" isn't a satisfying response for why this third party app needs unfettered access to users' login credentials instead of being designed around avoiding that odd wrinkle. That people don't have to log in also doesn't address that.

5. The app is not free; Metafilter users are expected to pay for the ability to use it, to access Metafilter, again without any kind of discussion with us ahead of time about the idea. I think people have every right to charge for software they've spent time on, but I don't think it's okay for them to do so on the back of Metafilter's content and community without getting some very explicit buy-in ahead of time from the mods and the community itself.

6. The app by its nature strips out the ads that generate our revenue, so it's a financial double-dip; users pay a third party for the right to use an app that cuts out the actual site's revenue stream in the process. I have never had a problem with individual users choosing to avoid whatever ads they want to, but I do have a problem with a third party systemically cutting that out while depending entirely on our content.

Of those issues, 1 & 2 aren't really fixable because they're "this is what has already happened" situations, but in theory regrouping and taking a better approach going forward could have been doable if everything else got addressed.

3 was really problematic, though I appreciate nathanm responding to it.

4, 5, and 6 were waved away as can't/won't fix situations when I broached them.

So, no. That was not a metatalk post that was ever going to go up, and this is not an app or an approach to Mefi-centric app development that I can endorse or approve of.

And, again, nathanm, I'm not suggesting you had or have bad intentions here. I believe you that you just decided this would be an interesting development project related to a site you like. But your execution was not okay. Totally failing to consult us was not okay. Prominently and ambiguiously using the site name in a product pitch wasn't okay, charging people for an app built entirely around our content without talking to us at all about it wasn't okay, sidestepping the site's revenue stream wasn't okay.

Like I said in email last month, I'm incredibly frustrated that this was handled as a "don't ask permission, ask forgiveness" thing. It's poisoned the well on this tremendously for us.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2015 [87 favorites]


The app collects user authentication info as a middleman instead of routing it directly through the site's on login process.

IMO this should be the top objection. This is absolutely unacceptable and not the right way to do such things, ever. I speak as someone who has developed a number of third party applications and shims where this concern applies. Imagine doing this with, say, PayPal, or a banking app. The ideal is such data should pass through without even touching the sides. There are various techniques you can use -- though I don't know offhand which of them are applicable to this sort of iOS environment -- where you don't even hold it in an intermediate variable.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:13 AM on April 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


> 4. The app collects user authentication info as a middleman instead of routing it directly through the site's on login process.

I won't say this is a deal breaker in its own right, but in context of reports of the app's poor reliability, it is.

Expecting people to buy an app purely on hope that the developer will get around to fixing it if he feels like it's made enough money to justify the effort is bullshit. Nobody is obligated to this.
posted by ardgedee at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2015


4. The app collects user authentication info as a middleman instead of routing it directly through the site's on login process. This isn't inherently malicious—and to be clear I have no personal belief that nathanm's intentions are anything but good—but it's also not great, and it's not-great for no clear upside for anyone but the developer.

I see nothing in the description on the app's page which indicates transparency about that issue. Are users told by the app that it is collecting their authentication info and passing it on, rather than routing it directly? Is that information given to people who purchase it?

6. The app by its nature strips out the ads that generate our revenue, so it's a financial double-dip; users pay a third party for the right to use an app that cuts out the actual site's revenue stream in the process.

The site's had extensive, well-publicized financial issues over the last year. Removing the ads that quite literally keep the lights on for the content you're collecting and displaying is both stupidly short-sighted and shady as hell.
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I won't say this is a deal breaker in its own right, but in context of reports of the app's poor reliability, it is.

It's not a gray area; you either have legitimate access to credentials or you don't. It would only be okay if the user knowingly consented. Obviously most of us with any knowledge and reasonably suspicious minds presume that J. Random Thirdparty apps don't handle credentials in a hands-off way, particularly if we don't see indications of a third-party authentication scheme such as OpenID or OAuth or even DumbZuckAuth. Unless you're acting as the site's agent and that site takes responsibility for what you do, then you don't handle other people's credentials without telling them, ever.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wandered over to the iTunes store and looked at this; it's got two reviews at the moment and both are good (4 and 5 stars). Those who have purchased (and got refunds for) the app might want to add their experiences.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2015


You can't leave a review for an app if the purchase is refunded.
posted by ardgedee at 11:21 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh, I didn't know. I guess that makes sense, sort of?
posted by rtha at 11:23 AM on April 24, 2015


I'm a person who buys a fair amount of apps--like, I have well over a hundred on my phone at this moment. I'm also a person who looks at Metafilter, more than once, every day. And I look at this feature list:

• Browse wonderful content on MetaFilter, Ask MetaFilter, and MetaTalk with a beautiful, native interface
• Add/reply to posts and questions
• Advanced search functionality (search posts/comments, site filters, and sorting)
• Browse several different feeds (Recent, Popular, Feed, Tags, Categories & Favorites)
• Sort comments/answers by popularity or recency
• Discover new content by simply shaking your device
• Customize the app through fine grained settings controls
• Several different themes
• Built in web browser
• Multiple device and orientation support
• Universal app (iPhone and iPad), for iPhones, optimized up to iPhone 6/6+
• And much more!

You can access these features and more with a few intuitive gestures, some of them including:
• Double tapping to favorite any comment/answer
• Swiping left on any post/question from any feed to view the full post
• Swiping left on any post/question/comment to quickly leave a reply
• Shaking your device to view a random post/question


And, like, most of those things seem like stuff I can do already. It seems unlikely that the advanced search features will surpass the Infodumpster, and sort-by-favorites is something that I'm specifically not a fan of. I've said before that if people use tools like that (there were some scripts that did the same thing), I hope they wouldn't also comment in the threads.

I will admit: fine-grained settings might include something nice, and I suppose it's possible you might have a theme I like better than the plain white one I've used for years.

But I spend three bucks, and then I learn a new set of gestures, different from the ones I use with my phone browser, and then I shake my phone like a dink instead of just clicking the 'Random' at the top of the page? Even putting aside the very real concerns about security, ad revenue, etc., I'm not really sold here.
posted by box at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2015


> I have been an iOS engineer for more than 5 years (including shipping apps with millions of monthly active users), so please don't doubt the technical implementation of the app.

Sorry, but everything you say after this sentence contradicts it.
posted by desuetude at 11:54 AM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


No official MetaFilter app, please. Not now. Not ever.

The open web is broken enough as it is.
posted by schmod at 4:06 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I shake my phone like a dink.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:27 PM on April 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


MetaFilter: it's called text you hapless gibbering app-fondling touchscreen cretin

miss you, elizardbits
posted by Rhaomi at 10:35 PM on April 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: I shake my phone like a dink.

/Willow Smith
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:33 AM on April 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


nathanm: "I hope you understand that engineering time is not free/cheap and the project originally started as a passion project."

I'm sure you meant well but if this was a labor of love or just a fun project, it should have been offered for free. It should be free not because your time and effort have no value but because the content of the site isn't yours to sell.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:58 AM on April 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


The ancient browser I have on my Sony Xperia renders Metafilter just fine, thanks. And this is a browser too old for pretty much anything on Google Play. The site's mobile end doesn't need an app, least of all this one.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:04 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


IOS Developer is a fine term, but in my mind it's a bit obnoxious to call yourself an engineer unless you went to school to be called that.

It's pretty much only in your mind. If you design software, you're going to be a software engineer in most org charts regardless of schooling. You get the sheepskin to be called a "Bachelor of Computer Science" not "Software Engineer."

Some places have very precise legal definitions of software engineer, and some of those definitions include educational prerequisites, but not most of the places where software engineering is done in the US. It generally falls under an industrial exemption, along with network engineer, and some folks with a lot of experience and talent get tetchy when someone tells them they can't possibly be a software engineer because they don't have enough student debt.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:12 PM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: I shake my phone like a dink.

/Willow Smith


Glad I am not the only person who heard that in their head.

Objecting to engineer as applied to the software discipline is a fight that was lost a decade or more ago.
posted by phearlez at 10:09 AM on April 27, 2015


The public RSS feed doesn't appear to have ads (apolgies if I missed them. I'm on a mobile device).

Would a paid RSS reader also be dinged as somehow mooching off the site content? Because I'm not sure if that's the thing I'd get up in arms about if it's true of RSS readers.
posted by zippy at 6:45 PM on April 27, 2015


That's a good point zippy, but I don't think the two are equivalent. If the paid RSS reader was called "MetaFilter Reader" and allowed you to log in, comment, and add favorites, then yeah, I think it would be dinged. RSS readers ultimately send traffic to MetaFilter. If you want to read the conversations or participate in the community after seeing something in an RSS reader you need to visit the site.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:16 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


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