Some Online Polls Aren’t Worth the Paper They’re Printed On

Ugh! One more App Store rant… I know, sorry! I was meaning to write about some of the AV Foundation stuff I’ve been doing and how my concerns about the type-y-ness of AV Foundation (versus all the places QuickTime and Core Audio will take a void *) are partially ameliorated by the very flexible Core Media attachments API.

But I have got to put my foot down about this 95% of developers are updating their apps for iOS 7 poll, because this is what an echo chamber sounds like, and we in the iOS developer community need to police our own BS before someone else — or reality — does it for us.

So look, Craig‘s great, and you can tell from my Twitter feed that I post almost everything from Twitteriffic, on both iOS and Mac. No problem there.

My problem is this: we’ve got lots of high-traffic sites — The Loop, Daring Fireball, Apple Insider, TUAW, and others — citing Craig’s post and calling out its specific numbers: 95% of developers plan to support iOS 7, and 48% will go 7-only.

Great story, right? But where is the skepticism that this crowd brings to bear when the numbers are bad for Apple? To wit:

  • Participants were self-selected
  • The poll was publicized primarily through an announcement on Craig’s Twitter feed
  • The poll consists of three questions: are you updating for iOS 7, are you supporting 7 only or 6 and 7, and a trivia question to catch respondents who aren’t really developers (or who haven’t read up on the iOS 7 docs or watched the WWDC 2013 videos)
  • One significant flaw of the poll is that if you answer “no” for question 1, there is no meaningful way to answer question 2, however, all questions are required.

This is a casual, fun poll. But no way is it the kind of thing anyone should be citing in a news story, and particularly not with specific percentages. Being self-selected and publicized through very narrow channels, it’s no better than if I asked if my Twitter followers liked both iOS and anime (the only two things I ever tweet about), and then proclaimed that there is a remarkable correlation between the two.

App Store entry for pachinko game not updated since 2009 This kind of poll can’t capture developers who stopped developing for iOS a long time ago, and who won’t be updating for iOS 7 because they didn’t update for iOS 6 either.

It’s also going to tend to capture a certain kind of developer, usually the indie or the consultant, the kind of person who follows Twitter during the day and has time to take a poll like this. It’s not necessarily going to capture the corporate developer, nor the hobbyist, or the web-developer-by-day who got his or her toes wet trying out iOS development at night.

There are lots of different business models for iOS development — free to play (the only one that’s making money off the App Store itself), one-time payment, free in support of some other product or service (the Netflixes and Fly Deltas and what have you) — and it’s not clear that all of these necessarily benefit from releasing updates in lock-step with Apple’s design whims.

The reason I’m reacting so strongly to this (as I did in the Loop forum), is that it strongly contradicts my experience. As I’ve said before, when I look at the clients I’ve worked on iOS apps for in the past three years, none of them are currently working on an iOS 7 update. I’m also likely to pull my own apps from the store rather than update them for iOS 7, since they don’t make enough money to justify the work they’d require to update them.

Craig’s numbers show 95%, mine show 0%. Surely, the reality lies somewhere in between.

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