When School Library Journal first began exploring the world of apps, we were advised to visit the Moms with Apps website and blog. The site is hosted by a group of developers that shares information on everything from push codes and platforms to game and story apps. In addition to frequent updates and information on new products, blog subscribers receive offers for free apps each week during “App Fridays.” The site is also a good place to learn about some of the issues that concern today’s developers. Recently, I spoke with Lorraine Akemann, one of the founders of the collaborative Moms with Apps and the site’s editor.
Can you tell us how the Moms with Apps came to be?
Moms With Apps was formed as the result of a conference call between four moms who connected over twitter. Each of them had an app to promote, and they convened to discuss ways to cross-market and raise awareness about their apps. They realized other parent developers were probably out there, and formed a Google Group to have email discussions for navigating this new marketplace. They outgrew the Google Group within a year (email overload), and switched to a forum constructed by one of our founding “Dads With Apps.”
How many developers do you work with?
We have over 600 registered members on our Moms With Apps forum, and that includes app developers in addition to reviewers and industry specialists. Not everyone is active at the same time, but most days about 30 people hop online to converse.
Your site and developers host “family-friendly apps.” Can you define “family friendly” for our audience?
“Family friendly” is defined in terms of apps for kids, and utilities for parents. For kids, the apps range from storybooks and games to educational skill builders and open-ended apps to encourage creativity. For parents, this includes apps that map the nearest kid-friendly playground, apps that help you track your family’s milestones, an Internet browser with parental controls, or a cookbook that helps plan meals for families with food allergies. We value apps that support interaction, so families can use them as a tool to engage in more real-life experiences (not less).
What are some of the concerns of developers in 2011?
A primary concern for developers as the app stores grow is visibility and discoverability of their app. With thousands of apps in the marketplace, establishing traction is key to survival. Will a first app succeed enough to fund future titles?
Another hurdle is where to focus programming resources. Should developers program for native iOS, or should they use tools that work on both Android and iOS? If you use a cross-platform tool, are you compromising on details only available on a native platform?
What trends you see developing in the field of apps for children?
There are still plenty of new entrants into the marketplace, and many of these entrants are coming from established brands in the toy industry and children’s book publishing. It will be harder for the little guys to complete—even though many of their products are so creative given the “living room labs” they were developed from (i.e., products made for parents, by parents). I’m also seeing more apps launched by educators and child development specialists, which is wonderful because they bring pedagogy into the equation. Finally, as the Android market continues to expand, you see more apps being available across platforms for various devices (not just Apple).
I read that you were recently invited to attend a meeting in Washington, DC to discuss “proposed federal legislation for children’s online privacy in mobile apps.” What should our readers know about this legislation?
Parents should know that Children’s Online Privacy is being taken very seriously at the federal level. As mobile takes center stage, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) realized that existing regulations needed to be evaluated based on new technologies. During fall of 2011, the FTC is collecting comments on proposed changes to Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA), so it’s a conversation that is evolving in real time.
Moms with Apps now offers a catalog in the iTunes store. What will our readers find there? How deep and how selective is the list?
The Moms With Apps “App” is a directory of apps in our membership, sorted by educational category. The intention is to help parents find apps that are closely matched to their needs. Categories include art, creativity, math, reading, spelling, geography, etc. The developers in our forum opt-in to be included in this app, and the developers “tag” their app according to the subject area/s relevant to the app. The app includes over 1500 family-friendly apps.