Before I get into this, I just want to say that I believe in the general concept of making money. I also think charging for an app that you've put real effort into is fine. However, The Unnofficial Apple Weblog just posted today (here: http://www.tuaw.com/…r-pocket/1 ) about an app that seems so cool and so lame at the same time.



First off, let me tell you about the app. It's called "Congress+" and it basically rocks. It allows you to find out who your representatives in DC are and gives you their contact info. According to the description, it even looks like you can call or email your reps right from the app. That's a nice touch.



What's not a nice touch is that the developer is charging ten bucks for the app.



Most apps are cheaper than that--even really good, useful apps are cheaper than that. Then, the fact that this app allows you to partake in the democratic process more easily bugs me, too. Not that I think people should have to work to take part, but because it should not cost anything to interact easily with your elected representatives in Washington.



I know what some of you are thinking: "But, ThePete, the developer obviously put a lot of effort into the app--why shouldn't he be justly compensated for his work?"



Well, he should be justly compensated for his work, but not at the people's expense.



Taking part in democracy should be free no matter what.



If I were him, I'd have gone to the department of the government that is in charge of the information website for the USG. I'd have asked them if they'd be interested in hiring me to write an app like this. If they said no, I'd hound them for a bit. If they still turned me down, I'd go ahead and do the app on my own.



However, I'd consider it a service to my country and charge a dollar. At that price, I wouldn't look greedy and everyone would be like "yeah, cool--I'll take it!"



Instead, the developer is charging more than most developers do and seems to be taking advantage of our current economic situation to make even more money. Luckily the developer did respond to other folks criticizing the price in the comments of the TUAW.com post. In a comment outlining how this app is better than a website that would give you the same info, he includes the following line in a comment he left on the TUAW post before I left mine:



"...won't allow you to email key staffers directly. Often they are more accessible than the standard webform and are tracking what constituents think -- like on this $700B bailout."



To me, bringing in the bailout is pretty skeezy stuff.



I exaggerated what he's doing there in my own comment to the post in order to make a point:



"Hm, seems to me, the developer is using the current situation with our economy to help sell his app--better to charge less in light of the economy and seem a bit less greedy. It's like he's saying:



"Ooo, WHAT a mess in Washington!! You should contact your representatives in Washington and let your voice be heard! I've got *just* the app for you! $10 please!"



Of course, he could say:



"In light of the current economic crisis, we'll be giving away our app for free so everyone can have easy access to their representatives in Washington. Once the bailout bill is passed or is down for the count, we'll go back to the regular price."



That would make the developer look like a prince and inspire a lot of positive reviews to help sell future copies of the app.



Just my 2 yen..."



Yes, I was a bit harsh, but I'm making a point here. As Americans we should be making it easier for each other to get information. Not making money off of exploiting people's interest in finding an easier way to take part in the process.



When Marc, the second commenter, to the post pointed out that iPhone users could just bookmark http://votesmart.org/ the developer responded with an irksome list of reasons paying $10 for his iPhone app was better than just using one's iPhone to pull up VoteSmart.org. Here's the developer's list with my commentary:



"Marc, you could bookmark that site but it



(1) doesn't give you access when you don't have an Internet connection"



So, that's like never, right? Maybe us subway riders would find ourselves without the ability to reach info about our representatives from time to time. But I think I can handle waiting until Columbus Circle to grab some Pinkberry and look up Hillary Clinton's phone number.



"(2) doesn't have correct and updated information all the time (Joe Lieberman's Chief of Staff recently resigned, many candidates are just plain wrong)"



There's always the USG's own websites for such info. It may be a bit more work, but $10-worth? Meh...



"(3) doesn't give you iPhone Google map links to the office locations"



Which is great because I'm not capable of remembering the addresses and entering them myself.



"(4) won't allow you to email key staffers directly. Often they are more accessible than the standard webform and are tracking what constituents think -- like on this $700B bailout."



Once again, it's not that hard to remember information in the old biodrive mounted in your skull. Of course, if Steve Jobs had many gigs in his own biodrive he'd have Apple implement fricken cut and paste in the damn iPhone, already.



"(5) we are launching a $1.99 version that will not provide updates for folks who do not want to spend $10."



Ah, so poor folks get inaccurate info. That's definitely inline with democracy! Did I say democracy? I meant corporatism.



"FYI, the paper version is $17.95 and you only get it for one year (now). We give it to you for $9.99 through 2010."



Ah, so you point out the government sucks but that you suck less? Good advertising ploy. Let me guess, you're a Republican, aren't you?



"(6) looks like blech on an iPhone."



Hm, this looks OK to me: http://drop.io/…sset/photo



Sure, any site that doesn't have a mobile version is going to be a little annoying to deal with, but hey, get a computer, right?



The funny thing about VoteSmart.org is that, if you look in the center toward the bottom of that screencap, you can see that they've announced their API. An API allows developers to access the service provided on a website via other websites or other applications. So, odds are, there just might be some competition to the Congress+ app for iPhone soon.



You might want to save your $10 just in case something else comes along that's a bit cheaper. Since the responsibility to research will be on VoteSmart.org's plate, all developers will have to do is work on writing the app. That means they'll be able to charge a heckuva lot less.
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