Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview on IMES Blog

International Market Entry Strategies' David Brown has just posted an interview he did with Mick, jamcode's CEO, and co-founder of the company. In the interview they chat a bit about what we think makes jamcode applications special, talk a bit about our philosophy, and there's a quick mention of our next app, which we're planning to launch soon.

It's a good interview, and there's some good advice in there for aspiring entrepreneurs who are nervous about taking the leap. You can watch it here, and keep an eye on David's Blog; he talks to a lot of interesting people.

James -- Founder and CTO.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GasBag Pro and 2.0

After a long wait, the new version is finally out with an awesome map and much better car tracking support. For those of you who want to track more than 1 car, please buy GasBag Pro for only 99c from the AppStore.

Below is the press release that's going out tomorrow:

JAMCODE LAUNCHES GASBAG PRO

99 cent version tracks multiple cars and ad-free, while free and paid versions have much faster maps


Mountain View, Calif. – February 11th, 2009 – jamcode LLC, the leader in rich-mapping applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, today announced the launch of GasBag Pro and GasBag 2.0. Both enable users to locate gas stations and the cheapest gas prices while on the move, wherever, whenever.

New features in version 2.0:

• Faster panning and zooming with a new map
• Personalize your car by make, model, year, and color
• Much more stable and responsive to the touch
• Still 100% free with advertisements

GasBag Pro also provides:

• No advertisements for a bigger, easier to view map
• Track mileage and expenditure for more than 1 car
• Easily port data from GasBag into GasBag Pro
• Only 99c


GasBag was first launched in the US in late August 2008 and is available for FREE. Since then the GasBag community has grown at a staggering pace, with hundreds of thousands of dedicated users in the US, UK, and Australia.

“We rely on the constant feedback of the users and testers to ensure GasBag remains the best and fastest gas price finding application on the iPhone and iPod Touch,” said Mick Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of jamcode LLC. “We’re looking forward to a fantastic 2009 for GasBaggers everywhere.”

GasBag also provides a logbook that calculates metrics such as miles per gallon, average price per gallon, etc. This allows GasBag users to budget and track gas expenses more efficiently. Because GasBag knows your location, how many gallons you filled, and how much you paid, that also feeds the price at that station back into the community. Users of GasBag Pro can now record these purchases and link them against one of several cars. Watch the latest video at http://jamcode.blip.tv/.

Both GasBag and GasBag Pro are available for download from the AppStore today.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Duplicates

One of the most frequent support requests we handle here involve helping kind people around the world reporting that there are duplicate entries in our database; many including detailed reports of which entry is wrong and including comprehensive, correct data for us to use in its stead.

I wanted to write a bit about what a duplicate is, where it comes from, and some new strategies we're trying to solve the problem.

So, what's a duplicate? The case we're talking about is where a single physical station is recorded more than once in our database, with a very slightly different address. For example, one of our users might enter 12001 S Douglas Blvd, Guthrie, OK, whilst another might enter it as S Douglas Blvd & E Charter Oak Rd, OK. If you click both of those links, you'll see that they're for almost the same location -- Google's geocoder places them only 1 metre apart -- but in practice, any human would recognise both those addresses as being for the same place.

How does it happen? A lot of these duplicate entries are due to a couple of poor design decisions we made at our end. One of the issues we have is that there's an expectation that stations will appear on the map as soon as they've been entered. Unfortunately, for purely technical reasons, this is not the case: it can take up to 15 minutes for a station submission to be approved and placed on the map. When this happens, a lot of people think that something's gone wrong, so they'll try adding the station again, under some variation of the address. Other times it's where we've sourced a listing of stations from somewhere (a handful of chains have complete listings available on their websites), and find that these listings have stations listed that have already been added by our users under slightly different formulations of the address. The other source of confusion here is that GasBag 1.x will actually "hide" some stations, but I'll write more about that in a moment.

The problem with all this is that since we're a map-driven application, we need to find a way to cram all these stations onto a map. This is often hard enough when we only have one entry per station (it's common to have stations clustered around an intersection, for example), but the problem is just compounded when we have three or four listings for each of those stations. As I mentioned above, when faced with this situation, GasBag 1 will actually just stop putting stations on the map once a certain density of stations has been reached.

The big question is: what are we going to do about it?! Well, there's two main strategies we're planning to use to sort this problem out. The first is that starting with GasBag 2 (which is making its way through the approval process now), we will no longer omit any stations from the display. If its in our database, past a fairly modest zoom level, it'll be on your screen. To avoid having so many bubbles that you can't actually see the map, we've introduced an innovative new "bubble stacks" concept. The idea is that when we have an area with lots of stations, those stations will be represented by a bubble icon resembling a set of bubbles that have been stacked, one on top of the other. When you tap on that bubble, GasBag will zoom in and unstack the stack, revealing each of the stations it represents. We hope that this interface will solve a lot of problems, but we're hoping that it will at least resolve some of the confusion people are having with GasBag 1.

The second thing we're doing is to run a batch job each night to go through our database looking for duplicate stations, and we're just going to have this program pick one, scrap the other, and get on with life. Our reasoning is that if two stations are so close together that their location on the map is indistinguishable, then it probably doesn't matter that much which of them we choose to display. This script will ensure that you'll never see two stations of the same brand within a quarter-mile of each other (that's 400 metres for those of us Down Under). Initial testing of this script has shown very encouraging results. This one will be rolled out later today to our live servers, so if you've been frustrated by duplicates in the past, keep an eye out for improvements over the next few days.

We're pretty excited about this, because we know it's been a big problem since day 1, and its always satisfying to cross one of those babies off your list. So thanks for putting up with us while we work on this; we hope it will have been worth the wait.

James -- Founder and CTO.