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How to make $250 a day (and get banned from the Android Market) (makingmoneywithandroid.com)
122 points by obviator on Sept 5, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

Damn. Talk about targeted content.

The guy writes an article on a failed Android experiment, makes the front page of HN. I click on the link and I'm on a blog with 32 articles in the last couple of months, all highly-targeted at Android developers. Android book ads on the side. All very nicely put-together (I know some folks would consider my analysis an attack. It is not.)

This guy is either going to make money on Android apps or make money advertising about them!

I like the app idea, but the story shows something really sad about these app marketplaces -- there's so much social engineering it's not funny. The right name, the right logo, the right first customers, the right momentum -- if the die come up the right way, you're on a roll. But if something happens to mess up one or two aspects of it? It can all fall apart. Or to put another way people buying the app are the number one signal for other people to buy the app. So it's kind of a weird little high-stakes popularity contest, at least as far as I can tell.

I just think it's cool that the author took the failed app idea, turned it around into a blog entry, and then might make a few bucks on that. Having the targeted blog to go along with your app efforts was very smart. If nothing else, as long as you keep trying, even if you go through a hundred ideas which never pan out, you could end up with a nice ebook out of all of it one day. Call it something like "How to win by failing"

Regarding your social engineering comment, I think this is a side effect of digital content distribution in general. With all the scaling handled for you more or less for free, success is just a matter of gaining mindshare.

It has been happening for a while with blogs, YouTube, HN/Reddit comments. For an example just look at reposts. Pick the right title, be the right submitter, get the right first commenter, and some blog spam article has hundreds of votes on the front page while the original source goes without any votes or comments.

Just on the app store, money is involved instead of karma.

This is a really scammy website - I really don't like it.

The goal shouldn't be to make money with Android - it should be to make interesting and high quality software products for your customers.

I should also mention that I make more than $1000 a month, the site's goal, by selling Android apps.

You're wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make money as your primary goal. Most of the best products and services in the world are driven by profit motive. You can tell because they charge for them instead of giving them away. They usually charge a lot for them.

Posts like yours remind me of why developers are the worst market in the world to sell to. Not only will they spend hundreds of dollars of time trying to avoid paying $10 for something, but they'll look down their nose at you for charging in the first place.

Edit: and they'll downvote you for pointing it out :)

No, I'm not arguing against profit. Profit is good. I like profit!

I should clarify - in software, the quick buck isn't usually a good thing. I think that profit should be the reward for value, and that value comes as the result of hard work.

The bottom-tier application developers are little more than con men in my opinion. And again, these are just my opinions.

^I think that profit should be the reward for value, and that value comes as the result of hard work.

This is factually incorrect. You are correct that profit IS the reward for creating value. However, from your previous posts I'm under the impression that you believe value is objective. The truth is that value is subjective to each person, however IF something is making money it is providing some value.

And, as a result of hard work? That's obviously not true. The value comes from value. The idea that hard work creates value is verifiably wrong. You can choose to work really hard on your startup and yet still not provide any value.

> IF something is making money it is providing some value.

That's provably false (and a regrettably common belief). Bernie Madoff made buckets of money. Magnetic healing bracelets make money. Psychic surgeons and Nigerian scam artists and spammers make money.

You are talking about fraud, though, for Bernie, scam artists, and possibly spammers. In those cases they are supposed to add value.

Magnetic healing bracelets, well, we all know they work.

How does his app not match your requirements? It took some fairly hard work (well, he claims) to write the code, it took him a lot of work to actually send out the invites, and people certainly received some value out of the app.

So what should he have done differently?

Why shouldn't the goal be to make money with Android?

Translate it to another domain: the goal is to make money with email, the goal is to make money with the web, the goal is to make money period. Without any other guidance or any higher goal this can easily lead to spamming, phishing, web content farms, domain squatting, etc.

Is that what you want to do? Or do you want to make money by making something that people value?

Is there any particular reason I shouldn't want to send advertising emails, generate pages, or buy domain names en-masse with the hope of generating revenue? I'm not doing anything harmful (hence the exclusion of phishing) -- and I'm making money.

People value all sorts of ridiculous things like homeopathic "remedies", psychic readings, and bullshit seeds on Farmville, how are those any better than spamming or content farming? I'd argue that the first two, at least, are far worse.

For that matter, how is the threshold of "acceptable value" set so that we don't similarly condemn, Facebook or 37Signals or SEO firms, for doing work of much less value than say, drug discovery or computer security -- especially when these are all within reach of the same CS grads?

Do Google's adwords count as creating value? Because they're how it makes it's money, search -- which creates value -- is just used to bring people in. If that separation of value creation/profit is all right, then is it okay to make millions spamming and give it to an efficient charity (as below)? If not, why not?

>Is there any particular reason I shouldn't want to send advertising emails [...] I'm not doing anything harmful

You're substantially raising the cost of using an essential business communication tool (email). Is that not harmful?

I don't see this app as a problem - it's obviously useful to people and no one is forced to install it if they don't want to. But:

> People value all sorts of ridiculous things like homeopathic "remedies", psychic readings, and bullshit seeds on Farmville, how are those any better than spamming or content farming? I'd argue that the first two, at least, are far worse.

Consent makes all the difference (cue BDSM jokes). You have to make a decision to play Farmville to be harmed by it; spam drains the money and time of everyone.

I think you and InclinedPlane actually agree here, although your post reads like you are arguing.

OK - your goal should be to make value, and extract some of that value.

Your goal should not be to create something of negligible value, and extract far more than value than you created simply by doing everything you can to shovel other people's money into your pockets.

Some algorithms are greedy - they maximize their returns at every step, without caring about future returns. Greedy algorithms are not the most effective.

That is, in fact, what I want to do. (Making money the most efficient way possible).

Most efficient for whom? Spamming is efficient for the spammer, but wasteful for everybody else.

Parasitism is very efficient for the parasite. Don't seek just to make money efficiently, or you'll end up a parasite. Instead look to create value as efficiently as possible.

If I want to improve the economy or the world in general then there are much better ways of doing that than to make sure that all my economic transactions are net-positives for the economy. For example, donating some parts of my profit to an efficient charity would be hundreds of time more efficient towards the goal of improving the world, as compared to making sure that my software creates "value".

If that's your philosophy then why bother following the law at all? As long as you don't get caught it's ok right? There's a ton of money in phishing, scams, and money laundering, why not do those?

Risk to reward ratio is too high.

Shockingly incorrect. You're letting the convenient fiction of money (plus shoddy accounting) confuse your thinking. Value is the only thing that matters.

Suppose you spam your way to a million dollars selling fake Viagra. You have created no value. Your customers have all wasted their time. You've also wasted 100x the time of people who didn't buy. There's more waste in computing capacity and bandwidth, plus the time sysadmins spend fighting and cleaning up after. The resources spent hosting and sending the spam were wasted, plus the time and resources spent making fake pills and fake packages.

The general rule of thumb for business is 10% profit on expenses, so let's assume you had to burn $10m of your own resources to make your $1m. Spamming, though, mainly shifts costs elsewhere. Guessing a 5:1 ratio, let's say you wasted $60m to make $1m.

If we suppose that you're a generous parasite, you'll give 10% to charity, 100k. 25% overhead is very good for charities, so we'll say $75k of resources end up improving the world out of the $60m you wasted. Rather than being "hundreds of time more efficient", you're closing in on 100x worse.

Another important aspect is reputation. When you build a strong business that provides value to people you'll gain a reputation for precisely that. And when you move on to another business that reputation will carry over. When you instead try to be a parasite on the system you cannot build a brand, you cannot afford to let a reputation follow you, and that comes at a pretty big cost to any business venture you do.

I'll ignore the fact that fake viagra sold by spammers is just a generic version of the drug that works just as well, since that wasn't the crux of your argument.

Just talked to my friend who was one of the top spammers in the world. It only takes about 3 or 4M emails to bypass the spam filter for a spammer to make $1M. You're vastly exaggerating the wasted resources in terms of sending these emails, the money spent by customers, the time wasted by people receiving these emails, and the productivity lost by the workers.

$100k given to a charity like VillageReach (http://www.givewell.org/international/top-charities/villager...) on the other hand, will avert 100 infant deaths.

Because if that's your only goal, you end up producing low-quality, mass-produced garbage - "shovelware" - and that's no way to go through life, in my opinion.

1. Its pretty presumptious to be telling people what their life goals are

2. Making quality products is not mutually exclusive from building quality products, I hate to bring them up as an example but not many people could argue that apple produces mass produced garbage, and they do fairly well on the money side.

I'm actually the guy running the site, so just thought I'd add my 2 cents :) With this site, the main focus is building a business model around Android development - "making money" with Android. That's not to say app quality has to go out the door. In my experience, you can't really build a sustainable business around crappy products. So it's in my best interests to keep up the quality, even if the business development is the stated goal (and the one I'll write most about).

Agree with you 100% that quality is key to success. I just chose to focus on the business & financial side of things, since at the time I started this blog there weren't many people writing about their experiences with Android.

I was on your side until you started pretending that "completing offers" is even remotely close to "quality app".

Does "low-quality, mass-produced garbage" make a developer more money than quality apps?

I'm skeptical, but I don't have figures. Still, a race to the bottom and near-zero margins, because crap is easy to replicate, seems like a bad plan for real profits.

In the long run, no, I don't think low quality apps make more money than by high quality ones. But that's not to say that there isn't any money to be made by selling garbage.

I'm not saying that it's bad to make money - quite the opposite! All I'm saying is that shitty software sucks. Writing it sucks, selling it sucks, buying it sucks and using it sucks. Build cool stuff instead.

I admire your attitude, in trying to make quality software instead of the shovelware and scamware we all know. Making money is important, but that doesn't mean you have to throw out all your standards as engineer just to squish out every last penny.

Sure, with enough marketing, spinning, social engineering you can make anything sell well, but if customers feel screwed they'll eventually avoid you like the plague. At least that is what I believe.

(yes -- I know you can also state the opposite "there is a sucker born every minute, have suckers as your target audience". But I don't work that way)

I don't inherently value well-made software. If writing "shovelware" makes me the most money, which in turn allows me to do the things I do inherently value, then that is the rational thing for me to do.

Imagine, people 'just' trying to make money. One mans interesting is another mans garbage and the other way around.

Why on earth should making money not be the goal of a business? You'll find that to make a successful long term business quality is key. Just because there are crappy apps out there doesn't mean those are the ones making money.

Here's a simple rule: Don't use someone-else's trademark as the fist word of your product name.

The first word is typically used to imply endorsement or officialness. So for example Microsoft X or Google Y.

If you build a product based on a third party service, you can generally use the trademark in your name for example "Bob's invites to Google+", as long as it's clear it's not an officially produced or endorsed product.

With Google though you would ideally want to avoid it altogether, although in this case that wouldn't really be possible. A lot of Google logos have specific terms of use, most of which include that they can't be modified in any way which I thinking might have resulted in the ban in this case.

"Big corporations don’t understand, even if you’re 'trying to do the right thing'."

Really? This guy was making money by offering a dubious service leveraging someone else's brand. As he admits, it was an experiment and the way he conducted it was very ill-advised. Own up to it, don't whine about not being "understood".

By attracting developers like this guy, Google is going to have a very hard time competing with Apple. The Android Market is filled with apps like this. More so than the iOS App Store by far.

What do you think is wrong with it? 'Apps like this' apparently didn't exist, according to the article he searched for one.

As far as I can see he simply filled a need. If google would be so kind as to state what their problem is with it, who knows, it might see a revival.

Android is "open" - so just about anything goes. It uses Java, that starter language for just about anyone who learns how to program these days. So you end up with an environment that is very conducive to spamware/adware type apps and people trying to get rich quick. It only takes a few bad apps before it becomes like Windows, where users are afraid to install anything new or off-brand.

before it becomes like Windows, where users are afraid to install anything new or off-brand.

Is that even true? I keep hearing how Windows users are not selective enough about what they install.

Sure, but it’s true for some people. Wasn’t there a story about someone’s mom who was afraid to install programs on the PC but enjoys installing apps to her new iPad? Now substitute a Galaxy Tab for the iPad and have her read a story about Android app malware in her Reader’s Digest.

Fantastic results like these are why scientific studies all use "someone's mom" as a sample size.

right, because nobody ever made fart apps and other tacky shit in objective c.

Plus a common complaint about android is the app dev environment and tools suck compared to iOS.

People interested in creating crap seem to find a way, platform notwithstanding.

Because I do not have a Mac(and cannot run OSX in a VM) I am kind of left out in the cold when it comes to developing apps for the iOS. Granted, the Android SDK can, at times, be a bit wonky(sometimes taking as long as 10 mins to boot into a VM) it is still there and available to all platforms. To say it sucks is a pretty tall order.

I agree. The barrier to entry for developing iOS apps is too high for me, as I'd have to buy a Mac and, realistically speaking, an iOS device for testing. But I can run the Android SDK on all my computers, Windows & Linux alike, so development is available wherever I am.

Also, the Android SDK works really well for testing with a physical device. Plug in by USB, or use wireless ADB, and it only takes a couple of seconds to deploy a debug package to your testing device. Much faster than using the emulator.

"To say it sucks is a pretty tall order."

I agree, but look through past posts on hn and see if this isn't a oft-mentined opinion.

> that starter language for just about anyone who learns how to program these days

It's also the language that most big businesses run on these days. It's popular to learn because it's used many places (e.g. useful). Language has nothing to do with it. The iTunes App Store is riddled with comically bad apps and that's never going to change. NetFlix is also riddled with horrible movies, it's the nature of the business.

That doesn't address at all what is specifically wrong with this particular app, other than possibly the logo.

I actually had a dream last night that I was sent a video that I viewed on my Mac, and only after running it realized it was a trojan. In my dream I felt stupid and also amused at the fact that there are Mac trojans. Then I woke up from my dream, and remembered the trojan wouldn't have been able to run without asking me first and wouldn't have been able to install anything with asking me to type in my password.

Another possible motivation for google suspending the app was that it abused the google plus invitation system. That probably isn't explicitly against the rules of the android market place, but it probably is against the rules or at least intention of google plus, and there has to be some protective bleed over from other google properties.

Sounds like this would make a better web page then an app.

With the web, it's easier to share, there are far fewer rules, larger user base and if google has a problem with your logo, they can send you a detailed C&D letter which you can take care of without losing your existing work.

Nice hack, and a cool way to get your feet wet with developing Android apps as a business.

You are crazy. Why didn't you do this through a bloody website? I'd be happier to get a G+ invite through my PC, easy and fast, rather than grabbing the phone, praying for the battery to be still alive, turn on WiFi/data connection, fire up Market, search for an app, download it, and THEN get my bloody invitation... yeah, I'd stay with the PC way.

(originally as a comment under this blog post)

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