Shipped: StoryBots Learning Videos for iPhone and iPad

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I'm really excited to have been product owner on my fourth StoryBots app Learning Videos. The previous apps I worked on include Tap & Sing, ABC Videos and Share Timer.

Learning Videos is an universal app (iPhone and iPad) that will be the central hub for a our video library. It's the place where StoryBots customers will be able to watch our videos on iOS for years to come.

Building this app was a lot of fun and something I'm really proud of for a version 1.0. First and foremost, we implemented our newest design/UX changes. We've been hard at work in building a brand style guide to ensure design and UX is consistent across all apps (and soon to be website). As we move fast building out a library of apps to support the subscription business model we needed to ensure we invested the time in building brand consistency. This app is a great first step in that direction.

As far as challenges, the biggest was the integration with our content template server. Since we're releasing videos every couple of weeks we wanted to make sure we could deliver new content independent of app updates. While we had the architecture for content delivery established with our Starring You® Books iPad app we wanted to take the learnings from that two year old system and build something new. The result was something pretty cool. Content (and how it's organized) can be delivered into the app in real time as it's made available from our server. We can also update existing content within the app so if an update to a thumbnail is made the app will update itself on next connected session.

If you have children ages 2-7 download the app and let me know what you think. If you don't have kids there are some pretty funny dancing animals, which everyone loves :).

Here are some screenshots of the main screens in the app: 

Home Screen

Content Viewing

Backpack Feature (Favorite Videos) 

The Podcasts I Listen To

I'm a avid podcast listener. Whether in my car, walking to work or in the shower (bluetooth shower radio ftw) I've got a podcast playing in Instacast

My podcasting habit started in 2005. That was the year that two of my favorite podcasts debut: This Week in Tech and Diggnation. Although Diggnation has since been retired I still enjoy TWiT to this day.

Below are the current podcasts that are in my core rotation (that's an official podcast listener term :). There are many others that I sporadically listen to based on the guest or topic of the episode.  There are also others that I loved but didn't include as they have been retired (such as Diggnation, Hypercritical and Build and Analyze to name a few).

Shipped: StoryBots Share Timer for iPhone

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Today I shipped my third StoryBots iOS app app (see first two). Share Timer for iPhone is a very simple app that helps parents facilitate sharing between their kids.

For those unaware, StoryBots is a monthly subscription for parents who have kids ages 2-6. One monthly fee unlocks all the premium content in all of our apps. Our app offering is split into education/entertainment apps for kids and utilities for parents. Share Timer falls into the parent utility category.

The goal of this app was simplicity and speed. After signing into the app selecting which StoryBots characters (i.e. kids) you'd like to use, the only action a parent has to take is adjusting the time (defaults to previous used) and selecting GO.

Once the timer is running a full screen visual countdown displays so that the parent can see how much time is left even if the phone is at a distance. Fun robots and sound effects then chime in during each turn and when the time is up to provide auditory feedback and also engage the child in the app.

As simple as the app may seem there was a lot of unexpected complication involved in building this app. The biggest centered around the apps need to run in the background.

Screenshots

Gregg and Evan Spiridellis Discuss StoryBots

Since joining JibJab about a year and a half ago a lot of my focus has been on building products for our new children brand called StoryBots. As Gregg mentioned in the interview, the mission of StoryBots is to re-imagine education and entertainment for kids in the age of mobile apps and personalization technology.

Check out the interview below:

Shipped: StoryBots Tap & Sing (iPad) and ABC Videos (iPhone, iPad)

Today I shipped first two StoryBots apps. I was product owner on Tap & Sing which is a music game and ABC Videos which contains our ABC video series.

Tap & Sing

Tap & Sing is a really fun game that allows kids to learn notes, chords and melodies of classic children's songs using the StoryBots as notes. It's a fairly simple app functionally but a lot of work was involved by our animators in bringing the StoryBots come to life - which I really think comes through when you're playing it.

 

Home Screen. StoryBots are the notes & songs are selected using bottom tabs.

Home Screen. StoryBots are the notes & songs are selected using bottom tabs.

ABC Videos

ABC Videos on the other hand is lean back app that holds are adorable and really funny 26 video ABC series. Hats of to our production team and artist for creating such awesome work to wrap in an iOS app.

 

 The biggest challenge in building both of these apps was thinking through and then spec'ing the requirements and behavior around authentication. Account holder user data is managed through our internal private API and these two apps were the first to implement it. The StoryBots API is the foundation of the brand as users move between all our apps and take their characters with them. 


Update: Press Since Launch

Update: Awards Since Launch

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In May 2013, Tap & Sing won the Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice Award.

CTR's Editor's Choice Award are given to only the highest quality children’s products in the interactive media category. These are “no fail” products, worthy of their cost, and able to keep children engaged for days at a time.

JibJab's 2012 Year in Review

Check out the behind the scenes blog post as well as past JibJab Year in Reviews.

One of the cool things about joining JibJab back in January is being in a company with such rich history going back to when it was founded in 1999. An important part of the history are JibJab's Year in Review videos. This year is no exception. Unfortunately I wasn't around when they shot employee cameos so I'm not in it. Enjoy!

JibJab's 2012 Year in Review: The End is Here!

Mahalo 4.0 Launch

Today is the exciting launch of Mahalo 4 - the next major version of the site. The new site is a complete redesign and features a variety of new features. With the new version comes a pivot in Mahalo's strategy as a company. We are moving away from a "Human Powered Search" engine to a destination learning site where you can "Learn Anything." Learn Anything is our new official tagline as we strive to become the brand associated with education online.

Read More

Tony Hsieh & Delivering Happiness Bus Visits Mahalo HQ

Transient

Yesterday Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, dropped by Mahalo HQ with the Delivering Happiness Bus. The purpose of the bus tour is to spread the word about Tony's business management philosophies outlined in his best selling book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. While Tony was in our offices, he sat down with our CEO, Jason Calacanis, on a special episode of This Week in Startups.

Below is the tour that Greg and I gave of Mahalo.com's HQ in Santa Monica, CA.