Published On: Sun, Aug 30th, 2015

Getting Banned From The App Store Was The Best Thing That Happened To Us


“Brace yourself, Marco…we’ve usually been private from a App Store.” With those words, we visualized all we’d slaved over for months press itself into a round of rabble and — ironically — flinging itself into a bin beside me. But it frequency came as a surprise.

Despite stellar traction during over 4 million users and 15 million flings non-stop per day after rising reduction than a year ago, Fling had morphed into something wholly opposite from what we primarily conceived.

Fling’s Conception

It was Oct 2013, and we was on a craft from Hong Kong to London. It’s a 13-hour journey, so we had copiousness of time to kill. But instead of tuning out to in-flight movies, we found myself infrequently drawn to examination a plane’s moody path.

It was a same dull, slow-moving animation I’d seen large times before, though this time was different. I’d spent a lot of time meditative about what a subsequent large app in amicable messaging was going to be, and as we flipped by British Airway’s in-flight repository that showed a hundreds of routes around a world, a prophesy started to crystallize.

“I need to make an puncture call,” we said.

There was apprehension, and presumably a calculated medical puncture involved, though finally we managed to strech a COO.

“Emerson, I’ve got an idea, and it’s possibly gonna be value 0 or a billion.”

Despite a skepticism, we got to work anyway, pulling adult Photoshop and completing Fling’s designs by a finish of a flight.

The prophesy was clear: Fling was going to be a height that authorised we to send any real-time summary to 50 pointless strangers in a world. We built a app in a matter of weeks, and within a month we had scarcely half a million downloads and impossibly active users. They were pity snippets of their lives all over a globe, from America to Zambia.

Fling’s prophesy was entrance to life though any of a roadblocks I’d expected. It seemed too good to be true…and it was.

Fling’s Content Minefield

As some-more and some-more users began flocking to Fling, we were advantageous adequate to accept augmenting PR and coverage from several publications. Unfortunately, this didn’t come though a drawbacks.

As with any height that allows any grade of anonymity, we had to understanding with another unequivocally opposite form of PR — something we jokingly (kind of, though not really) dubbed ”the penis rate.” Hopefully that illuminates a problem amply and we don’t need to go into some-more detail.

Unless you’re operative on something that’s disposed to this issue, we don’t consider it’s probable to conclude a frustration. It was like a impolite diversion of Whack-A-Mole — we would anathema users and undo inapt flings, usually to have them reappear some-more creatively named and obscenely photographed than ever.

We eventually had a full-time group clinging to gripping dicks during bay. But notwithstanding a efforts, we couldn’t diminution a rate of reported flings to a series revoke than 10 percent.

Knowing we had to essentially change a app in sequence to repair a problem, we began devising a subsequent iteration. Fling 2.0 would be a many viral height in existence for finding authentic, unfiltered content.

But creation this pierce wasn’t easy. The ardent inlet of Fling had turn a fuel of a self-centredness metrics, and with billions of flings delivered per month it was formidable to pierce ourselves to breach with this implausible traction.

One of a many humbling learnings I’ve ever faced as a CEO is that self-centredness metrics are as addictive — and dangerous — as any tough drug. We knew we had to change a enlightenment of a user base; we even finished a designs of Fling 2.0. But like any self-described addict will tell you, change isn’t easy. We indispensable an intervention.

Why We Were Removed From The App Store

To be clear, Apple strictly private us since they implemented a process opposite apps with randomized messaging. But there’s no doubt in my mind that a reason they pulled a trigger was since many of Fling had turn a stadium for group to harass women. Take a demeanour during these dual graphs:

The some-more flings that women sent on their initial day, a some-more doubtful they were to come back. Compare this to a equivalent graph for men, that is utterly normal:

To give we some context about a ridiculousness: Imagine a grill where those who eat a many food are a slightest approaching to return.

Sadly, we knew about this gender dichotomy earlier, though we didn’t pierce quick enough. Apple did a right thing by stealing us, and was kind adequate to work closely with us around a time in sequence to get behind in; I’ll always be beholden for that.

How We Handled The Removal

In a brief term, we had to relaunch as fast as possible. This meant identifying a comprehensive smallest set of facilities compulsory for relaunch. We approaching user backlash, though also deliberate it an eventuality to absolved a app of inapt users. We whittled a compulsory core facilities down to two: following users and pity flings (reflinging).

The subsequent priority was stealing all roadblocks until relaunch. This meant things like ensuring someone from any group was always on-call so communication wouldn’t be bottlenecked. As distant as my purpose went, it meant things like rendezvous Airbnb stays and late-night Uber rides to revoke transport hassle. It also meant smaller things, like volunteering for coffee runs when we had downtime.

As it turns out, there’s zero that will motivate and muster a group like fighting to get your app authorized again, and a vibe in a room was not distinct going to fight with a clock. Fling 2.0 was prepared for recover within a fortnight.

The longer-term resolution compulsory a bit some-more introspection. Truth be told, a surging self-centredness metrics done everyone, including (especially) me, a bit complacent. But even with billions of flings sent per month, something seemed amiss.

That “something” was that a strange prophesy had been mislaid along a way. We combined Fling to emanate connectors absolute adequate to interrupt one’s amicable graph. How many of these connectors could truly be suggestive when a normal was to goblin for ardent conversation?

We knew we had to safeguard dual things:

  • Never run into a calm emanate again.

  • Make certain that a metrics we tracked were aligned with success.

We tightened a manners around mediation and tweaked a pattern anywhere users had a eventuality to emanate inapt content. For example, we de-emphasized a usernames of strangers, that infrequently contained terms that slipped by a filters, and instead focused on their nation of origin. We also started tracking news incidents and implemented tools like Periscope to arrangement these rates company-wide.

But this was also a wake-up call to urge good content, and we put a calm group in place to aspect a best flings. We also designed a peculiarity measure formed on characteristics of extraordinary flings and tracked their associated metrics. One of them happened to be normal hurl rendezvous from womanlike users.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 during 4.13.41 AM.png

Content peculiarity altered roughly overnight. Selfies were fast transposed by glimpses into people’s lives that would routinely go unseen. The best flings started roving during an implausible speed in a form of reflings, that currently make adult 50 percent of all calm (for comparison, retweets done adult usually 2 percent of tweets in Twitter’s early days).

Lessons Learned

Change is difficult. Sometimes it requires a cataclysmic event. Getting banned from a app store was a shock that we needed, and it could have been many worse. As CEO, we never should have let it get to that point, though I’m blissful things incited out a approach they did.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Vanity metrics can be poisonous if you’re not clever with them. They don’t indispensably simulate a health of your product or company. If we usually concentration on self-centredness metrics, you’ll strike a internal maxima earlier or later, and it’s value sacrificing them to lift your app’s loyal ceiling.

  • Startups are an art, not a science. Metrics (and quantitative information in general) should be taken with context. You need to ceaselessly consider a qualitative side, as well. For example, self-centredness metrics state we have mislaid some users, though that indispensable to happen. Imagine what would have happened if we simply combined new facilities though cleansing strange harassers. (“Great, I’ll refling and follow a garland of people…now behind to badgering people over chat.”)

  • Everyone during your association cares even if they don’t tell we something like this happens. The initial thing that a conduct of pattern told me was, “I adore what we do here; we adore this place, and we adore my job…I’m peaceful to do whatever it takes to keep it, so let’s get to work.” If you’re a startup, it’s doubtful people would be there unless they’re passionate.

  • Your product needs to be aligned with your prophesy during all times. If there’s a impulse where we find it’s not, afterwards pierce fast to repair it. Don’t wait until it’s out of your control.

I wish we could offer adult a Cinderella finale here. It would be good to finish this by observant that Fling has twenty million active users and we are now one of a world’s many successful startups.

We’re not there yet, though we know 100 percent that we will be. The same tummy that initial told me that we indispensable to change now says we’re on a right path, as prolonged as we stay loyal to what we’ve learned. And this time, we am listening to it.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

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