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A brief history of our iPhone app

Posted on 24 February 2010 by John Cook

It's only been two weeks since the Skeptical Science iPhone app was released. Nevertheless, the Guardian asked me to write an article on how the climate sceptic iPhone app came about and how its been received. This got me thinking about how software websites usually document all the latest software developments/builds/releases. So this blog post is to serve as a more comprehensive, more technical (and probably more boring) version of the Guardian article. I'll also included some of the more interesting comments on the app. As new builds are released, they'll be added to this blog post until a major new release comes along to warrant a new post.

Feb 10: Version 1.0 of the Skeptical Science iPhone app is released on iTunes by Shine Technologies.

Feb 13: Version 1.0.1 is released - the main update is that it works on older versions of the iPhone operating system (firmware 3.0).

Feb 14: Climate Realists post a warning against the app:

WARNING! There is an iphone app trying to put down what we have to say under the heading of "Skeptical Science". We need as many of you as possible to promote that this iphone app is yet another attempt to discredit "Climate Realists". We can only hope the general public can see through this as a cheap trick to prop up the FAILED SCIENCE OF MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE. Climate Realists need another iphone app that shows our side of the argument as it is, rather then what a supporter AGW thinks it is! Please send this message to all known friendly sites that support our side.

Feb 17: The UK Guardian review the app and list it in their Top 10 green iPhone apps. This leads to a surge of blog posts and tweets about the app. Just to nitpick, they inaccurately refer to me as a 'solar physicist' presumably because I mention studying solar physics at university. This leads to numerous blogs similarly labelling me a solar physicist.

Feb 17: The UK Telegraph post a less-than-glowing review (but thanks for the link, fellahs):

"It’s unlikely to convince Telegraph readers who, if the recent Climategate debate – led by our own James Delingate – is anything to go by, are climate change deniers to a man. We also know that iPhone owners are all Lefties. Still, perhaps you could use it to keep track of what the enemy is up to. It is free, after all."

Feb 18: Version 1.0.2 is released with a tweak to the 'Send to' feature and a bug fix that avoids problems on initial load of the application in rare cases.

Feb 19: Real Climate blog about the app. Finally making direct contact with an RC author, I take the opportunity to ask them to change their wiki attribution from 'John Cross' to 'John Cook'. Phew, that's been bugging me for ages!

Feb 22: My favourite review of the app so far is posted by WWF Canada. Ranking us alongside Tetris is a big call though:

"Miracle in your pocket
Finally. I’ve found it: My newest favourite iPhone application (next to UrbanSpoon and Tetris that is). It’s called “Skeptical Science” and it’s the pocket-sized-miracle that you always wish you had during a climate change conversation gone awry."

If there is a feature you'd like to see in future versions, be sure to post a comment either here, in the original thread or email me direct. Similarly, if you'd like to see the app on a different platform, you greatly increase your chances if you let us know. Think squeaky wheel, people. And don't forget to post a review on iTunes :-)

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Comments

Comments 1 to 25:

  1. Alas, I do not have an iPhone. (With a dirt cheap pay-as-you-go plan, I barely qualify as a cell phone user.) but if I did I would add this app. Let's see if the followers of Climate Realists come out with their own app. What will be interesting will be to document their "evidence" and break it down between actual science and politics/conspiracy drivel.
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  2. Android please! My Motorola Cliq has had iPhone envy since you released your app!
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  3. Just downloaded the iPhone app yesterday. It's fantastic. I find myself just sitting and reading through the segments. I have a few climate change denier friends. This should make for great fun at our next party.
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  4. John,

    This is wonderful news! A breath of fresh air really. The fact that the "realists" (uh huh) are hitting back do hard just goes to show what an excellent job you are doing.

    We don't have an iphone (so much for the Telegraph's hopeless generalization about "lefties" all having iPhones), but if we did the app would be on there.

    I'm sure the realists are feverishly working away on their own. But you were first, you have the reputable science on your side, and above all, you have integrity.
    I wonder if the "realists" will charge a fee?

    Anyhow, this bird should get back to work. Best of luck John, I hope that the app opens up new and exciting opportunities for you.

    PS: How about interactive apps? You could project the global SAT anomalies in 2060 (for example)by selecting a range of accepted climate sensitivities and for different emission scenarios.
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  5. Thanks, John, Please keep up the good work!
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  6. I love that the Telegraph's own review called Delingpole "Delingate"! Now, there's a -gate that's really deserved!
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  7. Great work John. This has really raised the profile of Skeptical Science, which is fantastic.

    I don't have an iphone, or much technical knowledge (as is about to become apparent, as I am now going to ask what may be a stupid question...) but how easy would it be to make the app for other phones? Would it be possible to make a generic app that could be adapted to lots of different phones, or is that not how it works? (I have a sony ericsson w810i phone and I would love to get skeptical science on it, but I am interested in general)
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  8. I love the comment on the end of the Guardian article (it's exactly my thought too)...

    "This might shock some people, but I happen to agree with the sentiment underlying the request issued by Climate Realists for sceptics to build their own rival app.

    I think it would be very constructive if they compiled a one-stop shop for all their arguments with full references and citations so that everyone could assess them calmly and dispassionately. This would be done away from the white heat of the blogosphere cauldron where people can make any claim they choose and know it has the ability to stick..."

    Spot on. Invariably the trouble is trying to pin the sceptics down on the source of their 'science'. But I suspect they already know such an app could only serve to undermine what limited credibility they currently enjoy.
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  9. How can "skeptics" build an app that's coherent? I'd love to see them try.

    It would be nice to be able to enlarge the screen and turn it sideways (can't do it on my Touch). Old eyes and all.
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  10. I love my app!

    This site deserves more traffic.
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  11. {This leads to numerous blogs similarly labelling me a solar physicist}

    Well John, you know the old saying, - "you can call me anything you want, just don't call me late for dinner!"
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  12. 24 February - Andrew Bolt incorporates the app into his climate change conspiracy theories http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/02/skeptical_science_iphone_app.php
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    Response: Gotta admit, didn't see that one coming. Have posted a comment there in response to one user's question (but it has to go through the moderation system first).
  13. #4 Albatross, you read it backward. The claim was that all iPhone owners are lefties, not that all lefties own iPhones. The latter must be a failure of the Socialist International, which somehow failed to requisition enough iPhones for all lefties.

    The app seems like a great thing. No iPhone for me, though, so I'll just have to make do with the website. I also would love to see a one-stop anti-Skeptical Science app, especially if it could explain how mutually contradictory arguments constitute absolute proof that climate science is wrong, no doubt about it or room for skepticism!
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  14. A bit O/T - just wanted to let you all know, that it is snowing on Cypress Mtn. @ the Olympics, but raining at my house :(
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  15. Having a mobile app containing the information on this site is such an excellent idea.

    It might be worth considered developing an app for the Symbian mobile OS?

    The Symbian OS actually has the majority share of the smart phone market (in Q2 2009, more users than all the other platforms put together http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone). It is not widely used in the US but it dominates the smartphone market in the rest of the world. It also recently became fully open source, with the platform releases and developer support being managed by the not-for-profit Symbian Foundation (http://www.symbian.org/).
    I'm not sure if developing apps is as easy as for the iPhone, but it may be worth a look?

    BTW I am glad I found this site, you are really making a great contribution here, helping people to find the facts and understand the arguments more clearly. Cheers for that!
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  16. Got the app, brilliant. Looking forward to seeing the results of which arguments people are meeting.

    There's more scope for simple apps (both phone and interwebs) for this sort of education. One clearly in dire need is something simple to illustrate 'statistical significance.' My thought on that was: a pair of dice, which may or may not be loaded. When a run of sixes comes up, how likely is that to be chance, how likely a problem with the dice (or die... er... never sure which way round that is!) That would nicely illustrate that the level of statistical significance is partly a choice. (Given an infinite universe, after all, it could end up like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and their never-ending coin-flips coming up heads...)

    Not sure what simple examples for time series could be concocted. Perhaps take a slot of time and ask "are we heading to winter or summer?" (say you've just come out of a coma, in the middle of nowhere, with a stats book and a weather station. How many days before you can be sure?)

    The misrepresentation (or deliberate twisting) of Prof Jones' statements about significance really alarmed me. Can journos really not know such basic stats? (Or do they just not care?)
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  17. Great job - this iPhone app is an excellent example of how to translate a desktop website effectively for the small screen.

    John, I suggest you suggest to the developers that they look into PhoneGap - it's an open source development framework which takes a web application (html/css/js, including JS interfaces to native mobile features) and compiles native apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian/Nokia, etc.
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  18. I have a Nokia N97 - will a similar app be available for that in the future?
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  19. I would love to have either Android and BlackBerry versions of the iPhone app (I alternate between the two) or a mobile version of the website which loads fast and is easy to navigate using a trackball or non-multi-touch finger interface...

    An article iPhone app helped me discover the website and now I'm an instant fan.

    Thanks!
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  20. Congrats on the success of the app John.
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  21. How about porting the app to a pay-to-enter Website? One where the fee to join was the same as the cost of the iPhone app. Can you tell that I don't own an iPhone? (grin) Put up the site, and I'll be first in line to pay an app-priced fee...

    Porting the app to a Web-based delivery system could potentially generate MANY more users than porting it to other smartphones!
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  22. Holy cow, the iPhone app is FREE?! Heck, that shamed me into making a app-sized donation to the Skeptical Science site. Vote with your wallet...
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  23. I'll put my support in with those who want a Droid app. I've got one and I know already that once its Market gets enough apps, it'll give the iPhone a run for its money. The Droid is solid and can only improve from this point.
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  24. Just saw this post - what exactly do you mean by saying that being called John Cross has been bugging you for ages ;-)

    Best,
    John
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    Response: Where have you been?!
  25. My android has everything I need EXCEPT the skeptical science app. Please port it to android soon! Thank you.
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