When I was 15, I was wearing baggy jeans, chasing girls and listening to hip hop. If I was 15 today, I'd probably do the same things but with skinny jeans on. Not Nick D'Aloisio. He's a 15-year-old kid who makes iPhone apps. And I made him cry.
If you don't know who D'Aloisio is, he's the kid who made Trimit—an app that shortens websites into something more digestable. Fast Company just wrote an profile on D'Aloisio and called him "business savvy" with "undoubted technical skills" and "makes regular old entrepreneurs seem like slackers." Pretty high praise, I'd say. So how'd a no-business-sense-having, minimal-technical-skills-possessing 'ol me make this kid cry?
Here's some background: I'm the "app guy" for Gizmodo. Developers e-mail me about their apps and I try to respond to as many as I can as possible, but sometimes, the breaks are the breaks, you know? When D'aloisio first contacted me to cover Trimit, I thought the app's premise sounded interesting enough so I responded saying I'd love to check it out and asked him to send me the details. I also had no idea he was 15-years-old. And then it began.
To put it bluntly, D'aloisio raped my inbox. And then he raped it again and again and again and again til infinity. And then again. Over the course of a few days, D'aloisio berserker barraged me with over a hundred e-mails about Trimit. I saw him go from calm to excited to a nervous wreck to suffering a nervous break down to threatening to bat shit crazy to borderline suicidal. Here's how it went (each line is a different e-mail FYI):
How are you finding trimit? Could you possibly do a post? We'd be so appreciative if you could!
Could you give me an update regarding an article?
Are we going to please get a post? We now have over 10 five star reviews and are in top 20 of utilities!
Casey? Are we going on at 6pm?
And then he gets a little on edge:
Please reply?! We really need to know if we can get this article out today?
Please Casey. This is putting the app at jeopardy. Can you just tell me if you could do an article or not?
Are we likely to be app of the day?
I'm becoming saddened now :) We really need to know what's going on! Why aren't you replying?
After I informed him we wouldn't do a standalone post on his app, he kept going:
casey? Is it possible? Its cool if not.
Could you just reply telling us if you could do a real short post (literally!) tonight as well as the App of the Weeks? Thanks for considering it.
Casey? Any chance of something today?
At this point, he got fed up with my response time and started e-mailing everyone on the Gizmodo staff. From my bosses to the interns to everyone in between, no one was left out. They all got poked and prodded to the point where annoying wouldn't even accurately describe it. It was like being stuck babysitting the drunk annoying girl at a party you don't even want to be at. And if that party was in hell and the drunk annoying girl started vomiting on you. And if that vomit was actually soul-melting lava. You get the point. Everyone was sick of this half-baked app.
So, in an admittedly dick move by us, we featured his app as the worst app of the week. Realizing our childish behavior might jeopardize someone's job (at this point he had told us his boss wanted status updates), we just pulled the app completely. It was a promising concept but the app just wasn't good enough. After seeing his app pulled from our Best Apps of the Week list, Nick fell apart (again, each line is a separate e-mail):
I can't believe this. Please just put us back on the list. Anywhere.
I feel like crying I'm that disappointed. Please.
You don't understand what this means if we don't get featured. We'll go bust and I'll end up unemployed.
Why have you done this. I can't actually believe this is happening.
Please, seriously Casey, don't destroy my livelihood.
I'll do anything just please put us back. Seriously I'll do anything I can't let my boss see this.
We'd planned so much marketing and SEO for this feature. Now we're not going to get the visibility and get into debt. Casey, you must understand what this will do to us if you don't put us back on the list. I thought you liked the app, why do you want to destroy it.
Come on man, please forgive me. We all make mistakes. Why didn't you tell me days ago to stop emailing you! I thought you weren't getting them, that's why I kept sending them.
Seriously without this feature we will lose ranking and then we won't pay back our purchases and then will have to stop the business.
I plea for you to put it back to how it was before. I plea.
Now we've wasted $10,000 as we dont have the article to accompany the efforts.
That puts us in debt and we can't pay that back for ourselves so now I'm going to have to go without food for the next month.
I am new, we've just started the startup, and I've never been in PR so I'm not familiar with these journalistic conducts and etiquettes I seem to have broken. I was not meaning to hurt any of you guys or disrupt your work at all; none of that was intentional. I WILL GET FIRED now because of all of this but I guess I can't change what has happened now. Our marketing has failed since we were not featured and now I have massive debt which is my responsibility to fix.
I'll ask you for the final time to understand the seriousness of the situation and change it back to the way it was. What is stopping you? Why ruin my livelihood and my app? Why would you want that, seriously?
Please man. Please.
I really need to know what's going on! My boss is asking.
Do I feel like a complete ass now that I know he's a 15-year-old kid? Absolutely. He's a kid who was trying to do big boy things and almost pulled it off. His app might even be useful if it had a little more time in the oven. If I wanted to invest in an app developer, I'd put Nick D'Aloisio through etiquette school, manners class, drill him with social skills and most importantly, teach him the basics of how e-mails work (or maybe just strip him of e-mail rights altogether) and then I'd let him work. The kid got unhinged at what happened with the coverage of his app (I would be too at 15) but he obviously has the sort of so-insane-it-might-be-great passion for this.
So do I wish I never made him cry? Of course, I was 15 once. Do I also wish he only sent me one e-mail? Heh.
You can keep up with Casey Chan, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.