The Pistoia App Catalog, and why we need it

pistoia_app2The Pistoia Alliance‘s App Strategy, which is soon going to open the doors on its first offering (phase 1), is initially intended to solve one of the gnawing problems faced by vendors of mobile apps that are not targeted at the entire consumer internet market: the near impossibility of contacting users.

Not that people should be spammed for the rest of their lives just because they downloaded an app, but the mechanisms that the public appstores provide for users to safely initiate a dialog are essentially limited to the comments.

If you have any apps of your own on one of the stores, I would hazard a guess that this scenario is quite familiar:

User: anonymous

Comment: Would be absolutely awesome, except that it doesn’t have a thingamybob.

Rating: 3 stars

… and upon noticing the comment, the first thing that springs to mind is, “Yes it does! It’s the button on the right…”. And then you realise maybe you could have put the thingamybob somewhere more prominent. If only anonymous had left an email address, because it really sounds like he or she would be a thoroughly satisfied customer, if only they knew.

Or another equally frustrating variation:

User: abc789

Comment: Without a wotsit, this app is useless.

Rating: 1 star

After the letting the “What a douchebag” reaction pass, you realise that hey, wait a minute, adding a wotsit is actually a really good idea. And it wouldn’t even be very difficult. I wonder who abc789 is, and whether he-or-she would be willing to update the comment and rating if we could make that happen? Unfortunately user handles are effectively the same as anonymous, for all the good they do.

The soon to be opened Pistoia Alliance App Catalog starts out by offering a small subset of apps which are specifically relevant to lifesciences R&D, which is in itself a useful curation feature, but the primary objective is to provide a forum for discussion. While the technology initially still takes the form of {ratings + comments}, the differentiation is in how it is used: you will be encouraged to use the commenting system to ask questions, or point out missing features and ways to improve. And the creators of the app will be encouraged to respond, using the commenting system, or by email. As the software (provided by AirWatch) matures, we expect the system to involve into a more sophisticated forum, with discussion threading and such, but initially we will make do with what’s available.

Have anything to say about any of these apps? Or any of the others we expect to add over the coming months? The Pistoia App Catalog will soon be the place to go.


The important part is that app users communicate with app vendors, and ideally involve anyone who is interested. That’s something that is sorely lacking on current app stores, for which all communication consists of vendors shouting to an anonymous crowd (e.g. release notes), and users anonymously shouting to everyone (e.g. comments and ratings), but nowhere to be seen is any kind of actual dialog.

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