Saturday, March 31, 2012

Put on an appy face?

Tangerine Tango is the new beige!
Because I'm lucky enough to have three techies in the family, I can usually get first aid with whatever computer-related issue is driving me berserk. There's a price to pay, however, which is the derision conveyed by my sons when I ask about something that every eight-year-old can do while simultaneously talking, eating, reading, and watching tv. Recently, for instance, I asked them how to download photos from the I- phone to my computer. The eldest replied, via email, "Momma, you torment me."

I have no ego invested in this, you may well believe.

I try to keep my tech needs simple, avoiding unnecessary frippery. Hence my Fear of Apps. What is more aggravating than downloading an app?  The Ipad or I-phone is always rejecting my password because I can't seem to type it correctly (do you know anyone who can type accurately on a virtual keyboard?) or I misremember it, and then if I muff it more than three times I have to reset the password.  Totally not worth the trouble. The few apps I've managed to download seem to have arrived from the ether-world in spite of my fumbling.

This is all a prelude to a brief discussion of two knitting apps I've recently played with. The first, Yarn U, was a freebie (it normally costs $2.99) from its creator who asked me to review it. When I emailed her with some questions that arose after I looked at it for awhile, no answers were forthcoming. Here's what I don't understand about this app, and possibly some of you, gentle knitters, have insights to share that would diminish my puzzlement.

  • What are the selection criteria for the yarns in the sizable, but by no means inclusive, array?
  • Who writes the cheerleader copy attached to each demo skein? Why should I believe the cheerleader's honeyed recommendations? What are her knitting credentials?
  • Why are most of these yarns listed for sale mainly at (a mere 2,493 miles from my New England abode, as Yarn U's mileage indicator cheerily informs me)? 

Ex post facto I read through some of the reviews at the I-Tunes Store, and two at the top caught my eye:  "Not comprehensive enough to be useful," and "Pretty, but not very useful."  To which I say: "Yes."


Then, last week I was in Florida for some leisurely knitting accompanied by swimming, and decided to try out another app, Yarn Store GPS ($2.99).  I like the idea of this app, inasmuch as traveling is, for me,  a way to explore local yarn suppliers.  How nifty to have a gizmo on my phone that would take me to the closest LYS, no matter where in the world I was!

So here's the thing:  I activated Yarn Store GPS as I was being shuttled from the Fort Lauderdale airport to Boca Raton. The app indicated that there was indeed a yarn store in Boca, and showed me exactly where it was in relation to the moving vehicle in which I sat--about six miles away. I was impressed by the concise information, GPS map, and other nifty graphics. The app took me to the website of Great Balls of Yarn, which seemed to be a place worth visiting. What I discovered, however, when I Googled "yarn stores Boca Raton West Palm Beach Florida"on my Ipad, is that there are approximately four or five other LYS in the Boca vicinity, and these weren't listed on Yarn Store GPS.

More questions arise:

  • How does Yarn Store GPS decide on its listings? 
  • Do yarn stores pay to be included? 

As with Yarn U, I began to sense that the assortment offered as definitive was hardly an unbiased overview.

If apps like Yarn U and Yarn Store GPS (both sold by Sutro Media, by the way, though I didn't realize this at first download) state up front that their listings are partial and/or selective, that's fine. Honesty is always the best policy. But since they don't, the unsuspecting knitter who spends her hard-earned money on these babies is either going to be manipulated or annoyed.  Or both.

In conclusion: put the $6 you will save by not buying these apps towards knitting supplies.


  1. So often blog reviews are puff, advertisements in disguise. Thanks for the useful, honest, in-depth reviews.

  2. Thanks for your advise, I am a new iPad user and I will make treasure of your words!

  3. Good qusstions, which I'm only getting to belatedly. I don't think all the copy is "cheerleader" editorial. I'm hoping, Selma, you noticed the bullet copy beneath...which lists the pros **and Cons** of each yarn listed. As for the map info, it's not ideal but I"m not the developer. Ideally the store closest to you would pop up on the app's radar but it would take a different software and hours of work on my end to localize the app for the user. But it's definitely I would like to work toward in the future! Finally, re the images...I can only use images that I have permission to use...hence the plethora of Jimmy Beans Wool pics, BUT lot of those yarns are also available off-line at LYS near you! I'm certain some of the yarn store infor would be useful..I try to update daily with sale and discount information. Monthly I add new yarns, images to be released with the new update to the app. So...the app is constantly evolving and I welcome everyone's input, and I try to accommodate the best I can and poke the Sutro Media developer about making some improvements in the app itself.....

  4. The problem with both of these apps is that they try to be encyclopedic, and they aren't. As Mary Beth Klatt's recent apologia reveals, she has bitten off much more than one person can chew. However, the selection of yarns covered is still limited--though it has expanded since I first reviewed the app; the copy is relentlessly upbeat and gushy--aka "cheerleader"--despite the bullet points she's mentioned, which have almost no "cons" listed to balance the "pros." (The one "con" I found, randomly, was about Cascade's "Cloud" yarn, and it stated "Hand Wash." Hello?)

    The underlying question I asked has yet to be answered. What is Mary Beth Klatt's claim to yarn expertise? Why should we trust her advice? (Does being a knitter qualify one as a yarn expert?) More to the point, is she in the employ of yarn companies? Or does she solicit yarn info and samples from yarn companies, then make subjective judgments about these products? Full disclosure would be ethical.

    To move on to Yarnstore GPS, I've discovered two interesting things about it: First of all, I caught a short article in a recent Yarn Market News asking LYS to sign up to be included. (I don't recall if there was a fee for this.) Second, I tried using it in late March in Charleston SC. It told me there were only two LYS in the ENTIRE STATE, and neither of them was in Charleston. This, of course, is blatantly false.