Friday, November 25, 2011

Solar Walk and I have a relationship

Earth in the original version of Solar Walk
I'm not sure why I love "Solar Walk", which is an app for Apple devices/computers. With most of the things that I really love in this world, I have no idea why I feel that way. I just know that I do. If I ever catch myself getting very annoyed and angry when people don't agree with me regarding something relatively inconsequential, I suddenly realize that I am in love with it. I also realize that I should apologize for seeming bossy, though all I'm really guilty of is loving something so much that I act and feel silly, and if I can get others to feel the way I feel, maybe it won't seem as silly. (The way I see it, loyalty, devotion, and obsession are all symptoms of love.)

My first instinctive passion was
"Calvin and Hobbes". This image is the
only one by Watterson that includes both
forms of Hobbes. (Notice the framed picture.)
Approving of certain notions and things seems so natural to me that I instantly get confused and unreasonable when anyone suggests that I am wrong to feel the way I do about them. Here are some of those instinctive passions: my three close friends, anything related to the guitar, learning things from non-fiction books, Silverchair (the band), Blade Runner (the movie), Apple devices/computers, hating Windows computers, hating being outside after dark, hating non-food mood-altering substances including alcohol and cigarettes, hating the Republican belief that the undisciplined, unhealthy, and uneducated deserve their economic fate while the disciplined, healthy, and educated deserve theirs... (There are things I love that apparently most everyone loves, so they aren't listed here.)

Anyway, in June of 2010, my family purchased an iPad. "Solar Walk" was one of the first apps that I put on there. I've always liked astronomy, and being able to navigate your way around the Solar System in the blink of an eye seemed appealing. After using it a bit, I noticed that it was made by a Russian company, and its "help" documentation was not yet available (ahem). So I wrote a lengthy "review" in Apple's "App Store" in iTunes for Solar Walk, one that clearly explained how to use the app in its current version. I figured some other users might benefit from my thoughts and my organization of the app's features.

So, a few weeks later, I get an e-mail from someone I know telling me how cool it was that I made an app. I had previously mentioned how I had written a review of Solar Walk and she should check it out in iTunes. After another e-mail exchange, I realized why she was confused. On this Russian company's home page for Solar Walk was their current "help" documentation, dated July 2010, and it was my review - exactly my review. They just lifted it straight out of iTunes (preserving some of my criticisms of their app, to my amusement) and added some of their own words on subjects I didn't cover, pasted in some screenshots from their app, and saved it as a PDF file within their website.

They even used my section titles, and they adopted many of the terms and phrases I came up with to describe features and buttons within the app. I was not sure how I should react to all of this. My intellectual property had never been stolen before. And I was nervous about dealing with unethical Russians. After sending an e-mail to the heads of the company, where I told them I wasn't mad and it was okay to do in the future but they should've asked first, a company representative apologized and offered me a t-shirt. I wrote back that they should let me work with them to write/edit their "help" documentation in the future... and I haven't heard from them since. Their current manual, dated April 2012, still uses my original section titles, terms, and phrases, and also uses lots of stuff from my more recent reviews.

The icon of Solar Walk
Whether it's Solar Walk for iOS (Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) or Solar Walk for Mac OS X (Apple computers), within days of the release of each new version, I rewrite and resubmit my review to keep it current. Perhaps this is because I believe important people are looking for it. But I'm pretty sure it's because I don't want the lousy official documentation to confuse new users, for I love Solar Walk and want to help it make a good first impression every time. Okay, I know I sound insane, but... whatever. Incidentally, Apple limits the length of iTunes reviews and Mac App Store reviews to around 6000 characters, so it is always an annoying challenge for me to include new information about the new version while condensing or removing other still-relevant information. If you ever see my review, please mark it as "helpful" so it stays near the top of the other reviews. That way, new users can easily find: "How to use Solar Walk - The Missing Manual". And that way, my love will be justified.

2015 UPDATE... A few years ago, Solar Walk seemed to have finally moved on from most of my review text, and so I stopped reviewing it on iTunes. They clearly hired a native-English speaker to rewrite the manual. Bits of my writing here-and-there remain, as do many of my naming conventions, most notably "true-to-scale". So, my fingerprints linger, and I am content.