Apple Bans Non-Graphic, VR Representation Of Ferguson Shooting For No Coherent Reason

from the would-you-please-make-some-sense dept

Apple's ridiculous, inconsistent and incoherent app store approval process is now a thing of legend. The company has long banned apps simply for being able to access other, vaguely-controversial content, whether that's a dictionary (because some words are naughty), or comic book and e-book readers (because, occasional booby references). But Apple's also been known to ban apps critical of Apple products, games with Nazis in it, DUI checkpoint apps, and anything with a confederate flag in it (even if historically accurate). Basically, Apple governs its app store approval process like a puritanical child in the throes of an epic acid trip, and conversations trying to decipher company intent goes accordingly.

Apple's latest ingenious app store approval ban? Virtual reality journalism. Graphic artist Dan Archer thought it might be cool to build a 3D representation of the Ferguson shooting to help people better understand precisely what happened. Note there's no graphic content whatsoever; the app simply shows a 3D representative of the crime scene, 3D models of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson and their alleged locations, and lets the user simultaneously peruse publicly-filed evidence, witness testimony, and published radio chatter:
Note that in and of itself a VR exploration of what happened isn't specifically controversial, and it's a very handy tool in trying to better understand the details of the story. Yet Archer received a phone call from Apple, explaining cryptically that his app would not be allowed on the store because its "scope was too narrow":
"According to the phone call I received, Ferguson Firsthand was disallowed because it “refers to a very specific event, and therefore its scope is too narrow.” I was encouraged to try again with an app that is “topical, but not focusing on any one single incident or topic.” Ferguson Firsthand, in its current state, would need to be “changed so significantly for it to be approved.” The representative was unable to clarify whether an app that reported on multiple, nationwide allegations of police misconduct would better fit the recommendations she had mentioned."
As with previous bans, getting Apple to transparently and more precisely illuminate the exact problem with the VR app was utterly unfruitful. In a companion piece over at Medium, Archer quite-correctly notes that the continued reliance on arbitrary, non-transparent gatekeepers is the last thing the soon-to-explode virtual reality market needs. Sure, those that can afford the $500 for the upcoming HTC Vive or Oculus Rift (not to mention a high-end graphics card) will likely be slightly less-reliant on gatekeepers for content access, but having Apple determine what qualifies as an acceptable journalism tool on less expensive smartphone VR platforms is a scary proposition:
"Leading VR headsets in the market still cost hundreds of dollars (despite becoming a decimal point or two cheaper in the last decade) and a powerful PC to run home experiences. Google cardboard, the SDK that allows journalists to port a game engine experience into VR, was designed to work brilliantly with smartphones, but in light of my phone call with Ms. Apple, almost half (44.1%, according to June 2015 data published by Comscore) of that market share in the US was effectively being cut off."
Archer also notes that Apple's decision directly contradicts its own over-arching principles for its own guidelines:
"Thank you for developing for iOS. Even though this document is a formidable list of what not to do, please also keep in mind the much shorter list of what you must do. Above all else, join us in trying to surprise and delight users. Show them their world in innovative ways, and let them interact with it like never before. In our experience, users really respond to polish, both in functionality and user interface. Go the extra mile. Give them more than they expect. And take them places where they have never been before. We are ready to help."
Or, try to do exactly that and get your project blocked for no coherent reason.

Filed Under: app store, arbitrary, ferguson, journalism, news, rejections, vr
Companies: apple


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:05am

    This is Apple leading the way into a corporate ruled dystopia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      As far as Apple goes, I'm less worried about a zaibatsu with its own privatized military than I am about winding up with Rounded-Corner-Landru.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      AricTheRed (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 12:15pm

      Re: Looks like time to get rid of any Stopwatch Apps on the App Store

      Well, it looks like it's time to get rid of any Stopwatch Apps on the App Store, as they are two focused! All they allow you to do is tell the difference between when you start 'em and stop 'em and that means their scope is too narrow to be allowed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 11:15am

      Re:

      Yes, how dare Apple not allow somebody to profit on a tragedy......

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:14am

    I see their point

    It causes dissension. Cops kill people - given. White cops kill black people, someone trucks in a thousand protesters to loot and burn. Black cops kill white people, if it even makes the news the most that happens is everyone yawns.

    Apple has re-created a beatnik-like "hipster cult". Sunshine and daisies, 24/7 is their world. The worst possible punishment anyone should ever suffer is to be smothered with hugs and puppies.

    Meanwhile, all their gear is built by child slave labor, the rare earths used for the components is obtained from China by "relocating" everyone on the mountain they're under, strip mining the ore, and then processing it with 18th century methods that blacken the skies with hazardous smog for thousands of miles.

    But it's "green"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sam1am (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:24am

    This is why you never buy a computing platform where you are not the person in charge of deciding what software you can or can't install. Do you want an appliance or do you want a computer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:46am

      Re:

      "Do you want an appliance or do you want a computer?"

      Pretty sure people want a phone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 6:25pm

      Re:

      My step-dad is extremely pro-Apple, but he only owns a G6 so he's not the typical user, he has a Blackberry like all good Canadians should. But man is he annoying in his pro-apple stance. Only because he did 3 semesters in Computer Science in the early 80's where Macs were actually the best thing, in theory at least, when he bought an iMac in 2003 I was laughing at him for being stuck in the past, now I laugh at him for supporting such a company.

      Mounting your own PC is the only way to go. And it's possible to be ethical about it. I told him I would never have developed all my "debugging" skills had I not learned to computer with DOS and Win95, that Windows forced you to play around with settings and such because it was so buggy heh. Of course that ended for a while for those who didn't get fooled and got Win2k "WHICH IS ONLY FOR SERVERS!" and not WinME, which was buggy beyond any sense of how OS's and computers worked. Although I lost all interest in Windows from 8 and on, I learned to Linux by myself, not something a Mac Only person could do as fast.

      If I ever visit my mother and I see him with an iPhone, I'll be getting annoyingly "political" though...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:30am

    solution is simple, stop making apps for I-devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:45am

    Thought process of Apple Banhammer Team: stick PostIt with random apps on the wall, throw one or two trainees at it and ban whatever didn't hold to the wall. (Thanks to Jack Ass for the wall reference)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WDS (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:46am

    Malware

    Maybe after this weekends news, Apple should work more on keeping apps with malware out of their store, instead of spending so much time trying to nanny their users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 12:16pm

    No surprise here

    but in light of my phone call with Ms. Apple, almost half (44.1%, according to June 2015 data published by Comscore) of that market share in the US was effectively being cut off

    Apparently 44.1% still need their parents and can't find their way out of a walled garden.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 12:17pm

    "Apple governs its app store approval process like a puritanical child in the throes of an epic acid trip."

    Pure gold.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 12:43pm

    So remind me why I want an Apple device again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 1:06pm

    Never would I Bob for Apple , seems like all the Fanboys are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 1:18pm

    Apple is trying very hard to be a good governmental sycophant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 22 Sep 2015 @ 1:38pm

      Re:

      I don't think so. They're catering to the "sweetness and light" crowd of impressionable young people (aka: The Gullible).

      They don't want anything "socially controversial" to be associated with their branding.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 6:14pm

    Apple? It must be AMAZING!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 6:29pm

      Re:

      Man I miss 1999, when going to the Mac Lab in the college Library because all the PC's were taken and seeing MacOS 8 crash all the time. Not many people screaming Amazing! in there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2015 @ 11:33pm

    I thought the VR representation of Ferguson was going to be about simulating a chaotic protest zone with paramilitary cops shooting tear gas, pepper spray, and stun guns at the crowd.

    That would be one hell of a VR experience. Getting beat up by thugs in the first person perspective. I know my heart would be pumping.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2015 @ 11:15am

    LOL @ Techdirt. Trying to defend exploitation of tragedy by a hack app developer looking to make a quick buck.

    Keep trying to stay relevant....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, 14 Nov 2015 @ 6:41am

    Good call, Apple

    It's a useless app. Apple was right to reject it. It serves no purpose whatsoever and is a poor choice of application for them to allow inside their walled garden.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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