Seven Questions with Developers: @ludolphus

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask  developers the same set of questions to learn a bit more about their apps and the stories behind them. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

chimpOur next Developer is @ludolphus, who makes several apps and tools, including the API Console app Console-app.net, ADN File Manager, the iOS app Chimp, and chimp.li for managing your Chimp created media.

@ludolphus lives in Arnhem, the Netherlands, with his wife Feriza. For the past two years, he has worked as a freelance developer doing what he likes the most: creating great software. @ludolphus uses that particular handle because it is a Latin version of his last name ‘Loef’.

Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

I joined App.net on August 11, 2012, because I liked the idea of App.net and wanted to see great things happing with it in the future. I have a few apps, but I’d like to talk mostly about Chimp, which is available in the AppStore.

It is a fully-featured client for App.net with  post streams, private messaging, patter room support, photo/video support, and a lot more. All the photos and videos users upload with Chimp can be managed by the user on chimp.li.

For videos, Chimp creates a link to the chimp.li site exposing an HTML video player. Version 1.1 has lots of new features (especially audio related) and UI tweaks based on user-feedback from users. I’d also like to acknowledge @sham, who helped with the design of Chimp.

Additionally, I made files-app.net/climber and files-app.net/sprinter based on Climber and Sprinter. These sites show the lastest 50 photos/videos made with those apps.

sprinterAnd, lastly, another small mashup I made: http://checkins.chimp.li/ This shows the lasest 100 check-ins (based on the Explore API endpoint) done on App.net using the Places API on Google Maps. The markers are clickable and shows the original post text including name and avatar of the user.

 

What qualities make a great app?

Good software should do what its users expect it to do in an as simple way as possible.

filemanagerWhat tools are important to you as a developer?

SublimeText 2 is where I live most of the time. Other tools include OS X & Linux command line, iTunes for background music streams. I like my 27″ iMac very much, and I have a Linux server zooming which I use for hosting my local development stuff (apache, php, mysql).

And then there is mobile hardware to test apps. The good old Windows based PC is more and more becoming a dust collector…I should redeploy it for something useful. User feedback and suggestions are perhaps the most important tool I have.

 

Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

I decided to join App.net as a developer because I very much like the idea of not having advertising in the streams and I wanted to build software for users with a guarantee that their content is not used to build a profile that can/will be sold to advertisers.

Here’s my very first post:

@ludolphus
ludolphus August 11, joined App.net Let's see what this will become in the coming years. I remember when joining Twitter nobody understood what to do with it, look at it now... I love the idea of App.net and therefor am backing this initiative as a developer.

What got you started writing code? 

What really got me started with code is the Philips Videopac G7000 with cartridge number 9 which is the ‘computer programmer.’ I was around 10 years old. The thing is still lying around somewhere at my parents I think :)

I have no idea anymore what I did with it though. The first thing I made on the ZX81 is a sort of space invaders game in Z80 Assembly. You can check msx.vanloef.com for my games and tools, a lot of which were published in MSX Computer Magazine, a Dutch publication that was very popular at the time.

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Nowadays it is so ‘easy’ to learn about programming, and there are online courses in almost every language. Just go out and do it. Look at code on Github and learn from it.

Don’t think you cannot do it; if you are really interested, you can. It requires some skills, of course, and the ability to think logically. The Raspberry Pi project is a really nice initiative. It has some great software tools and hardware possibilities to get (young) people to learn about how computers work.

I’m tinkering and working on projects constantly:

@ludolphus
ludolphus Announcement:
Xfer.li Easily share files with your friends using your app.net File Storage. Your friends do not need an app.net account to receive the file. Just drag&drop a file from your computer. You'll get a link you can share with anyone, that's it !

When you’re not coding you’re…

If the weather allows it, I’m outside relaxing in our garden, doing maintenance, enjoying the fresh air. Other things I like: watch movies and tv series, going on holiday with my wife from time to time, listening to music, making nice food.

Seven Questions with Developers: @boxenjim

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask  developers the same set of questions to learn a bit more about their apps and the stories behind them.

IMG_2829Our next developer is @boxenjim, who makes Patter for iOS. @boxenjim lives in a small town in northern Utah, almost in Idaho. He lives with his wife and son (and dog) in a little house with a yard and a garage and “a little patch a dirt to grow stuff in.” Apparently no picket fence though.

Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

Patter for iOS is a messaging application that lets people chat with friends privately or in public chat rooms. As the name implies it is the iOS version of the Patter web application built by @duerig.

The primary goal for my app is to support, promote, and enhance the Patter web application…the mothership as it were. Some secondary goals for me are to learn the App.net API better and to be more involved in the community. I also hope it can be an example of an interesting way to build on top of the API.

Currently, the app is more tailored to somebody that has already used Patter but I hope to make it clearer for those who have little or no exposure to Patter or even, for that matter, to App.net.

All files are hosted in your personal App.net file storage, so we don’t keep your content on our servers.

What qualities make a great app?

I like apps that are immediately obvious how to use and are uncluttered in appearance. I like apps that have a bit of personality and character embedded throughout their interface. I want to be able to get a laugh or two or see something unexpected.

With just about every app I’ve made I try to add in a few little Easter eggs just for fun. With Patter for iOS I decided early on to add something fun or unexpected with every release. I’m trying to do it in such a way that if you aren’t really looking you’ll never notice or be bothered by them, but, if you dig around a little, you will be able to find this whole other world inside the app that you never noticed before.

 

IMG_2830What tools are important to you as a developer?

A super amazing, super beautiful and supportive wife, a little boy that needs me to bring home the bacon and be a good dad, a whiteboard, a pencil and paper, a quiet place to work, adequate sleep and lots of reference materials. I also have a unicorn and a few other mythical creatures on standby.

As far as a list of hardware/software, I use a 2010 13″ MacBook Pro and I have an iPhone 4S, an iPad 2 and an iPhone 3GS for testing. I regularly use the following apps/services: Xcode, Tower, GitHub, TotalTerminal, Droplr, Dropbox, Soulver, 1Password.

I also have some super awesome beta testers that are exceptionally good at finding all my screw ups and helping me squash bugs. I guess a little bit of imagination and curiosity can’t hurt too.

Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

I was drawn to App.net pretty much immediately after seeing its core values. I joined early on in the original campaign. I had dabbled here and there on the API and had worked on a really simple implementation of App.net for my previous job.

I really just woke up one day with a determination to get more involved on a personal level and to try to build something awesome. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do since.

IMG_2827

What got you started writing code? 

To be totally honest, I intentionally avoided it for a really long time. I was born into a family of nerds and actually pushed back against my nerdy heritage, but it finally caught up to me. I didn’t really do any actual programming till my mid 20s.

Eventually, after working for a while as an IT/business manager, I decided to back to school. During my first semester, I took a computer science course as an elective and quickly got hooked. I started teaching myself iOS development and within a few months found a “real” job building iOS apps.

I’ve been programming on the iOS platform for something like 3 years and and also did a little web development for about 5-7 years.

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Just go build something. All you really need is a desire to do it and a little initiative. It doesn’t matter much how much you know or don’t know. Just put yourself out there and try stuff out and after a while, work will just come. Just take it a day at a time and a line of code at a time. A lot of the apps I’ve built I did it just to build them.

When you’re not coding you’re…

Um, probably thinking about coding, sleeping or spending time with my family or a combination of all three. I enjoy cycling, photography, metal working, wood working, yard working, camping/fishing/outdoorsy stuff, rifle/pistol shooting, jeeping, fixing stuff like cars and lawn mowers and 4 wheelers, and basically anything I can turn a wrench on. I find that unless I balance the mental activities with some sort of physical activity, I’m just not quite whole as a person. I need to get out and get my hands dirty and calloused and cut up from time to time.

Seven Questions with Developers: Climber’s @rrbrambley and @derelk

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask  developers the same set of questions to learn a bit more about their apps and the stories behind them.

Our next developers are @rrbrambley and @derelk, who make Climber. Back in October 2011, they started Always All The Time and began working on a game called Destroy, which is currently available on Android. Climber is their first app on App.net. They both live and work in San Francisco.

photo (4)Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

Climber is a video-sharing app for iPhone. The first release is dead simple – record a video, add a caption, and post it to your followers on App.net. Each post has a climbr.co link where the video can be viewed.

All files are hosted in your personal App.net file storage, so we don’t keep your content on our servers. We did not feel that it was especially important to have a video consumption component in the first release because there are already plenty of high-quality ADN clients that can serve this purpose.

We just wanted to build something for video sharing on App.net that would allow people to express their creativity and thoughts in a way that is different than the traditional text and photo posts.

What qualities make a great app?

A fast, intuitive interface. And, on mobile – tapping into the native features that you’d expect to see on the platform.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 1.51.11 PM

What tools are important to you as a developer?

@derelk: Vim and a Vim plugin for every IDE, mitmproxy, and curl.

@rrbrambley: IDEs that provide all the most basic (useful!) code editing features, in addition to the fancier ones (e.g. refactoring). I just forced myself to delete my long Eclipse vs. Xcode rant that was originally here. :)

 

Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

We had decided to go to the App.net Hackathon, so we were just brainstorming ideas and eventually came up with Climber. @rrbrambley had been toying with the API on and off in spare time (and was maybe the first to post from an Android app? #humblebrag), and we had both just believed in principles of the platform, so it seemed like a great opportunity to force ourselves to build something real while teaching ourselves some new things (iPhone development, Node.js, CoffeeScript, and Redis are all new to us).

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 1.50.00 PMWhat got you started writing code? 

@rrbrambley: In the ’90s, I would spend a lot of my free time on IRC, and I used a client called mIRC that had a pretty sophisticated scripting engine. People would write and market scripts for mIRC that could provide both utility functionality and aesthetic customizations. So I learned to write mIRC scripts, which led me to BASIC, and HTML. Though, it wasn’t until college when I actually felt like I knew what I was doing.

@derelk: Since I was a super cool adolescent, I naturally spent a lot of time playing text-based RPGs on AOL. That led me to MOOs, where I first learned how to make a computer do something I wanted it to. I was hooked. I also got really into an ancient Mac game-making system called World Builder.

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Take the time to learn and understand the principles behind what you’re doing. There’s a lot of value in hacking until it works, but if that’s all you do, you’re doomed to write inefficient and insecure code.

When you’re not coding you’re…

@rrbrambley:

  1. Seeing live music: http://climbr.co/4199693
  2. Drinking delicious beer: http://climbr.co/4144058
  3. Wandering the streets of San Francisco: http://climbr.co/4217804

@derelk:

  1. Watching movies, making movies, reading snobby magazines.
  2. Sometimes I even go outside: http://climbr.co/4186018

 

 

Seven Questions with Developers: Kiwi’s @isaiah

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask  developers the same set of questions to learn a bit more about their apps and the stories behind them. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

Our next Developer is @isaiah, who makes Kiwi. He’s a Californian recently transplanted to sunny Austin Texas. @isaiah runs YourHead Software with his wife Christi and a few friends. They’ve built cool stuff for Macs since the 1990s.

 

isaiahTell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

Kiwi is a full featured App.net client for Mac OS X wrapped in a clean, simple UI.

We wanted to create an amazing app with tons of features, but without a lot of fiddling or tweaking. So we kept the UI light and friendly to let the content be the main attraction.

What qualities make a great app?

I think what makes Kiwi great is its simplicity:  we created a amazingly simple app in spite of all the features.

A great example is the toolbar: We wanted the functionality of the iOS Nav Bar and Tab Bar, but a verbatim copy wouldn’t have felt right on the Mac. Instead we combined them:  the edges of Kiwi’s toolbar work like a nav bar and the center buttons create a contextual tab bar. We packed navigation, contextual status, and tabs into one simple UI. And you probably didn’t even notice, which is just the way it should be.

Creating a completely custom UI was a lot of extra work, but we eliminated the dead-space sidebar area so common in other clients, so it was worth it.

 

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 11.16.37 AMWhat tools are important to you as a developer?

For software, I keep it simple: Xcode, Photoshop, Dropbox, bash, and of course, vi.

On the hardware side a great keyboard is a must-have. I like quiet keys with a short throw and a super lightweight mouse: low impact is the goal.

Also: an Aeron chair and a ton of screen real estate sure make coding easier.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 6.29.20 PM

Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

Here’s some background on Kiwi, for anyone not familiar with our history.

We’ve wanted to bring Kiwi back in some way ever since.  When App.net turned up last summer it seemed like the perfect fit.

What got you started writing code? 

In 1981 I was 10, and Apple donated two Apple II+ computers to our school and an engineer who came twice every week to teach six students the fundamentals. After six weeks, they narrowed it down to just two kids and taught us BASIC and Logo. I was hooked immediately. I wish I knew who to thank for that early introduction.

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Finish! Debug the code, draw the icons, build the website, write the documentation, collect money, support your customers. Any hack can write a bit of code and post it on github, but finishing a real product is something else entirely.

When you’re not coding you’re…

…sitting still, listening to music, drinking a cup of coffee, and watching the world go by.

 

Seven Questions with App.net Developers: @kosso

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

bli.msOur next developer is @kosso, who is currently living in Bristol in the UK, after many years in London and also a few years living out of a suitcase, back and forth to San Francisco and Boston helping to build startups as an entrepreneur.

@kosso calls himself ‘a Createc’, since he designs as well as codes (and all the various back-end and front-end aspects required in between).

@kosso’s last big project was a fully multimedia-powered social network making it easy to share content of any type, from as many devices and existing sources as possible. Before that, he had built some time-based multimedia applications using SMIL which led to his time at BBC News developing systems used by journalists to publish multimedia content to anything from a pocket sized screen to huge billboard-sized jumbo screens around the country.

Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

As soon as the App.net API came out at the begninng of August last year, I was on it like a shot. I had been in the middle of putting together yet another mobile multimedia site to make it easy to share photos, video and audio from a mobile to any of the major social networks, as well as have a rudimentary social network built in. I was already in ‘the zone’.

So my goal for my first app called #PAN was to enable easy sharing of *all* the media types – photos, video and audio – to App.net.

All apps were going to do just photos. That bit’s easy. But I’ve been working for many years now, with code to process any media a mobile could throw at it, so it seemed like a great opportunity to build on the API here.

Since then I have also built a service called BLIMS for other app developers to use to enable multimedia uploads in their apps. This uses a part of the App.net API called ‘Identity Delegation’ to connect a user’s account with the service from another app. Clever stuff.

As it happens, I was thinking about this when I spoke to @tonymillion (developer of Rivr) about solving these needs for his app. Now Rivr and other apps such as Dash and Robin on Android and other iOS apps are using it. It also makes sense to collaborate, rather than compete and it’s very rewarding to see other people use other developer’s apps which are using my service too. I’ve built a few things on top of the BLIMS API for App.net users too. Deskface.com and a Chrome Extension called BLIMSHOT which I’m about to get to the WebStore.

App.net’s recent File API has obviously caused me to rethink a few things, but in a good way. I’d much rather the file uploads went on after processing to be hosted in the users’ paid-for App.net filespace. It solves a lot of potential issues from a legal standpoint too, but it shouldn’t change the great experience you get from browsing through the bli.ms site and connecting with people’s posts on a visual level, rather than always reading things. I’ve found people through it I might not have otherwise connected with. Multimedia rules!

http://bli.ms/3229

What qualities make a great app?

Simplicity and no-brain-required ease of use. It’s very hard to whittle down ideas and plans for an app into its simplest form. Especially if there are core (and unique) features which you need to get in. I struggle with this all the time.

Sometimes I like very simple ‘does one thing’ apps. But I always very much enjoy to use and build ‘swiss army knife’ apps, which perform a multitude of related tasks. As long as the experience is enjoyable and I can tell the developer has put a lot of effort into it, I tend to appreciate that a lot in an app.

Another thing that makes a great app is great testers. With good feedback (and responses!) comes a better app for as many people as possible. It’s great to have so many other pairs of eyes go over things I build and pick up on things I’ve missed. I couldn’t do it without them.

 

What tools are important to you as a developer?

My laptops go with me everywhere. Day and night. I’ve been on Apple for a few years now after very many years on Windows and find that I’ve saved literally hours not having to keep cleaning out malware and trojans etc. since making the switch. It was also a requirement for developing for iOS devices. It’s incredible to think that what I used to have to use a honking great desktop machine for, I can now do on an 11 inch MacBook Air. And then some.

I write most code in a basic text editor, so that and Photoshop are my main tools. I’ve never been a fan of IDEs. I’ve recently started using Sublime Text 2 and after a bit of getting used to, I’ve found it to be a great time saver in writing the PHP, JavaScript and Python I’ve been needing to do my work and get things done faster. I’m very much at /home (see what I did there?) on the command line to various Linux boxes I have to set up and keep running.

I’ve also been using Titanium by Appcelerator to build iOS and Android apps since their early days, so I’ve seen their tools and SDK evolve over the years into a hugely powerful system which enabled and empowered me to use my existing JavaScript skills to build native apps on both platforms. It’s also taught me a great deal about the underlying Objective-C and Java too, as I need to build and extend their SDK with modules to do specific things, like record audio etc.

bli.msWhy did you decide to build something on App.net?

I can’t resist a good API. I instantly knew that what was available here was exactly what I needed from the standpoint of someone who has been building social networks for many years, and on them too.

Also, the fact that I paid for it. I’m a customer, not a product. That’s very important to me. In fact, I’d been talking along these lines to people (including my mother!) around the time @dalton did his blog post about the idea to start with. We’re on the same page. There’s also the fact that when the doors opened here, there were no apps at all and a user base hungry for them, so they could use this new network on the move. There’s a market. It’s also just damn good fun.

The experience back when the API opened here, with all the developers on the network was absolutely fantastic as the new features rolled out. It was great to be a part of the start of something which I felt had great potential and feel even more so now.

 

What got you started writing code?

I had a Sinclair ZX-81 when I was about 10 years old (which I still have in working order!) which got me interested in the whole logic going on. I have a very logical mind and I really enjoy solving puzzles, so it struck a chord with me. I love to learn new things. Also my father has a very technical background, so in many ways, I’m a silicon chip off the old block. ;)

 

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Yes. Please give up coding and go get a different job in Starbucks or something and stop eating my lunch!! :)

Only joking, of course. The best advice is to never give up. Use Google. You’ll always find that someone has had the same problem as you somewhere and has had the question answered. To begin with, you might be intimidated by the way experienced developers talk online, with their vast knowledge of things you don’t yet understand, but you will more often than not find that most of them are the nicest and smartest people you’ll ever meet who are more than willing to help you solve an issue and get you on your way.

The main thing to remember is we’ve all been through it. We all had to start somewhere.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

 

When you’re not coding you’re…

If I’m not out watching live music, I’m usually always thinking about apps and code and ideas for apps. I’m cursed as an ‘ideas person’, always coming up with something. Day and night. I never stop. I also like a good Guinness. :)

I love brainstorming and bouncing ideas back and forth in my spare time (if there is such a thing), so for the past couple of months I’ve been collaborating and brainstorming with a great user I met on App.net called @michelelewis who isn’t a developer, but she totally ‘gets it’ when it comes to knowing what’s needed and what might be a good idea or not for the things we want built for all the growing amount of users out there. We make a great team. It’s lots of fun.

Being a lone codeslinger can be great most of the time, and it can be great working with other developers. It’s also great to be working with someone who isn’t a dev to get feedback about the big picture and the experience rather than the technical intricacies. @michelelewis is very much a part of the core BLIMS-powered team/engine/’empire’ (lol) now, helping me keep my ducks in a row and in order when it comes to the products I’m building and creating great fun things for the future, while creating order from the chaos in my app-riddled mind. It’s made me more productive and efficient.

 

Seven Questions for Developers: @scruffyfox

This is the latest in our weekly series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

Our next developer is @scruffyfox, Callum Taylor, a 20-year-old, lead Android developer working for 3 SIDED CUBE in Bournemouth, in the south of England. He’s been working there for the past two years, and, before that, one year as a PHP web developer.

@scruffyfox studied computer science for one year in 6th form and completed a BTEC national diploma for IT Practitioners in college with full distinction. He never went to university.

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 11.10.19 AMTell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

Robin is, or will be, one of the top Android clients for app.net. It’s just been released on January 1st and is available to download at http://rbn.im/store. We hope to become the best Android client for ADN and be a comparable app to the tens of iPhone apps already made on iOS. We’re kinda fed up of people slagging off Android and saying that there’s no decent apps on there, and we aim to change that.

What qualities make a great app?

The UX plays a vital part, we’re trying crazy new UX patterns in our app, in the hopes that users will find it more intuitive to use and easier to navigate whilst having lots of ways to customise and provide the user with every bit of detail.

So far, it’s working out pretty well. We’re using a new UX library for sliding out drawers with icon options which don’t take up as much space as other apps do. We’re using a lot of ‘long press’ options for things and my own UX I’ve created is the ‘hinted view’ which essentially tells you what the button does when you long press. Simple but useful UX can be found on my gist.

 

What tools are important to you as a developer?

Crash reporting. It’s very hard to develop for Android because you have to cater for so many different devices, and each device behaves slightly differently. We have a lot of error catching and crash reporting that gets logged to our server every time a user has a crash so we know where it happened, who it happened to, and what caused it so we can work on a fix right away.

 

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 11.09.54 AMWhy did you decide to build something on App.net?

Well, when I signed up to ADN, I was torn whether or not to make one but this post by Romain changed it all. That and I needed a new project to work on that would allow me to explore new design patterns, new APIs, and a new community. So far it’s been great. All the guys currently using the app are very supportive with each build (even if they are extremely buggy) and that helps us continue writing the app.

 

What got you started writing code?

I got interested in how computer systems interacted with different file types about seven years ago and began exploring what they did. From there I started learning about DOS and batch scripts. After that I started getting into web, learning PHP, HTML, and hacking together mods for PHPBB forums. I then discovered Runescape (yep, I was only 13 mind you) private servers and decided to learn Java to mod a private server. You can see a list of the stuff I’ve made/worked on over at my portfolio.

 

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Never stop looking for an answer to a problem. I guarantee you someone out there HAS had the same problem and has posted a fix. I sometimes spend hours looking for a fix for certain bugs and have always either found the solution or found a work-around for it. Never rely too much on asking people for help. I find it more beneficial to find the answer myself. The best tool you have is right in front of you.

 

When you’re not coding you’re…

I never stop coding. Sometimes I play Borderlands.

 

Seven Questions for Developers: @billkunz

This is the latest in our weekly series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

Our next developer is @billkunz, an indie iOS and Mac developer, based in Mountain View, California, who makes Felix. “Most of my work has been for clients, like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED],” he wrote, “But I like to make software on my own when I’m not consulting.” @billkunz started writing software for iOS in 2008. Before striking it out on his own in 2006, he was a senior front-end engineer at Netflix for about nine years. All told, @billkunz has been writing software professionally for about sixteen years, with some dabbling before that. His company’s web site is http://tigerbears.com.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 5.07.10 PMTell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

I make Felix, an iPhone client for App.net. I’ve worked on social networking software before, but never a Twitter client. When I saw @dalton‘s first posts about ADN, the ideals behind it struck a chord in me and I signed up immediately. After taking a look at the actual API and seeing the philosophies behind it, it was clear ADN is intended and poised to be something very special. I started work on Felix a day or so after my account was activated in August. (It’s not named after either of my cats.)

Generally speaking, my goal is to create an app that highlights and enables the connections people have with each other. Right now, that’s usually expressed by the conversations we have, but over time it’s not limited to that. It’s also important to me to have the app evolve along with ADN. How people interact with each other here is a bit different than on other networks, and as this culture changes and grows, Felix will do the same.

Both ADN and Felix started off behaving and feeling somewhat Twittery in terms of visible feature sets, despite having more complex underpinnings. (It’s often most efficient to start with a known target, and a few months is actually a blink of an eye despite the “instant killer software” Valley creation myths.) However, both are shedding that early scaffolding quickly. You can see some hints at the shape of things to come in ADN’s sweet new messaging API and Felix 1.3, respectively, for example.

Where that ends up is anyone’s guess. I have a general roadmap for where I want to take it, which is pretty different from how it works today, and I lay out more foundations for that with each release. In practice, though, it’s shaped heavily by our community’s shared culture.

 

What qualities make a great app?

Great software gets out of people’s way while enabling them to do what they want. Most people don’t use an app to, well, use an app. They’re trying to achieve a goal or have some purpose served. Good apps find that primary purpose, serving it well and with focus.

They eliminate cruft and distractions when possible, but include enough little flourishes to bring a smile. The phrase “childlike delight” is both a cliché and an overstatement, but good software is designed for at least some level of enjoyment because it connects people with what they want.

Getting to that point can take years of iteration, polish, research and insight. Creating something that feels simple and also powerful is actually a remarkably difficult task. It’s a process, and one would be hard-pressed to find an example of it ever being truly “completed.” Recognizing that (even taking advantage of it) is key.

 

What tools are important to you as a developer?

In terms of software, I live in Xcode, Instruments, Photoshop, Sketch, Opacity, Tower, Rested and Things. xScope from Iconfactory is immensely useful as well. Billings when I’m on a gig. Coda 2 and Core Data Editor for other stuff. Kaleidoscope. Shameless plug: I wrote and used Objectify, a Mac app that generates Objective-C code to model the data in a chunk of JSON. I shaved off a bunch of early development time for Felix using it, which was a nice change of pace from being its developer. :)

Hardware-wise, I love my Retina MacBook Pro. I can’t imagine going back to another display, especially for this kind of work. My Cinema Display’s idle. I have a large suite of iOS test devices that have been key tools over the years; I lost count after a dozen. I keep a decent 10x loupe handy as well.

I’m fortunate to have an awesome team of beta testers (¡hola, amigos!) that keep me sane and in check, all while catching a bunch of my mistakes, bad assumptions and oversights. Plus, they’re all cool and smart people, so it’s fun. (Sorry, I can’t add any more people right now.)

Solo software development is a true emotional roller coaster, so I couldn’t do this without the love and support of my wife (and our cats!) who helps me celebrate the highs and temper the lows.

 

photo (1)Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

“Because it was there.” The App.net ethos is extremely appealing to me, and I wanted to participate and make a contribution. I had a sense of where it could go and believed the team would expand the platform rapidly, which was exciting. Fortunately, that belief was well-placed, as the API and infrastructure have evolved remarkably quickly in a very cool direction.

My style of development (when working solo, that is) is heavy on iteration and evolution with a fairly fluid roadmap. I guess it comes from all that time working with aggressive schedules in the web world, for better or for worse. Working with a rapidly-changing API felt like a perfect fit and, well, it just sounded like fun and a great challenge.

 

What got you started writing code?

LOGO on a PET, BASIC on an Apple II and fiddling around on an original IBM PC. I tried learning Pascal and C around 1990, but it didn’t stick despite my love of math and logic puzzles. (Maybe I shouldn’t have kept getting myself “grounded” from the family computer in high school, but it worked out.) My grandfather used to say there have been builders in my family for 800 years (he was a farmer and mechanical engineer, and my father’s an OG hardware / EE guy, still in the business) so the die was pretty much already cast.

I majored in political science intending to be campaign staff or an analyst, but the Internet opened up and I was drawn back into this space with that shiny new “HTML” thing, then a little Perl and Javascript. I spent a little time after graduation on the IT side of things but went into professional web development as fast as I could.

I just like making stuff people enjoy. :)

 

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Time spent on language and style holy wars is better spent on honing your craft. Change what you work on from time to time. Sweat the details. Learn how and when to say no. Premature optimization is the devil. Beware of habits you build up when interacting with your app – we train ourselves quickly, and that hides bugs. Experiment. Welcome constructive criticism but don’t sweat the critics too much – there’s a difference. That ultra-clever bit of code you just wrote will be a lot harder to debug in six months at 3am.

Ask questions, but after listening and doing some research. Learn when to take a break and let your subconscious take a crack at a problem. Don’t blink. Find opportunities to experience the long-term software development life cycle – there are powerful lessons and instincts to develop in the maintenance, obsolescence and replacement phases that are missed by just hopping from one new thing to another.

Watch your posture and maintain a work-life balance. #doasisaynotasido

 

When you’re not coding you’re…

Chilling out with my wife, playing fetch with one cat and playing “bird” with the other. Going to A’s games with friends and watching the Raiders do, well, not much this year. Avoiding any mention of said Raiders games around my Broncos-loving wife. I’m looking forward to some injuries healing up so I can get back to the track with my motorcycles. Occasional trips to the range to rain hellish vengeance on my mortal enemy: sheets of paper.

I want to try this “sleep” thing people keep talking about, but heard it’s overrated. And probably monetized by Facebook.

 

Seven Questions with Developers: @natesm

This is the latest in our weekly series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

Our next Developer is @natesm, who made Wedge and lives in Brooklyn, New York. By day he’s one of the six people that are currently behind SvpplySvpply for iOS, and Want.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 1.48.27 PMTell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

In general, I knew that I wouldn’t use a stream-style service without a desktop app, so I created Wedge. iPhone apps are great for killing time while waiting for something, but I’d rather use a large screen and a real keyboard. I don’t like using a website for services like App.net because I feel that native applications can provide a better and more focused experience.

I also like writing for the desktop because I can push out releases whenever I’d like. For example, I released an update supporting the unified stream API about half an hour after it was released. You can’t do that on iOS.

What qualities make a great app?

A lot of it depends on the platform and the purpose of the app. An iOS app gets to own the device entirely, and because of that, you get a lot of flexibility in the way that you style your app.

When you’re making an app that needs to live in a space alongside others, I don’t think that you can have the same kind of flexibility. I’d love for Wedge to look more like the work I’ve done on iOS apps, but it would stick out on the desktop. Since Tweetie, the icon-based side tabs have become a de facto Mac desktop standard for apps of this type, so I went with those. I think that there’s a balance between building an identity while not feeling like a context shift for the user.

What tools are important to you as a developer?

I spend most of my development time inside Xcode, and if you’ve seen the “Texts from Xcode” Tumblr, it pretty accurately describes my experience.

Hardware-wise, I use a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro, and an Apple keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and an external display when I’m at a desk. I have a Dell Ultrasharp at home and a Cinema Display at work.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 1.46.20 PMWhy did you decide to build something on App.net?

Initially, I planned to write Wedge in a weekend. That didn’t exactly happen, but it came out eventually. I started writing against the documentation on Github before my account had been approved, and most things actually worked when I first tried them. I think that speaks to the quality of both the API design and the documentation, and both make developing for App.net really enjoyable.

What got you started writing code? 

I started writing code on a TI-83 in middle school. From there, I worked on PC games in high school, and started building desktop and mobile applications after high school.

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

I think that it’s important to make things outside of your classes – most of the things that I knew when I graduated from college were learned building things with my roommates in our apartment.

When you’re not coding you’re…

I go to a lot of shows and ride my bike around the city.