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I know I’ve been somewhat bad at updating the blog, but i’ve been horribly busy… Let me give you a rundown on whats been up.

First of all, in collaboration with Richard Burgess and Stewart Graham we’ve completed SixApp, which is now in approval with the appstore. It came back last friday, as rejected, because I had used some of the same words in the title and the keywords, which is a no-no for appstore approval. I would have loved to know though, if there was anything else wrong with it… So fingers crossed that it will make it though this time! The idea is that you can use it to add six pack abs to images, which could be a really nice little app to have in the summer season 🙂 The pictures can then be shared on facebook, showing of you gym efforts, or lack of same.

The next project I have going on with Richard is also being submitted in the next few weeks. It’s a speed reading trainer for the iPad. I’m dyslexic myself, and not a very good, albeit avid, reader, so I figured some reading aids for the iPad would be a brilliant thing to have. It’s pretty simple, but seems to be very efficient. You set your desired reading speed, and the app will highlight the word/words you need to fixate on at a given time, while dimming the rest of the page. Simple, but REALLY effective. I’ve seen apps like it on pc, mac and even iphone, but none of those devices lend themselves to reading like the iPad does. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this project, and any suggestions and ideas are more than welcomed.

Moreover, I have another fun little ipad/iphone thing coming out soon. It’s for geeks like me doing visual effects for films etc. It lets you add what we call tracking markers, to the screen, so you can easily replace the display on the device if needed. Moreover, it provides you with a so called distortion grid, that you can take a picture of, and then calibrate the lens of your camera, to make it easier to add computer graphics elements to a shot in post production… geeky, oh yes, but still kind of fun.

I’ll post more on the web app soon, but i think it will be useful too !

Sooo Airtype has been out for some 10 days or so, and no, I’m still not running out to buy a new car =) I have found though, that tracking app sales in appfigures and appAnnie, is much more addictive than checking your facebook or email has ever been! It’s insane. And I’ve learned a few things, though I am not sure how exact this is… I tried to keep an eye on the different countries sales compared to their ranks, and one thing i found interesting was how wildly different the results are per country. An example:

Airtype was #4 in the photography category in Denmark for about 12 hours. This gave me somewhere around 20 sales.

Airtype was then, a few days later, for a brief two hours somewhere between #185-195 on the US photography list, giving me the same 20 sales….

For the days where Airtype has been hovering between #100 and #200 in Denmark, I’ve sold 2-4 downloads for a full day. Would a full day at around #190 in the US appstore really have gotten me 240 sales? Is the ratio between a placement in the US and DK appstores really almost a factor of 100?  To be honest, I think so! Now, I dont have the number of iphones in each country, but some quick math tells me that there are almost 60 times as many people in the US as in Denmark, so maybe there is a somewhat direct translation?

If I’m correct with my assumptions here, being #4 for 12 hours in the US appstore, that would have meant some serious sales.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the two reviews i received, one good (appshouter) and one not as kind (theiphoneappreview). Both of them did bump up the sales for a little while after the reviews were posted.

Airtype was also put up as new and noteworthy in the Danish Appstore, though that didnt seem to matter much for the sales. Again, having that status in the US appstore would probably have had a greater impact. Until now there’s been just over 200 downloads in total.

So, while still developing new ideas and apps, i’ll try to make some more sense of the numbers and try to keep you guys informed, to the extent that i’m allowed and such. If anyone has some input, please do share!

Ok, it’s been a while! I’ve been sooo busy, so I haven’t had time to sit down and write some updates.  A lot of things have happened since last though, but I will try to keep it brief…

We heard the baby’s heartbeat! My friend Peter had a device to listen to the babys heart. You place it on the belly and move it around until you find the heartbeat, which is an amazing 150 bpm, supposedly what it’s supposed to be. It was wild! These things that remind you that there is an actual little person in there just blows me away. Exciting times coming! I really should start to read all the baby books, it just seems so distant at times, and then every once in a while, you are hit by reality. I suppose this is somewhat normal, though the whole setup seems epic when you’re in it!

A few weeks ago, just after my last post (bar the Amazon one), we went to New York for the week. I love that city! For the first time, we actually did the bus tours, which was a mixed success. The first guide we had was great, he was happy and fun… the next ones were either angry, drunk, or had an accent too thick to understand. Dont get me wrong, I love the mix of cultures and all that, but it’s really annoying being on a tour where you have no clue what the guide is telling you 🙂

Next up, I’ve started looking for an actual, full time, job. My plan is to do my own projects on my own time, but actually have a job and some security in that way. Interesting plan for someone like me, who has never really been into that sort of thinking. I have talked to a couple of places, and it looks like things might be working out, though nothing is set in stone, or on paper, as of yet. I guess this means that if anyone out there needs someone…. 🙂

So being in New York, what is the most important thing to do? Yup, get an iPad. I love it already. I have honestly not found out what its for yet, but I absolutely love it. I downloaded OmniGraffle on it before flying home, and managed to spec out a complete web application on the trip. OmniGraffle is great, but the interface needs some working on in my opinion, as you tend to grab, move and scale the wrong things, on the ipad version. I’m sure they’ll fix that soon enough though.

AirTyper was rejected from the app store, since it crashed on their setup, so hopefully I have fixed that now, and I’ve resubmitted the binary… fingers crossed, again. Unfortunately they completely rejected the free version, since they said it lacked features. The difference is that you cant change the text, so I see their point, but I wouldnt hesitate to argue that there are a lot of free apps with even more limited functionality… mmmm.

On the development side of things, I’ve taken a drastic move. I have hired two teams, or, a person and a team, to work on an iphone app and an ipad app. The iphone one should be done this week and head to the app store for approval, while the ipad app will be a few more weeks. I’ll post details on both really soon. On my own time, I am also working on two web apps, where one compliments the other. The simple one is a ‘sign up for beta’ website builder, which is actually for my own use, but I will make it publicly available as soon as its done. That way, developers can focus on their apps, and not on the sign up part of things.

The other web app, which I have been wanting to do for a long time, is a highly specific cms, that allows people in the media industry, photographers, editors, vfx people, animators, directors and the likes, to very easily build a portfolio website with stills and videos. I found that most of us barely have time to create a showreel, so we really do not have the time to create and maintain our websites. I have all the basics working now, so it’s time to get the design templates in there. It should be in beta in a few weeks, and yes, the sign up for the beta will be using the beta signup web service 🙂 clever, aint it?

Ok, now to get some work done!

Alright, I just need to say how nice the people at amazon are… myself and a friend had an idea to set up a web shop that sold stuff to the visual effects industry… tracking markers, chrome spheres and so on. So we set up an account as sellers on amazon, but we never got around to taking the site online. So, I wrote an email to the people at amazon, to have them shut it down, to save the 60 odd dollars per year it costs, and got no reply… i tried a few times, and this sounds like amazon are really annoying, but… it turns out this was not the right way to cancel the account. So when I finally got through to them, they closed it down AND refunded us for the time since the first email!! Now THAT is customer service!!!

Brilliant!!

AirType in action

Airtype final!

Believe it or not… I finished airType! It now works, with all the settings and screens and what not! All that’s left to do now, is clean up the code, and make a free and a paid version, and submit it to the app store for approval. I’m planning to do this tomorrow, as it’s getting late now (2:30’ish) and I need to get up at 6 to make it to work in time.

The appstore approval process is something i’m semi-looking-forward to experiencing, as I have heard very different stories about the process. I’ll post some updates here on how it’s going.

It has been a very pleasant surprise how straight forward development on the iphone really is. I should probably thank the people at Lynda.com for making that video on how to get started. I’ve been peeking a bit in APress’s Beginning Iphone development as well, which does a good job, though I’m somewhat dyslexic, so i prefer the videos to be honest.

Ok, short post, need sleep =) Let the hype begin!

Picture of AirTyper in action!

AirTyper's first public appearance!

WOW! The other day we went for a scan… and wowsers, there was a beating heart in there. It was crazy to see… a little person, slightly resembling Cooper, my dog, in is “on the back, curled up sleeping position”, but still a tiny person with a big head! It might seem trivial, but it stopped my own heart dead for a few seconds I think. Amazing stuff… Of course the lady had to tell us that she didn’t have the equipment to actually hear the heart beat, which none of us were even remotely aware was possible… but now we want it!

On the iphone side of things, Airtyper is now working! You can see the first picture of it here. The idea is to let you type in the air, at say a concert, when hailing a cab, when trying to communicate something etc. It uses the accelerometer to determine what to show on the screen, as you wave your phone… I’m quite proud.

The next step is to make the interface nicer, create an icon and a splash screen, and clean up a few things in the code, and then off to the appstore for review. I’m hoping to send it off on monday or tuesday of this coming week, and then it’s time to cross everything cross-able that it goes through quickly and without too many problems.

I was really pleasantly surprised at how simple iphone development can seem when watching the lynda tutorials, though there were a few things that i had to look up in the documentation in order to get it working, but I am certain that that is unavoidable. So kudos to the people there for making an excellent product!

But it does have advantages… The other night I didn’t finish working till 4:30AM, and started again at 8:30… sigh, what a life. I was doing some semi-complex excel spreadsheets, and was actually surprised at the somewhat cool stuff you can do. Now, that’s geeky, i must confess, but it took a lot less time than writing something that would parse the data in Ruby on Rails…Now, the advantage of this, was that it gave me some time last night and tonight, to start looking more into iphone development.

First of all, I’m now able to compile and test on the phone, not just the simulator. Apparently something was broken after running a ‘clean up application’, as I wrote earlier, and reinstalling everything helped. I’m also now half way through the Lynda.com tutorial video set, which is proving to be really good. Actually good enough that i managed to put together a prototype of my new first app, in about 90 minutes! I’ll post some images soon.

Now, this realization that I might actually soon have a product to sell in the App Store made me think about how to create a viral buzz more seriously…. Though I haven’t completely figured it out yet… I’m not sure many people have, so I’m not too sad about it, though it would be a tremendous advantage to have!

On the personal front, we’ve been looking at flats, and I think we might have found the one! Now to talk to the bank and make an offer and see if they bite!! cross you fingers.

I’ve set up a fan page on facebook as well… ‘Fan’ might be a strong word, but please do join and spread the word! it’s right here!

Ok, so I should probably try to stick to my plans drafted in the previous post. So I’ve been watching the first five chapters of the Lynda.com video tutorial on iphone development, and up until this point, it all seems quite reasonable, as soon as you get past the oddities of Objective-C, which I suspect might take a little while. So When I felt ready to go, and see what I could do, I tried to compile some code to my iphone, and that’s when everything started to get really annoying. I spent a few hours trying to get the provisioning certificates working, but to no avail. My conclusion at the end if it was that, running mackeeper or whatever it’s called and ‘clean my mac’, applications that supposedly makes your mac faster and leaner, had deleted some parts of the keychain application, so they just didnt install correctly. Finally, about an hour ago, I came to the conclusion that now is the time to reinstall my macbook pro. I hate this part! While writing this, my home directory is copying to an external lacie drive, and I just have to cross my fingers that everything will survive.

I think I’ve managed to narrow down the ideas for projects I’m creating, so right now it’s two iphone apps, and possibly a game a little later… which is so stupid I cant even tell you about it yet… but the stupidity might be what makes it brilliant. And moreover, theres a web app i need to finish, as I need it for myself as well. Thats usually a good motivator.

How embarrassing… it’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting here, reinstalling my mac and the sdk, while drawing specs for a few products (for work, not my own), when I really should be out and about. Guess there’ll be plenty of time for that later.

Ok, so all this talk of bootstrapping and such, and nothing to show… Well, a lot of things happened recently. First of all, but not the most important, i’ve been completely drowned in work. You know, the work one does to keep afloat and pay the bills. One of the things I’m doing currently is working as a consultant, helping to move a few thousand employees at a newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, from MS exchange to the google platform. My role is primarily developing tools to analyze the nightly logs from the migrations, to make sure everything is ok, and then doing support as well. Plenty to do.

But of much greater importance, I have recently found out that I am going to be a dad!!! How wicked is that! After recovering from the chock of realizing that I’ll be responsible for another human being (I thought it was hard enough when we got Cooper, our dog), I have really taken a joy to this new soon-to-be addition to our little family. The situation has spawned a need for me to get things in order though. We need to find a place to live that has room, and I’m quite sure the car needs to be changed as well… apparently kids and their, lets call the accessories, take up a lot of space! So what to do…. Well, I’ll keep working hard, as I tend to do, but I realized there might be some sense in looking around to see if there is another way to supplement the income stream (stream being a big word), to let us find a place and a car etc before the cataclysmic event of family life hits us. And if I in any way can let this attempt be geeky, so much the better, as that is what I am!

Enter stage right, iphone and web development… I’ve had a few ideas in my head for some time now, and like other people, i purchased the books and browsed the tutorials, on iphone development. Now it’s time to actually do something about it. So I have these two iphone apps that i need to create, i’ll get into detail about them later…. Also, I have some tools in my head, for assisting in google apps deployment, that i need to get done and try to sell, if possible.

Step one will have to be learning to code on the iphone. I’ve planned to go through the lynda.com video tutorials, and see if they will be enough to get me started, as both apps are simple enough that i have a feeling the knowledge from these tutorials will be plentiful to get rolling. And to make life easier for people like myself, I plan to document the process here. Keep in mind though, that I work 12-16 hours a day, so it probably wont be a speedy process, though my plan is to have at least one of the apps ready for submission in about a month from now… so end of may… yikes.

My guess is that the process will include everything from learning, developing and testing, to by possibly feeble attempts to market the apps, as well as potentially furthering the business side of it, if people do decide to start using the apps.

The things i need to learn and do, to get the development part done, as i see them are:

  • basic iphone dev
  • get my macbook pro to feel somewhat like it doesn’t want to die, possibly by means of reinstalling
  • figure out the accellerometer part of the iphone
  • figure out how to send sms text messages on the iphone (through an app, i know how to send a text!!)
  • figure out how to do wicked cool viral marketing…

Sounds like a plan? I do beleive it does! And now… off to a meeting! how will i find time… 🙂

So, is bootstrapping the new ‘Under Construction’ ? At times it does feel like it. I seem to hear a lot of talk about upstarts almost being done, and then nothing really coming out of it. It would be a natural development I guess, as building a web app now is not much harder than building a nice and complete site was ten years back. So how do we avoid this perpetual state of under construction, when bootstrapping?

There’s no doubt that one of the best motivators for getting something completed, once you’re over the infatuation period of development, is that someone is counting on you to complete it. This could be investors or VC’s, but then we’re moving away from bootstrapping.

What i’ve noticed is much like it was when i spent all my time doing visual effects for films and commercials: It’s not all that hard to get to a stage of your product where it’s 90% completed, but then comes the art of finishing. This is where you spent 90% of the time, doing the last 10% of your work, which can be tedious and not very creative. In software, I guess it’s where you do testing, finish up the design, make sure your users are signing up in a nice way, checking security, and refactoring code, as well as implementing payment etc.

New services are beginning to arrive, to make at least some of those elements easier. These are services like Chargify.com and Cheddargetter.com, which make payment of recurring billing much easier. Ofcourse we have a problem here in Denmark, that none of these services are supported yet, though the guys at chargify has assured me that it’s coming, and i am looking very much forward to this!

Currently I’m putting everything I’ve got into KPImon, a tool that, other than sound like the name of a pokemon character, helps businesses report, measure and make sense out of their Key Performance Indicators, in an easy way. Having experienced how getting people to report sales figures, support calls, expenses etc can be very tricky indeed, especially if it is for more than a short period of time, I am really excited about this. Basically, indicators are assigned to users, who in turn get a login to a website where they report their numbers in a designated field. The process takes all of 20 seconds or so to do, which hopefully will mean that it is not an inconvenience, and therefore is something that will actually be done. The results are presented as tables and graphs, giving the business an easy way to monitor what is going on.

In the process of building this app, I have completely rebuild it three times now, and gone through 5 different designs. The scope creeps and moves, as we continually find new uses, and get feedback, which is really scary, especially for someone like me, who likes the 37 signals way, of not allowing everyone to keep changing everything. So why do we keep adding more? Well, the more time we spend with the tool, the more useful it gets, and the more we want to make it rock. Which I guess in theory, is a good thing… But how does that work in practice?

Back to the topic of bootstrapping, thats what we’re doing with this project, and I have to admit, it’s scary. For the first month or two, everything is just dandy… then comes the time where you would love to see some revenue, but you’re still developing, and if you’re like me, you havent really put that much into your savings account over the years… The scary thing is, if you decide to release what you have, you still need to get people to sign up, let them try their grace period, and then start paying… which means that for the first signups, you’re still a few months away from seeing any kind of revenue.

What I’m getting at is, how do people survive doing full time bootstrapping? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer yet, but hopefully i’ll know more during the next weeks/months…

If anyone wants to sign up for the beta of kpimon, please do not hesitate to contact me, on peterhartwig(_at_)mac.com… We’re eager to hear opinions on our work! Now, time to sleep… I cant even make sense of my own writing right now…