April 20, 2011

A commenter on Horne’s bio post said, “This is normally the type of article I skip over…but I’m glad I read this one!” Personally, I usually skip over *writing* this type of article! In all the times I’ve been asked me to write about myself I never could find what to say. Horne set the bar pretty high with his piece and since he already covered most of the good material I guess you’re going to have to read me droning on about banalities (or skip it as the commenter does). :-D  At least I get the drop on him with one more picture of the two of us.

DCP 6218

When our little “3 month” development project went into month 6
both of us felt like doing this at least once (drinking AND shooting!).

I’ve been programming since I was 6 and shooting nearly as long.  Unlike Horne who’s never even seen film, I cut my teeth on a Canon Pellix with a 50mm ƒ/1.2.  That camera had a built-in meter that measured anywhere between 1.8% and 81% grey depending on what day it was.  All of the controls were manual including focus.  Naturally, I progressed very slowly with only my allowance to pay for developing but it did give me a firm foundation from which to grow.  When I got my first real digital camera, a Canon Digital Rebel (300D, the first one) it was like someone hit the nitrous button.  The instant feedback loop between settings & results accelerated my skill a good 10 years compared to film.  To this day, except for quick snapshots of the kids, you’ll find me in M or at least Av/Tv far more often than P and I love every minute of it.

I went to DeVry University straight out of high school and knocked out my BS in BS (er..I mean Business / Computer Science) in a little over 3 years while working full-time. From there I’ve worked a variety of consultant and/or contractor gigs until landing at a large beverage company for the last decade.  The company is a great place to work but internal IT doesn’t hold the same shine that it once did.  I started dabbling in writing apps on the side just to keep my skills sharp and quell the restless creative spirit. I found I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do more.  It just fills a deep need I feel to create cool stuff.

Photosmith isn’t the first time I’ve tried to create a product, but it’s definitely the furthest I’ve gotten. During college my brother and I worked for years building a data collection system called BoatTrack for remote control (RC) boats.  It was first based on a the Basic Stamp, then on Microchip PICs, and then Atmel AVRs… communications were first radio-based, then a serial cable, then IrDA…. Clearly scope control was a lesson I needed to learn from that!

That’s why when beta testers and commenters here ask for new features or little fixes my default answer is no.  It’s hard to do, especially since we really want to build the best app possible, but a shipping app that can grow beats a theoretical one every time.  Today there are over a dozen systems like BoatTrack on the market and none of them have yet have matched all the features we already had working.  But guess what, you can buy their product; BoatTrack is still sitting in a box in my closet collecting dust.

Speaking of personal projects, Horne and I have worked together on an untold number of our own crazy ideas and a variety of paying contracts too so we pretty much knew how the work would divide out. He went straight to back-end taking care of the sync processes and the data structures (little tidbit: he had to essentially write sync about 5 different times to cover all of the various places that metadata gets exchanged with different services).  I started mocking up the UI based on our concept sketches at the time.  I’m no graphics artist but I can stumble around in Photoshop and OmniGraffle well enough for mockups. In what is a laughable moment now, we argued about who was going to get done first (sync or UI) and have to help the other one out…  –Horne finished sync in about a week and the data objects layer about a week later– we spent the next 5.5 months building and refining the UI and interactions.

I spent a month implementing our first concept which was based heavily on Apple’s photos app. The thinking was that it would be familiar to users and we could just “add in” the missing tagging & sync functionality.  This turned out to be a fundamental mistake, a good design doesn’t happen by just bolting crap all over. In fact, the first comment we got when demoing it was, “it makes me want to vomit.”  The next 2 months were spent in redesign and the final 3 implementing features and fixing glaring mistakes that our beta testers found (three cheers for them!).

Those last two months were really rough with 60+ hour weeks on Photosmith on top of the day job so I have to commend my wife, Tiffany, for basically becoming a single parent so that I could keep working on the app.  She picked up my slack and kept the house and kids humming along happily.  Speaking of happy, what would a bio post by a proud papa be without cute kid pics?

Abigail, 4yrs Daniel, 11 months
Abigail, 4 years Daniel, 11 months

Once we get through this launch I hope to get a little time back for my other hobbies:

  • Photography – who knew writing a photography app basically meant you have to give it up?
  • Hiking/Camping – Abigail is a great hiker (she did a 5 mile trail at 4 years old) and has been asking to go camping, how can Dad refuse?
  • RC Helicopters – I finally got around yesterday to ordering the $5 part I need to finish building my first collective pitch bird after it has sat on the shelf for over a year!
  • Skiing – ok, so we did manage to get a trip in this year and it was oh so sweet relief from the grind.


So if you’ve read this far you either have an amazing threshold for pain or you are really interested in Photosmith.  If you just skipped to the end,  you should be really interested in Photosmith ;-) .  It should be available on the App Store “any day now”™ and if early reports from testers and press reviewers are any indication, you won’t be disappointed!

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