It took me quite a long time to find a title for this blog. My first title was “Why I created a Hanselman like app”. My next title was “My Hanselman-ish app”, then “My first Windows Phone App”. Ultimately, this blog is about my app, Scott’s app, and app development in general.
Some may know that two days ago (2/2/2012) my first Windows Phone App was published. If you follow Scott Hanselman, it’s obvious I was inspired by him. Last night (2/3/2012) I posted a tweet that the app had been published the day before. I made a point to mention Scott in this tweet because I wanted him to know that he inspired me to get my butt into gear with app development.
How my app came to life
On Sunday (1/29/2012) I saw a tweet that Scott had his first app published. I took a look at it and thought “What a cool idea, how can I make it better?” So that night I stayed up until 3am writing something as easy to use, but had more to offer. When I was done, it was almost ready for the Market Place. The only thing missing was an icon. I thought his icon was great, but had lost it’s meaning in recent times, so Monday morning I asked a friend to design one that was like a flyer you would put on a power pole. That night (1/30/2012) I submitted my app. If you are familiar with the Market Place, you know that it takes quite a few days to get an app published. My app was submitted on the 30th of January, published on the 2nd of February. I showed my app around to some coworkers and they all thought that it added a lot over what they had seen of Scott’s. Wednesday morning I showed my app to a co-worker and he said “Oh cool, you used a missing flyer like Hanselman mentioned.” My reply was “HUH? No he used a milk carton.” “Oh, he mentioned in his blog that not everyone understands the milk carton.” “…oh…” Keep in mind that Scott pushed the original version of that blog the same day I submitted my app.
If I had done a straight copy of Scott’s app I would even call myself a crook. I liked how simple it was, but I did not like that it didn’t offer more Windows Phone functionality. There were many things that I knew I could improve upon. So that’s what I set out to do that fine Sunday night. On the surface these two apps look very similar. But it’s what’s underneath that separates any two apps. By Monday morning my app had seven extra pieces of functionality (eight if you include text based input scope) on the edit page alone. Integration with the Picture Hub and other features were included as well to add more value.
I began working on v1.1 before 1.0 was even published. I submitted 1.1 on Feb 2nd, the same day that 1.0 was published. I hated the way you removed lines of text. While I followed one standard Windows Phone feature (hold to open delete context menu) it is very choppy on textboxes. I replaced that with the email like selection/deletion that the MultiselectList that the Toolkit gives you. I also added the ability to manipulate the image thanks to a post from Morten Nielson. This is something I know that Scott is currently implementing.
I have been on again/off again with three separate app ideas for six months now. Pushing this app up, and doing it fast motivated me to get my app license and start doing those apps. When you don’t have the license you can easily find an excuse to not do development. But with the license, you now have the power to put apps up. The fact that you only have a year gets you even more motivated. My wife even commented that she was widowed to the app from the start to the end of v1.1.
I figured there would be some people saying “you stole his idea”. The truth is, there are very few “original” ideas in app development these days. Even Lost Phone Screen was not original. It’s about what can your app offer over the other. Do people get angry when someone creates a new Twitter or foursquare app? No. People wonder “What can that app offer that this other app cannot.” Devs ask themselves “what does this app offer that mine does not, can I make it better?” The anger ensued not because the apps were similar, but because it’s Scott Hanselman. This is a guy who many devs have a man-crush on. I consider myself amongst those (just look at my “About the author” section). Scott is a man who I, you, we all admire and like.
What Lost Phone Screendoes not do, Missing Phonedoes do. As one twerson (what’s singular for tweeple?) said “Competition is healthy for business.” Competition makes apps better. You get to have your favorite Twitter, foursquare, and cocktail app because competition makes it the best. To be honest, I wanted to go head-to-head with the great Scott Hanselman. Not many people can say that they “one-up’ed” Scott. But competing with someone who has almost 50k Twitter followers, and who knows how many blog readers, is going to be hard. I know that Scott is working hard to get functionality into his app that mine already has. And that’s the point. To spur each other on, to do more, to make it better. One day I hope that I can see Scott in a conference, walk up, shake his hand, and say “I’m Shawn, I’m the one who ‘stole’ your app”, then go and have a beer and chat.