SilverPine Software and Photos+

“Leap and the net will appear.”

-John Burroghs

Growing up, my father was a serial entrepreneur. I watched him go from business to business, sometimes with success, but often without. Among my memories of his many businesses are not one, but two Oregon perfume companies (“The Oregon Perfume Company” and “Oregon Scents”). Though I have always been fascinated and frightened of owning my own business, I think I’ve always known that I’ve had it in my blood.

With that as the backdrop, I am thrilled to publicly announce the launch of my company SilverPine Software. Based in beautiful Portland, Oregon, SilverPine is primarily a consulting business focused on helping companies bring their mobile software to life.  It hasn’t been easy getting to this point, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about where we’ll be after a year or two. However, we have worked very hard to bootstrap this business and feel like the time is right to take the wraps off.

In addition to consulting, we intend to slowly grow a portfolio of software. To that end, we are announcing today that we have purchased Photos+ from Second Gear Software. We have quite a bit of expertise with photo Apps (see Sunlit, among others) and when Justin Williams approached me about purchasing it from him, it felt like a great fit. We have big plans for Photos+ and have already put into motion the first phase of those plans: native Dropbox integration! Photos+ 1.1 is live on the App Store now so go check it out. As we roll out the next phases of the Photos+ roadmap, you will be glad that you got in early!

New company, new software, new hopes and fears. In the end though, I’m pretty excited about what’s happening. Stay tuned for more news as the leap towards the net continues!

Free Code!

For Sunlit 1.1 we decided to expand the import capabilities to include both Flickr and Instagram photos. One of my challenges in developing the interfaces was to simplify down the various functions available from Flickr and Instagram’s APIs and to try and provide a somewhat consistent interface across the two services for the app despite their differences. Writing this code was no mean feat for me as I had to implement OAuth not once, but twice because Flickr and Instagram use slightly different variations so I couldn’t simply reuse the code across the two classes.

By the time I was done, I was relatively happy with the interface I had created, and in the spirit of openness and sharing with the community in which I develop, I have decided publish the source for querying and requesting data from both these services in my open source toolbox code. Affectionately named UUFlickr and UUInstagram, the classes are relatively simple to use, and you should be able to get you up and running quickly. The only moderately tricky part is updating your app to handle the URL callback mechanisms required by the OAuth implementations. I had fun developing this code, and hopefully someone will find this useful. If you’re interested in using it in your project but need a little help, feel free to ping me and I’ll see if we can’t figure it out.

Enjoy!

What the Flappy Bird Knows

The strange case of Flappy Bird seems to be all over the Internet right now. If you’re unfamiliar with the app, take a moment to educate yourself. Reading comments from its creator, it’s clear that the developer did nothing to promote his app, and obviously had no idea that the wave of success was coming his way. Anyone with a discerning eye that plays the game will also come away confused because quite bluntly, there’s nothing noteworthy here. Instead, what you see is a bizarre case of mob mentality charging through the App Store, and ultimately, I feel sorry for him. However, what concerns me most about this situation is that it highlights all the things that are wrong with the App Store and the most troubling aspects being that these two things have now become the accepted norm:

  1. The App Store is viewed as developer hostile
  2. Success on the App Store is more or less a lottery ticket.

The App Store is Apple’s ace-in-the-hole advantage in the Smart Phone platform wars and it should do everything it can to protect that advantage. As a case in point, I recently tried carrying a WindowsPhone for a week (more about that in a different post) and I found the device quite pleasing overall, but ultimately I couldn’t get past the lack of essential third party apps. This is Apple’s huge advantage, and as a platform, it is in Apple’s best interests to treat the App Store as a meritocracy where the best of the best rise to the top. Right now, that isn’t happening. I really hope that someone at Apple is paying attention.

Apple’s Next Love

Apple’s next product is going to be a smart band. Not a smart watch; a smart band. The difference is subtle, but significant: a smart watch implies that the device’s input is chiefly on its face and that its primary job is to display information to the wearer. As a long time smart band wearer, I can tell you that a smart band very rarely displays information and is much more important as an information collector, and this is where it gets interesting: Apple’s next product is going to convince you to put a device in direct contact with your skin. If they succeed in convincing you the things that can be done are limited only by the complexity of its sensors: heart rate sensors, respiration sensors, temperature sensors, vasculature visualization, non-invasive glucose monitoring, and more. This also falls in line with some of Apple’s recent hires: Roy J.E.M Raymann, Michael O’Reilly M.D., Nancy Dougherty, Ravi Narashimanetc. This has the potential to radically change healthcare in our world. Apple’s new device could revolutionize how we think about detection and prevention, and if you ask any medical expert they will tell you that prevention and detection is orders of magnitude more important than treatment.

Manton Reece thinks that Apple needs to fall in love with their next product category, and I think he’s right, but I actually think that Apple has fallen in love with its next product which is exactly why it hasn’t launched yet. One of the problems with being in love with something that you’re developing is knowing when to ship 1.0. It needs to be right. It needs to be perfect. I have a feeling, though, that they’re getting close, and when they do finally announce it, we’re going to be amazed.

The Schemes of Sunlit

One of the things that we established early on as a core principle for Sunlit was that we wanted to make sure we were focused on story telling and the sharing of stories and not on things on the periphery. Many times during development, we were tempted to create an über-camera or a whiz-bang photo editor, however the App Store is full of other apps that do these things and do them well. We do include a fairly simple camera in the app as well as some beautiful filters that can be applied, but what we really envisioned was people using either the built in camera app or a great third party app (such as Favd) to take their photos and then create a story with Sunlit using the pictures they had already taken.

To us, the true beauty of Sunlit is how it pulls together the value created from other platforms (App.net, Dropbox, Ohai, etc.) and creates something that combines all those things into something that is somehow more moving than any of them alone. To that end, it was important that we provide a way for Sunlit to fit into this evolving macro-system because we recognize that the best apps and the best user experiences come when things work cohesively. We are always re-evaluating how we can do this best, but I am very happy that Sunlit launched with 1.0 support for a number of URL schemes, including support for the x-callback specification. We also have a number of actions that can be invoked externally to allow other apps to extend support for Sunlit into the activities that they do well. The URL schemes are documented here and are updated as we add support for other actions. If you are interested in adding support for any of these and need assistance, feel free to shoot me a message on ADN (@cheesemaker) or post your question in the Sunlit Glassboard Forum (invite code SUNLIT) or just shoot an email to support@riverfold.com

Now go build something great!

Competitive Disappointment

As we approach the impending Superbowl featuring the Pacific Northwest’s very own Seattle Seahawks, I felt it appropriate to explain why I am not at all excited about anything other than the commercials. You see, if you grew up in the Pacific Northwest and you are a sports fan of any kind, then you are familiar with a pattern of sports teams that excel in the regular season only to fall apart when it matters. I’m sure that somehow this has seeped into my psyche in ways that I don’t recognize. Lest you think I exaggerate, I leave the following for your consideration:

  • 1986 – Portland Trailblazers use #2 draft pick to select Sam Bowie, passing over a rookie Michael Jordan
  • 1989 – Gary Payton and OSU appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the #1 team in the country. They stay in the top 10 all year, but fall to Ball State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (BALL STATE! I don’t even know where Ball State is!!!)
  • 1990 – Portland Trailblazers lose to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA championship.
  • 1992 – Portland Trailblazers lose to the Chicago Bulls in the championship despite being up by 15 in the fourth quarter with Michael Jordan on the bench. (See here)
  • 1994- Seattle Supersonics hold league best regular seaon record with 63-19, but lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets
  • 1996 – Seattle Supersonics set franchise record with 64 wins and advance to the NBA championship series, only to lose to the Chicago Bulls in six games.
  • 2000 – Portland Trailblazers are up by 15 in the fourth quarter in game 7 of the Western Conference finals but fail to score and give the Los Angeles Lakers the series. The Lakers go on to win the championship in 5 games. (See here)
  • 2001 – Seattle Mariners set single season win record with 116 wins, yet fall to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship, 4 games to 1.
  • 2002-2006 – University of Oregon makes five straight bowl games and loses all of them.
  • 2003 – University of Oregon men’s basketball team wins the Pac-10 championship and enter the NCAA tournament with a #8 seed, only to lose in the first round to Utah.
  • 2005 – Seattle Seahawks go 13-3 in the regular season, and appear in Super Bowl XL as heavy favorites. They go on to lose 21-10 to the #6 seed, wildcard Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • 2007 – University of Oregon football team is ranked #2 in the nation, but quarterback Dennis Dixon tears his ACL with only 3 games to go ending hopes of a national championship.
  • 2007 – Amazingly, the Portland Trailblazers repeat their gaffe from 1986 and draft Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant. Oden misses entire first season due to injuries and is eventually waived.

Also for your consideration…

The 10 best athletes to never win a championship in the Pacific Northwest:

  1. Clyde Drexler (After a hall of fame career in Portland, won a championship only after being traded to the Houston Rockets)
  2. Steve Largent (Played 13 seasons for Seahawks, held almost every record a receiver could hold)
  3. Randy Johnson – (Never won with the Mariners in 10 seasons, but won with the Arizona Diamondbacks after being traded.)
  4. Rasheed Wallace (Won championship in Detroit the year after being traded from Portland)
  5. Gary Payton (12 seasons with the Supersonics, won championship after being traded to the Miami Heat)
  6. Scottie Pippin (Won six championships in Chicago, none in Portland despite making the NBA finals in 2000)
  7. Ray Allen (Five seasons with the Sonics. Won championship with Boston Celtics the following year after being traded.)
  8. Ken Griffey Jr. (13 time all star, #6 all time home runs leader, no championships)
  9. Alex Rodriguez (6 years with the Mariners, #5 all time home runs leader, 14 time all star)
  10. Walter Jones (9 time pro-bowl, NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, considered one of the best lineman of all time)

Honorable Mention: Cortez Kennedy(Seahawks), Shawn Kemp(Sonics), Shaun Alexander(Seahawks), Ichiro Suzuki(Mariners)

So there you have it. The Pacific Northwest has the capacity to produce fantastic sports teams and franchises, but they leave a 30 year legacy of ultimate disappointment. Am I proud of the Trailblazers and the Seahawks and the Mariners? Sure. They’re my teams. But you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t hold my breath on this whole Superbowl excitement.

Sharing About Overshare

As Manton explained on his blog, we have been working on Sunlit for a long time. During that time, I can tell you that Sunlit changed and evolved from what we originally had envisioned. However, if you listen to Core Intuition, you know that we’ve been beta’ing the app for quite a while. So, when Jared Sinclair and Justin Williams announced the Overshare Kit open source replacement for iOS UIActivityViewControllers, we had a hard decision to make. We had to decide if it was worth adding new functionality at such a late point in our development or if we could live without it.

Now, I don’t want to get into a UI/UX design war with anyone. I know that there are various, differing opinions on the look and feel of iOS 7 and I am but a humble developer. However, if you have ever implemented a custom UIActivity in iOS it is undeniable that the monochrome icons that you are forced to use look inexcusably ugly. In fact, they are so disappointingly ugly that Manton and I felt that we had no choice but to use Overshare Kit.

photo

I am proud of many things that we’ve built into Sunlit and our support for Overshare Kit is one of them. I love the iOS development community and Jared is a great guy so being able to support a project that he owns and cares about is a good feeling. We also had the opportunity to contribute directly to the project and a number of changes that we made for Sunlit made it back into the master branch. To me, this is the heart and soul of iOS development. It’s doing things with other people that share your value of quality.

If you are a developer, and you haven’t checked out Overshare Kit, you really should. It allows you to create beautiful sharing activity views. It comes with some of the most common ones out of the box (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and is fairly easy to extend. Jared is also very responsive with suggestions/fixes for things, and while it’s only been around for a few months, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Oh, and if you’re having trouble integrating it, feel free to hit me up. I’d love to see more apps using it.

Sunlit Is For Me

If you don’t like my new app Sunlit, I will still be happy. Don’t get me wrong. I hope you like Sunlit and it helps you do things with your photos and memories that you couldn’t do before, but if you don’t like it, I’ll still be happy. I’ll be happy because Sunlit is for me.

Sunlit is an app that I’ve wanted for years and I’m thrilled to finally have on my phone. One of my absolute favorite uses for Sunlit is for capturing memories from smaller events. These are events that while important, don’t tend to have the significance of a wedding or Disneyland trip so the photos often never see the light of day. With Sunlit, however, I can now do something meaningful with these photos.

Earlier this year while Sunlit was in beta, I went to a birthday party for my wife’s mother. There were about 15 people present and the celebration went on for around 2 hours. During that time, I snapped close to 60 photos of the party. Some of these photos were blurry, some of them were decent, but a few were quite good. On our drive home, I picked the best ones and created “Nana’s Birthday” story. I then used Sunlit to publish “Nana’s Birthday” and suddenly I had a story captured on a web page that I could share with my wife’s family quickly via an email or SMS message.

This is an important thing to me. Before Sunlit, these photos were just photos. The effort to take them was almost more work than it was worth because they would rarely be seen by me, let alone anyone else. With Sunlit, photos turn into memories. They turn into something beautiful that I can share and that can be appreciated and loved by the people I care about.

So, if you don’t like Sunlit, that’s ok. Sunlit is for me, but Sunlit is also for sharing so I really do hope you like it too.

A Retrospective of the Beginning

I was recently trolling through some of my previous attempts at regular blogging and I found a post that I wrote back in September of 2008.  It was not all that long ago and yet it seems like a lifetime ago in terms of how my life has changed. At the time, I was still working on the Corporate Ladder, had just finished my MBA and hadn’t really written code for a number of years.

The technology world was also different.  The iPhone had been out for a little over a year and people knew it was a big deal, but the App Store had only been a thing for a couple of months and the entire universe of Apps had yet to explode. My how things have changed.

At the time of the post I was having serious creative withdrawals from not having written code for a long time. So I did what I always do: I started making things that I wanted to use personally, or in this case that I wanted my kids to use.  Little did I know that after having spent so long away from a compiler I was about to unleash a series of changes that would change my path in wonderful and unforeseen ways. I continued to mess around with Blackberry development for a few more weeks until I eventually downloaded Xcode one fateful day in October.  I started making little things for the Simulator and shortly after that, Three Jacks was born.

I stayed at my corporate job for a few more years, but my weekends and evenings were consumed with making and releasing Apps for the iPhone (and eventually iPad.) Eventually, I was forced to come to the realization that while I was a good engineering leader, I could no longer deny the fact that my real passion was in making things and in creating code, so I finally clicked my heels three times and returned to full time development.

Returning to the developer life also had a beneficial side effect that I could now work from home. This opened up an incredible freedom that allowed changes in my personal life that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.  These were good things. I now have the flexibility to help coach my son’s Lego Robotics team. I know that I will never have to miss my daughter’s basketball games. I can walk the kids to school in the morning and I’m there when they get home. If they need help with homework, I’m there to lend a hand. If I want to take a break and build with Legos with Brendan, I can. These are moments and times that will be gone all too soon and because I started tinkering with Apps back in September 2008 I get to experience and savor them.

Until reading it the other night, I had completely forgotten about tinkering on my old Blackberry. The existence of this five year old blog post is an amazing gift to me. It’s not often that you can look back at events in your life and pinpoint a single turning point where your path diverted from the course it had been on.