Tag Archives: iOS

The Eleven

Today’s Release Notes 2015 Speaker announcement is the culmination of several months of hard work and cooperation from many people. It’s only March, and already this show is well on its way to being a tremendous success. I can’t thank my co-organizer Charles Perry enough for spearheading this entire show from day one. He’s the man with the plan, if you will. And he’s had a clear vision that has driven every decision we’ve made thus far.

When you want to put on a conference like this, the easiest thing in the world is to come up with a list of potential speaker names. The indie development community is full of great people. Heck, we had forty or fifty names just off the tops of our heads in our initial brainstorming session. And any combination of them would have made for a great show.

But that’s when the hard part kicks in. You have a handful of slots (in our case, eleven). And you need to populate those slots not with the first eleven people who pop into your head, or the eleven most popular people. You need the right combination of people. People who complement each other in the correct way. A balance of people who have experience from various places in business, who can talk about different topics and offer the maximum value to our guests.

In other words, you stop looking at individuals, and you start looking at the whole group. What are the right ingredients? What will adding this person do to the mix? What effect will removing this person have on the group? Are we covering enough of the landscape? And so on.

And once you’ve whittled that initial list down to a very balanced group of eleven, you have to go out and ask them and hope they all say yes.[1]

The fact that we managed to publish a list with these eleven names on it our first time out is, I think, a proud accomplishment. The reaction thus far from our audience has been so enthusiastic that I can’t help but think we chose wisely, and that we’re extremely lucky that all eleven of these folks have agreed to put in the hard work to participate.

I want to thank our speakers, Myke Hurley, Rachel Andrew, David Smith, Rob Rhyne, Georgia Dow, John Saddington, Chris Liscio, Pieter Omvlee, Daniel Pasco, Jean MacDonald, and Jim Dalrymple. You are all taking a chance on a new conference led by two first-time organizers, and we aren’t going to forget it.

We’ve promised our audience we’re going to spend some time helping each other build businesses this October. Our speakers are going to be the driving force behind that. You should have no problem gleaning practical, actionable advice from this group, and our discussions throughout the week will further amplify the benefits of being there.

I’m sure Charles and I will hear a bit of “Why not this person?” or “Why not that person?” over the course of the next several months, and that’s okay. I’d probably do the same thing myself to some other organizer, at least in my head. If only we had forty speaker slots, right? Believe me, there’s an excellent chance whoever you’re thinking of is someone we had on our initial brainstorm list.

And there’s always next year.

Release Notes 2015 will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 21–23. Tickets will be on sale to the general public on April 27th, with early access granted to those on our mailing list. For more info, visit our web site.


  1. Or wait. Before you can ask anyone, you need to know what the dates of your conference are. And in order to have dates, you need a venue. And to get a venue, you need to scout out several venues, have meetings, figure out their availability, hope it coincides with the dates you want, negotiate deals, and sign on the dotted line. It’s a lot of work, in other words. And that’s before you start cold emailing some people you’ve never met in person to ask them to speak at an event of which they’ve never heard.  ↩

On Waiting Until Next Year

The new debate I keep having with friends is whether we should buy the first gen Apple Watch next month or not, because generation two is going to be so much thinner and lighter, and you should never buy first generation Apple products, anyway.

Okay, for starters, let’s talk about the old “never buy a first gen anything” adage. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told by certain people that first generation products from Apple are always problematic and therefore should be avoided like the plague.

I’ve been buying first generation Apple products since the late 80s, and I have yet to get burnt by one. Even if my first gen watch turned out to be a total dud, my average on first gen products from Apple has been so good that it would hardly make this old proverb seem like wisdom. Apple’s manufacturing processes have gotten so good recently that this is only going to be even less of a problem as the years go by.

I know a lot of people are risk-averse, or they had a bad experience once, or they just don’t want to shell out new money every year for the shiny objects. I have no problem with that; we all have a right to spend our money any way we want to. But this notion that first generation products are always riddled with issues is over-exaggerated, at best.

Next, on the notion that by next year, Apple Watch will somehow be significantly lighter and thinner: This is simply not likely.

“But look at the iPad, Joe” my friends say. “Look at the MacBooks and iPhones. They keep getting thinner every year.”

Yes and no. Most years they get thinner and lighter by a pretty small margin. Or, in the case of the iPhone, they only get thinner and lighter every two years. Once in a while there will be a major breakthrough, but more often than not it’s the accumulation of trimming that adds up to the PowerBooks of old becoming that new ultra-thin MacBook.

And the biggest reductions happen with the big products, like laptops that already get great battery life. Consider the size difference between a laptop and a watch, and the fact that the watch is barely getting enough battery life to be considered acceptable right now. With a product like a laptop, there’s a lot more physical space to utilize and save. Shrinking the logic board by two-thirds in that new MacBook meant a lot more space for batteries to make up for the cut in overall thickness. If you shrink that tiny little S1 chip in half (forgetting the fact that it’s unlikely Apple will be able to do that in a year) how much space did you gain? Probably not enough to make both the battery larger and the overall watch smaller. I suspect Apple is not happy with 18 hours for the first generation watch, so they won’t want to make it even shorter for the sake of thinness.[1]

Even tricks like software optimization and other reductions in power consumption only get you so far.[2] Without a major change in battery chemistry (which isn’t in the pipeline for next year, as far as anyone can tell) Apple is going to run out of ways to seriously reduce consumption eventually.

My point is, it’s harder to find places to trim when you’re dealing with such a small device that has so little to trim in the first place, and when your years of accumulated knowledge have already gone into the current design.

Will next year’s watch be thinner? Maybe. But by how much? Let’s be extremely aggressive and throw out an unrealistic number like 15%. What’s 15% of 10.5mm? 1.6mm. That would be noticeable, but not exactly earth shattering. And it’s unlikely they can do that much.

I suspect we’ll see small changes every year to Apple watch. And I do eventually expect all those changes to add up to something significant. But it’s going to take longer than people think for this device’s dimensions to change drastically.

But let’s grant that next year’s watch will be so much better that I’ll be dying to upgrade. Maybe I’m wrong about all of the above, and the watch next year will be 50% thinner, through some miracle breakthrough. Or maybe they’ll add some new sensor that brings features I won’t want to live without. (Isn’t that always the danger with any computer?) How much will an upgrade cost me?

If you think about it, you only really need to upgrade the body of the watch. If you get an Apple Watch with the link bracelet this year ($999) and want to upgrade next year, all you need to do is buy an Apple Watch with the rubber band ($599) and attach your link bracelet to it. Sell the old body with the rubber band for $300, and the upgrade ends up costing $300 or so[3]. It’s a cost, to be sure, but it’s cheaper than what I’m used to paying to upgrade laptops regularly. Certainly, $300 is cheap enough that it makes sense to enjoy wearing a watch for an entire year rather than waiting? Is is for me, anyway.

So I say go ahead and get that first gen watch this year if you want it. As with anything, buy the best device you can afford that makes you happy now, and worry about the upgrade options when they happen. Or wait, if you want to wait. But don’t tell other people they’re crazy for simply making different decisions than you. And don’t set yourself up for disappointment when Apple fails to defy the laws of physics by next April.


  1. Remember the third-generation iPad? There’s only one thing that trumps thinness for Apple, and that’s a minimum acceptable battery life.  ↩

  2. Software changes will benefit the first generation watch as well as the second.  ↩

  3. I probably won’t end up selling my first generation Apple Watch, as I’ve regretted selling my first generation iPod and iPhone. But that, again, is my choice. The fact remains, not buying the watch because you’ll just want to get the better one next year isn’t a very strong argument.  ↩

So This is Happening

Fin on Apple Watch

I know I said a few months back that investing too much time in developing Apple Watch apps might not be the best thing for an indie with limited resources, given that we can’t charge for this extra functionality. However, once I saw what my Bombing Brain teammate Tim had done for our app Teleprompt+ on Apple Watch in just a few days, I figured I’d give it a try with Fin, just to get started. Maybe I’d have something that I could ship by summer, right?

The result? Two days later, I had a nice, functional remote control for Fin on the watch. Pretty amazing and surprising how simple programming for Apple Watch is with the current SDK. There are tons of things we can’t yet do with WatchKit, but in a way, that’s actually a good thing. The limitations force you to think about what actually makes practical sense on this device, as a complement to your iOS app.

You’ll note that Fin for Apple Watch is a simple remote control, not a full-fledged timer of its own. This is intentional. Remember, the purpose of Fin is live performance, and looking at your watch is the last thing you want to be doing on stage. The watch app, then, is just for starting and stopping, choosing presets quickly, and resetting, if necessary. I added the ability to add and subtract time in increments, similar to the swipes in the iOS app. And finally, a light/dark theme switcher (for the phone, not the watch). Super simple.

The blue start/pause button changes color when the timer is in warning mode, so you can see at a glance if you’re running out of time.[1] The four buttons around the center button look very small, but the tap targets are larger than they appear, for those fat-finger taps. I can’t be sure how easy/hard they will be to tap, but I’m following the HIG’s guidance of not having more than two horizontal buttons on the same row. Given what I’ve seen in some of Apple’s Watch faces, reaching these four corners independently should be reasonably easy.

Fin on Apple Watch

I plan on shipping this as soon as Apple allows submissions. Once I have an actual watch with which to test, I imagine I’ll refine the design a bit as needed. Maybe add more features as I go.

Does this mean that all that cautionary stuff I wrote before is no longer valid? No. I still think it’s not necessarily the best idea for indies to spend too much time playing with Apple Watch if you have other priorities. But if you can piece something functional and solid together with a couple hours of spare time a day, then sure. You don’t have much to lose.

I have no delusions that this will have a tremendous impact on sales for my little app. But I’m open to the possibility that it can help. And I learned a ton in the process, without having to invest much time. Which has always been my primary goal in writing my own apps.


  1. Again, I don’t think it’s ideal that this is a visual cue, but that’s all I can do at the moment. Hopefully in the future, Apple will give third parties access to the Taptic Engine, so it can gently tap you when the warnings are triggered.  ↩

My Talk at MCE 2015

My official talk from Mobile Conference Europe 2015 is now available online. My topic was “Design as if No One is Watching.” A bit of a call to remember who we work for as designers building great products on teams.

It was incredible to take part in this conference back in February. Highly recommended, if they do it again next year, that you consider attending. Special thanks to Jarek and the whole team over there for making it a wonderful experience.

My Talk at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw

Last week, while visiting Warsaw for the MCE conference, I had the honor of also being asked to address some students at the Academy of Fine Arts. I had a blast talking with them about getting started in the indie software world.

Daniel Mizieliński, who teaches this group and invited me to speak, has released the video of my talk already. I want to thank him and his wonderful students for the opportunity.