I launched an app today
Those should be in quotes though. I "launched" (it's not finished, I consider this a beta) an "app" (it's a webapp at the moment, not quite a "thing I can install on my device").
It's called Theres My Bus!, and it's the result of around 5 months of off-and-on effort. It's a bus app. Precicely, it's the bus app I wanted to make years ago and couldn't, because Sydney didn't have bus GPS data available (Sydney Buses later installed GPS devices, made the data public, then pulled it a couple of weeks later - that was over a year ago, and there's still no data! Damn!).
However, I'm not in Sydney any more. I'm in Vancouver, and the transit company here, TransLink, do have bus data. And they've just created a public api for it. Nice! They have their share of transit troubles, but their attitude towards developers sure blows Sydney out of the water.
They also have a service, NextBus, which does much the same thing as my app. It lets you look up stops or routes by their number, and shows you times and buses on a map (I can't figure out if it's related to NextBus in the states or not, that's something I've been meaning to look in to).
It's not the nicest to use though, so I figured I'd go ahead with my own vision of making it super easy to get all the info you need. I wanted to be able to press a button while at my stop and have it all right there. No fumbling around in the cold trying to enter a jumble of digits to see what's coming to this stop.
I think it turned out pretty well. The response on reddit was nothing short of amazing. I'd expected to garner a handful of upvotes and comments, with about 50% asking why I'd bothered remaking NextBus. But people were nice, and liked it, and that made me one happy camper today. Praise is pretty awesome. And it feels good to have made something that'll make peoples lives a little better.
So, I'm making this webapp in to a "real" app for iPhone and Android shortly. Phonegap should make that pretty painless. I considered trigger.io too, but Phonegap's pricing is a bit more suitable for me at the moment. I'll write more on that soon.
I'm going to charge for the app, but keep the webapp free. Hopefully this model will work out alright, as an app is much handier (you don't have to press allow location every time, there's no browser bar or scrolling to worry about, it'll run in the background, etc). If I see a huge amount of people sticking to the webapp I can try a few things to up the conversion rate. We'll see how that goes.
How that goes is actually what I'd like to write about for a while. I recently spent about a week reading every damn post on Patrick McKenzie's blog - it's absolutely enthralling. If you aren't aware of him, Patrick started a business making Bingo Card software, and a blog along with it. The blog goes in to the gritty details of the businesses finances and marketing strategy. You can watch him go from mostly clueless engineer to costs-bundles-of-money consultant over the years. It's like reading Bill Gate's diary. If you have an interest in anything resembling software, business or marketing - hit that link and start reading. You won't be let down.
Alright, that's enough fawning over my nerd idol. There's my inspiration - I'd like to do something similar with this blog about There's My Bus! and whatever other projects I feel drawn to. I'm not much of a writer, but with a bit of practice that should improve. In the mean time, hopefully some of you will find the story of my little app and I interesting enough to overlook my shortcomings.