9 Year-Old App Developer More Than Just a Feel-Good Story

doodlekids

Here’s a story that gives new meaning to the term Apple (s aapl) fanboy. A 9-year-old youngster from Singapore, prompted by his younger sisters’ love of drawing, created an application for the iPhone called Doodle Kids. Budding artists create pictures by dragging a finger across the screen and then shake the phone to return to a blank canvas.

According to news reports, fourth-grade protege Lim Ding Wen has been using computers since he was two and already knows six programming languages. Doodle Kids might be his first app in the App Store, but it won’t be his last. Wen is already working on a sci-fi action game for the iPhone called Invader Wars.

Of course, the story of a 9-year-old whiz kid is great to hear, but it also illustrates a larger point about the development process of iPhone apps. It’s clear that we’ve gotten to a point where technology is becoming less mystical and more approachable.

A mere decade ago, computers themselves were still viewed as elusive gadgets and programming was left to people with only the highest levels of geekery in their bloodstream. Now we have kids programming smartphones before they’re old enough to drive a car.
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Developers Get Promotional Codes to Give Free Copies of Apps

According to this MacRumors report, Apple has started to dispense promotional codes to App Store developers. With them, developers will now be able to grant free access to their app for up to 50 users. Previously, developers would have had to resort to the ad-hoc distribution method or iTunes gift cards to give promotional copies of their applications. While the 50 user limit might seem paltry compared to the ad-hoc’s 100, the promotional code limit is reset with version updates. Additionally, and probably most welcoming to both developers and recipients alike, is no longer having to deal with the hassles of the mobile provisioning that the ad hoc method is reliant on.

Via mobile provisioning, for promotional copies to be granted, developers would have to get the UDID of the touch device from each person receiving a copy and from there generate a .mobileprovision file to send with the actual application file that would bind that app to each specified device. Once both files were received, the end user would drag and drop them into iTunes to sync it. With the promo code method, all that is eschewed for a system that as easy as redeeming an iTunes gift card.

In the future, we can see this opening the door for more than just a developer/reviewer relationship, and extended to contests and giveaways. With complexity removed and the fact that the codes are linked to a specific app, developers would be able to invite people to win copies of their app without relying on gift cards, which is a hockey method since there value of the gift-card may not match the price of the app thus costing the developer additional money and there’s no guarantee that the recipient will actually use it to buy the app.

Hug A Indie Mac Developer Day

I hereby declare this day as Hug A Indie Mac Developer Day. What sparked this spontaneous outpouring of appreciation for these Wizards of Cocoa? Apart from just the standard good will towards the likes of Daniel Jaikut, Jonathan ‘Wolf’ Rentzsch, Fraser Speirs, Gus Mueller (and a host of others that would turn this into an Open Directory category listing rather than a TAB post), I received a hand-written (if it was a font, I seriously want that font since none of the similar letters even came close to matching) post card – an actual put-it-in-the-U.S.-Mail post card – from Adam Behringer, author of Bee Docs’ Timeline. I purchased a license after I upgraded to Leopard since I make enough timelines for work to warrant the spend and because it’s a great program for creating & presenting time/date-based information collections (btw: Adam just added AppleScript support in Feb making an already great product even better).

Have Microsoft developers ever sent me hand written post cards? No. Apple engineers? Nope. Adobe developers? Nada. While no other independent coders have sent me one either, they all have been extremely helpful when it comes to product support and feature requests. For example, Daniel Jaikut responded very appreciatively – and quickly! – and in great detail to a bug submission that he knew wasn’t a MarsEdit problem but wholly an Apple framework issue. Most of these Xcode aficionados have a blog and give you the opportunity to peek into their coding practices & creative thoughts and sometimes even into the murky business of independent software development.

While I’m a huge proponent of open source software, I also have no problem paying someone for a well-made product (many open source programs lack the polish of even the most mediocre of indie commercial Mac software). I suspect your OS X workstation would not be nearly as useful if it weren’t for some of the products generated by these independent coders.

If you use “lite” or even – shudder – hacked versions of indie programs, consider sending a virtual hug today by going pro with a full license. The developers will appreciate it and you’ll wind up having more robust software and choices in the long run.

Calling Gifted Devs: Quicksilver Needs Your Help

Long ago, this post joked about the announcement by Apple to move to Intel chips. (It also spawned an unending quest for the origin of the title: Wait for it, Wait for it…but that’s a different story I suppose.) I bring this up because after reading Lifehacker’s exclusive interview with Alcor (Nicholas Jitkoff) – the Quicksilver developer – You could replace the punch line of the aforementioned joke with: “Alcor condemned Quicksilver to a ‘long slow death’, suggested 3rd party alternatives…” and pretty much understand the way that news made me feel yesterday.

What makes this hurt the most, is that Quicksilver is literally what I show people on my Mac first. Yes, Apple’s computers and operating system are clearly examples of special attention to engineering and development, but Quicksilver is really in a league of its own when it comes to making a computer system unlike anything else. The thought of this application dying a slow death is nearly unbearable for me. In fact, my first reaction was that this is the final straw, and it’s time for me to become an OS X programmer so I can pickup the Open Source Code and revive the application that I rely on almost every minute of the day (or at least the minutes I’m working on my computer that is). In fact I’ve been planning to start a project to learn Xcode/Cocoa/Objective C and blog about it here on TAB. It will likely still happen, but when my schedule and life get a bit less crazy… In the meantime however, I’m hopeful that someone or a group of someones out there have the chutzpah and the love for Quicksilver to do the same.

So mark this as my cry for help, directed toward the incredible community of talented developers supporting the Mac platform: Quicksilver needs you! Those of us who are addicted to Quicksilver need you! I have a hard time believing such a wonderful application could truly die away, but I would feel so much better knowing there are some ambitious folks out there ready to pick up the slack. Alcor is leaving some big shoes to fill – is anyone out there up to the task???

EDIT: A point I neglected to write about initially is the cost (or lack thereof) of Quicksilver (thanks for the reminder Weisheng).

Alcor has been kind beyond belief to craft Quicksilver free of charge all these years. The silly part is it is one of the few applications I would pay for without even thinking about it. I have many apps that I use just enough to merit the purchase of a license. Quicksilver is one program that I swear by – heck, even LIVE by – and wouldn’t hesitate to fork over my hard-earned dollars for.

A commenter in the original Lifehacker thread mentions the Radiohead model of letting people pay what they think the album is worth to them. I can’t think of a better application of this payment model, as Quicksilver is one of those apps that differs in brilliance for every user. I’d pay $30 easily, from my perspective…