An English Major Builds an App — Part 1

One of the most important “shifts” I see occurring in my life is when my capacity for self-learning surpasses that of conventional, teacher-pupil education. As a graduate student, I’m blessed to receive both side by side, but I understand that at the heart of a career in the 21st century resides a whole trove of skills that don’t exist yet, and an attitude not yet ingrained in the minds of the millenial generation.

So that’s why I want to build an app.

Okay, to translate, that’s why I want to learn a whole set of skills alien to me while also accomplishing something that I’ve dreamed of for about three years now.

But here’s the thing: as far as I know, I’m not wired to build an app, let alone develop the basic skills to get something basic off the ground. I’m not even the computer scientist in my family. My brother is a wizard with circuitry and with coding languages like Python and QNX.

But in a way I like that better. Because I probably wouldn’t have achieved what I did in volleyball without my team all laughing at me because of how clumsy and goofy a player I was. I also wouldn’t have started an elearning website without people scoffing at my choice to be an English major. Neither would I have made 35km runs on a whim or made arbitrary Sunday journeys up mountains or at dauntin buffet tables without people telling me: “this is stupid”. I thirst to challenge adversity, the alluring can’t of all the doubters of this world.

So as of right now, I have a curious list of skills that either makes me look both overeducated and idiotic. But I take them all the heart:

  • I can speed read through a novel in one sitting
  • I can write yarns of poetry off the top of my head
  • I can make elegantly designed webpages with basic html/css
  • I can write, format and edit half-convincing essays on the role of postmodernity in..you get the picture
  • I’m not a bad photographer. Not technical by any means, but not horrible
  • I can build a social media following
  • I can tell you more about history or literature than 98% of undergrads

So why appbuilding?

  1. Ideas hit me in sudden, flooding outbursts. I think of perhaps ten different ideas a day for applications I would actually use, but my imagination usually hits a wall where I ask: “well how the hell would I make one of those things?” What kind of tools allows someone to build something like a DropBox, a Facebook, or even a Disaster Watch.
  2. Because I understand that the media industry is changing dramatically, and to hinge onto (1) a legacy magazine or (2) a pernicious clickbait website (aka “new media”) is risky at best. I want to position myself in a completely new way for someone entering the journalism industry. Nimbleness and flexibility could soon trump all else. Instead of being a low-level computer scientist, perhaps to be someone straddling two industries (or three, as I’ll mention in a second) could have more flexibility in the long term.
  3. Because I want to create an app that will provide good reading for several forms of underrepresented media online. I want to help the devoted readers and writers of this world go back to their roots by pushing just a couple of buttons (Yes, I understand the irony).

So I’ve spent the week I’ve been here gradually learning a couple of things without truly knowing how I can use them to my advantage. These include:

  • How can one build a simple app on XCode?
  • How can I get that app from the computer to my phone?
  • How does one insert RSS feeds into a program like XCode?
  • Fundamentally, how can I build something that people will love? What sort of parameters are required to get that done?

I’ve given myself a week to answer these questions, something that I’ll go over in my next post.

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