The Long Road : Spend Stack’s Journey

Digging deep to actually release something

I can’t even remember what his name was. A classmate of mine back in college just bought a brand new laptop, and he was toting it around like a golden chalice in class. With the shiny gun metal colored bezel shining at his desk, he cracked his knuckles and waited while it booted up.

Finally, someone caved. “Hey man, that a new laptop?”

He must’ve been waiting to pounce on that question, because he quickly answered back with a yes… a rundown of all the specs and features.

The thing is, he was preaching to an audience of one. Most of us just kind of looked at him funny. Did the thing also print out gold? Make your breakfast?

Because to the rest of us, it’s just a laptop. To him though, it’s oh so more than that. Right now, it’s his pride and joy. He wants anyone and everyone to check this thing out.

And that’s how it can feel showing off your own app or project

… but with one painful difference. You are so in love with this amazing thing you created. It’s yours. Only when you show it off proudly with enthusiasm, you are acutely aware that some people just kind of stare back at it with a blank look.

Then you get the regular software developer symptoms. Those symptoms include, but of course are not limited to, the following thoughts:

  • Is this even good?
  • Should I even release it?
  • Would I even pay for this?
  • Is this even worth it?

From that cheery description, it sounds like independently developing apps (or any other software for that matter) might be the least desirable hobby around. That, plus those lovely freak out moments.

When you think back about the time you spend on this stuff, it’s hours. And I mean hours. As one indie developer put it, you end up getting so insanely close to your project that you can’t even see the mistakes anymore.

Looking at the date when Spend Stack’s project file was created, it was May 6th……..2013. Not because it was a complicated project, but because things just happen.

In the time that Spend Stack was started and finished, a lot was going on. I graduated college, landed my first job, became a dad, started Dreaming In Binary, and that’s just naming off a few. These things are all amazing events, and I have had some of the happiest points in my life during that year.

Nothing will ever top becoming a dad, seeing your kid smile, constantly giggle, and be generally happy all the time compared to us lame adults. But then that drive slowly eats away at you to finish what you started.

You try and hammer away at some code when you get off of work coding all day. You try to balance your life outside of work and your own projects. Then you feel guilty you are not working hard enough on the project.

So, you work harder on the project.

Some scribbled notes I used for mocking up UI pieces

Then you feel guilty you are not paying enough attention to your family. Your wife. Your boy. Even yourself. You have to remind yourself to actually be “home” when you are home. You have to learn to turn off the large part of your head that is wondering if feature A is better than feature B.

Things you used to enjoy are now viewed as competition. See an awesome app on the app store? I used to dive in and just enjoy them, now it’s hard to stop analyzing them up and down and see what the secret to their success is. You have to remind yourself to stop and smell the roses, as it were.

Maybe all of that just goes to show what the biggest blessing and curse of being a developer is.

Your mind never shuts off. Whether it’s from dwelling on a bug you couldn’t figure out to suddenly conceiving a killer feature out of nowhere, the wheels are always turning.

It’s probably obvious that to me, Spend Stack is much more than several (thousand) lines of code. It represents all the time I spent on it that year.

It reminds me of excitedly closing the lid on my MacBook in a hurry because my wife was going into labor. When I was handed my degree on graduation night. Holding my boy for the first time. Having him asleep on my chest late in the night when I typed the last bits of code for it.

And you know what I remember least? All the hard and slightly depressing stuff that I spent the majority of the time describing here. The feeling you get when you see someone use your app and become as excited as you were about it immediately erases all the times when it didn’t click with someone else.

Seeing it being used by others is insanely rewarding and humbling. The feeling of finally releasing on the app store is intoxicating. It means so much to us because writing code and creating something for nerdy developers is our attempt at putting ourselves out there.

Spend Stack’s launch trailer

It’s the same thing as a singer singing their song for the first time or an artist showing off a painting. Any creative throws a lot into the things they are making.

The next time you pop open an app —know that there is a story behind it.

Sometimes there are some really hard parts, but for each one there are also a lot of awesome parts.

Like anything in life that’s worth it, it takes a lot of hard work. The light at the end of the tunnel is especially bright though, and hopefully for some of you that will use Spend Stack, it will be like my former classmate’s laptop.

It will make you happy and excited that you just downloaded a little app that makes your day a bit easier. You’ll want to talk about it. You’ll want to show someone.

And if that happens once, then I would consider my mission accomplished and all that time spent incredibly worth it.

Jordan Morgan is an iOS software engineer who runs Dreaming In Binary.

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