Monthly Archives: July 2010

What to build? A dilemma

How do you choose which of your many ideas to pursue? Do you choose the one with the interesting technologies that you want to explore, or do you go for the one that you think would be the most useful?

I am currently suffering from this dilemma in relation to which app I concentrate on as my ‘signature’ app.  If you’ve got time to build one app, in this case an iPhone app, to demonstrate your skill as a programmer to future potential clients, how do you decide what to do? I have 3 choices in this regard:

  1. Hikers footpath planner. A really complex and difficult app that will take a long time to put together but that demonstrates all my skill as a back end developer while also showing an ability to do some nice things with the front end. This app, although sounding ideal, is a risk. I have limited time and the app is complex enough that it might not meet the App Store requirements on stability within the time frame and, with my current dev time limited to evenings and weekends, might not get be completed to the final most impressive stage by the time my (admittedly self imposed) deadline come around. This app has, I believe, a wide audience, but only if done exactly right.
  2. OCR Menu reader and translator. An app that allows me to explore some really interesting technologies and demonstrate some skills with both backend and front end work. The app, however, would be trying to compete directly with another app, Google Goggles. Do I really want to develop in my spare time an app that could potentially be utterly eclipsed by a company who have million of dollars to spend on getting it right?
  3. Open Plaques. An app that demonstrates some back and front end skills and that solves a specific purpose for a group of passionate individuals. This app would provide a service to this group of people that would not only ease the lives of the owners and developers of the Open plaques site but also make is much easier for users of the site to add content. This also will use some of the technologies that would be used in the OCR menu reader.

So I guess the question is, is it better to make something that is popular and useful, or something that shows off my skills but with an uncertain audience or competing against a much more powerful opponent? I can’t help thinking that the popular app, if I add lots of bells a whistles, would be the way to go. I can always work on the hikers app at a later date, for if nothing else I want one even if it never makes it as far as the app store. Maybe I should just take a well learned lesson from Software Development, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). If anyone has any opinions, I would really like to hear them.

BuildBrighton needs your help

Here at BuildBrighton we’ve been looking, for the last 8 months, for a suitable, affordable space for the group to move to. It has become clear to us that our current arrangement with The Skiff, although fantastic, is not enough to attract new members. Most potential new members do not see the benefit in paying a subscription for a meeting only one night a week, and are sometimes put off by the officey nature of the space and the lack of any decent machinery of equipment. It is a catch 22 situation, however, as without subscribers we cannot afford to make commitments to long term outgoings as our earnings are sporadic, making some money here and there through workshops and council grants etc.

We have long wanted to turn BuildBrighton into Briton’s answer to Noisebridge or NYC Resistor. We have found two fantastic spaces that are beyond our current monthly earnings by different degrees. We also have 100 non-members on the hackspace mailing list and 250 non members following the BuildBrighton twitter account.  How many of these potential members would convert into actual members if we had the right space? What is it that BuildBrighton would have to provide for them to make that conversion, and how much would they be willing to pay in order to get that? We have no desire to out price ourselves, and yet we need to charge an amount that can sustain the group financially.

In an attempt to find these things out, we have created a questionnaire and are asking people to fill it in to provide the answers that we need. If we have a good idea of how quickly and to what extent the group can grow, we can make decisions about how much risk we can take on with a new place. You can fill the questionnaire in here.

The two spaces that we are looking at are The Metalworks, approx 1000 sq ft in Central Brighton, next door to the new space that The Skiff are moving to shortly, allowing us to maintain our ties with those who supported us in our early days. The other is a 4000 sq ft workshop space at New England House, which is not only enormous, but filled with already created smaller spaces that could be converted into useful areas like dark rooms or craft rooms, or rented out to artists or commercial creative enterprises as studios or work spaces. Both spaces have enormous potential and we can see the group flourishing in such environments.

Please do fill in the questionnaire, comment or contact me if you wish to be involved in BuildBrighton, want to find out more about us or just want to offer us your support. Knowing that we are needed is a big reason why we do this.