Tuesday, 25 September 2012

23 - The core thing

Things are out of our hands right now. Filippo is coding from a strict spec sheet. It's kinda scary, the spec sheet. It's like our dream has been annotated, analysed and rewritten into a text book. I'm hoping the magic that surrounds the idea isn't lost.

There's a bunch of stuff we're leaving out; a load of little animations that were in the demo video won't be there to start with. As well as some big and obvious features.

The core idea of Story though, will be there.

The core of the thing, is made up of three parts (I doubt this'll ever change):
  1. Discover screen (where we feature the best stories out there)
  2. Feed screen (everyone you follow, their stories appear here) 
  3. Create screen (where you create your stories)
These are the three core things of Story that will be there in their rawest form from day one. Everything else is an added feature that isn't vital right now.

We're meeting Filippo next week for the first time since he started coding. He'll have 1 and 2 ready.

Monday, 24 September 2012

22 - Spice rack

I've always been keen on simple tech. Simple ideas executed well. I've always had a passion for clean ideas and clean design. Obviously Story is all of these things. Or is it? I thought so but when you lift up the hood...  

I have a 30 minute train ride into work each day. When I'm not coding, I fill these 30 minutes very easily thinking about what I need to do and what decisions need to be made to make a minimum viable version of our app. It was overwhelming at first. Everything from Amazon S3 bucket naming conventions to authentication methods were consuming my thoughts. There is an abundance of tools and frameworks and platforms I should and could develop this app on too, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Which church do I worship at? Python, Rails, Node, PHP? MySql, PostgrSql, NoSql? Yii, Django, Codeigniter, Zend Framework? .NET? Joke. Eventually I left that candy store behind and decided to play to my strengths. Lightweight MVC PHP framework and MySql to build a RESTful API, Amazon AWS to handle hosting, storage, CDN, emails and a Github repo in a pear tree. This doesn't seem a bad start to me. 

What could go wrong? Well a number of things I guess. Will it scale? Yes and no. Will there be performance issues? Hopefully not. Should I care about these right now? Yes and no. I feel (maybe naively) that at this point there is no problem I can't overcome by chucking virtual machines at it. Having a nice flock of EC2 instances to handle any load actually makes me feel quite warm inside. So far, everything feels nice. My API is returning sweet little nuggets of json for consumption. I guess at this point that is all I can ask for. 

I'm sure at some point we will employ someone who will look at my little "spice rack" and shake their head like you do when your dad is making Ikea furniture. That will be a good day. In fact, I might take my little spice rack to some tech meetups and give it an airing. 


21 - Emails

From Jamie the investor/mentor to me and Paul:

From Paul to Jamie:

From Paul to me a day later:

From me to Paul:

From Paul to me:

From John Gruber (!) to me regarding my 'Apple messing it up' thing:

Saturday, 22 September 2012

20 - Apple are fucking it up

While Filippo's busy coding the app I'm going to explain how Apple are fucking it up and I'm not talking about the maps thing.

I got the new iPhone. You know, I need it. For the job. Anyway, I was just all chilling out looking up movies and shit when...

... Bottom button. Middle. As if I even need to point it out.

What is that? Swear to God I would sack every fucker responsible for letting that out. Whoever thought that was okay is not good at their job. In fact, they're bad at their job. And bad people shouldn't be working at Apple.

I feel like no designer would've let that happen. I've been in situations where manager fuckers stick their oar in and make design decisions and it's a scary thing.

Why doesn't it just say 'TV'? 'Music, Films, TV.'

They're fucking it up. Don't worry, I have a plan.


Cook needs to go. And be replaced by me. Thing is, I love Apple, but I love Story more so I'm only gonna be able to give it one day a week I reckon, maybe two. So maybe Cook stays. But as my number 2. Answers to me. Yeah. That's how we'll do it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

19 - Story Recap

Our company is set up. Team Story:

Our contract with Filippo is signed. Also in shot: my Mac, a pizza and a glass of Peroni:

We've paid Filippo the 'half up front' money. Here's Paul on the phone to his bank transferring the money:

We didn't realise that VAT wasn't included in the original quote so we've had to add 3K to the bill. That's not cool. But apparently we can get most of it back because it's through our company OR SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW!

There was a bit of panic when we wondered if Filippo's contract stipulated that we would own the code after he'd written it. If not then, when after we get funding and want to employ our own coder, Filippo could withhold the code from us. But it's fine, he's not gonna do that.

Here's me standing, looking cool:

Monday, 17 September 2012

18 - Adobe® OnScreen™

Today Adobe® announces the release of Adobe® OnScreen™

A spokesperson for Adobe stands behind a podium in front of a room full of journalists and industry people. He begins:

"Hey guys! Lets not beat around the bush. Adobe has been slacking for ten years now. We know you've noticed how your beautiful Macs running gorgeous Mac OS X are tarnished whenever you open an Adobe application. Sends your Mac straight back to OS 9 days, doesn't it."

His eyes dart around aggressivley. He goes on to say:

"We've never created an application designed solely for this digital age. I dunno, like, we made Photoshop and the other two but they're primarily for print. That was when print was big. Now, people publish mostly for the screen and we just couldn't really be fucked to make a whole new application."

The crowd shift awkwardly in their seats.

"We'd made three already. So we just kinda added stuff to those three we done. And we bought out the competition so we didn't really have to worry."

The spokesperson pauses. He lowers his head until his forehead is almost touching the podium. He raises one hand to his nose and inhales loudly while slowly moving his head horizontally. His head rises with a zapping smile, he shudders, and continues:

"We know you people out there are actually using Photoshop to design apps. Lol. I don't know how you do it but it's funny watching you go at it! I bet you'd all think Illustrator is almost perfect to design an app's UI but we did this weird thing where it's not absolutely pixel perfect, so when you paste your stuff into Photoshop to export the file (because you can't export from Illustrator lol) sometimes pixels shift for no apparent reason. Hahaha. So basically, you kinda have to use Photoshop to design everything which is fucking funny because it doesn't even have an art board!"

The spokesperson coughs and then is sick a little into a styrofoam cup.

"But yeah, today we thought fuck it. No longer. And we're putting you poor cunts out of your misery and have finally made an app designed for all your digital creation needs. It's called Adobe OnScreen. Now you guys can use one app instead of three. And it doesn't look like an inconsistent piece of shit either."

The spokesperson keels over and dies to rapturous applause.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

17 - UI

I spent the night prepping the UI elements for Filippo. UI means 'user interface' which means the graphics.

Wanna see them? Okay!

Here's a bit of background texture:

What is that? Like expensive cartridge paper or something? A white treated leather? Nah it's pixels!

This is the nav bar on a transparent background (that's what the check represents, it's not part of the design):

Not sure if the nav bar can be transparent yet. I asked Filippo but he never replied.

Look at that one.

Have a bunch of these:

Wanna see my favourite though? Wanna see the magic? Look at this:

That is the transparent overlay that will turn any picture into a Story icon... Wanna see it in action? Okay, give me any random picture...

[Here you go Simon!]

Is that Ashton Kutcher? He'll do! Watch this:

And then the title would be overlaid:


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

16 - Anger II

Filippo sends me and Paul a message like, "Sorry guys to stress about this, but do you have any news on the company?"

That's it. I whip open the last email from Lawyer Chris and get the phone number from it. I tap it into my phone, stand up from my desk and storm somewhere quiet where my boss can't hear me setting up a company. Their switchboard answers and asks me who it is I am wanting. I hang up, jog back to my desk, read the fucking name on the email and walk fast back again while redialing.

"And whom may I ask is calling?"
"And which company are you with?"
"... Team Story."

I'd never said 'Team Story' out loud before. Weird. It sounded weird. I wondered if she thought it sounded gay.

"Okay, I'll put you through."

"Hello?" Posh female voice.
"Hi, Elizabeth?"
"Yeah, it's Simon from... Team Story. How's it all coming along? We're all getting a bit restless."
"Well, we're just waiting on some final details that you didn't fill in on the form."

This annoyed me. So we skipped something out on the form. Like, yeah, that's our fault. But what, they were just never going to tell us? Just never set the company up ever? Never get back to us? Isn't it their job to get back to us and sort it out?

So we have some questions to answer and after that Team Story is officially a thing.

Like what the?

Monday, 10 September 2012

15 - Anger

Me and Paul are angry.

Paul's been angry for a few days and I was like all chilled about it but today I'm feeling it. So now we're both angry.

Not at each other. We're angry because Filippo the coder can't do any more work until our company (Team Story) has been registered so he can send us a contract. So we're waiting on Lawyer Chris to sort the contract out. Which he's done but now we're waiting for it to be processed.

A couple of days of nothing happening I can deal with (Paul can't), but a couple of weeks and the anger descends.

Getting this thing going is like trying to get a... a plane to take off. The captain is in his seat, the engines are warmed up and ready, the luggage is loaded and everyone's boarded. Everyone except some gap year student, so you're announcing him, Chad, to get on board like, get on the fucking plane Chad, we're ready to fly, everyone's waiting for you Chad, and like, I dunno, he's stoned or something slapping his beaded wrist against an accoustic guitar on a beach not even checked in at the airport.

And I wish we could leave without Chad but we asked Filippo and there might be VAT issues that we need to follow up if we go ahead without a contract.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

14 - Friends or followers?

Haven't heard from Filippo for a few days. Hope he's head-down and coding.

So, friends or followers? This is currently a biggie for me and Paul.

You friend someone, they accept, and you can see each others stuff. That's facebook; you have a two way relationship.

You follow someone, and you see their stuff but they don't see yours unless they follow you back. That's twitter; it allows for a one-way relationship.

The advantage of 'following' is that Ashton Kutcher can have his stuff seen by 10 million people and not deal with having 10 million friends. Seeing 10 million people's shit. That's good. That's what we want for Story.

But, we also want Story to be built on a real foundation of friendships. We want people to be friends with their real friends. Not just following a bunch of anonymous people.

We want the best of both worlds. If it could use both the friend and follow model it would be perfect. But it would have to be real simple. Like, not-needing-to-explain-how-it-works kinda simple. No one else has done that yet. No one's figured it out.

We think we have. I need to work it out a bit more. Draw a diagram.

This guy, Alex King, wrote something about it but didn't actually draw any conclusions. Good one!

Filippo better be coding.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

13 - In the club

[10:08:38] Paul: You've founded a company?
[10:19:08] Mahir: Yeah. Its for a FourSquare game
[10:19:12] Mahir: based on 
[10:20:00] Mahir: http://.com/
[10:20:41] Paul: interesting
[10:21:13] Mahir: the app is still under development
[10:21:18] Mahir: so i don't have anything to show u
[10:21:22] Mahir: iOS and Android
[10:21:27] Mahir: and web
[10:22:26] Paul: wow cool. I currently shhhhh have this shhhhhh in development shhhhhhhh! www.becomeastory.com 
[10:22:34] Paul: This is just the concept video but yeah will be alive in a month or so
[10:22:43] Mahir: nice
[10:22:51] Mahir: looks good
[10:23:18] *** Mahir sent app_ListView.jpg ***
[10:23:26] Mahir: sneek peek...
[10:24:08] Paul: nice UI.
[10:24:14] Mahir: exactly
[10:24:20] Mahir: thats just a concept
[10:24:24] Mahir: still working on designs
[10:24:53] Paul: How many founders?
[10:24:58] Mahir: 5
[10:25:06] Paul: funding?
[10:25:08] Mahir: web, server, ios, android and designer
[10:25:17] Mahir: we have secured a first investor
[10:25:27] Paul: cool
[10:25:40] Paul: angel fund or individual?
[10:27:08] Mahir: individual, but hoping to get more investors on board once we have a working prototype
[10:27:55] Paul: yeah so we are getting Story built to prove the concept then we'll do a 2nd round of serious funding
[10:28:16] Mahir: let me know if you are looking for investment
[10:28:29] Mahir: i know someone who has good contacts and can get the ball rolling
[10:28:35] Paul: Cool will do thanks. We have a guy on board now but yeah
[10:29:19] Mahir: cool
[10:29:47] Mahir: when is the story app coming out?
[10:30:18] Paul: will be done in a month i think. Stick your email address in on the site and you'll get an email
[10:30:32] Mahir: yep will do
[10:31:07] Paul: hmmm our site is a bit shit. Should sort that out :)
[10:31:47] Mahir: its pretty good for a product that hasn't launched yet
[10:31:50] Mahir: best to start basic
[10:42:54] Mahir: how many founders do you have?
[10:44:11] Paul: me and my designer friend. We took our mentor/investor on as a 3rd founder. He has decent contacts. 
[10:44:23] Mahir: cool
[10:44:42] Mahir: that's exactly how our investor is. mentor + money = win!
[10:46:24] Paul: I *think* our guy sits on a couple of boards of investors or some shit which could be handy. He knows Eric too which is less handy (worry)
[10:46:37] Mahir: haha
[10:46:48] Mahir: my investor knows eric too
[10:47:03] Mahir: coincidence?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

12 - Marketing

World changing idea: check
Amazingly simple branding that reflects purity of idea: check
Developer developing the thing: check
Money to pay developer: check

But this is all still meaningless. It's still only an idea, just with more people and money involved. The only way this thing will work is if everyone digs it. It's no good getting a few thousand users. We need a million. Ten million. It's a do or die idea. There aren't any half measures.

Me and Paul meet in a pub to chat about marketing.

In four or five weeks we're gonna have the first version of Story live on the App Store. Our plan is to get a hundred-ish people using, get feed back (sign up here if you want to), then polish it before submitting a new version and then go hard telling everyone.

I know a few journalists so I should be able to kick up a noise. Although, the last time I mentioned it to a guy I know (editor of a prominent tech mag) he ignored my request for help in exchange for an exclusive cover story. I was wasted and wouldn't tell him the idea. Probably that.

Currently, I'm designing the images in Photoshop to give to Filippo to use in the app. I'm also mocking up a new version of becomeastory.com that'll focus on people signing up to get the first version of the app. Here's a real rough mock up I did. Real rough, okay. Just a kinda hey, Paul this is kinda what I mean, it's real rough but kinda this.

Monday, 3 September 2012

11 - Naming the company

Paul's wife, who also works for a law firm, raised her eyebrows in a good way when Paul said which firm Lawyer Chris works for. Paul liked that, that it impressed his wife.

Lawyer Chris is setting up our company and writing up a contract that splits its equity three ways. Jamie, the money guy, put us in touch with him. The guy's doing it for free too. Well, not free, a 'referral fee', so we pay when we get some real money with the intent to continue using his firm.

We want the company name to be 'Story', same as the app. Obviously Story isn't available. Next on the list is Story Board, but neither is that. So me and Paul fired some names at each other.

  • Story App - Having 'app' in the name makes Paul cringe.
  • Story Boys - A gay musical.
  • We Are Story - We are Shoreditch.
  • Story Store - It's the name of an old skate shop some friends ran which made me think of 'story' in the first place. It doesn't really fit for us though.
  • Back Story - Kinda makes sense.

Paul replies while ignoring all my suggestions:
  • story box
  • short story
  • long story
  • story tank

I fling some more over and re-ignore Paul's suggestions:
  • Good Story
  • Team Story
  • Story Team
  • Story Castle
  • Story Mob

Paul says he doesn't care. I phone up my friend Glenn who has no idea what an app is let alone that we're making one, "App? What? The Neverending Story?"

We settle with Team Story. Paul says we can change the name for £20 anyway.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

10 - The kick-off meeting

Me and Paul meet Filippo at his office after work. We talk through everything so he can begin the next day. Begin working on Story. The next day. Real, official, proper, real work!

Wow, wow, wow.

Paul's taking care of the back-end web stuff (all the online storage of people's stories and how it all interacts with the app). Filippo's doing the actual app bit and I'm doing the graphics. Paul and Filippo spend most of the meeting talking about tech stuff. Usually in a meeting this technical I'd be bored off my rocker. But not our meeting. Not for our thing.

The biggest discussion (argument) we have is about logging into the app. Me and Paul originally assumed we'd have a simple 'create account' thing but Filippo said it's not as easy as that as you need a lawyer to write up terms and conditions as you're dealing with people's private information. He said that using facebook to log in is way simpler and won't cost us anything.

Firstly, I hate apps that use facebook. It dilutes the experience you're trying to create for the user and every app I've seen that uses facebook whores itself on your wall as much as it can, spreading like a disease across your social network.

Secondly, it means we have to use this button in our beautiful app:

So I'm kicking off about how I don't want it and Paul kinda agrees but is also saying 'normal' people don't care about facebook buttons and Filippo chimes in saying that people actually trust them. Paul says not everyone is mental like me and how it will save a bunch of trouble and that, if we get a second round of funding (big money), we can create our own log in then.

So I pipe down.

After the meeting we go for a few drinks in a nearby pub. Filippo explains he's about to embark on an insane three month fitness regime called the P90X where he'll change his diet and train everyday to get ripped. I like that he's going to be super fit while building our app.

Here's Paul (l) and Filippo (r) in the meeting.