Tuesday, 30 October 2012

32 - Are we there yet?

Filippo codes the app. Paul codes the web backend that the app talks to. And I make it look nice.

Cars are always a good metaphor. So like, Paul builds the engine. Filippo builds all the bits that join up to the engine; steering wheel, dashboard, gearbox etc. And I cover it all up with a metal frame and leather seats.

The other day Paul emailed me a load of dialogue between him and Filippo and was excited. It seems that Paul's engine is finally turning on when Filippo flips the key.

By the end of this week we should be able to drive to the shops and back (publish stories for the first time)

Next week Filippo will be oiling the gears, pumping air into the tires and redoing the paintwork (fixing bugs and making whatever changes we'd like)

The week after that... Free Aston Martins for everyone! (You'll be able to get the app from your local dealer (the App Store))

Road trip!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

31 - February

From: Paul
To: Simon
8 February 2012 21:05 
Re: Balsamiq 
… Anyway my cooking app is underway. You remember Filippo? He runs his own mobile agency with another bloke. Having a chat with him next week. Just for some pointers. 

From: Simon
To: Paul
8 February 2012 21:29
Re: Balsamiq
I know you like the cooking thng but you could use the shell a bunch of ways. 
Like, it could be a scrapbook of pictures, videos and notes from when you go on holiday. The home screen could be a bunch of holiday albums. I think you should think of the core concept. Like, a collection of albums that you share with people that could contain anything. Maybe you could rate people's albums and see public albums. 
I like the idea of collections of things. 

From: Paul 
To: Simon
8 February 2012 21:39
Re: Balsamiq
Well yeah you're right but I was into the simplicity of it. Also lots of cute things about cooking. Like you can give people cute messages and icons and options that are cooking based. 
A picture album app is good too. I told you I thought that's what path was to start with. Like a little 'path' of photos displaying your weekend or your marathon or your holiday etc. I like that. It's a bigger app though and would take me a stupid amount of time to throw together. 
Might try it. Like I'm going to make a near to realistic prototype, make the little website ie like its really real then get someone to pay for it to be built. 

From: Simon
To: Paul 
8 February 2012 22:01
Re: Balsamiq
But why would it be extra work? It's all just uploading pictures with text. I just don't think you should bracket people in to use it a particular way when there's loads of ways to use it. Just people's scrapbooks. Call it scrapbook. 

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
8 February 2012 22:16 
Re: Balsamiq
Yeah I understand. I will give it some thought. I understand you abstracting it. You can abstract too much and you're left with something too vague. Aaaaanyway yeah I guess it just means a massive rethink. I do like it though. You could tag it and that which I was gonna do anyway. I guess using it for cooking would be a great example of HOW to use it.  
When it was just a food thing, like a news feed that shows what your friends are cooking, then you see the end result ie they mark it as 'done'. Thought it'd be nice to comment on each stage of your journey. Then you build up your journeys. People like your journeys. People have similar journeys. I sorta have it in my head. 

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
9 February 2012 09:23 
Re: Sweating
Maybe this is a whole new app but this is what I see... 
When you open it there's a home screen of featured 'books' by different people. One might be a bunch of nice photos. One might be a short story. One is a guy's recipe for cooking. One is someone's holiday pics; however a collection of pictures and words packaged up. 
Then there's the 'create book' button where you can give it a title and subline, and upload pictures, video and text. When you're done, you can publish it. You can publish privately just for your mates or you can publish publicly. If you publish publicly it will appear in everyone's search terms and category stream.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
9 February 2012 09:53 
Re: Sweating
Your idea is different to what i'm thinking but also kinda the same. I liked the cooking thing and then that being extended out of the cooking thing. Like what i thought Path was. A photographic journey bundled up into little album type things. Extending it beyond photos to things like text... I like the simplicity of photo journeys. You can add annotation to them too. Will think. It could be fun and beautiful.

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
20 February 2012 12:11 
Has anyone done anything like this? It could be massive.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
20 February 2012 12:16 
Re: thng
Mate i know!!!!
Like it really could take off man. People would LOVE creating stories. Like yeah. My notebook looks exactly the same:

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
20 February 2012 12:24 
This feels too easy.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
20 February 2012 12:28 
Re: thng
I even looked at the photo album type apps on the app store and they are disgusting. This is more of a social thing though and based on the 'journey'. That is key. Like example albums are:
My birthday
Mama's fish stew
When i climbed everest
Road trip

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
Re: San Pelllllllllllllllllllllllll
22 February 2012 12:24 
What the fuck is it going to be called? Remember it is about the journey. Path would be perfect but like yeah.....

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
Re: San Pelllllllllllllllllllllllll
22 February 2012 13:28 
jouboo.com is available - Like, Journey and Book put together.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
Re: San Pelllllllllllllllllllllllll
22 February 2012 13:33 
jouboo works. i was toying with like journi :S

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
23 February 2012 01:03 
mock up

I only got as far as home screen and the 'Start Book' screens. Yeah I still don't like the books, just fuckin around.
But I love the pop up info when you tap a book. And I love the 'Start Book' screen. Makes me wanna make one real bad.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
Re: Tappy
24 February 2012 09:47 
need a name today.
just a fucking name.

From: Simon 
To: Paul 
Re: Tappy
24 February 2012 11:25 
I fucking love the word Story.
Knew these guys that opened a skate shop called Story Store. Always loved that. Story.

From: Paul 
To: Simon 
Re: Tappy
24 February 2012 11:28
Yeah story is nice. We work in Agile here and instead of raising little projects they are called stories. I kinda like it. Like i'm working on a big story right now that has sub-tasks etc. Yeah, Story is nice.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

30 - Itterrate, iterrate, iterate

I woke up and had this crazy rush of, I dunno, something. I really hate the design of the pop up windows in Story. They look fake. Look:

And it looked worse every time I stared at it. And then it reached breaking point and I had this rush of like, what the fuck am I doing? We have this perfect idea and an amazing opportunity to finally work for ourselves and on something important. It's so special, it'll kill me if it looks sloppy.

So I'm staring at this trying to figure out how to do it better:

It's fiddly. Makes you read too. This is the most important bit of the tool when you're creating a story but the bits where you touch are real long and thin:

That's not cool. So I did this:

Made the buttons big and square. Made the icons the thing your eye is drawn to and made the text small.

But then I'm thinking why is the button black? I'm kinda going for this whole pure white thing for the app and here's this big black thing. So here's a mock up of the (currently) final design for the pop up windows:


I'm trying to design this thing as if Jonathan Ive was doing the UI. Unobtrusive colours (other than the orange, the only colour will be your pictures and story covers), rounded corners but with sharp dividers that draw your eye.

Filippo is annoyed I changed the design, "I'll implement it today, the new pop-up very different from the old one, it will take a while to integrate. Please ... Please ... Please ... do not do it again... it takes ages to optimise. thanks :) " But you know, it wasn't me, it was the crazy rush.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

29 - Selling for free

One day we'll need to make money off this thing. It'll be a nice problem to solve when Story has ten million users.

Here are the options we'll have:

1. Paid version without any ads.
2. Free version with banner ads.
3. Sponsored content.
4. Sell in-app extras.
5. Sell access to premium stories.
6. Subscription fee.

I think that's it. Let's start from the top:

1. A paid version with no ads: This would be great, yeah let's do that. Oh wait, we can't because it's a social app. If we were making a game, or any other type of app, we could sell it for 99p. But making a social app? It has to be free. Which is kinda annoying because it means we have to consider stuff like:

2. Free version with banner ads: No way. Cheap and horrible.

3. Sponsored content: This is better than having banner ads, and it's the most realistic income for us. It would be great if we could get companies to pay for sponsored content and take advantage of it in a cool way. Like, say, Coke made a story about the history of their company. That would be cool. I'd read that. But how often do advertising people do stuff interesting? (My old house mate, during an ad break, he'd scream at the TV "STOP LYING TO ME") Anyway, sponsored content is the most realistic option for an app like ours and hopefully we can make it interesting. I like the idea of making companies think a bit about it, like, "Look guys, this is a mini version of your entire brand. Like a mini website for you. Be honest with it. Do something good." We'll see.

4. Selling in-app extras: We could sell extras like being able to choose fonts for your stories or changing colours. I don't really like this. I like the idea of a product being a complete product. No hidden extras or costs. A lot of apps do it successfully but it just doesn't feel clean.

5. Sell premium stories: I could rant about the failing magazine industry again but basically, people do not want to pay to read something.

6. Subscription fee: This is like selling the app for a price but more complicated, "Yeah no, it costs 99p but 99p every month... if you want to cancel your subscription simply-" This wouldn't saturate.

Paul has his own opinions. Like I said, when we have ten million users and have to solve this problem, it'll be nice.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

28 - Design change

The story icons have been bugging me. When I first designed them they looked like books, like this:

I didn't like the books. They felt too old and dusty. Felt too confined. I worried if people saw a screen shot of the app they'd think it was an app for reading books.

So I designed something more abstract. Something that looked like a book but also more than a book. I did this:

But these haven't been sitting well with me either. The sharp angles contradict the softness of the rest of the app.

Here's the new design I've been working on for the story icons:

Still abstract in nature, still have the 'light' shining from inside but I've given them the roundness of the original books. I love these.

Monday, 8 October 2012

27 - First glimpse

Paul turns and chucks me Filippo's phone, it has the app on it. A plain white app icon with 'Story' labelled underneath it.


I launch it... stories appear. Wow. I can scroll them up and down. I do that for a bit. I get a rush of excitement. This is our baby. It's great. It feels like more than an app. It feels like a real physical thing. I hit the 'following' tab and see new stories sweep onto the screen. Wow wow wow. That's all it does for now, but it's great and I beam.

We make a joke about having a launch party and doing so many drugs we die and go down as the biggest rock stars in the tech industry. It was funnier at the time.

Filippo deploys the app to mine and Paul's iPhones where he'll be updating it every couple of days or so with a newer version.

We go to the pub and send this video to Jamie the investor:

Sunday, 7 October 2012

26 - My past*

All the T-Shirts and sweaters I used to print are hidden in a cupboard now. The sight of them makes me cringe.

I have great memories though. There was one drop I did, where I had a count down on my site, and I sold over a grand's worth of product in a day. I think I clocked up about £1200. It felt amazing as it was me making something and selling it directly. I suddenly saw I could make a living off my own back, I didn't need anyone else. An escape from 9 to 6 slavery where success could be as huge as my imagination.

But I didn't keep it up. I'd work really hard on each drop. So I'd be working in these cycles. Towards the end of each cycle I'd stop going out and talking to people and just work on it obsessively for about three weeks. Then I'd release the latest designs and it was this huge emotional release where I felt I could relax and have fun again. So I'd go out and feel good. But then a month would go by and I wouldn't have done anything for the next drop and I'd start feeling anxious.

It got harder and harder, those gaps, to pull it all back in and get back to work.

I was also fighting this feeling of it not really mattering. Like, the T-Shirts didn't mean anything. My brand didn't stand for anything. All good clothing brands come from a scene... a skate scene, a music scene etc. Mine weren't from anywhere except my head. I felt it lacked something important that I couldn't put my finger on and so eventually the passion for it died leaving this aching chasm, a need to create something, a product that people love and want to own and use.

That feeling's been with me ever since. It was always there, but actually seeing a glimpse of what that could feel like... it was incredible.

*I'll get Paul to write one of these too. For now, I remember, back in art college, I didn't know him too well then, and we were all presenting these big six-week art projects. I can't remember what anyone else did but we all had these big things we'd done with sketchbooks full of 'research' and all that. When it got to Paul, he just threw down this little pyramid, about three inches squared, made from paper. The outside was covered in abstract drawings and words,  you could fold open one triangle of the pyramid, which I think was clear acetate, and there was stuff written and drawn on the inside. The tutor was like, "Is that it? That's all you got?" Paul was like "Yeah." I remember laughing so hard. It was so underwhelming, this little thing, but the more I looked at it the more I realised it probably had more meaning, more reason, than any other drop-out art kid in that room.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Monday, 1 October 2012

24 - Disruption

I think Story will disrupt (and become the future of) the entire publishing industry.

See, here's the thing; no one cares about magazines any more. They're irrelevent. The fact the magazine industry is still around is insane. It's built on the back of bullshit ABC figures (how many copies they claim to sell) and dumb advertisers who still pay these guys for page space blindly believing people still read the things. Print magazines are a corpse. And the iPad equivalents are the corpse on a screen.

People don't want to pay money to download a 500mb file of 100 pages of month old stories which are unsearchable, unsharable and you delete forever after reading. It's so insane I can't believe Apple even bothered making the Newsstand app. I would've left that industry to die an overdue death.

But I love journalism. I love it. Magazines used to be my favourite thing. Journalism is so powerful and so important but it's gone to shit. The industry is tarnished. The honesty of the writer and the trust of the reader has gone but the need for real, real, journalists is so important.

Here's where Story comes in.

After we have funding I want to start commissioning journalists and photographers to create stories that will feature on the Discover screen. Real journalism; war stories; photo stories; writing that makes you laugh out loud in public; work that inspires, educates and makes your day better. The nature of Story means you can follow your favourite journalists/photographers directly. Imagine that. Whatever they publish will pop to the top of your feed as soon as they produce it.

It's a great plan. This model could change everything.

Paul isn't hot on having an editorial department, "I hate the word 'editorial'". Paul dreams of creating code that will learn what you like and be able to automatically pull up and display popular and cool stories on the discover screen. A perfect automated system. Paul's plan seems much more realistic and 'now'. I like it but I'm an editorial guy and I want to disrupt and resurrect that entire wrecked industry.