Your teammate scored a really tough goal in your pick-up soccer game. You gave her a high-five, but a few hours after the game, you want to acknowledge her effort to the whole team. Or a couple friends carried that new sleeper-sofa up to your third-floor apartment, and you want your circle of friends to know what great guys they are.
These are the kinds of scenarios Matt Graham had in mind when he pitched a social ranking app that recognizes contributions that friends and co-workers have made in our lives, and that shares the moment with others who are impacted by the deed. “It can be hard to properly recognize a person at the moment something happens,” said Matt, a student in the January-March iOS Bootcamp at Mobile Makers Academy. “I wanted an app that allows everyone to see what someone did, and that brings the group back together again after it’s over.”
Classmates Bradford Shultz and Sid Reddy liked the opportunities presented by the app project, so they joined up.
After graduating from Purdue University with a major in psychology, Bradford worked his way up from IT support roles to be a SQL database analyst. He scripted in Visual Basic, ASP and .NET, working with a startup company designing e-commerce websites. “I’d always been on the support side of code as opposed to building new products. I signed up for this class because I wanted to build things using object-oriented programming, and I really liked the feel of building a new app rather than working on redesigns."
Sid Reddy came to the US from south India to get a BS in neuroscience at UCLA. After college, he taught himself HTML and started a business building websites for restaurants in Los Angeles, and he outsourced an app project to India that allows users to rank restaurant dishes with a “yum” or “yuk” rating. In deciding which app team to join, Sid said he was looking for a project that makes use of a database. “We learned Parse in the fifth week, enabling us to build out the back-end—that way we don’t need to find someone who can program a web server. Classically, iPhone programmers just do front-end programming, but Parse allows us to do the back-end stuff, too, making it much more powerful for individual developers to build products."
As the team started looking at their task, they wanted to allow users to log into their social app independent of other platforms, as well as to connect with their Facebook friends. With deadline pressure to get their app to market in just three weeks, though, they decided to use Facebook’s authentication tool and focus their attention on other aspects of the app. In the process, said Bradford, “We refactored a ton of code. The app’s already gone through two iterations and we have made a lot of improvements."
An economics major from the University of Chicago, Matt worked at a few startups using SQL and HTML, and at Microsoft he was product manager of their online services division, focusing on security and fraud in online advertising. Making the transition from product manager to being on the development side has opened his eyes to the impact that change requests can have on a product. “Now I understand what’s involved when I say, ‘Let’s add a button.’"
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said, "and you can only figure out some of these things as you start going down those paths. One of the benefits of the Agile development environment that we’re using is that we can easily break down features and stories into small discreet packets, then we can create or remove stories as we discover how it’s working. We might not know the most efficient way to do something at first, then as we get really good at it, we realize we should do it differently and we can make those changes.'
"The most fun comes from being able to create,” said Sid. "Everyone here loves programming. In college everyone is focused on getting As, but here the structure is you get assignments and you do the MVP, and then you can keep going with the stretches. With that balance of structure and flexibility, you can code all night if you want to. I’ve never had so much fun learning."
That’s worth a couple high-fives to the team.
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