Starting from scratch/Here goes nothing!

Happy New Year and welcome to my iOS app dev blog. Let’s see, how to start my first blog post…well, might as well jump right in and give you a little background about myself and how I got here. A few years ago, I was a graduate student at Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, a part-time worship minister at a Christian church in Springfield, IL and a huge Apple fan. Even though I had never personally owned an Apple computer, I’d used plenty of them. I had a free PC from my job, but I talked my wife into buying a Mac for school and I got the free first generation iPod touch that came with it in the Back-to-School promotion. This was the fall just after the release of iPhone OS 2.0 and the grand opening of the App Store, and what a time that was for developers and users alike! It was so amazing to have so much power and so many apps on that small, thin little device, and just as amazing to hear about the crazy amounts of money some devs were making selling anything from high quality 3D games to fart apps. Ever since I was a high schooler noodling around with the programming capabilities of my TI-83 graphing calculator, I had been interested in software development, and here was my chance to put my skills to work! Only one small problem – a didn’t actually know anything. And I mean nothing. For whatever reason, I never delved any deeper into programming than writing a few unit conversion utilities for that calculator. I listened eagerly to the Stevenotes talking about the new App Store, but I didn’t know an SDK from an API and couldn’t tell you what UIKit was or recognize an Objective-C method call if my life depended on it. At this point, the idea of actually making an app was far from a reality, just a faint idea in the back of my mind that I quickly put aside.
Fast forward about 8 months, and the story was quite different: I had a Mac of my own – a 12″ Powerbook G4(!) – from my job, I had downloaded the SDK, and I finally had come up with a great idea for an app! By this point in the App Store’s history, the phrase “there’s an app for that” was almost universally true. Any idea I or my friends could think of, there was already an app out there, or more likely, a whole slew of apps which meant the market was most likely pretty saturated. I kept reading on blogs that one key to creating a great app was to make an app that you yourself would use, and this is what eventually led me to the idea: there were tons of chord/scale/tuner apps out there for guitarists, but nothing similar for drums – my main instrument. Alright, I had an app idea, on a topic which I knew a lot about, time to learn how to program! I bought Stephen Kochan’s Programming in Objective-C 2.0 and dove in headfirst. 7 more months of diligent work in my free time – including countless Google searches, hours spent in the docs and on blogs, way too much time doing all the graphics myself in Photoshop and Illustrator – and out popped my first app just before Christmas 2009: theDrumDictionary. After a few months of 3-5 sales a day, I woke up one morning to see a sales report of 100 sales! I knew it had to be a mistake and didn’t really know what to think 🙂  I came to find out later that day that theDrumDictionary had been featured in the US App Store front page in the New and Noteworthy section! Needless to say, it was a wild ride that week – reached briefly all the way up to #6 on the music charts – and has been quite interesting ever since. There’s so much more I could say – and I probably will in other posts – but here’s the gist of where I’m at right now, a little over a year after the initial release: theDrumDictionary is now a universal app for iPhone and iPad, I’ve been experimenting with a free version as advertising, and much to my surprise theDrumDictionary was featured on New and Noteworthy again this past Christmas, this time in the UK, Canada and Ireland! While I’ve still not managed to earn enough money to truly make a living off of the app, I’ve got some savings, and I find myself in an interesting position. My wife and I just returned from a six month long internship in Germany. Before we left, we moved out of our apartment, gave up our jobs, etc., and now that we’re back I’ve decided to make the most of this opportunity. With no job to come back to, no long-term commitments, and a bit of money saved up to last for a little while, I’m going to take the plunge and work full time on bringing some of my other app ideas to life. That’s what this blog is going to be about. I’ll reflect a little on the past year, hopefully giving some resources and tips that can help others starting from scratch like myself, and track the development of some of my new ideas. For anyone who happens to stumble onto this blog, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer: as you know if you read this post, I’m still a total n00b when it comes to programming. If I post some code on here and it helps you out, great! If you look at it and think, “what a freakin’ mess!” then I’d be so thankful to hear your tips and feedback. I’ve learned so much from blogs I feel like I need to at least try to give a little back, but I must confess I’m not too confident in my abilities! Hopefully this blog will be a good exercise in personal development in this regard, and just maybe, I can help someone else out a little bit too. Thanks for reading this ridiculously long post! Coming up soon: a numbers post about the past year in the life of theDrumDictionary and my recent experiments with a free version…

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