My New Adventure as an Independent Mobile Developer in Atlanta

It's official - I've quit my day job.

I can remember ~10 years ago talking to my buddy about how one day we would be able to write killer apps that would run on our phones. At the time I had just picked up a Danger Sidekick - in many ways a predecessor to the iPhone (in fact it was started by a former Apple employee, who later went on to start Android as well). The phone had apps - like AIM, and MSN Messenger, and Telnet - and you could get them out of an app store - a revolutionary concept at the time in the largely pre-touch world. We imagined that one day they would allow 3rd party developers to write apps - no more creating boring desktop apps - we would be at the forefront of people's daily lives.

Fast-forward 10 years, and that has all largely come to fruition. I've been lucky to be a part of the mobile revolution that we've all witnessed these last several years writing mobile apps for folks like Microsoft, Home Shopping Network, Tesco, and others. While I've developed several mobile apps and games both professionally and independently, I have never been in a position to purely focus on mobile - and I wanted that to change.

As of a month ago today, I left my job at IQ as Director of Technology. To say that was a tough decision would be an understatement. Working at IQ, a digital agency in Atlanta, I was around some of the smartest folks I've ever worked with - from user experience gurus, to creative talent which continuously blew me away, to my own team of diverse and incredibly talented coders (big shout outs to our PMs and Account folks as well). It was unlike anywhere I'd worked before - and I largely give IQ credit for my evolution in the last 3 years from a mindset of a front-end-leaning developer, to one that sees opportunities and has the guts to go after them. It sucks that pursuing my dreams must come at the cost of me having to leave IQ - but I am very happy that transition has gone well, and that I have their support and well wishes.

So, what exactly does this mean? Well, for the short term it means that I'm getting back to full-time development. For the last 30 days I've largely locked myself in a room and been designing and coding. By this time next week you should see the results of those first 30 days - a game for Android which I created from scratch entirely by myself. The upcoming 30-60 days I will largely focus on Windows 8 development in preparation for the release of Windows 8, and more importantly the Windows 8 Store. Depending on how these first two ventures go, my plans may of course change, but tentatively my plans then move on to learning iOS to develop for iPhone/iPad - something I've been putting off for way too long. My goal being to round out my mobile knowledge, and to be able to develop for all the major players equally well by year-end.

My longterm goal? To be an independent mobile developer that can bring multi-platform apps and games to businesses that can't afford to hire 5-10+ person teams to create their own apps. In the mean time, it's my job to prove what I can do with various independent projects. My mantra succinctly has turned into "All Mobile Everything" - and that's what I plan on living by as I start out on my own. It's going to be a fun ride - one in which I'll probably learn a lot. I hope you'll stay tuned and help continue to support my efforts. If you'd like to get in touch, feel free to use the contact link on SmartyP.net.

Best wishes.

The Beta of My Health Info

It's been a little less than 2 months since My Health Info launched on MSN. 'My Health Info' is the project I've been working on at IQ Interactive the last 5+ months or so. It is written in Silverlight 3 using Prism and is a pretty big chunk of code, of which I am very proud. I have had the pleasure of working with a large number of incredibly talented and creative people at IQ Interactive. In the Silverlight space I've had the privilege of working with Corey Schuman and Mason Brown. I think this project has been a great learning experience for all of us.

Here are a few videos on My Health Info..

Product Reel for My Health Info (produced by IQ Interactive)

What is currently released is a beta version, and another version will be released within the next month or so. I hope you'll check it out now and once the newer version is up towards the middle of next month.


A Little Bit About the New Silverlight Gig

This was my first week at a new gig as a full time Silverlight developer. I'm still getting into the flow of a totally new job, but this first week has been great. I am working with Corey Schuman over at IQ Interactive on a really neat project which I hope to brag about once it's public. Working with people in the design community and another Silverlight developer is going to exponentially help build up my Silverlight abilities.

I can't suggest enough that people who want to get into the Silverlight space get involved with your local communities - or start local groups if you don't have one in your area. Corey took the initiative to startup the Atlanta Silverlight Meetup Group just a few months ago, and there are already over a dozen people showing up for the meetups, and that is now leading towards an upcoming Atlanta Silverlight firestarter. This has served to encourage me to get out there and get more involved in the community as well - hopefully there will be more on that going forward.

I've heard several people tell me how Twitter is a waste of time, or is stupid, or things like that - but if your a developer and aren't on Twitter then you are really missing out in my opinion. In a very real way using Twitter is what helped me land this job - getting my name out there and having some back-and-forth with peers in relative fields.

A quick search on Linkedin shows that there are hundreds of thousands of folks out there labeled as a Software Engineer, tens of thousands labeled as a .Net Developer, but a search for Silverlight Developer turns up just a handful of people, and I am very happy to be on that list - I can't wait to see where it leads.


The End of Another Chapter..

Today is my last day at my current job - it is the end of another chapter of my career. I don't want to overstate the significance of this job, but I must admit that this job opened my eyes to a lot of new things, and provided me tremendous amounts of opportunities to progress in my career. While I am incredibly eager to start my next opportunity - which I will post more about later - I will definitely miss many of my coworkers here, and I wanted to express my deep gratitude for their support and the opportunities afforded to me the last two years.

My soon-to-be-former employer is a gold certified Microsoft partner, and as such I had the privilege of using a ton of great Microsoft technologies, attending numerous training sessions put together by Microsoft, and in some cases working side by side with Microsoft reps on mission critical projects. Another great perk of this shop was their affinity for giving developers the time and resources to visit some of Microsoft's annual conferences - I myself got the chance to go to PDC 2008 on the company's dime - something which was a great opportunity for me. This shop is also quick to pick up on new Microsoft technologies, and that is what afforded me the opportunities to work in .Net 3.5, WPF, etc. - the breadth of technology used here (and used well) is something to be seen.

From a developers standpoint, this job was my first introduction to a real development shop. By that I mean a company with not just 5-10 developers, but several teams of developers, all of whom are proficient in a wide variety of technologies. Project management and code maintenance were crucial here, and as such I got to use a lot of things which many other developers may be familliar with, but perhaps don't rely on heavily. This included unit tests, acceptance tests, continuous builds, virtualization, sprint planning, sprint reviews, backlog planning and breakdowns, and several other processes that made all our teams and players work together and get things done. It was quite impressive to see how such a large development team is orchestrated to commit to the same projects without everything falling apart and ensuring code quality.

I can't say enough about this great development shop, and I wish everyone here and the company itself the best of luck going forward - I am sure we will stay in touch through the local code camps and user groups.


The Immediacy of Now - Why I'm Switching Focus to Silverlight

For those that don't know, I have been a Winforms dev since about 2001. Before that time I was just as interested in graphics and usability as I was in coding itself. While in college I was pursuing a computer science degree in class, but my free time wasn't spent coding in Java or reading books on operating systems, it was spent in Photoshop and Flash 4. In fact, I was doing more advanced stuff in Flash Actionscript at the time than I was doing in my college CS courses. I had hoped that when it came time to graduate from college I would be able to get aboard the Flash bandwagon - creating super cool UI's for the web - unfortunately the dot com bubble burst, and my coding abilities were what kept me gainfully employed.

Up until creating an entry for the Server Quest Silverlight contest I had never touched Silverlight. I was definitely aware of it, but I was a Winforms guy, not a web guy - so I was elbows deep learning WPF and Prism and doing WPF LOB work for my current employer - I had no plans of touching Silverlight. Now that I've finished my first major Silverlight app, Matchingo, I find myself questioning which direction I want to go next - do I go back to WPF, or do I keep on trucking in Silverlight?

(click 'Read More' below to keep reading)

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