Music App Stuff #6: Punk Rock Power Walk
I'm not a business man, I'm a... oh, I guess I am, huh
Let us take a moment to reflect here in the sixth issue of Music App Stuff. The 4.2 beta is going swimmingly, so I’m mostly on i-dotting and t-crossing duty. That suits me just fine after the iCloud saga of the last couple of months. With any luck, next issue will be the 4.2 release spectacular, marking the second year in a row that a major update launches within a week or so of the 1.0 anniversary.
Last year it was 3.0, which took the app from a spunky upstart utility with some confusing-but-big ideas to a robust player with some confusing-but-big ideas. 4.2 caps off Albums’s second year with a focus on making it a robust player and first class library management tool. I also went so far as to take the radical step of including tips and explainers for various features, new and old, throughout the app. Albums 4.2: more big ideas now with less confusion!
Why add this helpful context now and not before, you might rightfully ask? Well, 4.2 is the first update I worked on full time. You can really luxuriate in the little things when you ratchet up the time spent from “nights and weekends” to, uh, “every waking moment.” Moreover, though, I’m honoring the perspective shift in the idea that this thing that represents a deep, inner part of myself, is now the thing that is supposed to pay the bills. Not only do people need understand how to use it — they need to understand why they’d want to.
Why go full time now? I’ve got a vision for Albums and despite my best efforts in the months prior to making the decision, I cannot will my brain to think about anything else. The timing works out nicely, since in the past few months I’ve begun to hubristically believe I actually know what I’m doing.
For the first year of Albums, I was building it by the skin of my teeth. I learned programming concepts, APIs, and language features more or less exactly when I needed them, driven by the goal of the moment. I loved that feedback loop. Have an idea, figure out how to make it work, move on. To me, the crown jewel of the 1.0 release was displaying production credits. I had clawed my way to a good-enough understanding of calling APIs and handling the data returned, and I was damn proud of the information I’d jammed into that tiny little square.
One of my major ambitions for 3.0 was to be able to view collections based on shared production credits, so now the credits had to be downloaded once and saved rather than redownloaded each time you wanted to look at them. I bolted that functionality onto the existing code, and I hadn’t thought much about any of it since. That is, until production credits started being implicated in just about every major iCloud issue I was running into during 4.2’s development.
Frustrating as it was to untangle and neatly retie that great knot of feral code, it helped cement for me what the shift to full time means. I excavated two layers of code, but only one state of mind. Under everything was the raw, molten core of excitement powering 1.0. On top of that were the casualties of the 3.0-era battle between features and foundation. At that time, it could sometimes feel like it was one or the other, and I knew which one I wasn’t going to compromise on. The teenage DIY punk in me roars to life in those situations: “if they can’t see what’s good about it, fuck ‘em. You do you.” “Fuck ‘em,” it turns out, is not really a great way to run a business.
Working on Albums full time for the last couple of months has given me the incentive, the space, and the understanding to reconcile the two things. Whether I’m 14, crowdsurfing to Rancid at Warped Tour, or 32, listening to Rancid on a 6:30AM power walk around the city, as I did just the other morning, the fact is that I’m still listening to Rancid. The ethos that is the engine behind this app is always going to be the differentiator, it’s just that now I have have the opportunity, focus, and know-how to clean it up nice to better share it — and myself — with the world. Just ignore the guy in the back yelling “sellout!”
See you in two weeks, maybe three, depending on how App Review goes.