I made an app and you can too.

For the past few weeks, I have been working on something completely new and unknown to me. The purpose of my blog is to record such adventures so that hopefully someone else can learn from my mistakes. Or, if nothing else, so that I can look back at them and not make those same mistakes again.

So this, my latest endeavor, was to develop an app. I have always wanted to develop an app. Like so many others, I have had these brilliant app ideas that later get made by someone else. Every time this happens, it makes me more and more determined to not let that happen again. So I started doing some research as to how someone like me, with zero tech background or knowledge, could make an app.

Of course, the first thing I did was to Google it. Let me begin by saying that I can never find what I am looking for on the internet. And this was no exception. All over the web there are people and courses trying to teach you how to code so that you can make your own app. But I have a job, a son, a wife, a house, a dog, (if you’ve been reading my blog, then you already know) a garden, you get the point. I have no time. No time to learn how to code, something that looks so foreign and overwhelming to me that it was simply too much to even comprehend. So I gave up on the idea of making it myself.

But I did not give up on the app. Next, I searched for a Podcast that describes how to make an app (at my job, I listen to Podcasts or music pretty much all day, so this was an obvious next stone to turn for me). I ended up finding a really great Podcast called Smart Passive Income, by a guy named Pat Flynn. Now, a lot of the stuff Pat talks about in his Podcast is pretty well over my head, but I was able to take a few very valuable pieces of information away from his Podcast (I believe it is Episode 014). And before I go any further, if you are interested in making your own app, I highly recommend that you go listen to that episode. The main bit of information that Pat gave me was that there is a terrific website out there called Elance.com that works like a forum to connect people who want to hire programmers with programmers. In other words, I was able to hire someone else to build my app by posting my job on Elance.com. Some of the other helpful tips from Pat Flynn were that you really need to have a good, physical idea of how you want the app to look. Have a sketch or template that details how you want it to look. It is not the job of the programmer to design it. That is either your job or you can also hire a designer. Another helpful tip from Pat was to keep the first app simple and to keep it fun.

So that’s exactly what I did. My app is a single screen with a button that triggers a sound and a pop-up. The inspiration behind the app came from my time living in South Korea. In some of the nicer restaurants, there would be these buttons called “Etiquette Buttons” in the restroom stalls that looked like door bell buttons. The concept was simple, if you were in the stall and wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having a loud bowel movement while other people were in the restroom with you, you would press the button and it would trigger the sound of a toilet flushing in order to drown out your nasty bodily sounds. So I took that idea and turned it into an app. The pop-up that I mentioned is a poop-joke that pops up after you press the button that triggers the sound of the toilet. Simple and fun.

The first thing I had to do was create a free account on Elance. That was easy. Then I created a new job to be posted with a description of the app I wanted to be made. Again, easy. In the job, you can choose to either pay by the hour or a flat rate for the whole job. I chose a flat rate because it was such a simple job I figured it would only take a few hours to make (an assumption that was very wrong, but I will circle back around to that in a bit). Because this is such a simple app, I said that I wanted to pay the least amount possible for its production, which is $500 or less. As simple as that, I posted the job. Trust me when I say that if I can do that, then you can, too.

I was amazed by the response. Within 24 hours I had 17 proposals from programmers. Their prices ranged from $30 to the full $500. Of the 17 responses, two were from people within the United States. The rest were from people/ firms in India, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, you name it. With each proposal, you can view their profiles, which include their portfolios and reviews from previous Elance work they have done. It was very helpful in deciding who to hire. I must say, the $30 proposal was the most intriguing. It was from a firm in India, and they sent a solid working prototype with their proposal. I was impressed and it gave me confidence that the app would be quick and easy to get done since they had put that together within hours of my job being posted. But in the end, I decided not to go with the lowest bidder. After reading the reviews, the only complaint about the firm in India was the difficulty to communicate with them due to the language barrier. So I decided to go with an American whose proposed rate was $100. I hired him by assigning the job to him and transferring the money into an escrow account so that he knows I am good for the money and he doesn’t get paid until the job is complete and satisfactory. It’s a good system.

Using Pat Flynn’s advice, I had drawn a simple layout of how I wanted the app to look. I wanted a backdrop of tile that looks like the tile in a bathroom, and in the center I wanted a cartoon toilet. Beneath the toilet there should be a button, THE button that triggers the toilet flushing noise. I scanned and e-mailed my drawing to the programmer. He said it would be easy and that all he needed from me was an arsenal of poop jokes and a sound bit of a flushing toilet. That was the fun part. I spent the better part of an afternoon carousing the internet for poop jokes and memes. My face was soar from laughing. I was excited.

The very next day, the programmer sent me a prototype. It was not great. The toilet, even though I had ok’d the image, did not look professional. It looked cheap. And the toilet noise didn’t work. And there was no button. But my spirits were still high because I had only hired his the day before and I figured this was pretty good progress. Well, for the next week and a half, there was no progress. In fact, he ignored me completely for five days. I messaged him everyday. Finally, after a week, I told him I was going to start looking for someone else. Go figure, he got right back to me. But with no progress to show. I was a little miffed, but he had put some work into this thing and I thought he deserved a shot at finishing it. Which he did.

In the mean time, I had decided to make it a free app and to start it out in the Android store only. If it does well, then I will add it to the iOS store as well, but the Android store is cheaper. In order to setup Developer account with Google Play in order to publish apps for Android, you pay a $25 one time fee. The Apple store charges $100 per year and takes 10% of the app’s profits. On top of all that, my wife and I both have Samsung phones and we decided we definitely wanted the app on our phones, so we chose Android.

By making the app free, hopefully that will equate to more downloads and more use. I created an account with Admob, Google’s app advertiser. So I have banner ads running across my app and every time someone sees/ clicks on an ad I get paid a very small amount. If I am understanding it correctly, I will make about $6 for every 1,000 clicks. I had to find my Admob ID in order to have the programmer insert it into the app. That was not easy. I actually had to give the programmer  my login info so he could find it because I could not. I was very uncomfortable with that, but it worked out. I also created a Developer’s account with Google Play so I could publish the app once it was complete.

Two weeks to the day after I hired the programmer, he sent me the finished product. It looked great but there was still no button. I pointed that out and he got me the real final product the next day.

Submitting the app wasn’t exactly a cake walk. The programmer had done his part and now it was up to me to figure out all this technology stuff. The real tricky part, for me, was sizing all the images to the exact size the app store requires. There is probably an easier way to do it. but I was forced to figure it out myself and it took me longer than I thought. All in all, it took me about an hour to get it published. Once it was published, it was available in the app store withing a couple hours.

I published the app on Sunday (07/26/2015). I am so proud of this thing it’s ridiculous. It cost me $125 total and probably somewhere around 5 hours of “work”. In my opinion, it was totally worth it. I learned so much and really enjoyed figuring all this stuff out. I was also glad I stuck with the programmer, he is a young guy with another job and he was working when he could. He was patient with me being a first-timer and walked me through some steps that would be no-brainers for any one with any tech savvy whatsoever. But most importantly, I’m happy with the product.

So the lessons I have learned are as follows: Everything takes longer than you expect. Nothing is as simple as you think. Be careful who you hire (check reviews and portfolios). These are all pretty obvious lessons, and I honestly feel pretty stupid even typing them. But they were lessons hard earned.

By the way, the name of the app is Toot Mute. Check it out in your Android app store.

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Easier than Expected? Unheard of!

Once again, it has been far too long since my last entry.  It turns out that gardening isn’t as labor intensive as I had originally thought. I thought it would take up a lot more of my time and efforts. Let me update you as to what has been happening around my garden for the past month. First, I planted everything. 20150601_155101_resized Then, it grew. 20150711_082402 Crazy, right?! What’s more, I have done almost nothing to maintain this garden ( as you may be able to tell by the wild look of the whole thing). Granted, I am in Colorado, which is having one ridiculously wet summer. But considering that I have gone weeks (plural!) without so much as watering this thing, I am impressed with the results so far. The only maintenance I have put into this garden is trimming back the squash, which has grown exponentially larger than anticipated, and I water it every evening if it hasn’t rained. But like I said, it’s been so wet this summer that for the most part I haven’t had to water it at all. So let’s cut to brass tax. I planted two zucchini, two squash, two tomato, two muskmelon, two watermelon, one sweet potato, one strawberry and a whole lot of lettuce. The lettuce I planted directly from seed into the bed, while the others I started indoors and transplanted into the bed. The only plant I have lost is one of the tomato plants (the one that I bought from the store did not survive while the one that I brought up from seed has survived). I did all of the planting/ transplanting on June 1. Today is July 11. Several of the veggies should harvest after 60 days. So that puts me within two weeks of eating some of my veggies! For my watering system, I have been using my empty bottles of booze.  Once cleaned, I just fill them with water and insert them upside-down into the ground near some plants. I re-fill these guys about once every week, but I think in a dryer year they could need to be re-filled once every other day or so. This system has also shown me that I drink too much, since I had enough empty bottles to fill the garden after about a week and a half. Bottom line, I’m excited. I’m proud of my little garden. One cannot come to my house without having me drag them outside to show off my newest project. But the real beauty of this has been its simplicity. I appreciate and love simplicity. Hopefully we will get some harvest here in the next couple weeks. In the mean time, thanks for stopping by.

Getting Ready to Plant

It has been over a month since my last post. But fear not, my loyal and non-existent readers, I am alive and well. I simply have not posted because here in Colorado we have been getting hit with non-stop rain and snow for the past several weeks, so any sort of outdoor work has been impossible and ill-advised.

So for the past month, my plants have been sitting in the window-sill, drinking up water and soaking up sun (even when it is raining/ snowing in Colorado, we still  get a good amount of sun). And I must say, they are looking pretty good. Far better than I had anticipated. But as my English professors used to say, “show me, don’t tell me.” So here you go:

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Top to bottom: Lettuce, Muskmelon, Squash, Watermelon, Zuccini.

Not too bad, right? I don’t know how healthy they actually are but I had just assumed that by this point they would all be dead. So I am exceeding my own, admittedly low, expectations! Since the weather has turned around and looks to be good and sunny and warm for a stretch, I am going to “harden” these little plants. From what I understand, that involves simply putting them outside, in the sun on a nice day, for a few hours each day. I’ll do that for a couple of weeks before actually transplanting them into my raised garden bed.

As I said in a previous post, I am not putting all of my harvest hopes into this little batch of veggies. Over the weekend, I went to the local garden center (O’toole’s here in Denver) and purchased some big, healthy versions of these veggies. One plant of each.

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And my wife came along, so we also appear to have purchased some gnomes and ferries? Anyhow, these guys look good and strong and the weather forecast looks promising. So this weekend I will plant these outside. And just for kicks, since I have some extra seeds, I am going to try to direct seed into the raised bed this weekend as well.

I am pretty excited to actually have something planted in the ground. I hope I am not jumping the gun and planting too early, but since this entire project is extremely experimental and done without any real insight or knowledge of what I am doing, I won’t be broken-hearted if all of the plants don’t pan out. Hopefully by my next post, there will be plants in the ground!

Getting Seeds into Soil

A couple weeks ago, I decided that I would direct seed all of the vegetables outside because I was nervous about transplanting the plants to outdoors. The only other time I have tried to transplant a living plant from a pot to the soil, it died. And that traumatized me. So, unlike all of the other plans I have made in this project, this is one plan I will not change.

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Alright so I changed the plan again. Some of my sources say that to successfully grow most of the fruits/veggies that I intend to grow, it is necessary to start them inside. Since so many of my sources contradict each other, I think I will still try direct seeding as well as starting them indoors. And this way I get to experiment with all theories and compare the results. And hopefully at least one of these theories will work out and my family and I will be able to eat some fruits and veggies grown in our own backyard.

Plus, it feels pretty good to finally have seeds in soil! I have been working on this experiment for weeks and I have finally planted something. So now I just have to sit and wait for the plants to start growing. Patience is not my thing.

So in the meantime I still have my garden bed to tinker with.

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I finished tilling the ground beneath the bed last weekend, so all that needs to be done is add some soil and plant some seeds. Since it is still early April here in Colorado, it is a bit early to plant many of the veggies outside, but supposedly the lettuce is durable and should be able to grow. So this weekend I will add the soil and direct seed some lettuce.

I am a bit frustrated that my lack of knowledge and experience with gardening keeps making me so indecisive that I switch my plans. But hopefully I will be able to learn from all of this and have easier growing seasons in the future. I just hope that this season won’t be a complete waste and that I have some sort of harvest to show for all the work. Either way, it’s a pretty fun project that has been relatively cheap and keeps me busy and gets me outside working in the beautiful weather.

Final resting place of the Garden Bed

In my last post, I had promised you, my loyal and non-existent readers, that I would start working on planting some of the veggie seeds. That did not happen. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to lie to you. I did some research on when and where to plant the veggies, and every source I read gave me different information. So I’m forced to just learn through my own experiences and hope for the best. Once again, I see that the more I learn the less I know.

So I’ve decided just to wait for the last frost to pass and direct seed everything outside. In order to do this, I will need to have everything in place and ready once that last frost happens. So this past weekend I just kept working on the garden bed itself. This whole process has left me feeling a bit nervous. I knew that my chances of having a successful garden bed in my first season were not great, but I thought that if I invested enough time into the research I could figure it out and make it work. After doing said research, I now know that nobody knows how to do this. So I’m just going to wing it. I figure that the worst that can happen is that my garden will fail, my wife will recognize me for the incompetent worker that I am, take my son and my dog and find a real man.  Leaving me and my dead garden to look at each other and wonder where we went wrong.

Putting my intense paranoia aside, I dug the holes for the corner posts and placed the bed in it’s final resting place (morbid, I know).

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As you can see, my wife, son and dog all decided they needed to be in the photo. You can also see that at this point in the day, around 5:30pm, the area will be in the shade. That should be perfect for me to get home after work and be able to put some work in, in the nice cool shade, after the garden has gotten about 8 hours of sunlight during the day.

Next, I started working on tilling the ground beneath the bed. As I understand it, this is done in order to get proper irrigation from the garden. The ground beneath the garden is fairly soft and easy to till. Still, I only got about 1/3 of the work done before dinner time/ beer time/ motivation evaporation.

Tilling

The weather this coming week looks a bit more like the Colorado weather I know and love. We are expecting snow storms on Thursday and maybe Friday, but I will continue to till throughout the week after the workday and hopefully have it all done by next weekend (ha!).

As always, I am The Man Who Bites Off More Than He Can Chew and I bid thee well.

Building the Raised Garden Bed

It is mid-March here in Colorado, and we have been graced with a couple days of beautiful weather. So I decided this was a good opportunity to get some of the outdoor work done while I had the chance. I measured out how much of the yard I was willing to sacrifice to this gardening experiment and found a location that has good sun exposure.

I decided I would build an 8X8 garden bed. If anyone is taking notes, that is significantly less ambitious than my original plan of having three raised beds, but plans change. So I went to Home Depot and got some untreated Dougas Fir. I have read varying reports on whether to use treated or untreated wood, based on the chemicals from the treatment getting into the soil and then into your veggies/food. Supposedly the treated wood is now safe to use for garden beds but I didn’t want to take the risk and got untreated. The Douglas Fir planks are 2X6’s. And I got a 4X4 of untreated cedar for where the corners meet.

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There it is. 8X8 with two 2X6’s, to make it taller. The corners are put together with the cedar 4X4. It is upside down in the picture, with the corner posts sticking up. I will dig about 4 inches down to plant those corner posts in the ground and the actual placement of the garden will be further back and in the corner of the yard. My project for this day was just to build the raised bed.

As you can see in the picture, the corner where I will be putting it is exposed to lots of sunlight. The entire fence in the background is exposed to the southern light. The photo above was taken at about 9am, so that spot will get plenty of sunlight early in the day.

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The above photo was taken at about 2:30pm. You can see that the weather has turned but that back corner is still getting a good amount of sun exposure. In addition to the exposure, that area of the yard gets hit by the sprinkler system and that 8X8 section won’t be covering up any existing sprinkler heads.

This coming weekend I will be starting to do the indoor planting for the veggies that need to grow inside a bit before they get transplanted into the soil. I know nothing about this so I will go into more depth as I learn more.

I’m Going To Start A Garden. Another Brilliant Idea. . .

Even saying it makes me nervous. Allow me give a little history. I have never successfully grown anything. Which is quite different from saying that I have never tried. Because I have. For two years in a row during my college years I decided it would be fun to grow a pumpkin patch in my back yard and then throw a big pumpkin carving party/ Halloween party once they were big and ready to carve. Obviously that didn’t happen. Not one of my pumpkins lived. I’m a murderer.

So here I am, kicking a dead horse, or maybe a dead pumpkin. Planning and dreaming. The thought of walking out into the backyard and plucking some fresh fruits and veggies from my own yard, the literal fruits of my own labor, and eating them down before they even know they have been plucked. The reward seems so great. The labor seems so great. And now that I have a blog, the possibility (probability?) of humiliation seems so great.

I’m sitting at the drawing board, the project is a blank slate sitting in front of me. It’s exciting and nerve racking. My dreams are big, hopefully my watermelons will be too. Already my wife tells me my plans are too large. But I’m a stubborn one. That kind of talk will only fuel the fire. She should know better by now.

So here is a rough sketch of my over-ambition: I will be building three raised garden beds. Two large beds and a small one. And a pot that will grow watermelons. I plan to grow ten total edibles (fruits and vegetables). Muskmelons. Lettuce. Garlic. Broccoli. Strawberries. Blackberries. Onions. Radishes. Squash. Tomatoes. Watermelons. Yea! . . . as I proofread this, I realize that my wife might have a point. Whatever the case, as of today, March 20, 2015, that is my plan. Oh, and I plan to revive a grape vine that I mostly destroyed last summer while replacing my fence.

My plans for this blog are to record my doings. Maybe someone can learn from my mistakes. Maybe someone can anticipate my errors and help me overcome them. Or maybe I will just entertain someone. I will be posting updates with every significant effort I make on the project and I will be posting pictures of my humble yard. This is a shameless project that probably no one will benefit from, but I am too stubborn to turn back now.

My efforts will begin this weekend when I’ll build the structures of the raised garden beds. Much to your chagrin, I will keep you posted. Until then, I am the Man Who Bites Off More Than He Can Chew, and I bid thee well.