Hiltmon

On walkabout in life and technology

Someone Else Did It Better

Over the past year I have been working on a stealth iPad app to scratch an itch of mine. Today, following a tweeted link, I found the product I was working on, just done better by someone else.

The Product

As a developer, I have a bunch of old iPhones and iPads. As a writer, I have a blog. The idea was simple: create a dashboard app to run on the old iPad 1 as a second screen to display my site’s Google Analytics using tiles so I could rearrange the view.

I had already solved the OAuth 2 issue in Spike Solutions, tested a tile UI in Spike UI Teaser and had worked through the Google Analytics API (but did not write about it). In short, I was up to putting it all together and polishing it up.

But today I learned about Analytics Tiles. It’s brilliant, just the product I was developing, but with a cleaner design, more tiles than I had thought of and a better interaction model. All in all, a better product than I was making.

As a result, I purchased Analytics Tiles and have stopped working on mine.

Thoughts and Feelings

This is the part where the writer tries to express how they feel about the topic. Here goes.

I don’t feel bad about this. A little down, maybe. A little disappointed that I did not get mine done and shipped by now. A little empty now that I have no hobby project on the go. But not angry or upset or feel the need to throw breakable objects.

You’d think I would given the hours spent agonizing over the design, writing spike code to see if it could work, solving problems, throwing away ideas and coming up with new ones. Sure, that’s time spent I will not get back or paid for.

But it was not all a waste. I love designing applications, I love solving problems, I love testing out ideas, I love programming. Which means I spent all that time doing something I really love to do. How can that be a waste?

Looking back, my iOS skills and web skills improved as I was trying new things. I could fly through the TimeToCall iPad implementation because I already had this under my belt. And I learned a lot.

I also had the time, and chose to spend my time doing this. I recently got back to it as several of my contracts fell through and was enjoying the activity.

Much of what I did I am not going to throw away either. I am sure I’ll face the dreaded OAuth 2 again, now I have a library that works. I am sure I’ll need pie and graph widgets again, I now have those ready to go too.

Since I need to find something negative to write to make this feely part of the post somewhat interesting, the only thing I can come up with is that it’s hard to compete with a 99c app, especially since the developer did a much better job than I was doing. I had not thought that the Windows flat tiles style would look so amazing, or that the multi-color idea for each site would work so well.

C'est la vie. Or for the geeks out there:

There is always a bigger fish.

Qui-Gon Jin Star Wars

The Community

One thing about being a developer is that even though we compete for jobs, clients and revenue, this community also supports and encourages and genuinely wants everyone to succeed. We follow each-other, use each other’s products and ideas, and even congratulate our competition if we think their version has a better feature. I suspect we do this because we know just how much time and effort goes in to making great products. So I really hope that InteractiveMonday has huge success with Analytics Tiles.

Go out and buy Analytics Tiles if it scratches your itch too. (Affiliate link so I may get a few pennies if you do). And I’ll go off and work other ideas (or yours if you hire me).

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter and @hiltmon on App.Net. Mute #xpost on one.

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