Getting back into developing StudyNWalk

Ive recently restarted work on the StudyNWalk Flashcard app that I started a few years ago. Between that time and now became a thing, and then it didn’t. At least the ‘free’ ‘serverless’ part of it. Now Google has Firebase ‘serverless’ services and I’ve decided to take the plunge.
For the StudyNWalk app, I’m looking at allowing the users to share decks of cards with other users. After a few weeks of playing with the APIs and structures, I’m very close to releasing the first version that has sharing support.
I’ve been looking at this project from an MVP standpoint, making new features as and when they are ready. Two things that have taken a back seat in this development process are UI and marketing. Of course, it’s been a while since I last worked on this app (designed for Android 4.4 in 2013) and now the general level of app design has evolved.
I even had to port the project over from eclipse to android studio, which while at least it still uses Java, the build process has completely changed. For the better, I will definitely say. Projects can now have multiple builds with Gradle and everything is a heck of a lot faster than in the eclipse days. Still, it required a bit of re-learning and adapting to get up to speed.
I’m extremely impressed with the ConstraintLayouts the template wizards want you to use now. From my previous work on iOS there finally feels like there’s a commonality between UI design concepts between the iOS and Android.

As far as the marketing side of things, I’d like to step that up as well. I’m not sure exactly what my plan will be to attempt this, but I’ll get into student mode and find out what there is to do. Since the start of this year I have regularly attended a Japanese language exchange meetup In London. Usually it degenerates into conversation in English about completely unrelated topics, but I’m sure it would be great to actually talk about studying foreign languages once in a while and see how my app might fit into that.
I’m also hoping to record some tutorial videos and integrate them into the app. The tech side of integrating this is already done, I just need to create the content.

With any luck I’ll have this on the play store in a few days.
After the functional aspects of the app are taken care of, I’ll get into UX and marketing modes. And an iOS version too.

Of course if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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First post in 3 years

I noticed it’s been 3 years since my last blog post and I’d like to get back into regular blogging, so I’ll give a quick synopsis of events in my life over that time.

In 2014 I was still working on my own apps, whilst ‘travelling’ which meant spending most of my time in Dundee, Scotland, but with a 5 month trip staying in Tokyo and Taipei. My journey started with return tickets to Tokyo. I stayed there for about a month in a capsule hostel (think hostel, but with capsule style beds. I’m sure it was the future for the 80s) After that I booked return flights to Taipei and stayed there for 3 months with my girlfriend before returning to Tokyo for one more month (a one month rental of a room in a gaijin share house.) Finally I returned home to UK.
All that time I was working on my apps. I was progressing the Study N Walk flashcards apps and working on a new dictionary app called Plants Dictionary.
I continued working at home in UK until the end of December, where up until that point my revenue had been steadily increasing from a few pennies per month (autumn 2013) to 32 pounds in November 2014. However December’s income had reduced to 16 pounds and I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t really in a financial situation to accept that level of income and instability.

The first three months I spent of 2015 I spent in Taipei with my girlfriend again, but looking into finding work in UK. I’d bought the plane tickets months in advance and made plans to see Olivia again.
I had a few Skype calls with recruiters in UK, which ultimately resulted with an interview in London when I came back in April.
This time however, my girlfriend came with me to live in UK. She had a 2 year working holiday visa and was applying for jobs in London as well. We drove down from Dundee to London (about 9 hours driving to our Airbnb in Milton Keynes) and stayed there for 4 days for the interviews in central London. However neither of us got any offers so we were back in Dundee. Olivia found a job as a live-in nanny near Glasgow, and I finally got a job in Dundee as a software engineer in August. Olivia’s job ended and then ultimately got another job in Dundee, so at least there wasn’t the 1.5 hour drive to meet her every week!
During most of 2015 I suffered from a health condition known as Achalasia, a condition which prevented me from eating too much. This required surgery in December. I’ll save this one for another blog post, but suffice to say it wasn’t a pleasant situation. Luckily all went well and I’m back in good health.

2016 rolled round with spending Hogmanay in Amsterdam! I suppose it’s not a big enough deal to write about a long weekend on holiday when I’m writing just one paragraph per year, but it really was an amazing place! Particularly at New Years, with all the fireworks.
Work and life was fairly straight forward for the first half of the year. I paid off the mortgage on my flat in Dundee, Olivia and I got married in July. However there was a significant round of redundancies at my company. Luckily I still had a job in the end but during that time Olivia had a holiday booked in London. During her trip, she interviewed for a job and got it, after just one interview!
I was very surprised she had managed to do get the job offer so quickly, but she was not happy with her current job in Dundee so in combination with my own company’s difficulties at the time, I agreed that it would make sense to try something new.
She moved down and started working in London at the end of September. I gave my notice and drove down at the end of October. We moved into a room in a house near Lewisham, south London. I started working in a software company in mid November.

2017 and now
Unfortunately the company didn’t work out for me. I left at the end of march and decided to take some time out before going back into work. I already had holiday plans in April to go back to Taiwan for a week to meet Olivia’s family. During this time I did a lot of thinking and considered that I’d like to take a bit more time out and try something new. After all, I found myself in a new city, London no less, and there had to be lot of new things to see and do.
By coincidence, my friend back in Dundee was looking to start a small venture to make an app for games companies in Scotland, so I took the free time I finally get round to using the new Android Studio. All my previous android projects used eclipse and unity.
Upon reviewing my older apps, still on the market place, it appeared they were still being downloaded and creating constant, albeit little, revenue.

Currently I feel like it’s time to branch out and do something else for a while. Financially I’m in a reasonably safe place, as I am renting out my flat in Dundee which would theoretically extend my ‘runway’ in London to infinity, if I didn’t have responsibilities like eating out at restaurants and going out to social meetups…

I probably have a lot more to say but for the moment I’ll stop and say that I would like to get back into blogging regularly and I’ll post again soon.

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