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iPhone App Creation + Marketing … A Great Learning Experience August 6, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Life Balance, Simplifying your life.
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I’ve sure learned alot throughout the process of designing and building an iPhone app, and now about marketing it. Thought I would post about what the process has been like so far. Ours is a very simple app, but there are still many steps to go through.

I’ve been envisioning a simple role-based to-do list for the iPhone since the day that William Bakker & I sat in a meeting and followed the real-time blog coverage of Steve Jobs now famous iPhone launch presentation at MacWorld.  I had previously created a desktop version of this kind of tool (called “Overview”) using FileMaker, and was subsequently very disappointed that FileMaker (an Apple company) didn’t create a simple version of their software for the iPhone.

When the iPhone SDK was released, I toyed with the idea of trying to teach myself iPhone programming (the hype around the SDK made it sound easy… and hey, this was Apple after all). I soon realized that the SDK made things easier for people who KNEW C+ Programming!  That definitely counted me out 😉  Eventually Mark Fraser suggested I talk to Andrew Little (one of the programmers from our halifax offices).  I provided Andrew with specifications for the functionality and user experience (including pixel-accurate digital artwork of each screen). Andrew said he was eager to learn iPhone programming, and he said he would have a look at the spec and let me know what kind of effort it would involve.  2 days later he had a working prototype, and from then on we worked back and forth together to perfect the app.  Because we both have day jobs it has taken about 5-6 months to get a finished and fully tested version submitted to the App Store (at the time of this writing we’re awaiting approval from Apple).

MyRoles is another entry into a VERY crowded niche in the iPhone app world.  At last count there were over 50 competing products, most of which essentially do all the same things. (Some more elegantly than others!). So why would we enter such a crowded market?  Well, for starters, our motivation was not financial. For me, it was a chance to bring my task management vision to life in a tool that *I* could use on my iPhone.  In addition, I could learn about all aspects of iPhone development and marketing, which would come in handy when working with our clients on mobile strategy. For Andrew, it was a chance to learn iPhone programming so he could create a new service offering for T4G. If it didn’t really take off maybe Andrew and I could earn enough for a vacation or two.

And how would MyRoles compete in such a crowded market?  Well, we have 3 things going for us: A legitimately unique differentiator (MyRoles lets you easily manage your tasks by the various roles you play in your life); Extremely focused functionality (does ONE thing and does that extremely well); and we have a simple and very intuitive user interface.  (Others claim to be simple to use, but they do so many things that they require a lot of instruction about how you use it.  Many of the competitors have modeled their systems after David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system/methodology. MyRoles takes a different (more zen-like path), by stripping away everything that wasn’t CORE to simply managing tasks by role. We intentionally did not design it for the diehard GTD fans, cause they love to spend time on details and tweaking their systems.  MyRoles was designed for busy people who don’t want to waste time maintaining a complicated system.

So how do we get the word out?  Well, first we built a website that clearly communicates our unique selling proposition (what makes MyRoles different than all competitors) and what’s in it for people who chose to use it (simpler task management and the promise of more balance in their lives). Next we send out an announcement about MyRoles to *everyone* we know, followed by individual personalized emails to the scores of iPhone app review sites around the world.  We created a Facebook page for MyRoles, a Twitter feed you can follow, and I’m writing this blog post to tell our story. All of this to start to build a buzz around the app, so that it gets some momentum… and then we’ll see where it goes.  Oh yeah.. we have a couple of videos in production which we’ll post on our website and YouTube. It’s anyone’s guess how this will do in the AppStore, and if anyone will buy into the idea that “less is more” when it comes to finding a task management system that you can adopt and keep using over the long haul.

“We’ll see” September 8, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Travel.
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The other day I was so excited that I was going to be able to actually USE one of the upgrade certificates that Air Canada sends to frequent flyers (they call it Elite Status, but I’m not sure what’s so elite about it). Anyway, I was booked on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, and knowing that I had booked on one of the new Air Canada planes, I was thrilled at the idea of sitting in one of those futuristic looking bed seats.  I was feeling so happy about my good fortune and SOOO looking forward to the flight.  Boy was I disappointed when I got on the plane only to find they had switched the plane to one of their antique broken down planes that sound like they’re going to fall apart every time they take-off or land.

I was so mad that I wasted the upgrade certificate on a broken seat that also had next to no legroom (first seat by the broken movie screen).  While I was busy being mad at Air Canada, suddenly I recalled a scene from the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” where Gus Avacados tells the story of a Zen master… and I had to laugh at myself.  (this looks to be the origin of the version of the story told in that movie):

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see” said the farmer.

This is good therapy for me, I think…. to be help me become less attached to a particular outcome.  As it turns out it was a pleasant flight, and I had a great conversation with the flight crew.

Floodstock August 15, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Music, Uncategorized.
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These are the songs I performed at Floodstock:
First Day of My Life (Bright Eyes)
Fall for Anything (Jeremy Fisher)
Fixin’ to Die Rag (Country Joe McDonald) –
Fire & Rain (James Taylor
Creep (Radiohead)
Teach Your Children (CSNY) –
Falling Slowly (Glen Hansard)
Bobcaygeon (The Tragically Hip)
I’ve Just Seen a Face (Beatles)
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps (Cake) –
Delicate (Damien Rice)
Gimme One Reason (Tracey Chapman) –
Prison on Route 41 (Iron & Wine)
Each Coming Night (Iron & Wine)

..that was all I had time for before the sound guys packed it in for the night.


the cottage effect August 5, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance.
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just finished a week at a cottage, and the weather was hot & sunny.  it’s amazing what that can do to slow down your brain and rejuvinate you.  I’ll be spending my holiday monday catching up, and flying back to Vancouver.

I’m excited about an event that’s coming up on August 18 outside of Saint John, NB:  Floodstock – The annual summer picnic/camping  and concert at my boss (Geoff Flood’s) family farm.  This years event is call Summer Groove Fest.. check out the deets HERE

A few years ago they built a stage, and every year they have lots of bands.  This year I’m playing a gig to close the show (late shift don’t cha know).  This is something new for me, as my usual venue is a campfire or my apartment… it should be interesting 🙂  I’ll try and post my playlist here when I get it nailed down.

Spontaneity for a Wednesday June 28, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Music.
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I hiked up Grouse Mountain (the Grouse Grind) after work yesterday. I’ve been in Vancouver for 18 months and I’ve yet to do it. It’s been scheduled several times, but something always seems to come up. Anyway, it was an incredible workout, and it was easy to see why large numbers of serious runners do this on a regular basis.

After taking the Skyride down to the base, while I waited for my bus, I got a call from my friend William to see if I wanted to go to a hear some jazz. It was the Cellar jazz club, and we saw a group called Zapato Negro. They were awesome…. and it was another great unplanned surprise…

Recent Diversions June 27, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance.
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The weather in Vancouver in June has, well, SUCKED (it’s felt more like October, very grey and chilly). Some of those days felt like indoor days, and in the past week these have been some enjoyable diversions:

I went to see “Once”, a movie about an Irish street musician and a woman he meets who plays piano. This movie has won big at the festivals, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the music (sort of like Damien Rice), and when I got home from the movie I downloaded the chords and immediately learned the main song from the movie (Glen Hansard’s “Falling Slowly” see HERE on YouTube).

I’ve also been to the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple of times this week (nice way to relax at lunchtime)… and they especially like Monet to Dali & Critical Space

Also saw two IMAX 3D movies – Dinosaurs 3D and Deep Sea 3D. We had seen Deep Sea before, and I would see it once a week it’s such a delight. I spent the whole movie feeling like a 6 year old in a constant state of wonderment 🙂

I’m headed back to Toronto this weekend…and expect to find some serious heat and sun when I get there!

“Still” Life April 16, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance.
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There was a great piece in the Globe & Mail newspaper on the weekend, written by Yann Martel (author of the novel Life of Pi). You can see the article HERE, but what really struck me was not that Arts funding is not a priority for politicians, but the follow passage about STILLNESS:

“…and I got to thinking about stillness. To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene—doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, ‘Gosh, life is racing by.’ But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by”.

This is something I definitely need to remember… that even when the pace is fast, it’s our internal reaction to it that causes us to feel stress.

Saying goodbye to my Mom April 2, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance.
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After a long and courageous battle with Cancer, my Mom (Carol Illies) died on March 23. Her last few weeks were very difficult, and my brothers and sister and I (and Ali) kept a 24 hr/day watch over Mom in the hospital. I’m glad that she’s finally at peace, and no longer suffering. I’m grateful to have been able to come back to Toronto for a month before she died, and I spent lots of time with her. One of my most poignant memories is lying with her and singing her to sleep with a lullabye.

We had a memorial service for her last Saturday, and it was so great to see the impact that she had on so many people. Lots of laughter and tears. We set up a memorial website, and lots of people have commented with their memories of my Mom.

I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet…but I’m sure it will.

Working from Maui (Part One) April 2, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Travel.
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In mid-January, Ali & I left for Maui. We had been planning for several years to spend an extended period there, during Ali’s year-long hiatus from teaching. The plan was I would work remotely from Maui and travel back to Vancouver and Toronto once a month to visit clients. We were staying with Tom Sewell (my biological father), and I had a little office set up there. Maui was awesome, and on the weekends we were able to do lots of exploring (especially snorkeling). Things were going pretty well working remotely, and I was getting ready for my first trip back to Vancouver & Toronto, when we got word that my Mom’s cancer had advanced considerably. Both Ali & I decided to head back to Toronto to be with her. The rest of the Maui plan was put on hold….

Out of Balance (w/ some bright spots) November 6, 2006

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Music, Work.
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I wrote before about irony and life balance. Here’s another one: I’m living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Vancouver) where so many people are outdoors and physically active, and where life balance is so revered….and yet for the past few months I’ve had the poorest life/work balance I can remember.

It really requires practice, and I find that once the balance is tipped severely, it tends to pick up speed. I haven’t been running for 2 months due to a knee injury, and running had been the catalyst for my efforts at balance. When I was running, I was going to the gym more, eating and sleeping better, and was able to handle the stress of my job much better. So I need to practice! One way is to take a breather and write here.

This weekend I also played the guitar a bit, and learned a nice ballad: “I will follow you into the dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. Then Ali & I walked in the rain and went to see the 3D Imax movie called Deep Sea. It was INCREDIBLE. Young or old, you must go see this movie. The 3D technology was truely remarkable, and the cinematography was so beautiful.

Finally, one thing that definitely helped me put things into perspective, was this story from Sports Illustrated, about a heroic everyman Dad who does the Ironman with his disabled son in tow. This may be the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read/seen.