By Nov. 2012, Apple approved more than one million apps for their App store, according to Appsfire, an application that helps users discover other apps. While some apps have been taken down, there are still an estimated 700,000 apps in the store.
But creating an app (and having it approved by the App Store) isn’t as easy as the numbers suggest.
That’s what Austin-based software development group Where’s Waldo found out as they began work on their iPhone app Nerv.
The aim of Nerv is to provide location-based news, to tell the user what is going on in specific, searchable regions throughout the world.
Team member Jonathan Long, a computer science major at UT-Austin, says that the biggest challenge has been finding reputable data to use.
“The problem is that we can’t just search Twitter for the word Austin because that brings up people named Austin, people with Austin in their username, people tweeting at people named Austin, and we don’t care about any of that – so filtering the data down to a set that we care about and thinking about how to do that has been a little bit of a challenge,” Long said in an e-mail.
The group, however, has been working to overcome that problem.
Where’s Waldo, Long said, has begun to gather Twitter handles from trustworthy news sources as well as other social medians like clubs, music venues and theatres. This solution, however, also has its drawbacks. This approach means that Where’s Waldo, while finding reputable sources, has left out attractions like South Congress and Barton Springs.
For team member Meleena Loseke, a journalism student, the difficulties the software development team has encountered are much more than logistical.
“You can’t really tell a journalism student with hardly any computer science experience, ‘Here, you’re responsible for coding the second frame of the app’, Loseke said. “Computer science is exactly that – a science.
Long agrees with Loseke that dividing up the work has been a little difficult so far.
“It is harder for someone with little to no computer science experience to simply pick up the iOS SDK and start programming,” Long said. “We have slowly been introducing everyone to the iOS SDK and hope that by the end of this class we can all say that we have provided a significant part to this app.”
Loseke remains optimistic that as she and her fellow journalists learn more coding, they’ll be able to contribute more to the development than just ideas and basic design.
Aside from logistics and learning curves, Where’s Waldo has found that like any other group work, finding the time to meet and collaborate has been a challenge.
“I don’t think it’s a huge problem right now in the preliminary stages of our app,” Loseke said, “but I have a feeling we’re all going to need to get together when its crunch time, and I’m not sure how easy it will be.”
iPhone users can expect an app demonstration from Nerv and other development groups this coming April.