Monthly Archives: April 2014

Newt is ready for launch

After three months of intense work, development and design, Newt is a fully functioning app. Lead developer Tim Carroll finished all the app’s functions in the early hours Thursday morning.

Newt now delivers news, weather, traffic and calendar information to the user. It also successfully pulls photos and places them on the home screen. Demo day is just two days away now, and Newt is working just great.

However, there are still some last minute things to add to Newt before demo day. Carroll is working on allowing flips to the calendar, weather and traffic panels. We also need to add some design to the second screen of the weather and calendar pages.

In other Newt news:

  • Jennifer Rundle updated one last logo change. We changed the colors of our logo so they match the colors of the app inside.
  • Bobby Blanchard and Katie Paschall made their fourth and final video (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS0BIxPQJvU)
  • The Newt’s Demo Day presentation is ready to go, and we’ve practiced our presentation twice now.

Six lessons for running a great app social media campaign

By Mark Coddington

It’s hardly groundbreaking to say that a successful social media presence is essential for any startup launch nowadays. But that importance is magnified when you’re starting from scratch, building an app in just three and a half months for a class project. You have no Silicon Valley bigshots lending you their publicity and cred. You have no connections in the tech press. You have no money for traditional marketing tactics.

So social media isn’t just a way people will find out about your app, it’s the way.

As our three-month social media campaign builds to this weekend’s Demo Day (RSVP here!), we have a few lessons learned from trial and error for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation – or just anyone building a social media campaign from scratch:

1) Don’t be afraid to shamelessly self-promote

I know, I know. Is there anything to social media but shameless self promotion? That’s exactly what a social media campaign is, of course. But that’s still been a tough lesson for me to learn. As a ink-in-the-blood former newspaper reporter with a proper disdain for all things public relations, I have a pretty healthy distaste for self-promotion, even when it’s something that deserves to be promoted or celebrated. There’s no one core reason for it – it just feels unseemly, a bit tacky, to blow your own horn.

But that won’t fly in a campaign like this. You have to come at it with the attitude that you have an amazing product (or will have one once it’s ready), and once people use it, they’ll thank you for having told them. Sure, striking the right tone is crucial – you don’t want to seem too over-eager – but you’re focusing on one thing: making sure people know about the app that you’re putting all this hard work into.

2) Feature people outside your team

It’s easy to feature the people on your team – posting photos and profiles of them, giving people a better sense of who’s behind your product. And that’s a key part of a social media campaign – people are much more likely to download your app if they feel they know the people behind it.

But it’s important to go beyond that and find ways to feature people outside your team as well. This can be a crucial strategy to get beyond your own personal networks of friends and family; they’re a good starting point, but if your app is going to take off, it’s going to have to reach well beyond that. Through our WeatherVain Kings and Queens series, we were able to get people talking about our app who might never otherwise have heard of it, simply because they saw their friends tagged or mentioned in a WeatherVain post.

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3) Coordinated campaigns = consistent product

With three people running our social media presence across Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest – all of whom had full class schedules, jobs, and busy lives – posting consistently high-quality material was sometimes a challenge. Heck, sometimes just posting consistently was a challenge. Creating several running series, such as Transformation Tuesdays and our Countdown to Demo Day, were a way of creating consistency by orienting our posts around a planned, regular schedule and getting around creative funks by giving ourselves ready-made and adaptable ideas. These kinds of series can give you a reason to build some much-needed routine and structure into your posting patterns.

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4) Interaction: Tough but necessary

Just like self-promotion, interacting with people you’ve never met online may feel uncomfortable, but it’s something you’ve got to bite the bullet and try to do anyway. Add to that the difficulty of interacting as a brand (which people are people are much less eager to engage with than a person), and interacting on social media can be a real challenge at times, especially without coming off like a creeper.

But it can be done. On Twitter, we found that retweeting other people’s tweets about subjects relevant to our app (weather and fashion) with a fun comment added to it was a casual and engaging way of breaking the ice. On Facebook, interaction can be a bit more difficult, but we experienced some success by focusing on people, especially those outside our group, rather than our product. People are much more likely to comment on a post that’s about a friend of theirs than some brand they’ve never heard of.

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5) Don’t take reach for granted

We all love looking at those follower and like numbers, but we also need to remember that the actual number of people seeing our posts are often smaller than that, sometimes significantly so. (This is especially a problem with Facebook’s limited display of brand pages in News Feeds and Twitter’s constantly flooding river of tweets.) Always be pushing to increase the number of people who are seeing your posts – just because they’re out there doesn’t mean people are seeing them.

One simple way to do this is to be mindful of the best times to post things. There’s all kinds of data on this, some of it conflicting, but you ultimately have to do some of your own experimentation and find out what works best for you. Also, on Twitter, don’t be afraid to post things more than once (though probably not more than twice) – this is something we didn’t do but should have. On Facebook, tagging people is the key to gaining higher reach. Though not every tagged post took off, we noticed tagged posts got as much as 8 to 10 times as much reach as untagged ones.

6) Creativity covers over a multitude of sins

We had a particular difficulty in that we could tweet about the development process, but we didn’t have a product to actually show off for most of the semester – it was just a promise, off in the future. That made it difficult to give followers a vivid sense of what WeatherVain was, without saying the same things over and over. If we were to do it over again, we would’ve produced and promoted a few more mockups and sneak peeks to whet people’s appetites.

But the lack of a concrete, finished product forced us to be more creative in describing it and drawing attention to it, which was ultimately more beneficial for us. We went through some missteps and some ruts, but we found creative ways to get people to think about our app, even though it wasn’t yet available, when they think about weather and fashion. And we had a ton of fun doing it, too!

Until next time,

Team CodeKite

SoNO? SoYES!

With just a few days to go until the hugely anticipated Demo Day, Sono is working harder than ever to implement some finishing touches and making it ready to show off to the judges and the public!

Everyone in BadApp has been working hard to ensure that Demo Day goes smoothly for us. With plenty of practice, we are ready to win over the crowd with our charm and charisma, and of course with our app! The team has also been coordinating their dress code for Demo Day, and have decided to go business formal. So if you want to see Andrew and Daniel in a suit and tie (Looking at you, ladies…) and HJ, Lele, and Jenny in pretty dresses, then make sure to mark your calendars for this Saturday!

After putting all the pieces together, Sono is ready to be shown to the public. Mark and Markback has already been fully implemented, and the Note and audio trimming functionalities are being completed. We also now have a fully functional Settings screen, About Us screen, and Folders screen.

Here’s just a tiny sneak peek of what you’ll see on Demo Day:

Along with a full demo of Sono, team BadApp also has another surprise for the judges and audience members. If you want to find out what it is, then be sure to reserve your spot for Demo Day here!

To keep up with Sono and Team BadApp, be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Designing a Game Plan for Demo Day

 With Demo Day just three days away, the Game Plan team has been pulling all-nighters, drinking gallons of coffee and doing everything it can to come out on top on the big day.

This past week, we have worked on fixing the bugs on our app, adding necessary features and preparing a presentation that will hopefully blow the audience away on April 26.

“I am tired of staying up until 5 o’clock in the morning, but if it is what we need to do to be successful on Saturday, I am all for it,” said Jeremy Hintz, one of the key developers of Game Plan.

During the wee hours of the morning on Monday night, developers Elyana Barrera, Courtney Bohrer and Hintz were working at the Gates Dell Complex on the University of Texas at Austin campus from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m.

“We were fixing bugs and any problems that we had with the app,” Bohrer said. “For example, the app had a crashing issue and we fixed that on Monday night.”

While getting accepted to the Apple App Store was a great achievement the other week, updates and added features were crucial for Demo Day.

“We didn’t want to go into Demo Day with our minimum viable product,” said Courtney Ross, another Game Plan developer. “

We really want to strive for more and impress the judges.  We added cool features that we originally wanted, such as being able to invite your friends to tailgates and parties, sharing tailgates and parties and having a ‘My Playbook’ page where your list of events you want to go to are listed.”

Here are some screenshots of the app’s new features:

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Hitting the “Add” button will add the event to your Playbook

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View of the “My Playbook” page

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Invite your Facebook friends

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Share your events via Facebook

The app is in pretty good shape for the big day on Saturday, but the presentation is key too.

“This is going to be an awesome presentation, in my opinion,” said Game Plan developer Adam Beard. “We worked extra hard on this PowerPoint, and our plans are exciting. I can’t exactly say what they are, though, because we want it to be a surprise.”

The Game Plan team is well aware that the two-minute warning is here. However, it feels confident that the plan it had intact all semester long combined with the all-nighters and many sips of coffee are going to pay off.

Pushing for Demo Day

This week we released our latest promotional video for the app.

Now that our app is inching towards completion, with just two days left for Demo Day, this week the team focused on fixing any glitches that needed fixing. As a team, we tried testing the app on our own to see if it’s working as expected.

Simultaneously, we are also finalizing ideas for Demo Day. The key point we want to emphasize in our presentation is – why do we need intELECT? How do we make people, who do not like politics and do not like voting, download our app?

The answer is right before us. People enjoy quizzes a lot. And intELECT’s USP is the Political Party quiz that makes learning about politics an engaging, fun and intuitive learning experience for even people who may not want to vote or stay updated with the latest political happenings. A simple, clean user interface and design with a responsive political news feed adds to the user experience.

Even people who distance themselves from the political process should download our app, take the quiz and find out a little more about their political selves.

intELECT , after all, is “A smart way to find your political sway”

We are now pushing intELECT on social media, now more than ever.

To check out the latest on intELECT and who we are, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

See you Demo Day!

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No stress, just progress for Newt

All nighters are beginning to take place for the Newt team. With only a nine days left to complete our mobile app, not only are we furiously working during class time, our team has met outside of class. We are getting a lot of work done, we are having fun and we can’t wait until Demo Day.

The Newt team has decided to focus this blog post on what we have completed since last week and what we still have to complete before Demo Day. With limited access to the server that returns an offline, plain text story, we are considering taking out the offline reading for the news section of our app. Until we can figure out a way to work around the server to gain more access, we have decided to focus our time and energy into other priorities.

We are really happy to say that we have completed our calendar section. The calendar displays today’s events, tomorrow’s events, upcoming events and all holidays. The cool thing about the calendar is that it is in the top section of our app, meaning it is one of the first things you see when you open Newt. The weather section of our app is near completion. We are still working out a few kinks and bugs in the weather feature, however, it is projected to be finished in four days. For Demo Day, we will not link our weather feature to another developing app WeatherVain because we do not want to take attention away from our app.

The Newt team has decided to cut the social media features to our app because it doesn’t fit in with the direction we see our app going. We as a team feel that our app is less of a morning dashboard now and more of a digital recreation of the morning paper. The traffic feature of our app still needs to be completed. Our plans for this is to show the flow of traffic within the 20 mile radius of the user. This way we can show the user how bad (or great!) the traffic is in their nearby area.

Design wise, the Newt team has really focused time and energy into making sure our app is visually pleasing. We have all tried testing out different fonts for the news sections of our app, as well as playing with different sizes, bolded headlines, etc. We have also made the icons a lot smaller on our main page. We are proud to say that we now have photos on our main page and now they flip! The flip one second, or half-second apart rather, and it looks really cool when they all start flipping together. When the app comes on the screen, we are programming a pop up that tells the reader to update their images. It makes the app look totally different and really cool!

We have finalized our marketing text and have created our press release – which will be available on Demo Day. We have all downloaded Newt on our iPads and will take them to our families over the weekend to have them test our app out. We think user compatibility is a really important aspect of our app and we want to make sure user-friendly and that our app makes sense.

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We’re not dead yet!

Battling sickness from all sides, team BadApp is going into crunch time to get ready for demo day. Nearly everyone has fallen ill at some point over the last couple of weeks, but we are still pushing harder than ever to get Sono ready to submit.

Daniel has been taking care of business and has hustled to get audio ready to go, especially now that the waveform has been scrapped and the team has instead decided to go for a simple, pulsing circle graphic to alert the user that recording is in progress. He has also picked up the pace on notes and audio trimming so that those items will be ready for our first submitted version.

Jenny has overcome a week-long illness to continue being there for the team, helping out remotely and acting as excellent support for all the team’s questions and needs.

Andrew has stepped up his game, diving into Xcode and implementing his new UI designs. He has also set up a Table View using inspiration from other apps to build a beautiful, clean Settings page.

Lele, who had to drink a mysterious bubbly liquid at the doctor’s office last week,  has been working on the export functions, playing around with Dropbox and Parse to see what will work best for our first version.

HJ has been renamed “Linda” by a senile tech support man, but she got the mobile version of the website fixed and looking prettier for the “About” section of the app. She is also working to get a connectivity check, so that if a user is without internet connection, the app will let them know gracefully.

HJ has also been running team “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) sessions for team members on Facebook, which have been a fun way for team members to be featured and interact with followers via social media. Plus, there can never be too many opportunities to feature Andrew’s Boston Terrier, Murphy:

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The whole team is preparing for our demo, with our practice run scheduled for Monday evening. We can’t wait to show off everyone’s hard work, and to make recording audio a little bit easier for everyone watching us shine on demo day!

Expectation vs. Reality

 

Team CodeKite at the beginning of the semester working on WeatherVain

Team CodeKite one week before showing WeatherVain at Demo Day 2014

Team CodeKite has hit the last stretch of the journey to Demo Day 2014, and while we started our race at full speed with a fiery ambition, we are facing the realities of deadlines.

When we started working on WeatherVain in January we had so many hopes and expectations for our app that we wanted to achieve, but our time constraints made our team realize there’s a difference between our realistic expectations and our ambitious dreams. Our programmers and designers are working hard to meet everyone’s expectation as to how the final product before Demo Day will be. Although we are confident that our app will amaze our judges, we individually have slight disappointments that some of our flashy features and social media goals didn’t get accomplished.

  • Expectation: The Camera Roll

We wanted our app to allow users to access photos from the photo gallery on their device

  • Reality: The Camera but no Roll

For an app to use your phone photos, iOS requires a user’s permission. Tehreem found she had issues getting it to work and tried a tutorial to guide her coding. She successfully got the camera to capture photos from within the app but if she wanted to have the actual camera roll our app design would have to change. We would have to have another tab available to access your photos and make it look nice and sleek. At this point in the semester it was just too much to ask with such little time left.

  • Expectation: WeatherVain Social Media

Our team wanted to be able to create a network where users could reach other users on WeatherVain profiles

  • Reality: WeatherVain limited photo sharing

We realized that an all-encompassing social media option would require a fully functional backend that keeps track of users’ likes, follows and comments on other users’ outfits. It just did not seem a feasible goal, with Demo Day a couple of weeks away. However, we are able to tag our photos with labels that recognize the item of clothing with its designated tag of either sizzling, hot, warm, brisk, cold or frigid. Our app also has the functionality of looking at random public photos within the WeatherVain database for that weather.

  • Expectation: Hit 200 Likes on Facebook
  • Reality: WeatherVain stands proudly with 148 Likes

I’ve learned that marketing success isn’t measured by the amount of likes on social media. We pushed our product as much as we could on Facebook and so there really is no reason to be disappointed by a shortfall of a few dozen likes. In fact, once we started our WeatherVain Queen and King campaigns our likes increased. It was neat trying new promotional tactics and seeing it help our product.

Nevertheless, we have been doing a fantastic job this semester. WeatherVain app has gone through algorithm changes, UI improvements and database modifications within the last few weeks. These disappointments are by no means failures. Our team has recognized these issues as potential steps to a more successful product and I fully believe recognizing where we can improve is something that will help us more as a team after Demo Day. The sky is the limit once this semester course is over.

Always soaring higher,

Team CodeKite

 

 

 

Game Plan comes up clutch, accepted in Apple App Store

At the beginning of the semester, each member of the Game Plan team took notice that the syllabus for the course states we would “work toward building an iPhone app in one semester, with the goal of having an app accepted in the Apple App Store.”

Not a team to back down, we accepted the challenge. Through all the ups and downs – coding wise, learning each other’s personalities, creating designs, brainstorming many ideas, marketing our app through social media and branding and the list goes on and on – we now have Game Plan approved by Apple and officially in the App Store.

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Co-developer Jeremy Hintz submitted the app under his developer’s account on April 4, and the process took a full seven days for it to be approved.

“When I opened that email from Apple on April 11, I jumped out of my chair. We had accomplished a goal that, in reality, we weren’t absolutely positive about reaching.”

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The night the app was accepted, Adam Beard was out with his father for dinner when he opened a group text message from Jeremy that read: “Hey guys guess what!” with a screenshot of the email. He took a shot with his dad shortly after saying “this one is for Game Plan.”

Courtney Bohrer and Courtney Ross mentioned they both saw the text message from Jeremy right before they were about to take a test. It relaxed them a tremendous amount.

As for Elyana Barrera, she sent a text back that read: “YAYAYAYAY!”

The team is very excited about the recent news of being accepted, but at the same time, we know we have much more we want to accomplish. After all, the app that is currently in the store is only the minimum viable product.

“We have much more to add,” Hintz said. “I think we really need to at least have the feature of being able to invite friends by Demo Day. We also will polish the look of our app as well.”

Ross knows the grind isn’t over either.

“The coding will never stop,” Ross said. “We have to keep going.”

Bohrer feels the same.

“I definitely think we need to work on the privacy settings as well,” Bohrer said. “There are just little things that we need to get done before the big day in front of the judges.”

Barrera and Beard will continue working on the social media, marketing and branding of Game Plan, but they also are starting to work on other things to push the app.

“I created a newsletter for our followers and fans to keep them updated,” Barrera said. “We are also looking to buy stickers, buttons and fun little things like that to hand out at demo day.”

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Newsletter for Game Plan

Beard is working on something that could potentially bring more excitement to demo day. However, he doesn’t want to give it away just yet.

“I have a potential hit for demo day, but all I will say is that it will make it a very spirited day,” Beard said. “Our team is working hard to really make an impression on demo day.”

Speaking of demo day, it is right around the corner on April 26. While the team is putting in a lot of work and time preparing for it, we also want to take a little time and recognize how much we have accomplished this semester.

Not many college students can say they created an iPhone app over the course of three months. However, the members of the cohesive Game Plan team can, and we are all proud about that.

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For more updates on Game Plan, check out our Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. Also, don’t forget to RSVP to Demo Day.

Meet the Intellectuals

Who builds an iPhone app in five weeks? Ask intELECT developers Chris, Navin, Maribel, Heather or Kritika. Five weeks ago, our life as journalism and computer science students changed when the idea for intELECT was born.

In ten days, our lives are about to change. Again. With UT App Demo Day looming ahead on April 26, we are applying the final touches to intELECT -  a pocket guide for intellectual voters. Less than four months ago, we called ourselves journos or CS majors. Now, we are all app developers. Midway through the semester, we shifted gears, but now we are on track to finish the race.

Kritika, a professional track Master’s student in journalism, never dreamed that life would come a full circle for her, that she would study mobile app development in the place, where she least expected to learn coding – journalism school. A nimble wordsmith, Kritika handles social media, the team blog posts, and fosters design and video ideas along with the rest of the team.

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Heather, a broadcast journalism student at UT, is the brain behind the fantastic, fancy and fabulous presentations, and is also a genius when it comes to video editing and Photoshop. She has remained our in-house design expert.

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Navin is the man behind the Objective-C and when he is not working on intELECT, he works on getting his computer science degree at UT.

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Chris Hume has been burning the midnight oil to help see our app through to Demo Day. A computer science and Objective-C whiz, he hopes to continue to work at Recommenu, an Austin startup after graduating this December.

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And finally our fifth and most chic Intellectual is Maribel, who is zesty and always bubbling with new ideas when it comes to leveraging social media and promoting our app’s brand.

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Maribel, an enterprising journalist and now an app developer, has initiated a new social media strategy for our Facebook page titled ‘Meet the Team’, where each day beginning this Monday we will be introducing our team’s developers to our friends, families and colleagues.

#Monday #MeettheTeam #ChrisHume

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#Tuesday #MeetTheTeam #HeatherDyer

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#Wednesday #Thursday #Friday Coming Soon!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more!

See you soon at Demo Day. April 26. Don’t forget.

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha