Category Archives: Spring 2014 iOS

Let me show a few things… about intELECT!

intELECT. The app that makes politics easy.

 

From day one, politics has been on the mind of the LID team. After the bumpy and tumultuous ride that was working through Project Vote Smart to re-focusing and re-branding five weeks before Demo Day, it’s safe to say that our team is glad to have made it to the end of the semester in one piece and with an amazing product to show off.

 

There could not have been a better slot for intELECT to take at Demo Day than the last one. We felt like we were the buzz. “Have you heard that one of the teams had to re-do their app halfway?” That’s us! Better to have some buzz than none! Getting to see our classmates on stage and presenting their products made our team even more excited for our turn.

 

The great thing about LID is that we all have so many ideas. And just like the app we created intends to inform a democracy, we made a lot of decisions for Demo Day through simple votes. Should we do a live demo? Should we make a video? What videos should we include? What do we even wear?

 

As Justin Timberlake would say, “as long as I got my suit and tie, I’mma leave it out on the floor tonight.” Which is exactly what intELECT did as we walked into the auditorium in our black Washington wear to the sound of “Hail to the Chief.” We’ve already made an app in five weeks. What’s left to lose? Just as we envision a more honest government, we told the story of intELECT honestly. The struggle along the way of creating a product that properly functioned as we envisioned really resonated with the judges.

 

The team decided to hold off on announcing our release into the App store until Demo Day so we could share the news with the entire class at once. Along with Game Plan, two apps from the class can be downloaded onto iOS devices. We received a lot of comments about how impressive it was to build what we did so quickly, much less get it into the App store.

 

The judges were tough, but fair in their questioning and through some preparation and a Google Doc of how to improve the app already, we were able to answer questions about future features and usability of the app just perfectly.

 

Here are some of the comments from the judges:

 

“Great goal. I like the quiz idea!” – Debbie Hiott, editor of the Austin American-Statesman

 

“Great that team was able to get in the App Store after switching midway. Government 101 and quiz functions will help engage voters who are not political junkies.” – R.B. Brenner of Stanford University, incoming journalism director

“Great idea and definitely a problem missing a solution – until now. Simple, clear design.” – Brantley Essary

 

Demo Day was a blast. As for LID, each of us hopes to stay on and continue our little project. Stick around, because with the mid-term elections coming up, intELECT is going nowhere!

 

Download intELECT on your iOS device here: bit.ly/intELECTforiOS

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CodeKite and the Competition Conundrum

By Mark Coddington

Like any team of app developers, CodeKite has faced its share of twists and turns throughout the development process, even in just a month of work. Every week or so, it follows a familiar pattern: Someone on the team identifies a new complication that’s arisen, the rest of us momentarily freak out, we send a frantic flurry of messages to each other, eventually reassure each other that we’re doing fine, then (mostly) calmly continue on our newly adjusted course of action.

Quite conveniently, we have several photos of CodeKite at work this week on the last, most peaceful stage of this cycle:

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The source of those complications is different for every team, but the ones for CodeKite tend to revolve around one idea: competition. Not so much competition with our beloved classmates – though we confess, we sneak a peek at their Twitter follower counts every now and then – but competition with the world out there, among the millions of apps crowding the App Store.

Professor Quigley guaranteed us on the first day of class that no matter our idea, there would some other app out there that already tries to do something like it. And we understood that. But we just figured (or I did, anyway) that within a few days of coming up with our idea, we’d clarify exactly what we do that the competition doesn’t, nestle snugly into our niche, and move on through the rest of the semester without much of a second thought about any soon-to-be-vanquished competition.

That, of course, turned out to be a fantasy. In reality, the threat of competition has continued to shape the core ideas of our app. The initial problem we intended to solve was giving users an app that not only told them the weather, but also combined it with suggestions of what to wear in that weather. But there’s an app for that. It’s called Swackett.

So we surveyed more than 150 potential users for their ideas about what they would want in an app combining weather and fashion. They overwhelmingly told us they wanted detailed weather information, including hour-by-hour forecasts and notifications of severe changes so they could plan for their day with more accurate information in hand. But there’s an app for that, too. Quite a few, actually – dozens of weather apps in the App Store. Turns out the users we surveyed mostly want an app that already exists; they just didn’t know it was out there.

So now we’ve shifted slightly, emphasizing the fashion aspect of WeatherVain and pushing it to the forefront of the app, while still incorporating many of the weather-oriented suggestions of our survey respondents. We’re creating an app that’s geared toward fashion-conscious people who want a fun way to select customized outfits while also getting the weather information that ensures they’re picking an outfit that makes sense to wear that day.

All this pre-emptive jostling for competitive position doesn’t mean WeatherVain isn’t a strong idea. On the contrary, we’re tapping into one of the most universal reasons people use their smartphones – to check the weather – while combining it with the kind of customizable style that’s difficult to find in the iPhone universe. That’s a pretty killer combination, something no app yet has hit just right. We want to be the first.

And maybe we’ll run into more competition as we move forward – perhaps some new weather and fashion app will launch between now and April. We welcome the challenge. After all, the only thing competition has done to us so far is sharpen our app’s focus and spur on its distinct personality.

We say bring it on. We’ll just keep running down our dream:

Developing a social media #GamePlan

By Adam Beard 

“You hear about how many fourth quarter comebacks that a guy has, and I think it means a guy screwed up the first three quarters.” – Peyton Manning

The first quarter of a basketball or football game is seen almost as if it is “unimportant” in the many eyes of sports fans. A team could be down by what seems like an insurmountable amount and still have enough time to come back and win. However, the Game Plan team is committed to this full game of creating and developing an app, and we wanted to make sure we got off to a good enough start so we wouldn’t have to make a heroic comeback.

After the first quarter, which in this case is the first sprint, Game Plan felt pretty solid about their app and where it was headed. One thing, however, bugged Adam Beard, one of the developers.

“I was disappointed in the way our social media presence was going,” Beard said. “I just know how important branding and marketing is. We need to get our name out there, our idea out there and let the world know that we are here.”

This past week, Game Plan has boosted its social media presence. It may not be a touchdown just yet, but the Game Plan team is certainly driving down field.

Beard and Elyana Barrera are the two primary managers behind the social media accounts, which are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On Facebook, Beard thought it would be a great option to do a “meet the team” idea where each day a post would be shared about who one of the team members is and a little bit about them. The team thinks it would be a great way to engage and allow the fans to get to know them. A sample can be seen here.

Barrera had the idea of posting and tweeting about sporting events at the University of Texas at Austin, so the team is now going to start posting scoring updates, team updates, player updates and things of that nature. An example of a tweet demonstrating this can be seen below.

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During class on Feb. 18, Beard and Barrera wanted to get Carl Nnaji’s opinion on the prototype of the app. Nnaji is a senior at UT and was in class sitting in for the day. Below, you can view what he had to say about the app, which we posted on all of our social media platforms.

20140218 130144 from JACCE Apps on Vimeo.

The team also just wanted to post more content and do it more often. This includes mentioning on Twitter that followers can like Game Plan on Facebook or Instagram, and vice versa. It also includes promoting the date of Demo Day and thanking our professors. A variety of what the team has done on social media can be seen below.

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The team has even received some encouragement and interest via Twitter. Check it out below.

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The social media game plan seems to be paying off, as the Facebook page has grown tremendously over just the course of four days, receiving a lot of likes. Moreover, one of our posts had a reach of 1,100. The Twitter has also reached at least 200 followers, up from about 30 on Feb. 14. The Instagram is a little behind, but the team has plans to get that out there to people as well. Take a look at how Game Plan’s social media, on Facebook, for example, is growing.

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In addition, Game Plan’s primary coders – Courtney Ross, Courtney Bohrer and Jeremy Hintz – will be engaging in their very own “hackathon,” an event in which the three will participate in collaborative mobile app programming for Game Plan. The “-athon” part of the word rings true.

“We are going to basically lock ourselves in a room for hours, probably lasting the whole entire day, and just code, code and code,” Ross said.

The two journalists, Beard and Barrera, will most likely not be in attendance for this because of how intense the coders will get.

“It is going to be pretty wild, I bet,” Hintz said. “I don’t blame them for not coming, although I know they are unable to make it because of other obligations. They know what’s up, though.”

Besides building social media and the brand, as well as competing in its very own “hackathon,” other plans for the team this week and next is to work on a video idea, come up with a survey for users who will test the prototype and continue having fun as a team.

All in all, the Game Plan team is competing at a high level right now, but it knows it can’t get complacent.

“We have to keep working hard, and I know we will do just that,” Bohrer said.

Hopefully the team keeps going at this rate so it doesn’t have to pull a Peyton Manning-type comeback and scramble to get done in time.

You can like Game Plan on Facebook, follow the team on Twitter and creep on pictures and videos it posts  on Instagram. Game Plan also has its own website, which is under construction.

iPhone apps teams show what college students can do

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again — less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. — Steve Jobs

In 1995, Apple fired its cofounder, Steve Jobs. Looking back, Jobs saw it as a good thing because it forced him to dig deeper into his creative well. The 26 University of Texas at Austin students in my class, Mobile News App Development, are beginners. Although some of the computer science and journalism students have experience building mobile apps, many came in feeling much like Jobs in 1995 – very unsure about everything.

Five weeks into the semester, they are still beginners, though they are definitely a little more confident. Last week, the students, standing in front of the class in teams, showed off impressive gains in their quest to finish IOS apps before the semester is over.

Most of the teammates had never met each other before being thrown together on the first class day. Few had an idea of what they wanted to build. Hundreds of cups of coffee and more than a few friendly arguments later, the student teams not only have a clear vision of what apps they want to create for the Apple store, they have app names, logos, wireframes, coding and designs built or in the process of being built. They are also blogging about their apps and process, running social media campaigns and producing videos. You can find and follow their social media campaigns here.

The class is broken into four “sprints,” which are short periods of development loosely following the agile development process. After each sprint, the teams do stand-up demos to the class. At the end of the semester, the students will present their apps to the public. You should come. When UT’s bright students are given the freedom to create, they don’t know what’s impossible, and they push the boundaries in delightful ways.

The students have gotten this far because of their drive (some teams meet more than once a week outside of class) and because of the valuable help of Jeff Linwood, who as a co-teacher of the class guides the students on coding and development, and Olivia Hayes, who gave the students instruction on building a great user experience.

Here’s a glance at where the teams are after the end of the first sprint, in no particular order:

Game Plan

Game Plan, an app that will help rabid college sports fans find tailgating spots, has an enthusiastic team of developers that has put together a fun promo video. The idea is basically a social media app for finding a good place to eat hot dogs, drink a few refreshments and talk trash with fellow fans during a game.

Sono


Half of our students are journalism majors, so it’s no surprise that we’ll produce an app or two that will be useful for journalists. Last year’s Demo Day winner, Glos Guide for Journalists, was an AP stylebook aid. This year, a team is building Sono, a full-featured voice recorder for journalists on the go. They also are going to target college students who are recording lectures. Their killer feature: the ability to bookmark key moments and easily organize your recordings.

WeatherVain

There are plenty of weather apps in the app store, but how many of them are stylish, as in truly about style? WeatherVain will tell you not only whether you dressed appropriately for the weather conditions, but which outfit you should put on to make a good impression. The team is filled with creative students who have caught the attention of local meteorologists and fashion fans as well.

Newt


This aggressive team wants to rebuild how we all think of morning newspaper delivery. Through research, they found that people not only turn to their phone the first thing in the morning, they spend a little quality time with it. With that in mind, they aim to give you everything you need to start your day: the time, the weather, your commute time and, of course, news. The app will even make your coffee. OK, that last part isn’t quite true, but now that I’ve published that, they’ll probably figure out a way to do it.

Project Vote Smart

The students approached the nationwide nonprofit Project Vote Smart, which aims to create more-informed voters, to build an iPhone app. Users of the app will type in their ZIP code, and the app will display the candidates who will appear on ballots, giving voters a wealth of information about those who want to lead us. These students have a good chance to get their first app in front of thousands of people.

 

Game Plan’s Kickoff to a Winning Season

It’s game time.

This week was very productive for JACCE Apps. Our three computer science students (Jeremy, Courtney & Courtney) attended the University of Mobile App Developers (uMAD) conference, an overnight, student-led developers conference where many companies give talks on topics relevant to app development. The conference gave our team a boost of energy and the drive to jump start our development process for Game Plan.

We created a prototype of Game Plan on InVision that can be installed on any iPhone as a saved Safari link and opened to explore a primitive version of our app. The Game Plan prototype maps out all important functions we have envisioned — Facebook connectivity, the ability to drop a pin, the ability to hide/show tailgates depending on the type and the pull up Twitter feed. The prototype also includes a good example of our app’s color scheme and front page design. Our plan is to send it to different users (students, alumni, parents, etc.) to get feedback on the overall flow and design of the app. Here are a few screenshots of the inVision prototype.

LoginPage TP-ClickPin

We also worked on making sure our social media accounts reflected our branding, and it seems to be working. We have fans! True, most of them are our family and friends, but for now, it is the perfect base of cheerleaders we need to get through the first half of this game. So far, we have set up accounts on Twitter and Instagram as well as a Facebook page. We’ve started posting updates as they come along on Twitter and Facebook, and have posted candid video of our team in the development process. Here’s a link to a video from our Instagram feed.

We hope to have a very early version of our app ready to run on an iOS simulator soon, but for now you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates and both silly and serious videos.

Game Plan Leaping into Action

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” — Ray Bradbury

Armed with a fantastic app idea and a talented team, we, the founders of Game Plan, are ready to start building. We have an idea, but now it is time for us to dive right in and begin the implementation of our vision for Game Plan. It is not easy to think of a good idea for an app, but we have completed the first of many challenging tasks this semester. Now, we have to move forward with our idea to make it amazing in actuality.

After the pitch meeting last week, we had to think about the first things we wanted accomplish in our first sprint. One hard part of this sprint is that it is a full-on sprint to the end — we only have a week and a half. Although we struggled in the beginning with what we wanted to finish by next Thursday, we know that it is necessary to figure out what the app specifically will look and feel like for users. Moreover, we had to learn what we will need to code and how to build this app from the ground up. We have begun figuring out which server to use and how we will translate our ideas into a usable app. Our team has created a flowchart of the app for us to understand how it will function when users download it. The flowchart has helped us begin creating mockups as a way of showing ourselves and others what Game Plan will look like and more importantly, what it will do.

Team members Courtney Bohrer and Adam Beard discuss idea for our first video.

Team members Courtney Bohrer and Adam Beard discuss idea for our first video.

Additionally, we are starting to get the word out about Game Plan through our Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are a work in progress. Another part of our sprint is to have a finalized logo and slogan to help brand Game Plan. By having a logo and social media accounts, it will be easier for everyone following to understand and identify with Game Plan. Our process of finding an idea, naming the app and creating a brand to go with Game Plan has shown us that creating a good product with a catchy name like Twitter or Facebook is no easy feat. Even though we’ve had some struggles, we are finding that working together has made all the difference.

Team members Courtney Ross, Jeremy Hintz, Courtney Bohrer and Adam Beard find a spot in the Union for a quick meeting.

Team members Courtney Ross, Jeremy Hintz, Courtney Bohrer and Adam Beard find a spot in the Union for a quick meeting.

In today’s blog post, we also have included our very first video about Game Plan! We wanted to think of a video that entertained our audience while at the same time introducing the app. After bouncing multiple ideas around, we knew that it had to highlight why we are making Game Plan and what it will do for its users. Understanding what we wanted to accomplish, we set out to think of a way to introduce our app while hitting our target audience: sports fans. Our video is one of many in its series to acclimate our audience to Game Plan, and what our “Game Plan” is.

Courtney Ross listens attentively while the team brainstorms.

Courtney Ross listens attentively while the team brainstorms.

The process of filming our video was filled with laughter and lots of fun, but finding a quiet place where our audio would be heard is not simple on a college campus. After moving from room to room and floor to floor, we finally found a room to film in. In the opening scenes, we wanted to present what Game Plan will help fix and how people could use it. In each part of the video, we explored why someone would want to use Game Plan and problems we hope to solve. Because we had to promote certain aspects of Game Plan that make it unique, parts of our dialogue were made to seem funny, yet informative. Sometimes the most successful videos are the ones that make you laugh while still learning about a product. Continuing on in our video, we wanted to explore how Game Plan would enhance and give the user a better, more enjoyable game day. So the next day, we decided to film how Game Plan would function the day of a game. Using various situations of a game day without Game Plan gives everyone an experience he or she could relate to and an idea of how each individual would use Game Plan to fit his or her needs. Filming outside on a very windy day proved to be a challenge. After many starts and stops because of the wind, we were able to complete the video. And now Game Plan presents … Part 1 of “A Game Plan for Game Day!”

Promo Video: Game Plan from JACCE Apps on Vimeo.

Our team has already become a cohesive unit, and we look forward to creating Game Plan with each other. It will be an adventure, but half of the fun will come from learning from each other’s strengths and working through our weaknesses. Game Plan is about bringing people together, and that is what this semester will feel like with everyone involved. Our hope is for Game Plan to allow anyone and everyone to connect on game days. Game Plan embodies what people love about sports — the community feel. From the morning of until the end of the day, game days bring friends and families together even if just for a day at a time. Game Plan hopes to enhance that experience and bring even more people together. We are ready to embark on this journey, and we hope our followers are too, so keep reading to be a part of the Game Plan adventure with us!

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