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Why I make trivial apps

Heart of a front-end developer trapped in the body of a computer science student

Over the last several months, I’ve been riding the emotional roller coaster that is finding a summer internship. For me this process was filled with ups, downs, and emails—a ton of emails. Over and over again, I found myself having to use the word “résumé,” but I refused to settle for the lazy spelling that ignores the diacritics. My work-around involved an elaborate 4-step process:

As a software developer, I saw this as a problem and sought a solution. Thus, my Chrome extension, Resume, was born!

Despite my embellished story-telling, there is absolutely nothing earth-shattering about this idea or application. However, I think it was worth developing, and my justification follows.

Trivial needs are still needs

Last semester I needed to memorize Bible verses as part of a study I attended. I wanted to set text as my phone’s background, but the notepad apps I had didn’t export images or provide clean screenshots. Of course, I could have written in Keep or Evernote then cropped what I didn’t want out of the picture, but why should I? Just because what I want may seem trivial, doesn’t make me a second class citizen… and 200+ active installs tell me that others feel similarly.

Less pressure can be more rewarding

Who knew about Dong Nguyen 6 months ago? (Probably the same number of people that know him by name now.) I think when Dong released Flappy Bird, he was releasing a product that he enjoyed creating. I don’t think he had a premonition that he would earn $50k per day, and I don’t think he planned on rising to the top of App Store overnight. Dong wasn’t revolutionizing anything, and worst case scenario: he would have built a game that didn’t catch. But since it did catch, he saw huge reward.

Similarly, Just Write and Resume aren’t meant to disrupt the market or change the world. This means that I don’t have to worry about achieving perfection the first time around. I am free to continue to iterate and improve at my own pace. Publishing trivial apps is a great way to gain exposure to different technologies while leaving the door open for unexpected possibilities.

Anything can be designed well

As a computer science student, I learn a whole lot about programming, but not all of it is relevant to software development. I can’t use my knowledge of NP-completeness in every project, but everything has a design aspect, whether that be fonts or scroll animations.

In every project, developers can and should choose to design well because design affects people, and people are valuable. The 200+ users of Just Write represent 200+ opportunities for me to make life a tad more convenient for an actual person. Computer science eduction can’t offer that perspective.

In short, if I only have trivial ideas, then so be it — I’ll design them well, release them into the wild, and then hope for the best!

Mar 8, 2014