Starting from the Bottom, building an app

So, aside from blogging, watching (and playing some) video games, and obviously reading what else am I working on? Well, I’ve got a few things cooking. A friend and I are working on an app for smart phones as well as the web application version.

Who isn’t working on an app these days? Well that’s a seriously good question, it’s pretty easy to get started. I found that the idea was one of the easier things to come up with. Especially since the starting point wasn’t mine, it was Jesus‘s, a really good friend of mine from the Netherlands. The basic premise started with wanting to build a social networks to help kids find other kids to play with.

However, we’ve since evolved the concept into something that parents would want to use for their kids. We’re envisioning an app that will help kids deal with being diagnosed with Diabetes. Managing diabetes through an app isn’t a novel concept, the American Diabetes Association has one already as well as a support group with forums online. Hell they even have dietitians and RNs to help support the forums. We’d have none of that at launch.

Our goal is to enter a slightly different space, helping the adults learn how to teach their kids how to manage the disease. So this puts us in a different space. Furthermore, we don’t think that apps alone will help manage the disease as we believe that there needs to be something to continually engage the kid or parent to continue using the application.

To this end we plan to eventually extend to games and other things that would tie into our application. Those are still in the works and I think our key idea, an avatar, will help when we launch.

So where are we now? At the very beginning. My development skills are way out of date and not so relevant for this project, so I’m learning how to develop in Ruby on Rails right now. I’m using the book Agile Web Development with Rails 4 to do so. I’m  a big fan of this book. By the time I finish walking through the book I’ll have developed a Store Application (to sell the book no less).

Even beyond that though, I’ll learn how to manage a full application in Ruby along with all the database structures that go with it. It’s pretty much ideal for developing the back end as we determine how we want the front end to work. Furthermore, Ruby plays really nicely with JavaScript, CSS, and a few other languages. So, we’ll be able to continually evolve our front end well beyond the initial Rails application.

This will allow us, as developers, to build a fairly consistent application feeling across platforms. I’m not building this alone, as I mentioned Jesus is helping me and he’s doing more of the administration of our server, DB, and has started on a UI for the app version.

We have a long way ahead of us, but we’re using an application called Trello to manage our agile Kanban work items. This allows us to pull the amount of work we believe we can do in a week. Have a conversation about the work we’re planning on doing, and then demo the work that we’ve done so far (see image below).

Kanban Board


These tools have allows us to move forward at a modest but consistent pace. Jesus is currently pursuing both a PhD and an ice cream business, while I’m working, buying a house, writing blog posts, and kind of working on a fantasy novel. So we’re both busy guys but we’re making head way. It will take time, but I think no matter what happens, it’s going to be worth the effort invested into this project.

By the way, the app’s name is going to be Monster’s Versus Diabetes. I think it’s a pretty sweet name. I’ll post updates as we go through the process. Feel free to shoot me any questions about agile, kanban, or managing a project like this.

2 thoughts on “Starting from the Bottom, building an app

  1. Wow, great article. It’s super interesting to think that health problems could be fixed with our phones. I do find kind of funny that your friend Jesus is involved with ice cream, but also developing something for diabetes with you (might actually give advantage). Anyways, hope it goes well.

    • Thanks! yea, that’s a good point, giving diabetes should provide an insight into how to save it!

      I honestly think that the phones will be a tool in helping battle things like obesity and other diseases, but cannot solve the problem alone. I think that we need to be nudged in specific directions but unless we want to change ourselves, we won’t do it.

      In this case I think the education factor and games could make a difference in getting people used to managing their disease.

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