When was the last time you let yourself dream/hope/create, unfettered by the chains of, “this is how this should be,” or, “this is the only available option, so it will have to do,” or, “I don’t know how to do this piece, so I guess I can’t,”? Our friend Alex doesn’t seem to have those thoughts. Call it youth, genius (he’s a pretty busy guy, pursuing multiple degrees at Johns Hopkins), or just an up-beat personality, but he’s not letting a little thing like missing one piece to the puzzle of development hold him back. He’s too busy learning and moving forward to be held back by those kinds of thoughts, and we can’t wait to see what he does in the future as a result.
I think a lot. It can be overwhelming and I’ll admit it, most of the ideas I have are pretty terrible. They are nonsensical, have no practical use, and give me this glazed look where I’m staring into space and have my mouth slightly open.
But sometimes… sometimes they take root. When they do, I spend my days and nights daydreaming (yes, daydreaming even at night) because I’m too excited to sleep, too energized to let my thoughts get away from me. They take over my life. From my computer science lectures at Hopkins to conversations with friends, I am consumed by them until I find the time to practice my newest hobby: creating.
I’ll never call it “coding” and I’ll never call it “programming.” Those words are associated with dark rooms, piles of pizza boxes, large glasses, pocket protectors, and a fluent understanding of Klingon. That is not what I do. I spend my time creating experiences, experiences for users that allow them to access information and each other in ways unseen before. I generate a modern, simplistic level of connectivity for an everyday user to take advantage of.
I know exactly what you’re thinking. What have I built? Where are my apps? Have I sold them? Why am I still in school? There’s a simple answer to that. This creation aspect, this redesign and generation process that I cherish is only the second step in a three step process. Both fortunately and unfortunately I have never hit that third step. That third step is when I build something that I love so much that I need to show the world, and while it hasn’t happened yet (although I am getting close!), it’s allowed me to continue passionately producing partially finished applications that I love building and using.
What happens when I try to build something? Well as a primarily iOS focused developer I open up Xcode, start a project, and begin typing away. This process served me very well in the first few months of my development career. I was learning Objective-C while tinkering with different user interfaces (which for the most part turned out to be tiny buttoned fiascos) and generally failed at making anything beyond a tip calculator. It was time to rethink things, and as a student in the confusion that is college, I wanted to go social with my applications. In a world of instant connectivity and moment to moment updates of occurrences across the campus, country, or globe, I wanted to share.
So here was my big dilemma and a bit of a secret that I’m going to share with you. You can keep a secret, can’t you internet? I am not a great programmer. I don’t have the skills or knowledge or expertise to build some SQL backed HTTP whatchamacallit that serves up PHP thingies on a CSS spreadsheet. Not only do I not have the skills, it’s not my top priority. It doesn’t fit in with my hobby of inventing user experiences. So I did the only logical thing I could: look for someone to do it for me.
That didn’t work out. People were too busy to listen to me moan and groan about needing database and server capabilities at that moment and I was getting too anxious to wait. And then, finally, with my hopes and dreams of information sharing applications on the brink of destruction, I found it.
Ah, what a glorious day it was. I immediately signed up for an account and in several hours (to my incredible disbelief) I had a working app.
It didn’t do much… Not much at all, I’ll admit, but that’s not the point. The point is that I finally was able to move on with my hobby, my passion, without waiting for other people to catch up to me and without being hindered by hours of slogging away in front of MySQL and PHP code. Parse set me free to develop with however much connectivity I wanted.
Push notifications on my latest development? 30 minutes setup on my first time. Uploading and downloading continuously changing states in my latest game? I had to slow down the speed. Inventing a distributed big data analysis tool for research in the 24 hour Intel hackathon? We had a working product in just 200 lines of Parse infused Objective-C in the first hour (and also a 1st place prize to put the icing on the cake!).
Since using Parse, I have not made a single application that doesn’t integrate it in some way. Whether it’s going back to that first tip calculator or starting my next “big thing,” connectivity is everything, and the only way I want to connect, is with Parse.
So with all of that said, I’m off to go push the connected world forward… And maybe do some homework along the way.
All the best and thanks for reading.
Your hopelessly forward-thinking friend,