The recently released Jamtok is a multi-platform, gamified learning service aimed at the $83 billion worldwide language learning market. Using popular music and games to teach foreign languages, the app seeks to replace boredom and anxiety with flow, that feeling of energized focus common in video games, but sadly less common in education.
Available in Spanish and Japanese, the app works by having users listen to their favorite songs in both English and the language that they’re learning, allowing them to learn forty-plus words and phrases per song. After learning a new word in every phrase of the song, users reinforce their learning, as well as picking up new words and phrases, through mini-games. Learners then assess their new-found knowledge with an exciting, time-based game.
We spoke with Geremie Camara, CEO and Co-Founder of Jamtok, about his 5-year journey to developing the app. Before starting Jamtok, Geremie spent 11 years at Paramount Pictures, traveling the world and licensing movies. During his travels, Geremie met people all around the world who learned foreign languages in the classroom but were supplementing their studies via music, TV, and movies. Over the past 5 years, the idea for Jamtok developed slowly but surely, and after creating 20 or so apps and games for Paramount, Geremie decided to leave and develop Jamtok about a year ago.
Children around the world have to learn languages, but unfortunately most educational tools start out as just that – tools. Educators try to make them more interesting or exciting, but it can be a challenge. Geremie decided to take a different approach by using things kids already think are fun and sneaking in the learning through the back door. Language learning is like a muscle – it needs to be exercised to grow, and that means that language learning needs to be engaging over time. Challenges exist of course; getting enough content so that if a learner likes a certain style of music, there’s enough of it in the app to keep them learning is a core concern.
With all of this amazing content to develop also comes certain time and monetary constraints. Using a back-end as a service, like Parse, means that the team doesn’t have to focus on what Parse already does well from the beginning and instead can create a great product by focusing on the consumer experience and creating great content. This also meant that they didn’t have to have to spend 6 months doing what Parse does – and hire another engineer – before getting to the core of the product. Back-end development isn’t the company’s core competency, and they don’t want it to be.
Settling on Parse was a “no brainer” after Geremie hired his team. Design companies mentioned Parse, and after finding out that one of the developers on the team had worked with the platform before with positive results, the group decided to use the Parse for user accounts and login, tracking user’s virtual currency and purchases, user profiles, hosting DLC, and global settings. There are also plans in the works to use push notifications to it push new songs to users.
After working with Parse, Geremie and his team feel that scalability, accessibility from many environments, the app console for viewing and editing data, and push support are solid reasons for developers considering Parse to give it a try. With both versions of Jamtok at around 100,000 downloads in the first weeks, and an expectation for the artist-specific versions to be ten times that, not having to worry about scalability is another great asset Parse brings to the table.
The Spanish version of the app was featured by Apple in the Education section of the iTunes store for two weeks in a row. Even with their success, though, the Jamtok team is staying focused on learning from how people are using the app and will hopefully have new versions to release in a month’s time and to do artist-specific versions over the summer.
One of the best things about working at Parse is getting to see all of the interesting apps and app concepts that our developers come up with all around the world. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Paul Swaddle, the CEO of Pocket App, a mobile marketing and development company based in the UK. We spoke with Paul about the Parse-Powered Media Trust app for the GoMobile Conference.
You’re the CEO of Pocket App; tell us about the work you do there.
Pocket App is a cross platform mobile solutions company. The company has worked with a wide range of major agencies and brands such as BBH, The Conservative Party, Etisalat and Oracle. We also provide relevant mobile solutions to clients from varied sectors like health, enterprise, travel and charities. With dedicated developers and designers working on all major platforms, we help our clients achieve their goals and maximize ROI.
You built the Media Trust App for GoMobile; what was the purpose of the app?
The Media Trust App was a digital brochure for the attendees of the Go Mobile Conference. The users were able to view the various activities happening at the conference. The application gave details about the time and location of different programs happening at the event. It enabled the users to find out information about all of the speakers at the event and also allowed users to post feedback about the entire event or individual sessions.
How did Pocket App come to develop an app for the event?
The idea behind the conference was to encourage businesses to switch to digital and leverage the mobile boom. To make the attendees more connected with the event, the idea of developing an application came about.
What led you to use Parse at Pocket App?
Pocket App as a company was always looking for relevant solutions to host a cloud base database to host its various applications. Of the many services available, Parse provided the easiest to use and cost effective solutions for our applications. Parse provided a speedy and easily deployed solution that helped minimize time to market. Once deployed, it allowed easy updating, which was vital in a live conference environment.
What role does Parse play in the function of the app?
Parse is the backbone of the application. All of the data of the application is on Parse and the feedback provided by the users is also stored on Parse. We used push notifications for our iOS and HTML5 applications and Parse Social for Facebook connectivity. We also recently started using Cloud Code for Mail Chimp integration.
Given the Parse features at play in the app, do you feel like building Media Trust on the Parse platform helped speed up development?
Yes it helped us decrease development time. Parse is easy to use and new developers can get around it and work on new applications with minimal issues.
What is your favorite aspect of using Parse as your back-end for apps?
Parse enables easy integration with the application and gives the ability to integrate Facebook and push notifications easily. Parse also provides an SDK for all major platforms.
In today’s increasingly media-centric society, everyone from celebrities to politicians are searching for ways to keep in touch with their fan base. Mobile app Hang w/ is the latest, and one of the most popular, social media platforms available to both the famous as well as the not-so-well-known.
We spoke with Andrew Maltin to discuss the hit app that his company, MEDL Mobile, released in March of this year.
Your company, MEDL Mobile, has a lot going on. What can you tell us about it and the role you play there?
MEDL Mobile was created in 2008 when my partner and I joined forces to build something that neither of us could find in the market. Previously, I had built software and web-based companies in the nineties, and the growth curve of mobile reminded me of early web. I was looking for a development partner that could help me move fast to take advantage of the rapidly evolving ecosystem.
My partner was a former advertising agency creative director who had spent 20 years working on powerhouse brands. He was looking for a development partner who could guide an app he was crafting for a client. He needed help understanding timing, pricing, marketing, monetization and the process for getting it done properly.
After searching for months, and speaking to dozens of local developers, development firms, overseas developers and overseas developers pretending to be local development firms, we gave up and built the company ourselves. In the four years since that time, MEDL has led mobile strategy, ideation, development, marketing and monetization for many of the biggest names on the planet – in areas diverse as entertainment, telecom, medicine, education and retail – building apps for household names that range from Hyundai and Taco Bell to Monster.com and Real Madrid.
Alongside our custom development for clients, MEDL has continued to invest internally in projects where we see an opportunity for game changing mobile technology. One such project is our patent-pending Mobile Brain – an analytic engine which classifies users according to their Mobile Lifestyle and learns to make recommendations based on a predictive algorithm. Another such project is Hang w/ – a social media project that was secretly in development for more than two years. Hang w/ is the first social media platform built to monetize a fan following via live streaming broadcast video.
As CEO, it is my role to steer the business toward the future while navigating the ever present challenges of software development.
Hang w/ has had great success since its release; tell us a little bit about it.
“Hang w/” allows live real-time video to be sent from one phone to many. Followers view a short pre-roll ad, and then watch a live feed sent directly from the broadcaster’s smartphone camera. A post-roll ad ends the broadcast. Broadcasters earn a percentage of the advertising revenue-generated based upon the number of followers who are “Hanging w/” them. Viewers can share messages directly from the app to Facebook and Twitter as events happen live on Hang w/ – using the power of social media to rapidly grow the user base. Click here for a short video about the app.
You mentioned that the app was secretly in development for two years; where did you get the idea for it?
The idea was born from multiple meetings with celebrity clients who all voiced the same problem. They were tired of spending so much time and money building their social media following without getting any revenue back. And they were concerned that their fans were losing interest in social media that were quickly becoming littered with fake content and spam.
As a development company, what led you to use Parse?
One of our developers suggested that we use it a couple of years ago and Hang w/ was a perfect fit to finally use it.
How is Parse used in the app? Are you using any of the Parse products, such as Social or Push?
Parse is fully integrated into the app. It provides back-end serves as well as push. We are sending over 5 million pushes with Parse Push per month. We also use Cloud Code and Parse Data, as well as Parse Social for Facebook and Twitter integration.
What would you tell other developers are the key benefits of working with Parse?
Parse has decreased development time significantly, so speed. Ease of use. Uptime. Updated SDK’s.
You can read more about MEDL Mobile and Hang w/ here.
Photography and photo sharing apps have become quite popular, with many aiming to be the next Instagram. Today, however, we’re speaking with Gayan Benedict of Audaz, whose newest app, Phokl, seeks to bring together photography enthusiasts of all skill levels and backgrounds. More than just a photo-sharing site, Phokl brings together professional photographers with art lovers, enabling novice photogs to peek behind the scenes at what it takes to capture the images they admire.
Read on to learn about the inspiration behind Phokl and the place Parse holds in the innovative new app.
You’re the CEO at Audaz; what’s the company all about?
Audaz is a photography group based in Sydney, Australia. I’m the founder and principal photographer, as well as technology lead (my day job was leading architecture and strategy for one the the biggest banks in Australia, Westpac).
Our first mobile app was launched last year, Photo Sydney, and it was a client-side based app allowing visitors and local photographers in Sydney to take advantage of mobile technology to improve their Sydney photography. Phokl is a follow-up to Photo Sydney and takes the concept globally, while also taking advantage of Parse’s infrastructure for not only scale, but also social extensibility, which we are heavily building out.
Explain how Phokl works for us.
Phokl is an app (available on iOS initially), that allows keen photographers (and lovers of photography) to access significantly more levels of information about images than has been previously available. Images are loaded into galleries organized by Place or Passion, and expose a wealth of data not typically accessible to photographers, including rich photographic meta-data, detailed location mapping, and post-production commentary.
Users can provide rich commentary and feedback on images, including their emotional responses. Users can search by detailed criteria to find the images they are after (extending to search by aperture, focal lengths, and even geocode ranges!). This makes Phokl idea for users keen to expand their knowledge on photographic techniques and settings.
How did you develop the idea behind your latest app?
The idea for Phokl (pronounced Pho-cal), came from our own experience as photographers, looking to master the variables at a photographer’s disposal (focal length, aperture, ISO etc), and realizing that a lot of this information wasn’t conveniently available to photographers at the time and place of their photography. We wanted to take the information in traditional photography books, and make it more local and available, when the photographer needed the information. We’ve succeeded beyond our initial expectations with even the first version of Phokl, and the next versions in development are only taking us further down this path.
How did you find your way to building Phokl on Parse?
We found Parse through our development team. They recommended Parse based on your reputation. After initially looking at other offerings, we realized the deep social integration the platform offered ,and the convenient pricing options, made it a no-brainer to build Phokl out on the Parse platform. We have not looked back once on this decision.
How is Parse used in the app?
Parse is used for core storage of our digital content. It’s also used as a harness into which our Facebook and Twitter integration has been based and developed. Version 1.0 uses Parse Social to allow users to follow their favorite photographers, participate in forums, and, uniquely, provide rich emotional feedback which is fed back to users at both an image level, and through social leader boards we’ve established to allow users to discover popular images and contributors. We’re enjoying the analytics the platform offers, and are now looking to build that area our further after initial exploration.
What do you feel are the key benefits to building out an app on the Parse platform?
We’ve found time to market and to build out new features, as well as the ability to build on the available business logic for deep integration to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have allowed us to focus on what makes our app different, which is rich photographic context and information. We don’t have to waste much time on the core social components our users expect as a matter of course now in their mobile apps.
How many overall downloads have you seen?
In the first ten days, we had thousands of downloads, well beyond our initial expectations for the initial 1.0 launch. We’ve already launched a bug-fix version and are working on our first major point release.
What are your plans for Phokl in the future?
We’re focused on building out our capabilities, and have a thick pipeline of capabilities in the works. We consciously wanted to get what we saw as critical differentiating features out in version 1.0 and have focused on getting user feedback to dictate our capability releases going forward. We’re very much about building up a community of avid photographic users, and as with any successful community, it’s critical we provide the community what it wants to thrive and develop further.
As an example, initial feedback was that users wanted access to the photographic news and community content that they trusted. As a result, we sought to incorporate access to the leading photography blogs around the world, right within the app. It was there on day one and our users are loving it (our launch rating on the App Store of 5 stars is a source of particular pride for us).
Has using Parse decreased development time and if so, do you have an idea of how much?
Parse would have at least halved our initial projected development time. It allowed us to get a base harness capability prepped in a matter of 2-3 weeks, and has allowed us to build out our capabilities on a robust platform, with rich social and interactive functionality available from Day 1.
What’s your favorite aspect of building on Parse?
The Parse adoption model is simple to plan around, the infrastructure works, the features keep coming so we can build them into Phokl at a steady clip, and the pricing supports scalability and minimizes risk for the developer. Everyone wins.
Gayan will be presenting on his experiences with cloud-based app development at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research summer session special topic on mobile apps in Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-June. The talk will feature the use of the Parse platform and be based on a previous presentation he did on behalf of Apple Australia on the topic as well as building on sessions hosted with Apple in Queensland’s Gold Coast in December of 2012.
With new apps popping up every day, it’s no surprise that more and more self-employed individuals and small businesses are beginning to feel the need to enter into the realm of branded apps. Hiring a developer, though, can get quite pricey, and isn’t always in the realm of possibility for new or small companies.
That’s where the developers at MainStreet Apps come in. They’ve developed a platform that incorporates Parse and enables mom-and-pop shops, small businesses, self-employed folks, schools, organizations, and more to create their own apps without paying someone to build it for them from the ground up. We spoke with Angelo Stracquatanio about the company, and how Parse plays into their plan.
Tell us about MainStreet Apps and the role you play there.
MainStreet Apps is a New Jersey (yes, I said New Jersey) based start-up located in Jersey City. Besides having a great view of Manhattan from our office, we recently launched the 4th version of our platform in February with the help of Parse. I’m the founder, CEO, and Chief Code Monkey for our 4-person team and have a real passion for tech. We may not have spray tans, blowouts or fist-pump during work hours, but we have developed a sophisticated, do-it-yourself native mobile app builder to help SMBs and agencies develop two-way communication enabled applications quickly.
What can you tell us about the platform?
MainStreet Apps is an online native mobile app builder that specializes in creating mobile apps whose main purpose is not marketing. The apps built on our platform open a new, well-organized and two-way channel of communication between an organization and its clients, students, athletes and/or employees. It’s built to be DIY for the organization that wants an app, but we also have an affiliate program for agencies interested in building apps for clients who may not be able to afford a custom app or aren’t completely sold on mobile apps just yet. From an agencies perspective, one could use our platform to entice a new client with a cost-effective mobile app, but when the client is ready for a custom app, that agency could then take over and use Parse to build the app from there.
Where did the idea for the app platform come from?
This version of our platform, which is the first time we’ve introduced two-way communication, actually came from developing custom apps using Parse. Before working for MainStreet Apps full-time, I was an Enterprise Mobile Developer and had used Parse in my custom projects and saw the value in having personalized content in a mobile app. It was that ah-ha! moment that we decided to completely change our platform and go down our current road. However, the original idea of a DIY app maker came from working with urban entrepreneurs in Jersey City who wanted me to build a custom app, but couldn’t afford one. I figured there had to be a cheaper way for them, and so I built this platform.
How did you find Parse?
I first heard about Parse in a blog post a while back now, and started using it immediately in my custom projects because it just made sense. After using it a few times successfully, I decided to integrate it with our platform.
What role does Parse play in the MainStreet Apps Platform?
Parse is used on our platform in a few interesting ways. First, Parse powers all of our push notifications across our apps and allows our users to target their user groups and schedule when they would like to send those notifications. Additionally, user management is handled by Parse that we deeply integrated into our platform, and finally all social tools that we used are powered by Parse.
How are the Parse tools – Push, Social, etc. – used in the platform?
All of the apps built on our platform are subscribed to Parse and allow our users to send targeted push notifications to their end-users. In addition to just mass push notifications, since our platform revolves around user-based content and group management, we combined that with Parse’s channel-based system to allow our users to send push notifications to individual users or groups of users. We also leveraged Parse’s push scheduler to allow our users to set it and forget it.
Regarding Parse Social, for all mobile users (the end-users of our customers), we use Parse to manage all user-related functions. We decided to not reinvent the wheel since Parse had already done a great job with mobile login, user management, and device installation tracking. We also leverage Parse’s social features for select clients who would like to opt-in to social sharing and login via the social tools.
For developers who might be considering building on Parse, what would you tell them are the key benefits you have found while working with Parse?
Above all, ease of use. From the first time I used Parse, up until now when we have deeply integrated it with our platform, I have been incredibly impressed by how easy Parse has made it to manage users, organize push notifications, and manipulate data in the cloud.
Given that ease of use, do you feel like using Parse has sped up your development time?
Parse has decreased dev time incredibly by allowing us to focus on our core modules and not worry about user management, push notifications (that one was a biggie) and social tools. Overall, I would estimate that it saved us 3-4+ weeks worth of work vs developing an in-house solution.
What is your favorite thing about Parse?
This is going to sound weird, but I love Parse so much because it has decreased a tremendous about of my development stress because I know that any part of our platform that uses Parse will just work. Call it blind faith or ignorance, but to me, I trust Parse so much because I have NEVER been disappointed with a feature or Parse’s documentation. It’s superb. Whatever you say is going to work, does. Oh, and, I almost forgot, Parse is incredibly easy to use!
We’re rapidly approaching a point in time where mobile users expect an app for all of their activities. Think about it: what social event or activity wouldn’t be improved if you had a map/list of options/access to other attendees at the tip of your finger? Paper maps can be outdated (what if everyone’s favorite rollercoaster at the amusement park is down?) and schedules often change day-to-day.
Jan Jirout of C Monster Solutions recognized the need for just such an app for cruise ships after his own family experiences. This led to an app called Ship Mate for both Android and iOS, and the creation of the official app for the cruise3sixty cruise conference to aid attendees at the event. Jan walks us through the development of the two apps and his experience with Parse so far.
Tell us about your company and the role you play.
The company is C Monster Solutions and consists of myself and my brother, Mike. I’m the developer and I guess the CEO. We have a great guy who’s been helping us with web the past few months currently on a part time basis, Charles Reid. The company was created about a year and a half after I started the Ship Mate project for iOS.
Tell us about your two apps, Ship Mate and cruise3sixty.
Ship Mate is an app for anyone going on a cruise vacation. You are able to meet other people who you’ll be cruising with, communicate with people who have cruised in the past, learn about the ship you will be on and the ports you will be visiting, along with other fun features including a countdown, cruise ship current location and an Instagram-like feature where you can share your vacation pics.
cruise3sixty is an app for the 2013 cruise3sixty cruise conference. The app provides the conference schedule, a directory of attending agents and exhibitors, ship info for the cruise ship tours, a city guide for Vancouver (where the conference will be held), and a place to chat with other travel agents who will be attending.
How did you come up with the inspiration for the two apps?
A few years ago I wanted to learn how to program for the iPhone so I bought my first Mac and an iPod and was in search of an idea to work on. Our family had been taking family reunion trips every other year on cruise ships (over 50 of us!) and we happened to have a trip coming up in a few months. I thought up the idea and got to work on a version for our upcoming cruise. I remember being excited getting a few downloads and some feedback. I realized this could be something people could get into and continued to build, learning a ton along the way.
cruise3sixty came from attending the conference two years in a row and being disappointed with the app that was being offered. My brother and I realized if we could build the official app for the year’s largest cruise conference, it could help us make connections in the industry. We approached them and worked out an agreement.
How did you end up using Parse in Ship Mate and cruise3sixty?
For a while everything on Ship Mate was contained in the application bundle (one of the reasons the app was initially split into different versions for each cruise line). The reason for this was because I didn’t have much experience communicating with a server (I’m still learning). We got a good guy to build us a custom solution to implement the server side for chat. This worked well for a while but we didn’t have anyone to maintain this solution. I learned about one of Parse’s competitors and thought maybe it could replace our current chat implementation. It didn’t yet have the flexibility we required but made me realize that something that worked might exist out there. I looked around, kept an eye out, and found out about Parse (probably through a Hacker News post). After replacing our chat solution with a Parse solution, I started a focused push to put everything from the app into Parse.
How is Parse used in the apps?
Cloud Code is being used to send Push Notifications when messages are sent or new users join on cruises. It’s also being used to construct queries and doing a bit of data processing to be used across platforms. Save hooks are used to massage data in some cases.
For Ship Mate, when the app is launched Parse is used to track the app being opened giving us an insight into usage data. We monitor usage data through Parse in other ways. When a user uses any of the features the content is coming from Parse, including text content, images, and ship locations. We have cron jobs running to scrape for ship locations and current web cam images. Web cam images are stored in Parse so we can display an animation to the user of the ship’s last day or so of travel. Our User Gallery is an Instagram-like feature completely powered through Parse.
User account management is also done completely through Parse. User data is stored in Parse allowing the user to access their stored cruise itineraries on different devices and through the web site.
Parse Cloud is used for save hooks to keep data consistent across devices (ACL) and some query construction and data processing to make fetching data consistent and easier across devices and to send Push Notifications.
Push Notifications are used to let users know when they have new direct messages, they used to load new messages when a user is in a chat room, and they’re used to let users know when someone new is joining them on their cruise.
Roles are used to give us more access within the app over common users.
Parse is used to monitor where data is deficient within the app. If a user goes somewhere where we’re missing pictures or description or something we make a note of that through Parse.
We’re also about to start using Parse for in-app purchase.
For cruise3sixty, Parse is used for user account management. We were given a list of attendees along with username and password. Using the Parse REST API I set up accounts for the travel agents ahead of time. Logging in is required to access some of the features. The conference schedule, exhibitors, and sponsors are stored in Parse.
All data for cruise3sixty is mirrored on the device so the app can be used without network access. The conference network access isn’t reliable, but with Parse we can get the most recent data to the users while they have network access and have it stored for when the network isn’t available.
What did you feel the greatest benefit was after moving everything over to Parse?
Flexibility was a huge initial benefit. I love how you can add fields to a Parse object and older versions of the app continue to work as implemented without issue. Remember, I’m still learning, so much of what I did initially needed to be changed as the app evolved and Parse allowed that while not affecting older versions of the app.
Another benefit is the ability to store all data in Parse instead of being on the app. Some of it is mirrored on the app and updated when changes are made, but most data does not need to be on the app, like for cruise itineraries. Right now we’re storing 35k cruise itineraries that were previously included in the app bundle, but the user cares only about the itineraries they will be on.
User management and cross platform API’s are also key, making it easy to share the data from the same source on different mobile devices and the web.
When developing cruise3sixty I was able to easily migrate static data from the Ship Mate app to the new cruise3sixty app using the Parse data export feature. For one piece of dynamic data, Ship’s Current Location, I’m actually making a REST call from the cruise3sixty iPhone app to the Ship Mate Parse account. This should probably be avoided but it’s handy in this case.
With so many people going on cruises each year, do you have any idea how many times your apps have been downloaded?
I wish I had better knowledge of this. I think we have over 200k downloads for the iPhone version, maybe about the same on Android. For a while the app was free, we didn’t require user accounts for tracking cruises, and we had many different versions for the different cruise lines. I pay more attention to the rate of download vs the cumulative number. We’ve been consistently in the top 10 travel apps over the past two years, sometimes in the top 5, reaching as high as #2.
The cruise3sixty final version has just been released and hasn’t been promoted yet. The conference organizers will soon start promoting the app to it’s 1,200 agent attendees and the exhibitors.
Do you feel like you’ve saved time in development by using Parse?
Parse has decreased development time and cost. It’s hard for me to judge by how much, but I can say things would be very different for us right now without Parse. I’m still the only iPhone developer for us and that couldn’t be without Parse. Ship Mate has transformed from a cruise utility to a cruise community spread across iPhone, Android and the web and that would’ve taken many more resources without Parse. I don’t know if we would’ve succeeded securing those resources to get us to this point.
cruise3sixty wouldn’t exist without Parse. We would not be able to expend the resources to create that app without Parse in our current position.
The proliferation of mobile apps is no longer a surprise to most people; the average American smartphone has 40 or more apps installed on it. What might surprise some, however, is that apps are no longer just being used for entertainment and social purposes. Businesses have seen that their employees are carrying in their pockets an opportunity to stay in contact with the company at all times, and are capitalizing on this reality with enterprise-specific apps.
Hi, Bryan; tell us about Clarus Agency and your role there.
Clarus Agency bills itself as an app agency. Our business model very much follows the agency model, but we are very unlike a traditional agency in that we really only create apps, whether they be mobile, web or client (desktop). I started Clarus in 2007, along with my two partners. Although I have to do a lot of administrative “stuff” inherent with running the business, my real job is development and UX.
Explain to us a little bit about the apps you’ve built for Sage Environmental, please.
We’ve built several apps for Sage that would probably be best described as Line of Business. The first, an iOS app simply called Surveys, allows management to digitally distribute and measure post-project employee assessments. Once a project is marked in their systems as finished, a batch of surveys are sent to the employees who worked on the project. The employee fills out and submits the survey through the app.
The second app, called PIE, is an iOS app which allows employees to visually view their progress on several KPIs that are used as the basis of their annual performance reviews. There is also a companion web-based dashboard that management can use to view the same data across all employees.
Where did the idea for the two apps originate?
Our client, John, came to us with the basic premises for these two apps, along with others, that we brainstormed together on to fully flesh out.
How is Parse used in Surveys and PIE?
Has using Parse impacted your development speed?
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much time Parse has saved us, but it has without question. This has translated into real savings for our clients and real efficiency gains for us.
As a developer, what led you to use Parse in the first place?
I first heard about Parse fairly early on in beta. I try and keep up with the goings on in our industry and, although I don’t remember exactly when and where I heard about Parse, I know it was from one of the many fellow developers I follow on Twitter.
What would you tell another developer are the key benefits to working with Parse?
From a development perspective, the key benefit is the removal of the “boilerplate” stuff that goes along with most projects: spinning up a VM on Amazon, Rackspace or Heroku, setting up the database, creating the database schema, creating API to allow the DB to communicate with the app, etc. With Parse you can quickly skip past most of that and get to work on the business logic of the app.
From a business perspective, it comes down to time and money. Because we use the agency model, we bill by the hour. Each hour that Parse saves us is an hour the client doesn’t have to pay for (which they always appreciate). Additionally, this allows us to get through the project queue faster, which makes us and our clients happy.
Can you tell us about any other projects that you have in the works using Parse?
Because much of the work we do is for our clients’ internal use, we’re often not allowed to talk about it, but I can say that we’re using Parse in apps that we’re creating for some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Cisco. We’ve also used Parse in FirstDown Playbook, which is the most popular football reference app on the App Store. Of course, many of us here have “pet projects” that we mess with from time to time. Parse is a great way to get up and running quickly and to prototype and validate an idea for an app.
What do you think is the best thing about building on Parse?
Parse has built a great product with a great team behind it. You all are constantly innovating and pushing out new useful features. It’s not perfect (yet), but you guys do a great job of listening to your customers and giving us what we ask for. The thing I love most about Parse is it ultimately saves us time and makes our lives easier.
Guest Post: Integrate the ShowKit SDK into Your Parse-Powered App for Conferencing, Screen Sharing, and Gesture Control
Today we have another great tool for our developers, supplied by the awesome folks at ShowKit. ShowKit, an SDK for mobile devices that enables audio and video conferencing, screen sharing, and gesture control, can easily be added to your Parse-powered app for even greater functionality. Learn more about this new opportunity, and sign up for a Parse-exclusive webinar, below.
How To Easily Add Audio / Video Conferencing, Screen Sharing & Remote Gesture Control To Your App
Mobile developers love Parse for reducing the time and effort associated with building a backend. ShowKit’s new mobile SDK featuring Parse integration provides that same ease of use for adding the following powerful in-app features: audio / video conferencing, screen sharing, and remote gesture control (which ShowKit is pioneering). View more about ShowKit here.
Let’s take a closer look at these features as seen in the ShowKit demo app.
Audio / Video Conferencing
Built to ensure a seamless integration with Parse, ShowKit users benefit from smooth video conferencing, with crystal-clear VGA and 720p resolutions at 30 frames per second using minimal CPU resources. ShowKit’s best in class audio / video conferencing feature is built on the only framework that includes hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding. The decoding component is fairly tricky and unique, and enables device to device communication, which is a more complex development than device to web communication. The minimal cpu usage allows the device to run other functions in parallel, such as a game or app. ShowKit’s competitors (which shall remain nameless) use full cpu and only get 4-5fps at that resolution, which isn’t feasible for video conferencing. ShowKit reports that this feature is so easy to integrate that they watched a team of junior mobile developers at the recent ShowKit sponsored AngelHack Los Angeles add a working implementation into their hack in about 30 minutes.
Screen Share & Remote Gesture Control
The ShowKit SDK also provides users with shared gestures on UIKit controls, gesture indication graphics, and gaming-compatible screen sharing. ShowKit envisions several possible use cases for this feature set that might include (but not limited to) the facilitation of sales, customer support, or social gaming. Teja Vishwanadha won ShowKit’s prize for best implementation at AngelHack Los Angeles by creating MemoryPlay, a casual memory game with rich real time interaction between players.
Parse Integration And Exclusives
ShowKit, which recently launched a private beta, is offering an exclusive promotion code for Parse users who would like to implement the technology. Interested mobile developers can request an invite from ShowKit’s site using the code “SKParse” to gain immediate access to the SDK.
For additional information and a more in-depth explanation of this technology, developers can register for a webinar with ShowKit Co-Founder and CTO Matt Van Veenendaal. The webinar is exclusively for Parse users and will take place on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 from 11:05 am – 12:05 pm PT.
With the proliferation of mobile technology has come new and more varied ways to both share and learn new information. As a way to avoid information overload, we’re starting to see new social networks evolving that are built around specific areas of interest or themes, allowing users to share their passions with like-minded individuals.
Sipp, one of the newest Parse-powered apps to hit the Apple iTunes Store, is aimed at giving wine lovers a place to share their latest discoveries as well as find new varieties to love. We spoke with developer Jonathan Sleeuw and designer Eric Hoffman to learn more about their creation.
What’s Sipp all about?
Sipp is a social network for wine lovers. By uploading a photo, and specifying a few details on the wine, you can easily share what you’re drinking with friends. The app is also very much about helping you discover new wines, too. The Feed shows you what your friends are drinking, and allows you to share comments and opinions about given wines.
Sounds delicious! What inspired the app?
The idea came from Eric, who wanted to satisfy two itches, a) deliver a great product ourselves, and b) fill a void in this space – nobody had created a wine app that users enjoyed enough to use regularly.
What led you to use Parse in the development of Sipp?
I first came across Parse in a Hacker News post. I can’t quite recall which one, but it was pretty early on. From there the service remained very visible to me, with posts on Parse appearing regularly catching my eye. I was, and remain, impressed by the speed at which things have evolved.
As a developer, what do you feel have been the key benefits of building on Parse?
Parse allows me to be very effective with my time. Obviously, the less time spent working on code that’s not directly related to implementing a feature, the better. But what I’ve found is that there’s been a significant shift in momentum – we’re getting things done the way we want them faster, which affords us more time to sweat the details on features we want to implement.
Which Parse features are used in the app, and how are they implemented?
I’d say we’re pretty heavy users. All Push Notifications are sent with Parse Push (via Cloud Code afterSave callbacks) and all data is maintained using Parse Data, including files, wine labels, for example, are stored as PFFiles. We use Parse Social for Facebook sign up/linking Facebook accounts to PFUsers. We just finished implementing sign up with email.
Do you feel that using Parse decreased development time?
It most certainly has decreased the amount of time it takes to get things done. Depending on the feature of course, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that time to implement could be cut in half. Just the fact that I don’t need to put on my Ruby on Rails hat to work on the backend stuff allows me to stay focused and maintain momentum on the iOS side.
How many overall downloads have you seen?
After only 10 days we approached the 1000 mark.
Do you have any plans to use Parse in the future?
Toppit is another large Parse project that Eric and I have both worked on. I continue to do development consulting for them. Here are some comps of a new project that, if we get the go-ahead, will be built with Parse.
What’s your favorite thing about developing with Parse?
I love what it enables us to do with our ideas. The more we can delegate to Parse, the more we can focus on what’s important to our app.
You can download Sipp in the Apple iTunes Store here.
As a platform aimed at developers, we get really excited to hear about dev shops that are able to speed up their development time – and therefore their business – by using our services. It’s great to know that we’re helping to enhance the process for creative teams out there, making their lives easier and, hopefully, their companies more successful as a result. Today, Will Kelly of Lavacado Studios, LLC, tells us why he and his team love using Parse.
We came across Parse while investigating options for a potential client. She needed a lot of functionality but had a limited budget, and Parse seemed like a great option to achieve the former while obeying the latter. While we were neck deep in due diligence, another client came to us, ready to go and anxious to use Parse. All of a sudden everyone was talking about Parse!
We started work on the second project right away. The project, called QuizBlast, is a trivia platform to help third party content owners monetize and engage their audience. With thousands upon thousands of questions, across multiple applications, it is a very data heavy business. With Parse as the core solution to that problem, we were able to collaborate more closely, prototype more quickly, and test more often than ever before. The first QuizBlast application, Mr. Dad on Pregnancy, launched quickly. Without Parse, we would still have been in development when we launched, instead of in the marketplace.
Over the past few months working on QuizBlast, Parse has become central to everything we are doing. One of our internally developed projects, Liquor Cabinet, is a perfect Parse candidate and that is where we are taking it. The app, voted by Lifehacker as the #1 drink app, allows users to select the various “ingredients” they have at home in their bar or pantry and see what drinks are waiting to be made. It is a lot of fun! And a lot of data. The app has been extremely well received, but with the data stored locally, updates have been slow and cumbersome, hamstrung by the Apple review process. We have a great community of users that helps us police the data, but how much we value their input and advice is sometimes not apparent when it can take several weeks to correct a misspelling. Parse removes that obstacle completely and will turn Liquor Cabinet into a real-time data service. In testing, we have seen that the only throttle on our data updates now is our typing speed.
For Lavacado, and for our clients, Parse has proven to be more important than a key to success, it is a ticket to feasibility. No other tool that we have ever come across in many years of development has been more enabling to the small independent developer. Thank you!!
All the Best from the Lavacado Team,