Developing your £5 app

Last Saturday as part of the Brighton Digital Festival Ian and I held the £5app day at the offices of Sensible Development.

Ian has a fairly in-depth write-up on his blog of the whole day.

I shall be providing a brief summary of “Developing your £5 app”. Neil and I led a discussion/presentation on how to develop software in your spare time.

I’d prepared only about 30 minutes worth of material, but the discussion proved very constructive and we quite happily managed to talk for well over an hour.

I provided some talking points for roughly three areas of development:

  • Getting going – the very first things to consider
  • Sticking at it – how to keep on going once you’ve got started
  • Scaling up – planning for the future and/or success

Possibly the longest part ended up being discussing the pros and cons of language choice. This is the kind of thing that can often end in flamewars on the internet, but things remained quite cordial. General consensus being that a more “dynamic” language may well give you can edge when developing, but you may well have other issues to deal with instead. The case in point being PHP vs. Lisp. Lisp is a much more powerful language than PHP, but PHP is very easy to deploy on a web-server. Whereas with Lisp you are largely speaking on your own. The middle ground of, for example, Python or Ruby, seemed to represent a sweet spot in terms of ease of development, without being too unusual to make hosting a major difficulty.

One other interesting consideration was how to go from being a single developer working in your spare time to a team of people. Neil, who has plenty of experience with this sort of thing, provided the succinct answer that “growing a team is hard”. However he believed that if things were done “right” early on when starting out small, it made life a lot easier at the other scale of development.

All in all I think the “Developing your £5 app” went well. As usual not a lot of preparation happened before hand (I’d been too busy with work and organising the £5app day itself), but I often find that can work quite well. Definitely helps keep things from seeming too inflexible.