I build my ideas #3 - 06/14/20

Introducing lil APIs, iMessage ideas, Apple archive, You App

Introducing lil APIs

A friend was building GraphQL APIs that were similar in spirit to lil apps: ultra simple and utility-based. It occurred to me that lil software makes lil apps, but what if lil software made lil APIs too?

What if the same APIs that power lil weather and lil news were exposed for anyone to use? And what if they were super simple, just visit an API endpoint and it works - do whatever you want with it.

Introducing lil APIs, ultra simple utility-based APIs for you to build on. They’re the same exact APIs that power lil weather and lil news. Just add water ™

iMessage ideas

I realized that whenever an idea comes to mind, I’ll run it by a few friends to do a gut check and make sure I’m not crazy. The conversation gets other ideas flowing and usually excites me further to make them real.

I picked up on the fact that I generally pursue these ideas to at the very least visualize them. Whether that’s seeing them mocked up in Figma all the way through to building them so that they come to life. Check out that thread above for a few examples. It’s the same way that lil APIs started!

Apple archive

I’ve become obsessed with buying old Apple products on eBay that I used to own or was in awe of as a kid.

Over the past year I’ve been gradually building up my collection:

  • Original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 7 Jet Black

  • Original iPad, iPad 4

  • Original MacBook Air, MacBook White Unibody, Black MacBook

  • iMac G3, iMac G5

  • iBook G3 clamshell

  • iPod Classic, iPod Nano 1st, 3rd & 4th gen, iPod shuffle 1st, 2nd & 3rd gen

  • iSight camera

These are all mostly just lying around, and every once in a while I’ll take them out to reminisce over iOS 6 or Mac OS X Snow Leopard. I’m not sure what my plan is with them long term, but it’s a fun hobby!

You App

Buckle up.

I had this crazy idea with some crazy inspiration (back at it again with the iMessage ideas).

I saw this “Step Chickens” thing being discussed all over Twitter, but in particular how this app had been repurposed to focus on a single person, with a person’s picture as the app icon.

It occurred to me: “what if people had their own apps?” Wait what? What does that mean? How would that work? Everything was centered around this visual of peoples avatars on app icons. I became fascinated by this.

Combine that thought with what I had seen from Clubhouse and some other TestFlight apps:

At first it was very abstract, but the more I started to think about it the more this thought started to feel like it could become real. Fair warning - this is super super experimental and early on, but here’s the working idea at its core:

Imagine the You App as an App Store for people and where you can build your very own app. Everyones You App is the same - an app where you can build your own community and following. Almost as if you’re building your own social network centered entirely around you.

People as apps is a novel concept that was hard for me to grasp at first, but here’s how I personally think about it: Twitter is a singular app where everyone has their own profiles inside of it. You play by Twitter’s rules and are subject to their roadmap. Imagine taking your Twitter profile but giving it its own app - your You App.

Take the Jordan app as an example. You could download my app and join my community/following and see my posts. You could post to it yourself - questions, thoughts, ideas. Anyone could reply in the comments, like posts, etc. It’s just a community/social network around a singular person all packaged up in your very own app.

There are a number of challenges here, particularly around scalability. In order to get separate apps up and running for people, even on TestFlight, involves a bit of manual work. There’s also the concern around if Apple would accept these in the first place. I’ve had my fair share of running into trouble with Apple in the past.

I’ve taken an interesting approach to distributing You Apps for people that (ever so slightly) eases the burden on me: each You App uses the same exact code base, with only a few tweaks per app for the app icon, app name, and getting the server to talk to the right person’s app. But updating them, maintaining them, etc is a scalability concern and sounds hard.

Like with most ideas I pursue, I’m gonna start small with this one and see where it goes and how it evolves. I really think there’s something novel and unique and interesting around the idea of people as apps - and I want to keep going until I reach a dead end.

Follow You App on Twitter for early access

Check out the latest Recreate post: Recreating the Instagram home tab

Check out the latest Cash App Figma plugin: Live Preview

Cash App is hiring designers!

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