The Idea Dude


Monday, September 17, 2012

The most important app in my life

I've written a ton of apps in my lifetime, some for myself and some for customers. I guess the most important one is usually the one you're working on or the last one you finished. Picture Flow maybe just be that, the most important app because it is the last one Tealeaf and I worked on. But I think it's more, so today I decided to tell you why.

Firstly, there is a myth that says if you have a great idea, you can make it an app and be successful like Angry Birds. We know it is a common myth because we get suggestions from people all the time. The myth goes, "I have a great idea, I'll share it with you and you write the code and we will both make a ton of money". Reality changes that to "Yes you have a great idea, I'll spend a ton of time and money to write the code and the chances are it will be a great app but we won't make any money".  The problem is exposure, attention span and low selling price. Oh and don't forget, you need lots of luck.

But I digress, we used to write apps and websites for functionality and feature-sake. You need to do or show something and we're very good at making it happen. At Play Dynamics, we try to use a different metric. Sure, we have the checkboxes for important features and core functionality but the ultimate test must be, 'How did it make me feel'. Not so weird when you think about people who are obssessed, in love or infatuated with something. Usually the object is never worth 1000x what the people thinks it is or so logic would tell you. But the 'how it or he/she makes you feel' increase the worth 1000 fold.

Picture Flow has done just that for me. We probably work 12 hours solid, 5 days a week sometimes 7. Much as I love my iPad, it probably gets an hour or less a day of my time. And so the idea of Picture Flow was born. It's just a digital picture frame you say. But I wrote it exactly the way I wanted my picture frame to be.

a) Simple - you had to get the idea the first time
b) Easy - no setup required, switch on, add photo album and done
c) Always interesting - note how you stop looking at the same poster every morning on the way to work. You probably stopped looking on Day 3.

Simple - you get a limited number of layouts, the ones that make your photos look good. Rotate was important, so you get a frame either landscape or portrait. Most important, it should be a companion not a distraction so no crazy colors, backgrounds and no transitions (the biggest culprit).

Easy - tap on a photo album, Facebook album, or Instagram and it just works. You can generate a photo stream in seconds not hours. The best part, you can choose to ignore it or glance at it throughout the day for photos you forgotten or interesting photos suggested by 500px or Flickr.

Always interesting - this was purely empirical. Early on, we took our prototype and, being engineers, we made it deterministic, photos would fill the frames sequentially. We found after a day, we stopped looking at the app. Our ability to filter and block extraneous information meant the app became unimportant because we learnt to subconsciously predict what the images will be. So photos appear at random, creating interesting and unexpected collages.

So the functional objective of Picture Flow is to be a digital photo frame. However the emotional objective is to be a source of delight, discovery and inspiration. I'm hoping those who choose to try it will go from Aha! it's a picture frame, to Wow, that's a beautiful collage of photos I love. And of course, to share that discovery with others.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Picture Flow is live

Wow, we finally did it. A while back, I was staring at my largely unused iPad. Like most people it gets used 2 hours or less day. But it is hands down my favorite device just not the one to do all my development work on.

Fast forward to today, Picture Flow is launched and free in the Apple Appstore. For us it was definitely a labor of love.

What is Picture Flow? It's simply a picture frame on steroids where you can add your photos from your iPad, Facebook and Instagram. It doesn't have all the bubbles, stickers and other glitzy stuff you see in the store. Just a simple, clean and classic picture frame. It's on my desk every single day. Love it to distraction!

Bored with your own pictures, it will show other photo streams like 500px and Flickr, giving other great photographers the love they deserve too! Find an interesting combination of photos, freeze the frame and email it or post it to Facebook.

You can find more details about Picture Flow at

Warning: highly addictive, if you let it play for several minutes, you will never look back...just at your new gorgeous iPad with all the pictures you love.