Techzing 40 – AppIgnite Revealed

Justin and Jason discuss the re-branding of Tweetminer as Pluggio, how Justin learns from the show’s guests, the effectiveness of communicating with your users via email, whether or not Justin should raise funding for Pluggio, Jason’s secret project – AppIgnite, the mother of all demos, how Hacker News almost blew a gasket over the iPhone SDK 4.0 TOS, Strategy Letter V – commoditizing your complements, Justin’s new game – Swarm, and Jason’s idea for a massively multi-player, browser-based AI strategy game.

  1. Bopinder Abu Morpalinder Singh says:

    Great podcast guys! Congrats on releasing AppIgnite to the world, I think you’ll do really well.

  2. Bopinder Abu Morpalinder Singh says:

    Agree with you about open-source twitter. But I think it has to be distributed to work. Maybe distributed in the same way as OpenID?

  3. Jason says:

    @Bopinder Abu Morpalinder Singh Thanks for the encouragement! It obviously has a long way to go, but it feels good to at least have something sort of working. 😉

  4. Ken says:

    Hey Jason, I was excited to hear about your AppIgnite project. I immediately started thinking of its possibilities. I can already think of 5 of my clients who would love and gladly pay for a product like this. Good news is, if you do it right it will take off and be a great business for you. Bad news is if you do it right, I’ll loose 5 clients 😉 I can not wait to see / hear more. Good luck and stay focused and release.

  5. Jason says:

    @Ken Wow, it’s really exciting to hear something like that! Thanks so much for the positive feedback. 😉 I’ll get you a login account sometime this week once I’ve had a chance to knock out a few more bugs.

  6. Bopinder Abu Morpalinder Singh says:

    I think your main task is significantly distinguishing yourself from the existing solutions in single sentence.

  7. Ken says:

    I’m sure you already know this and have thought about it but listening to the show and hearing how the idea expanded. I think it is important to identify who the main type of customer is. The first description of the product sounded like something a Power User would be able to handle, then it started to go into Vhosts with control panels and so on. Which I think would lend itself more to a developer tool for the guy/gal who wants to spin out an App quicker for a client, or maybe build out the initial app, then the client maintains it.

    I think the Power User option has more of a reach. I have met a lot of people in companies who are like a tech Macgyver. Hacking together some solution because IT is either too busy or non existent. The only problem with that customer is trying to reach them is more difficult because they don’t even know to look for this solution (Which ties into BAMS comment) plus would mean more work getting the word out.

    The more advanced Developer Tool solution also has promise, I know I would pay for the service if it meant I can turn out an app in 2 hours versus 4 weeks. And it would be easier to get the solution in front of other developers.

    So, maybe you can serve both customer types. 🙂 But regardless of which you choose, be careful not to build it too watered down for the developer and too complex for Larry the Power User in the Marketing department.

  8. I’ve been a big fan of Techzing now for a while and was really excited to hear about the announcement of AppIgnite at long last. I’m especially excited because it’s precisely something I’ve wished for. I’m exactly the kind of “power user” you describe – not a programmer, but someone who has a lot of online ambitions and a pretty good general understanding of how applications are put together. Needless to say, I’d really appreciate an invite to alpha test.

    As I was listening to you guys discuss AppIgnite, I got an idea about one way you could squeeze some money out of it, as well as make the experience better for the target audience of non-programmer power users. I’ve had an idea for an app that I want to build that involves pulling audio files from a database and stitching them together. I know enough not to expect AppIgnite to be able to stitch together audio files out of the box. But there are also all of these other aspects of the app will need to be built that it could easily handle – logins, user profiles, pulling up the audio data to be combined, etc. It’s just that last 20% that I would need to hire a developer for. And I imagine there are going to be a lot of other people in the same boat. So I wonder if you’d consider creating a developer marketplace. Essentially, a place where a user like me could put up a feature request and have a marketplace of developers who know how to work with the system to add custom features. Then AppIgnite would take a cut of the profits.

    I really appreciate the podcast and look forward to listening to it each week. Thanks for the time you guys spend doing it.


  9. Jason says:

    @Aaron@Phrasemix You’re absolutely right about what AppIgnite should be able to do.

    My goal is for AppIgnite to be able to generate 100% of simple or vanilla flavored apps and 80-90% of more complex, specialized apps. A mechanism for feature requests and a developer market place are both ideas that I plan on implementing and the ability to request features is something you should see very soon.

    Also, I’m thinking of creating two separate types of pricing – one for private apps and one for public apps. So, if you wanted to create a private app that performs some type of business function inside your company, then you would pay some per user monthly fee. On the other hand, if you created a public app that you charged money for, then AppIgnite would take some percentage off the top. I don’t really know what that number would end up being, but that’s just kind of what I’ve been thinking about. To make that happen I want to build in a payment system so that if you launch an app on AppIgnite the payment is processed seamlessly by AppIgnite and the amount forwarded to your account. This would save you the considerable trouble of setting up a merchant account and of implementing a payment system. While I haven’t yet done any research in this area, it seems like it should be doable and would be a valuable thing to provide.

    Anyway, I’ll send you an alpha test account within the next few days so that you can start playing around with AppIgnite and watch it evolve.

    Thanks again for the great feedback!

  10. @Jason
    I wonder

    Jason :
    @Aaron@Phrasemix On the other hand, if you created a public app that you charged money for, then AppIgnite would take some percentage off the top. I don’t really know what that number would end up being, but that’s just kind of what I’ve been thinking about. To make that happen I want to build in a payment system, so that if you launch an app on AppIgnite the payment is processed seamlessly by AppIgnite and the amount forwarded to your account thereby saving you the trouble of setting up a merchant account and implementing a payment system. While I haven’t yet done any research in this area, it seems like it should be doable and would be a valuable thing to provide.

    I wonder if taking a % off the top would strongly disincentivize people from building really cool stuff on the system, particularly if it’s a high % cut. A % cut would make the system more attractive to someone who knows they’re not going to make much money off the app, and less attractive for a more ambitions project. So you’d end up with fewer really cool apps that you could point to as examples of how powerful your platform is.

    If I’m looking to build something that has some potential to it, I’d be more likely to use AppIgnite if the costs were based on a flat rate or based on bandwidth/processor usage.

    Just my $.02

  11. Jason says:

    @Aaron@Phrasemix Those are good points and to be honest I haven’t put much thought into what the pricing model should ultimately be. Private and public apps will need to be priced completely differently, but what will ultimately end up working best is still a big question mark for me. As you’ve described it’s not hard to imagine situations in which % off the top would be more attractive to a flat rate model and vice/versa, so it’s going to take some hard thinking and experimentation to see which model will work best.

  12. I think you are wasting valuable man hours by rolling your own ORM.

    For example if you are in .NET then Nhibernate is ultra flexible.

  13. Hi guys. Another interesting show with many different topics (that’s what makes me come back to each new episode).

    On “plugg-eeyo” vs “plugg-hi-ho”: being French I would naturally try to pronounce it “plugg-eeyo” and I think that sounds hip and cool. I very much like the new branding and new features – so I could no longer resist become a paying customer! 🙂

    Congrats again to Jason for AppIgnite. Let me know when I can go back and play some more with the app I started. I think that Jason is definitely on to something. Another analogy for people who know Ruby on Rails is that AppIgnite is a super-scaffolding mechanism. The Rails scaffolding made Rails very appealing to new developers and anyone prototyping a concept. The only caveat is to take a scaffold to a production quality takes a lot of work especially for the UX. So I started to wonder if you could partner with Peldi to tie in a custom and simpler version of Balsamic Mockups to help people customize the page layout.

    Another idea would be to create an ecosystem of addins (kind of what jQuery did) for professional AppIgniters. Having an API or a plugin system would let them create all sorts of extensions and take some load off of you so that you don’t have to always extend the product.

    One differentiator I see in AppIgnite that other previous attempts at this concept have never really mastered is security – i.e. user management and access control policies. That’s a huge advantage since this is something that non-developers or dev-amateurs usually can’t easily do without professional developers.
    On pricing, the per user monthly fee for private apps makes sense. But for public apps, I tend to agree with @Aaron@Phrasemix on the challenge of a percentage off the top. Maybe you can do something similar to what Heroku is doing.

    On the Swarm game: like Jason I am not much a game player at all. But the iPad based board game sounds really good. What about making an online version (like for XBox live)? If you ported the game to MS XNA the game could run both on a Windows PC and on an XBox.

    Justin, enjoy your trip to Europe. I am jealous about the visit to France as I have not been back in a few years and miss it. It’s a good thing I live in Colorado and love it there.

  14. @Paul Cowan When initially considering whether or not to build an ORM ourselves, I read everything I could on the subject and tried everything then available for PHP, and at that time there was nothing that worked the way we wanted or needed it to. Since PHP was what we wanted to build AppIgnite in, it was either settle for something which we knew was going to end up being a problem or just bite the bullet and build it ourselves. Ultimately, building our own has worked out fine, so it’s not a problem, but I guess we’ll have to look back a year or two from now and to determine if ultimately it was the smartest choice.

  15. Justin says:

    @Philippe Monnet Amazingly my trip to Europe was canceled because of the volcanic eruption! Thx for the comments re Swarm, all very good ideas.

  16. Justice says:

    Can I pretty please try out AppIgnite? I thought my prayers had been answered with Appcelerator and now this. If these two products can work together in harmony, I will pretty much not work on anything else.

  17. Jason says:

    @Justice Absolutely! I’ll try to get a login account set up for you later this week.

  18. Michael Richards says:

    Well, it’s payback time. I have enjoyed all your podcasts. Your combined insight, humor and “just do it” mentality is both refreshing and enjoyable. I needed to update my skill set and understanding of current technology. Mission accomplished with techzinglive. Simply put a hit show. Justin, I would like to be included in your pitch so I may offer some advice, so please send an invite.
    Jason, your application sounds exciting. The target audience needs to be clarified. With that said, you may want to capture the entire web dev world, Simple and Advanced. Simple users are hand-held through the development cycle, maybe lots of wizards. The advanced users can write full-blown web sites without laying down any code, a large undertaking to say the least. I am an IT director of a small hospital (with a programming development background that goes back way too far). I wanted to write a web application for a support help desk. Learning the new technology was out of the question (10,000 hours). Was there a way to get the app done with little investment in time or energy on the web? Hmmmm… seemed to be the way to go. I developed a simple app with a couple of screens and reports. As long as you use their templates and structure things work well. Of course making changes were out of the question. The requirements were to get it on the web and truly track support calls. It was easy and quick. Please send me an invite for the Alpha version and I will provide feedback on the simplicity of writing this application. Justin’s advice of virtual servers makes sense for the simple user experience. With I was able to setup two objects (tables, files) and write the screens without setting up any website. Easy as 1,2,3. As I use to tell my programmers years-ago . . . keep it simple, simple, simple because it gets complicated on its own.

  19. Jason says:

    @Michael Richards Thanks so much for the positive feedback on the podcast! Comments like yours really do help propel the podcast forward.

    You’re absolutely correct that AppIgnite should provide hand-holding via wizards for less technical users as well as offer a faster, more streamlined path for advanced users. This is something I’ve thought a lot about and will probably discuss on the podcast in the coming months.

    The example you provided as the “IT director of a small hospital … needing to write a web application for a support help desk” is exactly the kind of problem I had imagined that AppIgnite could solve. Thanks so much for taking the time to describe it.

  20. Charlie Irish says:

    Hi Guys,
    Jason, congratulations on finally releasing the name of your secret project to the public!! Oh wait, that was Justin!! 😉

    I’ve only just listened to the podcast as we’ve been head-down in an iPhone app that we pushed through to Apple yesterday.

    So, sign me up to the alpha – I’d love to be involved, it sounds like a fantastic project. I’m expecting a janky interface and no documentation but a fantastic system – sounds excellent.

    Justin, surely you’ve hit the 50 for the webinar by now??? Do I need to sign up under some different accounts (only kidding).

    Keep up the great podcasts

  21. bcurdy says:

    Congrats for the release! It’s a great idea. And a really ambitious one. If you still need more people for the alpha testing phase, I’ll be glad to help.

    Justin, You don’t look to be trying very hard to get to 50 people for your webinar but I’m still up for it 🙂

  22. Neville says:

    AppIgnite! Yay! I wanna be an alpha tester

  23. Neville says:

    @Jason, I am your target market! I’m a Business Analyst and Tester who knows just enough code to be dangerous. Can’t wait to Check it out.

  24. Emrah says:

    Jason, good luck with AppIgnite! And Justin, thanks for letting the cat out of the bag for Jason. 😀

    Sounds like Jason is building a platform, which the general wisdom says you shouldn’t do. If it really brings a massive productivity boost to the table (over existing frameworks and how they are installed, maintained, scaled etc), it could be worth the risk, but it certainly sounds like a ginormous undertaking. Best of luck.

  25. Jason says:

    @Emrah It definitely is a “ginormous undertaking” and I hope it’s worth the risk as well. I guess only time will tell whether I’m a hero or an idiot. 😉 Then again maybe those terms aren’t quite mutually exclusive.

  26. juan says:

    about Swarm: for the AI, it’s better to create a dumb AI since the purpose of the AI is to teach the player. once they got out of the learning curve, they’d feel confident (or bored) enough to challenge human players.

    I think creating a learning AI wouldn’t have much of an effect on the game (since there’s the random dice thing).

  27. Paul says:

    Great show. Jason – good luck with AppIgnite.

    Actually, I listened to the podcast while jogging and with all the traffic and noise around, the name sounded like ‘epic knight’. My first reaction was: what a strange but awesome name…

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