[Intel sponsored feature] Finding inspiration for apps through collective thinking

FEATURE: Come together

If you’ve been mulling over an app idea for months and not got anywhere with it, then prepare to be inspired. On the weekend of 11-13 November, a group of strangers came together at Hackney Community College in East London to see if they could create an app in a weekend. And they did.

The event was BeMyApp, which invited app enthusiasts of all levels to come along. People who had an idea for an app pitched it to the rest of the attendees, who then voted for their favourite one. A shortlist of five apps was then drawn up, and people formed teams with other attendees to gather the skills they needed. Some were after design support, others needed coders. Most were open to any marketing help on offer.

Over the course of the weekend, the apps were then created. The winning team received conference passes for Apps World, sponsored by Intel, and mentoring from Intel’s software engineers.

The ideas put before the group represented a wide range of interests. A simple paper-scissors-stone game didn’t pass the voting phase, but a card game like Top Trumps that used your Twitter followers was one of the finalists. Other finalists were SwiftDel, an app that connects you with cheap local delivery services, and the ultimate winner, Last Sandwich, an app that connects companies with surplus food with those who need it.

What was amazing was the sheer energy of the weekend. A group of people went into a room on a Friday night, and met for the first time. They pooled their skills and resources, and by Sunday, the world had some striking new apps in it. Admittedly, they needed finishing touches. But, most of the work of creating an app was finished in the space of a weekend.

I attended a writing workshop recently, and the leader was a huge fan of collaborative writing. When you need to get a project going but you don’t have all the ideas or knowledge you need, getting together with others is a great way to energise it, she said. It does raise the thorny issue of who owns the resulting work, but her take on it was that it’s a group effort (and owned by the group) if everyone has an equal say on what goes into it; and it’s owned by the group leader if one person has a veto over the ideas of others.

Working with groups to create an app or anything else can be difficult, not least because it can take your ideas in unexpected directions. You might want to try to stay true to your original vision and to exclude ideas that don’t support it, but that would be a missed opportunity. Ideas that are developed using the life experience and knowledge of several people can often be much stronger than one auteur’s vision. You can spiral ideas off in all kinds of directions using a simple two-word tool: ‘yes, and’.

Whatever is suggested, you have to reply ‘yes, and…’, which forces you to accept the ideas of others and build on them, instead of criticising and rejecting them. It eliminates the potential for negativity, and enables ideas to develop as fully as possible. Of course, you might go down a dark alley, but sometimes you can emerge at the other end with a much stronger idea than you had before, as a result of the journey you took through unworkable ideas along the way.

We hear a lot of stories about bedroom coders single-handedly creating apps and making a fortune, but I think this feeds a myth that the whole apps industry works like that. In fact, many, if not most, bestselling game apps are the result of teamwork. The combination of technical, visual design, gameplay design and marketing skills required are extremely uncommon in a single person.

If you played guitar, you’d get a band. If you were an actor, you’d join or start a theatre troupe. You’re a developer. Perhaps it’s time to make some friends and get your studio together?

Dates for your diary

Next week promises to be action packed for developers looking to network, form new partnerships, and get some great ideas. On Tuesday 6 December, starting at 6.30pm, there’s a free developer meetup in Manchester, with free food and drink, courtesy of Intel. The event takes place at The Seven Oaks, 5 Nicholas Street, Manchester, M1 4HL. You can register for your place here.

On Wednesday 7 December at 10.30am, there’s also a free webinar that will show you how you can make money selling HTML5 apps in the Intel AppUp center. You can learn about the HTML5 Encapsulator that makes it easy to turn your HTML5 into an installable app that works offline. You’ll also learn how to sell your HTML5 app in the many stores powered by the Intel AppUp center. Places are limited, so if you’re interested, reserve your webinar place here.

This blog post is written by Softtalkmobile, and is sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program, a single channel for distributing apps to multiple devices, multiple operating systems, and multiple app stores

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