Manton develops software for both OS X and iOS. He works for VitalSource and has his own business, Riverfold Software. Manton also collaborates with Daniel Jalkut to produce the Core Intuition podcast for Mac and iOS developers.
- What do you currently do?
I’m a Mac and iOS developer. I work at VitalSource on e-textbooks, and run my own business called Riverfold Software, where I have a couple of Mac and iOS products. Increasingly I also build web apps and services to complement the native clients, such as my syncing API for Twitter apps, Tweet Marker.
- How did you get started in Mac and/or iOS programming?
After getting my first Mac, I become fascinated with how apps looked and worked. I took a class on Pascal in high school, and then mostly taught myself C and Mac programming from books in the early and mid 1990s. I’d build little Mac utilities and games with a friend, who was learning at the same time. Looking back, it was really helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of — someone who can try out what you’ve done in an early state and give you feedback before you’re necessary ready to share it with the world.
- What was the first app you created and what did it do?
My first app on iOS was an archiving tool for Twitter called Tweet Library. Though the market for Twitter apps seemed full at the time, there are always new takes on a problem that no one has done before. I was interested in solving a kind of niche problem with Twitter instead of competing directly with the mainstream Twitter clients.
- Where did you get the idea for the app?
When I came back from WWDC one year, as Twitter was just starting to take off, I realized that all those tweets from people attending the conference told a story. What was announced in the keynote, which sessions we attended, and that conversation we had over lunch or dinner. The tweets were fleeting, though; if there wasn’t a good tool to collect them, they’d be lost. I wanted to build an app that made it possible to curate and publish those tweets.
- What went well? What could have gone better?
I prototyped the app on the Mac, but it wasn’t quite right. I came back to the project later and rewrote it for the iPad. The goal was the same but it ended up looking different and having a different interaction than I had originally thought. What I learned is to not hold so close to your original concept that you aren’t willing to let it go and adjust it if there’s a better way, or if a new platform like the iPad comes along that’s a better fit for it.
- What is your favorite among the apps you’ve developed?
Probably my Mac video app, Clipstart, because I have so many family videos stored there. The app isn’t updated often, but I think it had enough good ideas in its first version to carry it for a while.
- What advice do you have for young people who want to make apps?
Focus on the start and finish. The middle part — the important work of building out the app’s features — is really fun, but where most people trip up is just starting. Writing the first line of code, sketching the first mockup. And just as important, knowing how to wrap it up, push to the finish and actually ship the app. Whether that’s to a few friends or to everyone, practice how to finish. It doesn’t matter if the app is simple or if you think it could be better; just being able to call it 1.0 is a great way to learn to improve your work.
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